© Cory Hurley
About 110 young people from throughout the province gathered in Corner Brook this past weekend, but there was something missing.
Despite its efforts, the Allied Youth of Newfoundland and Labrador is still looking for members in western Newfoundland.
Lucas Ings-Simms said the group, which held its 51st annual conference in Corner Brook, works closely with organizations such as the Community Youth Network and schools in the areas that do not have posts established. It continues without one in Corner Brook — in fact the farthest west is one in the White Bay area — but he hopes that will change.
“We are always trying our best to see what we can do,” he said. “It always just seems to be logistics.”
Typically, the conference attempts to involve local delegates from the host area — to showcase the organization and its annual conference, in hopes of creating more interest. However, this year’s event was rescheduled because of weather and that ended up not happening, according to Ings-Simms.
“AY is an amazing experience,” he said. “It’s so difficult to put into words and it has to be experienced to be really understood.
“There are so many resources, if somebody wants to start a post. We are always welcome to anybody who is interested and we will do our best to help them out.”
At the conference, youth were addressed by national speakers, a local police officer, Office of Public Engagement Minister Steve Kent, and participated in various entertainment and activities throughout the area.
“We try to teach our members about the issues facing youth today and try to bring us together as a province-wide community,” Ings-Simms of Torbay said. “It is one of the things we are able to achieve when we bring everybody together physically.”
It is an opportunity to grow individually and as a community, according to the outgoing chair.
Meanwhile, Kent addressed the youth Sunday morning. He said the Office of Public Engagement has a focus on youth and he took the opportunity to share that with the conference delegates.
He encouraged them to get involved in the YouRock Volunteer Awards, shared information pertinent to youth within Budget 2014, and promoted Bill 6, which he hopes to introduce in the House of Assembly in the coming weeks.
If passed, it will give municipal councils the ability to appoint youth representatives so that young people can have direct involvement in what is happening.
“I challenged the Allied Youth members to consider getting involved in their own communities,” Kent said.
If Bill 6 passes, Newfoundland and Labrador would become the third jurisdiction in the country to implement it. He said there has been an effort to get more people involved in local government.
“We have determined that not enough young people are stepping forward,” he said. “There has been improvement, but there is definitely a need to get more women and young people stepping forward and run for elected office.”
He hopes that an opportunity for junior high and high school students to become active parts of their local council tables — participating in debate and discussion around municipal issues — they will be more likely to pursue politics in the future.
“Beyond that though, it is an opportunity to ensure their voice is heard at the municipal level,” Kent said.