By Tracey Arial
Verdun will be the first borough to create a youth council similar to the one that has been operating at the city-wide level for more than a decade.“Politicians want more people to get involved in decisions that we are doing,” said Marie-Eve Brunet, the Verdun councillor charged with setting up the pilot project. “The youth in Verdun, they are the hardest group to meet. In May, we did a survey in the highschools, but we didn’t reach all of them.”
The borough has set up a $5,000 budget for the council. It will also provide a staff resource person and facilities in which the council will be able to meet. Plans to recruit 15 young people between the ages of 15-25 in May are underway. Once youth are selected, they’ll be able to recommend actions to the Verdun mayor. The mayor will have 90 days to respond in writing to their suggestions.
To see how it might function, The Suburban met with six members of the Montreal youth council, who will work with Verdun to get the process underway. They are: current president Mountagha Sow, current vice-president Rym El-Ouazzani, Lachine resident and co-communi-action representative François Marquette, Southwest resident and co-communi-action rep. Kathryn Verville-Provencher, Montreal-north resident Chahinaze Fala and St. Michel resident Gopinath Jeyabalaratnam.
All six expressed satisfaction with their participation.“I’m proud to be part of an institution that has been making a difference for youth for more than ten years now,” said Fala. “I haven’t been participating for that entire time, but it feels good to help build continuance in something that works well.”
I was happy to find a way to participate in politics without joining a political party,” said François Marquette.
Sow said that he has seen many recommendations implemented, although the process often takes time.“In 2006 or 2007, we tabled a report aiming to address the issue of giving young people a start in the job market,” he said. “Since the city is the largest employer in the city, they could do a great deal to help young people get the experience to get into the game. We proposed that the city set up a three- or four-month internship program to get young people a chance. The city partnered with Emploi Quebec to set up the program. As of 2013, 286 young people got their start in the job market with the city. It helps address issues with minorities getting the job market. We’re very proud of that program.”
Sow says that the council is planning to release a similar report about youth entrepreneurship in April. One of their suggestions is designed to enable businesses to remain active after original owners retire.“Baby boomers are retiring, but they have no one to take up their businesses,” said Sow. “We are proposing that there be a financing scheme to help young people buy back those businesses that have been abandoned by those owners. Quilting shops, bakeries, –we’re talking about a lot of businesses.”
Verdun’s move is also a suggestion made by the Montreal youth council back in 2013. Lachine has also expressed interest in getting a youth council set up in that borough this year.
Youth councillors also want to reach out more to Anglophone youth. They have had Anglophone members in the past, including a former president, but they’d like to hear regularly from the community at large. To contact them, visit their page at cjmtl.com.
Marie-Eve Brunet was profiled in the Link during the last election campaign.
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