Junior Council takes on safety, pesticides, transit

Working with an unprecedented $3,000 budget, the members Duncan’s Junior Council took their responsibilities seriously at Monday’s annual meeting.

With Cowichan Secondary School no longer running the Junior Council program, it was taken over by Safe Youth Cowichan, and given actual funds to work with. Mayor Jenni Capps and councillors Emma Kononowicz, Belle White, Chelsea George, Amelia Heyward, and Dawson Douglas did their due diligence and were prepared to address a variety of issues relevant to young people in the Cowichan Valley.

While some issues were referred back to Safe Youth Cowichan, others will go directly to senior city council, and plans were made for presentations to groups including the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

Based on a decision by Junior Council, the topic of a food forest strategy will go to Safe Youth Cowichan, with the plan of making a presentation to the city’s Environment Committee.

The city already supports farms and gardens, Capps noted, and a food forest would improve accessibility to locally cultivated food. "This would be a good addition to community gardens," Heyward commented.

Kononowicz saw long-term benefits to the concept.

"It will get a lot of people’s attention for eating healthier," she said.

Safe Youth Cowichan was also asked to make a presentation to the CVRD Transit Committee outlining Junior Council’s concerns about transit, including the condition of certain bus stops, scheduling issues, and other barriers that young people face.

"The youth voice is big in developing transit in this region," Capps said. "You’re not always capable of getting from point A to point B."

"On weekends there aren’t enough bus routes, and they’re not always at the right times," Heyward added.

Junior Council also referred the topic of youth safety to Safe Youth Cowichan and Community Policing to develop an outreach campaign to educate adults and youth on safety issues youths are facing in the City of Duncan community.

"A lot of [adults] probably don’t know about street harassment [that youth face]," Kononowicz said.

City council was asked to consider banning or restricting residential pesticides within the city. "There is no policy in place, but it is something that the city tries to avoid," Capps acknowledged.

"This would be a great thing to put in place," Kononowicz said. "If there were no pesticides, our food would be a lot safer to eat."

Junior Council also requested that city council ask staff to look into adding compost bins where there are already garbage and recycling receptacles, and putting signage on the bins to educate people about what can and can’t be put in each bin.

"The key is really about education and getting people to use them differently," Capps said.

Kononowicz suggested using the compost collected from the bins to fertilize the recommended food forest.

From the CVRD, Junior Council plans to request representation on the steering committee for the upcoming CVRD Regional Transportation Plan, to consider issues such as a region-wide trail map and signage, bike lane connectivity between communities, and community outreach.

"A lot of people who use [trails and bike lanes] are youth," said Capps The councillors also resolved to work with the Cowichan Watershed Board and Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society either to participate in the annual river clean-up in August or to coordinate a second event at another point in the year, and to contribute an undetermined portion of their budget to the river clean-up.

In addition to their resolutions, council also heard presentations from B McKenzie of Cowichan Valley Safer Futures and Rosalie Sawne of One Cowichan.

All the junior councillors were pleased with the experience.

"It’s a great opportunity," Kononowicz said. "Everyone has been so helpful as we have gone through the process."

The experience also gave them a chance to see what senior councillors and city staff deal with on a regular basis.

"I understand how much hard work goes into it," Capps said.