Scarborough youth, if they don’t think their local city councillor will listen to them, now have another representative to turn to, someone close to their own age.
Nine of Scarborough’s 10 municipal wards chose members recently for a Toronto Youth Council which lets young people speak for themselves.
“It’s actually a very revolutionary idea,” said Austin Han, 17, who represents everyone in his Scarborough-Rouge River area called Ward 41 between the ages of 14 and 22.
“Whether or not it works, it’s still necessary to try.”
In messages this month, youth councillors from other wards said they thought the newly-created posts were a good fit for them.
“I feel it is a great opportunity for young voices to be heard,” wrote Ward 35’s youth councillor Zainab Maveen Aslam, who said she has always taken a strong interest in politics and her community in Scarborough Southwest.
“Many kids feel that their opinion does not matter to the government. The youth council hopes to change this negative mindset.”
Joshua Miller, a student at University of Toronto Scarborough, said he felt “obligated” to run for the position in Ward 44, where the campus is located, adding “the only way I could know that this new council was being taken seriously and the youth and students being represented was to run for the position myself.”
Sounding confident that “what goes on in the meetings and the decisions we make will change things in Scarborough,” Miller said it’s important young people know who represents them on the council, “a more effective outlet than speaking at a rally and hoping the people will get what you are saying.”
Rashik Naveed, who said his Ward 43 contains more youths than any other ward in Toronto, said it’s been a problem that young people “don’t have something or someone to represent them,” and the youth council “allows them to know that there are people, their peers, dedicated to improving the quality of life for them and for getting their ideas and thoughts across.”
Naveed, who is 16, said the council has one monthly meeting at city hall as well as various committee meetings, adding, “if youth in my community have a problem I plan to have various submission methods for their problems” so that the council can solve them “by advocating the ideas brought forward.”
Han said each youth councillor is responsible for holding events and meetings in their own wards, and many are seeking opinions already through social media or personal websites.
A student at Albert Campbell Collegiate, he had to be nominated by 20 people before running in a week-long election that finished Oct. 22. Other candidates for the ward dropped out, so Han was acclaimed.
He wasn’t much involved in municipal politics before, but Han and other youth councillors met Oct. 27 in the council chamber at city hall, where each could submit a motion on the same issues debated by municipal councillors.
In Scarborough, transportation is a major issues, and TTC buses don’t come fast enough, Han said while observing a meeting of Scarborough Community Council last week.
Watchers of Toronto politics take note: Han supports light-rail lines as a transit solution, rather than subways, because LRT “serves more, costs less, takes less time to build.”
Youth following the subject are angry the LRT-subway issue is back for debate, he said. “We thought the situation was actually settled.”
Carrying a copy of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Han said he wants to study human biology at University of Toronto, then go on to law school. “My personal ambition is to become an MP.”
To Han’s surprise, Chin Lee, Ward 41’s councillor, introduced him to the meeting, where Han was greeted with applause. “Although it’s not official, he would be a good addition to city government,” Lee said.
The youth council position for Ward 37 in Scarborough Centre is vacant. More on the council is available on its website, www.cycto.ca
HOW TO CONTACT SCARBOROUGH’S YOUTH COUNCILLORS
Each represents a ward identical to the ward of their city councillor.
• Zainab Aslam (Ward 35 - Scarborough Southwest) - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Paris Gappmayr (Ward 36 - Scarborough Southwest) - email@example.com
• Vacant (Ward 37 - Scarborough Centre)
• Khalidha Nasiri (Ward 38 - Scarborough Centre) - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Nirupan Sivakumaran (Ward 39 - Scarborough-Agincourt) - email@example.com
• Edwin Zhao (Ward 40 - Scarborough-Agincourt) - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Austin Han (Ward 41 - Scarborough-Rouge River) - email@example.com
• Shawn Jagmohan (Ward 42 - Scarborough-Rouge River) - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Rashik Naveed (Ward 43 - Scarborough East) - email@example.com
• Joshua Miller (Ward 44 - Scarborough East) - firstname.lastname@example.org