Junior Council offers taste of public life to Valley’s youths

For the second year in a row, the City of Duncan’s Junior Council was tasked with taking the concerns of young people in the Cowichan Valley to local governments.

Junior Council held its annual meeting at City Hall in late July, addressing a wide range of issues important to local youth, including a safe gathering place, a "food forest strategy," texting and driving, and the possibility of hosting a large sporting event for young people.

Led by Junior Mayor Jenni Capps and including councillors Alberta Blue, Chelsea George, Nikolai Lampson, Emma Kononowicz and Raven Myren, Junior Council consists largely of current students, former students and recent graduates from Cowichan Secondary, with one each from Island Oak and the Cowichan Valley Open Learning Cooperative, and rounded out by an international student who had to leave Canada once school ended and missed the council meeting. Junior Councillors serve two-year terms that are offset so half turn over each cycle.

Although Junior Council got its start with Safe Youth Cowichan, only three of the members including Mayor Capps – joined through that organization. Kononowicz, a second-year council member, was dragged out by a friend.

"My friend asked me to come to a meeting. She didn’t even say what it was for."

Most recruitment for Junior Council is done at schools. In the run-up to this year’s session, Junior Council made presentations at several schools, including the main and Quamichan campuses of Cowichan Secondary, Frances Kelsey, and CVOLC.

"Schools are the best places to find a larger group," Capps said.

Although there was an internal election for mayor in the 2013/14 year when Capps was picked, there have so far been just enough volunteers to fill the available council positions. They haven’t yet determined what would be done if there were more candidates than spots.

"We haven’t had to have an election," Capps said. "It would be cool if we had to organize an external election. We’d have to discuss that."

Since joining Junior Council, Kononowicz has also become a full-fledged member of the city’s environment committee. One of the resolutions out of last month’s meeting requested that the city ask for a member of Junior Council to be appointed to the CVRD’s regional transit committee because of the importance of transit for young people.

Junior Council will begin its process earlier next year, with an election in November, orientation in January, a Committee of the Whole meeting in February, and a Council meeting in March. The June meeting was the last for out-going Mayor Capps, but it probably won’t be the last that Valley residents hear from her, as she has already demonstrated serious interest in politics, having run for North Cowichan municipal council last fall. Her time on Junior Council has been extremely positive, she noted.

"It’s been a really great opportunity," she said. "Everyone has such cool ideas."