Policy allows for elected youth representatives to continue to vote at PCMNO
In a unanimous vote on Saturday, March 5, 2016, the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) passed a resolution establishing a policy which allows for a continuation of a 20-plus-years MNO tradition of including youth in the governance structures.
When the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act (MNOSA) was passed in December 2015, it reflected Canadian law which requires that elected Youth Representatives had to be at least 18 when elected in order to vote at PCMNO. Previously Youth Representatives who were elected under the age of 18 were able to vote at community councils and were able to vote at PCMNO once they turned 18.
In the days following the introduction of the MNOSA in the legislature, many youth across Ontario expressed concerns about the new rules to the PCMNO Youth Representative. He states he heard from young people in every region of the province and received calls, emails, Facebook messages and tweets. A petition, signed by youth in Thunder Bay, was sent to the PCMNO Youth Representative asking the PCMNO to do something to protect the voting rights that youth had always had in the MNO.
The issues arise from a need to protect young people from legal responsibilities that could dissuade them from being able to or wanting to participate in governance. A person under 18 cannot make a decision that, when they turn 18, will automatically instate all of the legal liabilities and duties of a Councillor. Those liabilities and duties can only be assumed by an 18-year-old—that is, a legal adult—who fully understands what those responsibilities entail and willingly takes them on.
At the same time, the MNO recognizes that some Youth and Post-Secondary Representatives who turn 18 during their term of office may wish at that time to become full Councillors and to assume all of the rights and responsibilities that come with that role. This Policy provides a mechanism by which to do so.
President Lipinski stated, “We have put a strong emphasis on supporting and encouraging our children and youth to be the best they can be, as well to take up important roles within our overall Metis specific governance. This policy will ensure that will continue.”
With this policy now passed, and the other gains made through the passage of the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act, the MNO leadership will continue to work directly with the the PCMNO Youth Representative and the MNO Youth Council to ensure that youth voices continue to be strong and well represented throughout the MNO’s governance system.
President Lipinski had publicly responded to the concerns raised by youth and committed to getting a remedy. MNO lawyers worked with the MNO Youth Council (MNOYC) and the Youth Representative to have this policy drafted in a way that respected the role of the MNOYC and the ability of young people to have their own agency. This policy will serve to continue to grow the numbers of young people who are a part of the MNO.
The resolution was moved at the PCMNO meeting. The vote was made even more special by the fact that MNO youth and Knowledge Holders from across Ontario were able to witness the vote as they were holding an event at the same hotel that weekend.
After the vote, PCMNO Post-Secondary Representative Jennifer Nicholson stated that, “It is absolutely vital that we continue to hear the powerful voices of the Métis youth. However, we must also protect our youth from legal liabilities and duties that come with being a Councillor on the PCMNO. This new policy is the best route the MNO could have taken to achieve both protection of our youth councillors, and continue youth involvement at all levels of the MNO governance structure.”
Updated on: October 17, 2016