Local youth filled the Muriel Richardson Auditorium at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Thursday night for the Youth Vital Signs Forum on Youth Issues with Mayoral Candidates.
The forum followed a question and answer format that opened discussion between young Winnipeggers and six of the seven mayoral candidates to address issues that matter to local youth, including housing, transportation, safety, and inclusivity.
Only Gord Steeves was missing from the panel of Brian Bowman, Michel Fillion, Paula Havixbeck, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, David Sanders, and Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
37-year-old Ouellette identified himself with his young audience and spoke out against ageism.
“Just because I look young,” he said in the debate, “that doesn’t mean I don’t know anything.”
Many young people present agreed age shouldn’t prevent them from contributing to local politics.
“Young citizens are voteless, not voiceless,” said 27-year-old Michael Redhead Champagne.
Some citizens too young to vote voiced their opinions in the Youth Vital Signs 2014 report. Sponsored by The Winnipeg Foundation, the report surveyed 1,864 young Winnipeggers between the ages of 14 and 29 to identify the community issues most important to them.
Participants noted that opportunities and resources should be available to all people, “regardless of culture, academic standing, or socio-economic factors.” The report acknowledges that widespread discrimination exists within the city and emphasizes the need for more educational initiatives to increase intercultural awareness.
Wasylycia-Leis said in the debate that she wants all citizens to have access to municipal services, regardless of income or life circumstances, to make Winnipeg a “model of inclusivity.”
During the open question period, 21-year-old Ryan Lindsay asked Wasylycia-Leis how she planned to reduce discrimination in Winnipeg, but he didn’t receive a direct answer.
A criminology major at the University of Manitoba, Lindsay said after the debate that he wants to know if any candidates have concrete plans to eliminate the racism and stereotyping that he said occurs within the city.
The son of immigrants from Jamaica and Grenada, Lindsay said that his father, who serves in the Canadian Armed Forces, has experienced discrimination within and outside of work.
Lindsay said he believes racism is caused by a lack of dialogue.
Ouellette seemed to agree. He said after the debate that he’s the first aboriginal person to live in his community, and said he was surprised that although his neighbours have spent their entire lives in Winnipeg, he might be their only aboriginal friend.
We need to have more mixing in society,” he said. “We actually need to rub shoulders more.
“[Canadians] are known for being more open. We’re known for being a peaceful and welcoming society,” said Lindsay. “We need to continue down that road.”
All photos by James Turner
Click here to see the series of CNC articles by Red River College Creative Communications students who covered the Youth Vital Signs Mayoral Forum.