Even though youth don’t have a vote until they’re 18, according to Sukhraj Bhattal, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice.
Sukhraj himself is part of a program that is proof of this concept. Along with three other youth, Sukhraj produces and directs videos with Citizens in Transition, a group committed to making youth’s opinions on civic politics heard.
So far, they have produced two videos, one on parks and one on art in their community. Both have been well received by local politicians. They are also currently in the process of creating a video about their latest focus area, Project Cambie Corner.
There is quite a process behind creating these videos. They begin as photo projects, which are then analyzed for key ideas. Once those key topics have been identified, Citizens in Transition moves on to filming and producing a movie on those themes, which can then be posted online and shown to various people in the community.
Each film features interviews with youth, as well as experts on the subject, such as members of the Vancouver Parks Board, giving their opinions on what positive changes need to be made in the city. Sukhraj prefers to stay behind the camera lens, filming and setting up shots, and interviewing.
Being involved with Citizens in Transition has given Sukhraj a way to use his creativity to make a positive impact locally. He believes that it’s important for youth to get more involved in their cities. While they may not have firm opinions about federal or even provincial politics, civic politics are much more personal, affecting everybody directly and dealing with issues that youth know and care about, such as park space and opportunities to be creative.
It’s this appeal that makes Sukhraj hopeful that the ideas behind Citizens in Transition will spread across Metro Vancouver.
When asked why youth who are too young to vote should care about civic politics, Sukhraj was quick to answer, You should try to make a difference because it’s your city. Try to make it liveable for you and everybody else, not just the people much older than you.