By RON FANFAIR
High on city councilor Michael Thompson’s agenda when he ran in Toronto’s municipal elections six years ago were the preservation of community safety, the establishment of a performance arts centre and regular engagement with young people in his Scarborough Centre riding.
“I clearly see our young people as our future,” Thompson said at a youth forum he organized last Saturday. “You are and will be the leaders of our community and the world. It’s therefore up to you to decide how we can work together to help you make a difference.”
The forum brought together young leaders from community organizations in the riding to discuss ways in which they can advance themselves and their environment.
“This is an opportunity for you to understand how you fit into the community and your schools,” said Thompson. “I want you to look at how you can play a role in painting the canvas that is our community in a way that it’s not only the reflection of your interest and desire but also of the broader community…We want you to understand how relevant you are to one another and the community.”
Historian and curator, Dr. Sheldon Taylor, who moderated the event, reminded the young people that they were given a major opportunity to be the architects of the riding’s vision for at least the next year. He told them that their task was to be proactive and voice their concerns so that they could be appropriately addressed by the relevant decision-makers.
“You have to understand that you are part of the process to move this community forward,” he said. “You have the right to create expectations and act on them…To those who much is given, much is expected.”
Trustee Scott Harrison also pleaded with the young people to seize opportunities.
“When I was growing up in Scarborough, we never had the chance to have adults come and ask us what we wanted to do to help them,” he said. “I think what we are doing here is important because we are looking to you to get ideas of what you want to see in this community. There are funds available for the community to draw on and create projects. But it’s critical that you tell us what you want. That’s not to say you will get everything you wish for, but if you don’t ask for it, you will not get it.”
The chair of Toronto’s Oral Health Coalition, Dr. Hazel Stewart, encouraged the youth to use the forum to share their dreams and present a clear picture of how they would like to see their community move forward.