Young Quebecers ask elected officials to be more proactive in the environment

What if children could go directly to elected officials? What would they say to them?
I ls ask them to lower the price of sushi, to ban plastic bags and listen to the children, who are not ghosts.

Friday morning, foyer of the National Assembly. At the foot of the majestic staircase is a small room which has been welcoming visiting children since June. No one has arrived yet.

The room is white, lined with posters that recall the highlights of the past. An old ballot, Maurice Duplessis in 1956, René Lévesque …

Near a tiny table, equipped with two benches, where children can read and draw, a small television plays images, among others, of a demonstration.

Perhaps the most fun element: a false lectern with microphones, a perfect setting for aspiring politicians, the time for a self-portrait with the #jemengage banner.

And there is the mailbox. “Here, it is a spark to say:” Here, it is possible, you can do it, take your pencils, put it in the mailbox and it will be sent “.”

Magali Paquin is emptying this mailbox, filled with the precious messages left by the children, an exercise to which she lends herself once a month.

The research officer of the National Assembly – and doctoral student in sociology – strips them one by one, then delivers them later to the deputies concerned. “We don’t do censorship, we send everything,” she explains.

For example, this anonymous message from a toddler who wants the government to “desander the price of sushi, poutine and fish.”

Or this other, also anonymous, who asks that we ban the television “because it hurts the eyes”.

But quickly, a clear trend emerges: children especially want to talk about the environment. “I want us to reduce pollution for a better future”, writes, for example, Maxym.

“I trust you to give us a land that is still habitable and Jean is very Indonesian”, continues Olivier.

The environment: a major source of concern

Josslyn does not write anything, but draws a beautiful blue and green planet, on which stand three people, surrounded by hearts.

“Dear assembly, I would like not to be the people who work for the city that collects the waste of others”, indignant meanwhile Jean-Christophe, 8 years old.

“My name is Norah, I’m 9 years old, mom wants us to be greener, we make compost and we consume less plastic. Everyone should be like her, ”wrote another.

“Help the earth!” Exclaims Vale. “I would like you to remove the plastic bags from the grocery stores,” added another. “No more oil, let’s switch to green electricity!” “Save the trees, they would save you!”

This kind of message, the National Assembly receives by the ton. At a time when leaders around the world are criticized for their inaction – among others by the young muse Greta Thunberg – Magali Paquin is not surprised.

“Young people today are enormously aware of the environmental issue, they hear about it every day, at school, they have activities, it doesn’t surprise me, in fact, that this is a recurring subject”, says- she.

“They are concerned because it affects them directly, in relation to their own future, and we see it from an early age. There, we have drawings of children aged 6-7, who are already going, in their first words, their first letters, to talk about the environment. ”

She highlights the many calls for action by young people, many of whom have been affected by the floods. “They will also talk about it saying,” I don’t want more floods. ” There is a direct awareness that is being made on this subject. ”

We must salute this youth who “already has a seed of commitment”, rejoices, Ms. Paquin.

Near a tiny table, equipped with two benches, where children can read and draw, a small television plays images, among others, of a demonstration.

Want to be heard

The tone of the messages is sometimes serious. Jean, a little girl who speaks English, writes: “I want the children to be heard. I don’t want to be a ghost.

“People tell me there are things that only adults can do. But children can make a difference in the world. Malala is a child and she changed the world. I can too. ”

Alexane goes on to say: “I would not like to have war”, while another militates in favor of the right to vote “from 13 years”.

Another message, this one from Alexis, which is accompanied by diagrams: “Zero poverty”, “Man and Woman”, “Liberated women”, “We help each other”, “No to cuts”.

But also, this note from Elise, which is encouraging: “Continue your excellent work!”

The Power of Petition

About 27,000 young people visit the National Assembly each year. The vast majority are Quebecers.

For teenagers, there is also the “Youth Room”, located in the newly renovated part of the parliament, where a wall pierced like Swiss cheese has recently been used as a receptacle for their messages.

This is where they learn that they can collect signatures, submit a petition and have it sponsored by a member of Parliament, even at their age.

“It is not because you are not 18 that you cannot enter the democratic process and that you do not have your place in parliament,” said Krystal Mclaughlin, counselor for educational programs.

For example, Yasmine and Nicolas want to “limit overpackaging, invest massively in public transportation, strictly regulate multinationals, conserve wilderness, offer composting services EVERYWHERE.”

“They want us to give them a voice, and they will take it if we give them room and we trust them,” says Mclaughlin. It’s nice to see them go into our activities. They are driven by improving their society, especially in elementary school. For them, it goes without saying. ”

Spelling mistakes have been kept for authenticity.

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