The voices of those who can’t yet vote often get cast aside by politicians, but a group of Greater Victoria high schoolers wasn’t going to let that happen when they had the ear of Canada’s top authority.
Members of the City of Victoria Youth Council sat down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his Capital Region visit on April 11.
The conversation was dominated by climate change, a problem deeply important to young people, said 17-year-old Maple Chairatchaneeboon.
“We are the ones who are going to get affected by this the most and we are the ones that can create the change in our society right now,” the Mount Douglas secondary student said. “It’s happening right now and sooner or later, everyone is going to get affected by it, so we do need to take urgent action.”
Topics covered in the talks included electric vehicles, the climate-related repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war and old-growth forest logging.
“Climate change is the kind of problem that requires collective responsibility, so an individual person cannot solve this problem alone. We believe that it is very important that the government takes action in order to bring people together to be aware of this problem, and work together towards a more sustainable society,” Chairatchaneeboon said.
Fellow Mount Doug student Kasey Chen echoed that sentiment, adding young people aren’t fooled by political theatrics.
“I think that often when it comes to youth, politicians will do performative actions. So they’ll sit down and talk to us, but then our concerns don’t feel reflected in the actions that the government takes,” the Grade 11 student said.
That’s why the youth council saw a great opportunity in the meeting with Trudeau. They wanted to share their point of view with the prime minister and hear his side and as a result, came away with a greater understanding of the government’s goals and perspective.
“We think the government could better serve young people by holding more discussions like that one and really listen to what we’re saying,” said Esquimalt High student Jules Dawkins.
“We were heard and treated as adults, because one day we’re going to be the adults,” Catarina Bagioni added.
Council members got to speak for their friends, families, schools and their generation, the 17-year-old Italian exchange student said. It was incredible to tell someone with the power to make real change how Victoria and Canada’s young people feel, Bagioni said, adding that youth are attached to the events and changes going on in the world.
“We are citizens of the world,” the Mount Doug student said. “We want to act.”
Maya Soballa, 16, said the entire youth council felt honoured to meet and talk with the prime minister, since few people get that opportunity. She said Trudeau made them feel more comfortable the longer the meeting went on.
“We all really wish we had even more time to talk to him and had more time to address issues like the affordability of his proposals.”
Everywhere we go, we hear from young people that they want ambitious climate action. They deserve that – and with #Budget2022 and our Emissions Reduction Plan, we’re delivering that. That’s what Mayor Lisa Helps, the @VicYouthCouncil, and I spoke about today. pic.twitter.com/U1WbRtjnyp— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 12, 2022
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