Let youth have seat at city’s table: advocate


Advertise with us

Should volunteering for City of Winnipeg boards and commissions be restricted to adults?

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/08/2022 (288 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Should volunteering for City of Winnipeg boards and commissions be restricted to adults?

A new motion is asking city council to remove the requirement that all members of those organizations be at least 18 years old, a change supporters say could open up a broader pool of potential volunteers and better engage youth.

The 50 varied boards and commissions are responsible for a vast array of local decisions, from the Winnipeg Public Library Board, which develops long-range plans for libraries, to the Winnipeg Police Board, which oversees the Winnipeg Police Service.

                                <p>Nina Lam believes that allowing youth to participate on city boards and commissions would be a great step forward in including more views and encouraging lifelong political engagement.</p>


Nina Lam believes that allowing youth to participate on city boards and commissions would be a great step forward in including more views and encouraging lifelong political engagement.

Allowing youth to apply for the positions would mark an important step forward, says Nina Lam, a member of Youth Parliament of Manitoba.

“To have youth at the actual table is really important,” Lam said. “So this motion is good, in that it kind of takes away that age discrimination. It says… anyone of any age can apply and, as a young person, that’s fantastic, that we can actually have an opportunity.”

Lam stressed she doesn’t share opinions on behalf of the longest consecutively-running youth parliament in Canada — having held sessions since 1922 — but personally believes inviting youth to participate in civic matters at an early age will make them more likely to stay engaged in the long run.

“When you plant that seed for a young person to get involved in their community, then they feel like they’re actually playing a role in making their community better,” said Lam.

Riley Twovoice, 16, who would like to join a city board but doesn’t meet the age requirement, would also welcome its removal.

“Democracy requires input from everyone and, teenagers, our voices should be listened to, because only we know what works for us,” said Twovoice, who uses they/them pronouns.

They would be interested in participating on the Winnipeg Police Board or another group, if the rule was lifted.

After discussing the matter with Twovoice, Coun. Shawn Nason now hopes to convince city council to remove the minimum age.

“We see a lot of challenges in recruiting for some of these boards. (Some potential applicants) may not have reached 18 but have the maturity and desire to be engaged in the community. (Their age) shouldn’t be something that is a barrier or impediment,” said Nason.

The motion aims to remove the age minimum entirely, beginning in 2024, for all boards and commissions that aren’t subject to provincial or federal age requirements.

“I think the maturity level of our youth today is much more advanced in most cases… than (that of) past generations…. Their voice is important in a democratic institution. I think trying to engage and involve them as much as we can is important,” said Nason.

He cautioned that the mature nature of matters handled by the Winnipeg Police Board, and the fact it is subject to provincial legislation, may rule out the change for that board.

The councillor doesn’t believe the minimum age should simply be lowered instead of removed, noting each potential board member’s application would still be assessed individually for merit.

Damon Johnston, a member of the police board, said there are potential benefits and pitfalls to the idea, so it should be considered very carefully.

“It’s a two-way street. We can learn from young people, too… Their perspectives on life earlier (on) is important, too. The (downside) is that your experience at a lower age is quite limited compared to people in their 50s or 60s or 70s… so you could suggest the person might not know enough to really be effective in that kind of a role at that age,” said Johnston.

The city might want to consider lowering the age requirement to 16, rather than outright removing it, he said.

“I think there needs to be some age limit to be really involved…. These boards have a purpose in our city and it’s critical that the perspectives shared on any board are legitimately the result of some experience with life,” said Johnston.

A prominent youth organization sees merit in the idea for teens of working age.

“Young people should have a voice on matters that affect their age group, families and community. If 15 year olds are old enough to work, they should be able to advocate for themselves, peers and (families) on boards and commissions with parental consent,” said Heather Black, the community engagement director for BGC Winnipeg, formerly known as the Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg.

Nason plans to raise his motion at the Aug. 31 meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee.


Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us