The Children Are Our Future
Adult opinions of our community’s teens and youth often conjure up negative perceptions. We think of kids as “trouble-makers” causing vandalism and other street crimes. We see them as obnoxious and a disturbance to the peace of our community. Too many of us would even go so far as to argue our community would be better with less of them, out of sight and out of mind.
As a community, we often do not know what to do with them. We do not fully understand them. Sometimes, however, it is just a simple matter of asking them, of engaging them in a dialogue that will help us overcome the stereotypes and negative views we have towards teens and youth.
Councillor Meagan Brame, a mother of two teenagers with 21 years of frontline experience working with children and youth, has proposed just that.
“Many communities are looking at youth engagement, including children, in their policies and city planning,” says Councillor Brame, who recently attended a province-wide municipal conference where youth engagement was discussed. “They want to make sure that the voices of children and youth are being heard and respected.”
“One such way of doing this is by developing a policy around it so that it is part of the process and not an afterthought,” adds Brame. “I heard from communities that their youth were saying that when it comes to city planning, they want places planned with them in mind, not just given whatever is left over.”
Brame has introduced a motion for Esquimalt Council’s consideration that would engage local youth to develop their skills and confidence as community builders.
Brame identifies a number of factors that need to be considered in youth engagement including: encouraging and celebrating youth success rather than focusing on problems; fostering intergenerational relationships such as planning daycares and senior’s housing side by side; organizing a community mentorship program including through jobs and internships; inviting youth to the decision-making table especially on issues close to them such as public transportation and recreation; and focusing on youth problems preventions rather than reactions.
“My mission is to have Esquimalt recognize the importance of youth and knowing that meaningful youth engagement is important for creating social, economic and environmental well-being,” says Brame. “Youth engagement in community issues and governance will help develop the skills and leadership ability of our youth and will help develop ownership in their community.”
The goal is that young people will help rather than hinder the community by leading the discussions on identifying youth community assets, needs, and solutions.
“I want the policy to be a plan for ongoing, meaningful youth participation,” concludes Brame. “Youth need attention, time and energy. If Esquimalt can have that energy and offer the resources, we are more likely to have healthy young people.”
Esquimalt Council will debate the issue at their next meeting. Perhaps as a trial balloon, input from youth to Council is encouraged on Brame’s proposed youth policy.