When I met with the mayor, the day following my election, to talk about my interests, I spoke to him about citizen participation. The low voter turnout for the municipal election in Gatineau (38%) deeply concerned me, so to move this file forward, he handed me the co-presidency of the Commission Jeunesse (Gatineau’s Youth Commission).
At the time, I wasn’t really sure I understood why he was giving me the mandate to accompany twenty or so high school youth between the ages of 12 and 17. Especially me, a newly elected – not even the youngest – councillor. I found the answer to my question when the youth committee presented their report on their initiative ‘C’est parti, je vote!’ (Go ahead and vote!).
During the municipal electoral campaign, the Commission Jeunesse organized a voting simulation exercise in 12 of the 13 high schools in Gatineau. Close to 4,000 youth voted for the first time with the help of 200 students and retired volunteers who fulfilled the duties of scrutineers. The youth had an hour to vote over their lunch hour and their participation rate reached 25%.
By comparison, only 38% of eligible adult voters exercised their civic duty although they had 52 hours to do so (between the day of the election, the advance polling and the special voting). Do adults have lessons to learn from the youth? It seems to be the case!
The youth members of the Commission not only discuss aspects of democracy, but they talk about culture, inclusion and leisure activities. They also collaborate with the city’s police force to combat acts of intimidation. These enlightened and brilliant youth are a source of hope for the future. I consider it a privilege to work by their side and to help them navigate the administrative complexities of the City. I no longer hesitate to trumpet from the rooftops that I’ve inherited the best commission!
Isabelle N. Miron
District Councillor of L’Orée du Parc
Co-president, Commission Jeunesse de Gatineau