Political voice
Teens tackle town council

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 22/99) - Tired of politics and hearing the same old song from our elected representatives? Well, there's a light at the end of tunnel in the form of two Grade 11 students from Samuel Hearne high school -- Jill Chinna and Sherry Rioux.

The pair, who were elected to the Inuvik Town Council through a recently introduced initiative by the town and the high school, had their first taste of local politics last Wednesday.

"It was confusing at first with all these papers in front of me and I didn't know what they meant," said Chinna, 15, "but we went in-camera and I guess it made me feel important -- they told me I can vote on motions but we still have to work out a few things."

As runner-up in the Oct. 1 election, Rioux will act as alternate to Chinna, sitting with council when her schoolmate is unavailable. But she was also in attendance on Wednesday and said she plans to continue to show up at the Monday Committee of the Whole meetings and at the regular council meetings.

"I'm really into politics, and it may sound corny but I'm really into Inuvik and I like to know what's going on," she said.

Rioux said she's been involved with student council but was impressed by the level of organization and formality at the council meeting. She added that she bears no grudge against Chinna for edging her in the vote.

"I think Jill is really good for the town and she had the experience of going to the youth legislature in Yellowknife," she said.

"And I really want to get involved with the district education authority -- I heard they're getting a student rep, too, and that's something I'd really like to do. I find town politics interesting but I know a lot about what's going on at the school," she added.

School was, in fact, a topic raised by Chinna at Wednesday's meeting -- out of concern for the threat of impending job-action by the teachers.

"I just said that if that happened then the kids here would lose all their credits first thing and there'd be no extracurricular activities," she said.

The council proved to be sympathetic to Chinna's concerns, and subsequent discussion resulted in the passing of a motion for Mayor George Roach to draft a letter urging the teachers' association and government to resolve their differences.

Both Chinna and Rioux said that besides having an impact on council they saw the job as a potential resume builder and as a way to save for university. They said, however, that the original scholarship proposal is being revised -- a point confirmed by deputy mayor Peter Clarkson.

"They'll be sworn in in two weeks -- this is something the town is taking very seriously," he said. "And we decided the position will be for a full councillor, who gets paid the same as the other councillors and has the same rights -- the only thing she can't do is make motions, but she can show concerns and will be on committees."

Clarkson said it was because no other councillors are told how to save their money the idea of a scholarship fund was dropped and that the student rep sitting with council will receive the same pay as the other councillors -- $75 for a committee of the whole meeting and $150 for a regular council meeting.