Reported by Charles Dale
Young people in South Vancouver will soon have a voice in the federal government.
The office of Harjit Sajjan, MP for Vancouver South, has begun the selection process for a local Constituency Youth Council. The council will be made up of 12 residents of South Vancouver between the ages of 13 and 18. It is intended to provide an opportunity for local high school students to become more engaged in the political process, have the chance to meet their MP and voice their concerns.
South Vancouver high school students given a voice
Eric Gustavson, constituency assistant for Sajjan, said they felt that high school students were underrepresented.
“We really want to engage them in a way that maybe they can’t be in the current system in their high school,” Gustavson said. “The real idea behind the project is that we’re bringing these youth together and ideally getting them to voice whatever it is that they’re concerned about, and inspire, encourage and enable them to actually take action on it.”
Jacob Mattie, a general sciences student at Langara College, thinks the council will help young people take interest in politics.
“It’s cool to try to reach out to young people,” Mattie said. “If [Sajjan] can reach the group who don’t traditionally care about politics, that would be interesting.”
Youth Council aims to get students involved in politics
Richard Johnston, a political science professor at UBC, thinks the council is a good idea and that a lack of engagement between youth and the government has been an issue for a long time, but expressed concern about potential partisan bias.
“The fact that [no youth councils] have been conducted in non-Liberal ridings is interesting.” Johnston said. “It does sound like the governing party taking advantage of its privileged position.”
However, Gustavson stressed that the council will be non-partisan.
“It is open to anyone, and we didn’t ask for any sort of political leanings in our process,” Gustavson said.
Sajjan’s office is currently contacting successful applicants, and plans to hold the first meeting before December.