“Public transit and mental health. Those are the most pressing issues surrounding young people in London,” said Emma Blue, director of advocacy for the London Youth Advisory Council.
The London Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) is a self-governing council that consists of 15 councillors between the ages of 15 and 25. This group of youth meets weekly to discuss issues that concern young people in London. They then ensure that youth voices are integrated into conversations surrounding local public policies.
Although they have a strong relationship with the City of London, the LYAC is an independent organization.
“The youth councillors are politicians in their own right. They were elected by the public and I think the city councillors have done a great job in understanding that,” said Blue.
Blue says she and the entire LYAC group is looking forward to establishing youth-adult partnerships with the new city councillors.
A heated topic at city council is the implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). The freshly inaugurated council is split on what the best option to improve transit is.
Blue says she’s glad to see that. “It’s good to have diversity of opinion. Hopefully we can engage with councillors who have a bunch of different perspectives,” she said.
After conducting a transit consultation, the LYAC found that youth residents do not have a particular preference on having a Bus Rapid Transit system or not.
“[Youth] wants faster transit, they want reliable transit, and they want a safer service…The main thing is improving transit infrastructure so that it is more accessible and safer,” Blue said.
Another issue high on their priority list is working with city councillors to create change in mental health services. At the beginning of the year, the LYAC conducted a survey at Western University asking students what their biggest concern was. Mental health took the lead as the most pressing issue.
“The evidence was overwhelming,” said Emma Blue, director of advocacy for the LYAC.
“A lot of it is wait times for students, so we really want to see change in this. Even though it’s tricky because of funding, it needs to change,” she added.
The LYAC plans to improve wait times and work on the awareness and the de-stigmatization of mental health issues.