Niagara Region headquarters. SUPPLIED

Applications invited for youth advisory panel

The Zoomers are getting a platform to share their views with Niagara’s regional government.

Regional Chair Jim Bradley told the Voice that those ages 13 through 19 are invited to submit applications for a new committee, which will provide input to discussions and decision-making in Niagara from a youth perspective.

The 2016 census indicated that seven percent of Niagara residents fall within the 13-to-19 year old age group.

Generation Z, colloquially known as Zoomers, is the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Most Zoomers are children of Generation X, who are themselves the progeny of the Boomers, an immense cohort from the post-WWII era into the early 1960s.

Many Zoomers are not yet old enough to vote, but they have plenty to say about social and political matters. They are racially and ethnically diverse, hold high educational aspirations, and have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones. On social and policy issues, Zoomers are considered to be progressive and pro-government. Given the way in which the pandemic has affected employment opportunities, Zoomers appear to face an uncertain future, given that young workers in service-sector jobs have been particularly vulnerable.

Pelham Regional Councillor Diana Huson told the Voice that applications must be received by the Region by October 18 at 4 PM. She has been appointed as an advisor to the group.

“She’s the logical person for it,” said Bradley. “She’s the one who mainly expressed interest. I think that she’ll work very well offering guidance and counsel to these young people.”

Bradley’s executive officer, Daryl Barnhart, will work with the youth committee, alongside Huson.

“One of my priorities on council is to seek out diverse voices in our communities, including those of women and underrepresented groups,” said Huson. “I think this is a great way to bring opinions to council on issues that are important to us all.”

One of my priorities on council is to seek out diverse voices in our communities, including those of women and underrepresented groups

The committee will be expected to work to identify gaps and barriers in policies, in order to increase participation in programs and services within the Region.

Bradley said that other municipalities have successfully introduced youth committees, and noted that school boards have student trustees through provincial legislation.

“From time to time [Council heard] from youth who want to be heard on certain issues. They tend to gravitate to environmental issues, and social issues like homelessness and affordable housing and rent controls. They are keen to discuss public transportation, because they are primary users of mass transit. Mental health, which wasn’t discussed much even five years ago, is a particular topic of interest, because it impacts them. It’s really good to have their fresh perspective on things, which is different in many cases from the adults out there.”

The intention is to have one youth representative from each of the 12 local municipalities, said Bradley. The panel is expected to meet at least six times a year, with meetings to be held at Regional Headquarters, or alternatively in a virtual format, All meetings will be open to the public. The panel has no decision-making authority and acts only in an advisory capacity, with no operational budget.

“We know there are different perspectives that come from different municipalities. If you’re living in a major urban municipality with 100,000 people, often the views are significantly different from one that has a significantly smaller population.”

“I would suggest that young people selected to be on the panel will be going out and talking to other young people in the community about issues,” said Bradley. “Some have an interest in public affairs, others in non-governmental agencies. Many may already be youth volunteers for organizations. We know that once they become involved, they tend to be more interested in the community as a whole.”

Further information pertaining to the Regional Chair’s Youth Advisory Committee is available on the Niagara Region website at: www.niagararegion.ca/chair/youth-advisory-panel