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Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel Terms of Reference

Preamble

According to the 2016 census, approximately 7 per cent of Niagara's population falls between the ages of 13 and 19. This is a sizeable share of the Region's population that often interacts with Regional programs, services and policies in unexpected ways. The views and preferences of this demographic can sometimes go underrepresented in the decision making process. The Regional Chair and Council agree that a formal opportunity for youth input should be made available to ensure more voices are considered when creating public policy.

It is generally accepted that different backgrounds, thought processes and unique viewpoints assist an organization in tackling problems and help to achieve optimal results. The diversity of thought brought forward through a youth-focused panel may provide Council with additional insights and perspective that will be beneficial to the decision-making process.

Mandate

The Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel is a body established by the Niagara Regional Chair in accordance with the following terms of reference. The panel will provide recommendations, advice and information to the Regional Chair, Regional Council and Regional staff on matters pertaining to youth in Niagara. The panel will provide a platform for youth across the region to share inter-municipal information as well as coordinate on initiatives across Niagara.

Goals and purpose

The Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel provides information and advice to the Regional Chair, Council and staff on matters related to youth that intersect Regional policies and programs and services, as referred to it by committees of Council.

Items initiated by the advisory panel itself would be subject to review and approval of Council.

Specifically, the panel will:

  • Provide the perspective of youth on civic matters that affect their daily lives, such as public transportation, waste management, affordable housing, land use planning, active transportation and volunteer opportunities
  • Provide advice to the Region on its policies, services and programs that pertain to youth
  • Identify gaps / barriers and suggest solutions to the participation of youth in Regional programs and services
  • Provide a forum for dialogue between youth and the Niagara Region on matters of collective interest
  • Foster youth engagement in local government and explore issues of diversity, and multiculturalism as it relates to youth
  • Act as a centralized body that can help coordinate inter-municipal initiatives as the need arises.

The panel has no decision making authority and is advisory only.

Reporting structure

The Regional Chairs Youth Advisory Panel will report to Regional Council through the Council Weekly Correspondence Distribution package. The chair of the advisory panel will provide a minimum of one verbal update to council per calendar year.

Budget

The Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel will have no operational budget. Any items initiated by the panel that necessitate funding will require the approval of Regional Council.

Membership

Composition

There shall be a maximum of 12 voting members on the Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel, with one member representing each of the 12 municipalities.

Voting members must be between 13 and 19 years of age.

Additionally, non-voting membership shall include:

  • Regional Chair
  • One Regional Councillor (acting as a volunteer to the panel)
  • Designated staff members from the Regional Chair's office

Other staff may be requested to join meetings or support the work of the panel as need arises. A member of REACT, being a youth-based Public Health group, will be invited to attend in a voluntary capacity.

Every reasonable effort will be made to ensure there is a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints among the membership.

Applications for membership on the panel shall be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of the Regional Chair, volunteer representative from Regional Council and staff from the Office of the Regional Chair.

Term

The term of membership shall be one year, with an option for members to remain on the panel for an additional year. In the event a member choses not to continue for a second year, a recruitment will be conducted for that specific municipality to ensure representation.

Roles and responsibilities

Chair and vice chair

A chair and vice chair will be elected from panel members on a yearly basis at the first meeting of the new year to preside over meetings and panel business. The chair and vice chair of the panel shall be voting members.

It is the role of the chair to preside over panel meetings so that its business can be carried out efficiently and effectively, and to act as liaison between the panel, Regional Council, and other panels / committees. It is the role of the vice chair to preside over meetings and act as a liaison in the absence of the chair.

Regional Council Member

A member of Regional Council shall sit on the panel in a volunteer capacity and shall not be permitted to vote on items that are being considered. The Regional Councillor has the responsibility of providing advice, guidance and counsel to the panel on how best to position their recommendations. The Regional Councillor will also contribute contextual information that may help inform the decision making process of the panel.

Regional Chair's Staff

Staff from the Regional Chair's office will provide procedural direction and guidance. Designated staff from the Chair's office will also provide advice regarding Regional operations when required. The staff from the Chair's office will record meeting minutes, which will be circulated to Regional Council as part of the weekly correspondence package.

Minutes from these meetings will also be circulated to the Board of Trustees for all public school boards operating in Niagara, as well as the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committees across the region.

Resource Support

Resource support may also be provided, by invitation, from specific organizations, local area municipalities and other local agencies, to offer expertise and assistance on matters under consideration by the Panel and/or for information-sharing purposes.

Panel members

All panels members, including the chair and vice chair, have the responsibility to help achieve the pane''s mandate and purposes. Panel members are also responsible for:

  • Reviewing meeting materials before the meetings and arriving prepared to provide a broad perspective on the issues under consideration
  • Working diligently to complete assigned activities
  • Participating on working groups, as appropriate
  • Agreeing to describe, process, and resolve issues in a professional and respectful manner
  • Providing input to help identify future projects or strategic priorities for future years' work
  • Communicating activities of the panel to groups represented or those who may have an interest and offer information back to the panel

Working groups

To fulfill its mandate and accomplish its goals, the Chair's Youth Advisory Panel may establish working groups to deal with specific issues or projects. Working groups are considered to be time-limited, project specific sub-groups of the Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel in that they are convened to accomplish a specific task (or tasks) in a narrowly defined time period.

Working groups must be comprised of at least one member of the youth advisory panel and may include community members and other individuals with relevant knowledge and expertise.

Working groups shall be chaired where possible by a voting member of the Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel and shall provide regular updates to the main group about recommendations on assigned projects. Meeting notes of the working group shall be recorded and submitted to the Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel for proper directing through the approval process. Working groups may meet at a time and place as decided by the members of the working group.

Meetings

The Regional Chair's Youth Advisory Panel shall meet six times per year, and may meet more frequently if required. A meeting schedule should be set and circulated to the members for approval each year. Should a time sensitive matter arise requiring immediate attention, the Youth Advisory Panel may meet at the discretion of the chair.

Meetings will be held at Regional Headquarters and / or in a virtual format at a time as determined by the members. All meetings will be open to the public. The Region shall provide accommodations for those that have barriers to connecting to meetings virtually.

Meetings shall be governed by the Region's Procedural By-law, being a by-law to govern the calling, place and proceedings of the meetings of Council and its advisory groups, as may be amended from time-to-time.

A panel member who is unable to attend a meeting, shall forward their regrets to the Office of Regional Chair as soon as possible. Should the Office of Regional Chair not have confirmation of quorum 24 hours before the meeting, the meeting shall be cancelled.

Absenteeism

Members who miss three unauthorized consecutive meetings shall be deemed to have resigned from the panel and will be notified of this in writing by the panel chair in coordination with the Regional Chair's office.

Amendments to the terms of reference

The terms of reference should be reviewed and refined at a minimum of every four years to ensure that they remain current and meaningful.

Proposals to amend the terms of reference shall require the approval of a majority of the members present. Proposed amendments to the terms of reference shall be submitted to Regional Council for information.

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