Sandy Casselman
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

MORRISBURG – The municipality of South Dundas is looking at the creation of a Youth Advisory Committee to ensure voices of the younger generations are heard.

The March 22 council meeting saw Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner request the Key Information Report regarding the creation of this new committee pulled for discussion. While there was no motion for approval, all of council praised staff for the initiative and made clear their support.

“I think it’s a great start with our youth,” Coun. Lloyd Wells said. “They’re going to be leaders in years to come.”

The report submitted by Manager of Parks and Recreation Austin Marcellus, provided a brief history of the project along with recommendations for the committee and its focus. Marcellus said a Youth Engagement Report had been completed in 2019 with the intent of gauging how to better serve the youth of South Dundas. The initiative is part of a movement focused on finding ways to engage and attract youth that will lead them in choosing South Dundas as a home base in adulthood.

“Youth play an important role with the municipality and have expressed their interest in becoming more engaged with the community,” Marcellus said in his report to council. “Research and communication from other rural communities in Ontario suggest that youth consider returning to their local community to live, while looking at the following: a job in their field, a place to live, and the recreational amenities that they desire.”

In addition to an online survey, Marcellus said staff made several visits to Seaway District High School to ensure maximum input. In the end, 109 youth between the ages of 15 and 29, participated with the majority being between the ages of 15 to 18. The report showed that half the respondents feel their voices go unheard in the municipality and 56 per cent said they would like to know more about South Dundas and how it works.

“I like the idea of getting young people involved,” Coun. Archie Mellan said, adding that he would also like to hear from those younger than 15. He suggested reaching out to intermediate students, as well as senior students.

Among other things, the purpose of the committee will be to advocate for youth, to keep council informed about important issues affecting youth, and to provide leadership experience for youth. While there was no indication during the March 22 meeting as to when this group will be fully functional, council made it clear that it is a welcomed priority.

“If we want to keep youth in South Dundas, we have to do something for them,” Mayor Steven Byvelds said.