In defence of youth councils

Spending on youth councils benefits everyone, argues the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada's National Youth Council

Photo by Ben Welland.

Left to right: Rachel, Filmon, Victor, Benita, Brittany, Jarrod, Lauren and Shane, some of the members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada’s National Youth Council. (Photograph by Byfield-Pitman Photography)

When more than 16,000 young Canadians applied to be members of the Prime Minister’s youth council, they hoped to advocate for their generation and have a say on the important issues facing young people across Canada.

They probably didn’t plan on being a talking point for the opposition. A recent Maclean’s article highlights several opposition members’ criticisms of the PM’s youth council and argues that public funds are being (mis)used to groom young Liberals.

MORE: Is Trudeau’s youth council a Liberal recruitment scheme?

As members of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada’s National Youth Council, we understand the need for this criticism, but we believe that the article does not engage with the real value of youth councils: the vital skills and experience that youth gain from learning and working with their peers. And beyond the fact that these skills are beneficial to the youth directly involved with the councils, they also have a positive ripple effect that reaches communities, organizations, families, and other young people.

The message is simple: spending on youth councils benefits everyone.

BGCC’s National Youth Council is made up of 11 youth from across the country that serve as ambassadors and role models and ensure youth input into the organization’s national initiatives and activities. We also get the opportunity to run a youth conference every two years.

For the past year, we have been planning Get Loud 2017, this year’s national youth forum. This week, 140 Boys and Girls Club members from across Canada will join us at the University of Ottawa to learn, collaborate, and have their voices heard.

When we attended previous youth forums, we were inspired by other young Canadians. We wanted to be more involved in the kind of work they were doing to shape our future. We decided on the theme “Get Loud” because we wanted to explore the importance of youth voices in Canada, educate on social issues, and share how young people can promote change in our communities and the world.

We designed and executed the entire conference. We chose the theme, selected the keynote speakers, and organized skill-building workshops that cover a range of topics, including communications, coding, entrepreneurship, and political engagement. As organizers, we have learned about communications, teamwork, and government relations and we have gained valuable leadership skills in the process.

Everything that we have learned in the past year will serve us well as we enter the world as young adults. Even better, by spending this week with 140 smart, curious young people, we will be expanding our networks and discussing the diverse issues that youth in our country face today. We will develop new ideas that we can bring back to our communities, and forge new connections that will support us moving forward.

The work we’ve done to plan this event, which is by youth and for youth, gives us confidence in our opinions and ideas, and it should assure all Canadians that when youth come together with a common goal, great things can happen. We are eager to hear more about the work that the Prime Minister’s youth council is doing, and we look forward to hearing the voices of youth at all levels of government.

This week, we will invite youth to get involved in their communities, to advocate for themselves, and to work together to achieve change. We are living proof that investing in youth councils benefits all Canadians.

Rachel, Filmon, Victor, Benita, Brittany, Jarrod, Lauren, Shane, Kyle, Nick, and Shanel are members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada’s National Youth Council.

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