By Jennifer McKelvie
On Saturday, June 1, I had the pleasure of meeting Olivia Dey, the newly elected youth councillor for Ward 25. The City Youth Council of Toronto (CYCTO) gives democratically elected young people in the city a voice and empowers them to be informed of the city’s operations and to better mobilize their peers. Check out their website at toronto.thecyc.ca.
Olivia was born in Minnesota, and moved to the Dean Park neighbourhood just south the Zoo when she was young. Currently attending high school at Senator O’Connor College School, just as I did many years ago, Olivia credits her activism and engagement with a desire to “get things done” and with starting water polo.
“I was bullied, I had self-esteem issues, I was a pretty shy girl. I tried sports and that really helped me get my life together, it improved my grades, I started talking to more people and getting involved.” Olivia found the first step trying water polo extremely hard, but credits an “amazing support group” who gave her the confidence she needed to stick with it. She’s happy she did. She was on Team Ontario in 2018 and will soon embark on tryouts for Canada’s national team.
Olivia feels that the great challenge facing our community and her generation is climate change. She feels that there is insufficient community engagement and action on the issue. “I want people to care,“ she said. Olivia believes that an approach to provide youth with volunteer hours for tree planting and community cleanup is a simple and pragmatic way to drive engagement.
She also stresses that her generation is more aware of environmental concerns and that“everybody is posting about climate strikes and they get engaged when events happen in the community.” Supportive of a carbon tax, Olivia agrees that businesses of all sizes need to do more to act on climate change and to enhance environmental awareness. She cites the recent campaign by fast-food chains to introduce paper straws as “a great step that helps people open their eyes.”
Apart from getting involved in youth politics, Olivia has also created Just Like a Girl, anon-profit designed to “empower young girls through sports by providing a gender neutral and positive environment in the world of sports.” Check out their website at justlikeagirl.ca. Olivia emphasizes that many women have to work harder than men to level the playing field and compete, like she did in water polo, and that the benefits of physical activity should be widely felt.
Olivia plans on competing for sports scholarships and aspires to go to Waterloo or a U.S.College. In the meantime, I’m delighted she’s our new youth representative and I look forward to working alongside her!