The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has selected 11 leading young Canadians to join the Youth Council. Each one brings their own unique perspectives and strengths:
Rayene Bouzitoun is a student at Collège de Maisonneuve living in Montréal, Quebec, where she is a long-standing and active member of the Forum Jeunesse de Saint-Michel. She is passionate about working to counter racism and radicalization leading to violence, and about working toward gender equity. As a leader in her community, she has delivered talks on addiction and substance abuse to youth and has helped to connect young people with the political world through events with local politicians.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, and partly raised in Montréal, Quebec, Simone Cavanaugh is a Loran Scholar and a recipient of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 award. Currently, she is in her final year of law school at McGill University where she serves as Equity Commissioner. She is a human rights activist who is passionate about women’s and children’s issues, particularly as they intersect with issues of disability and accessibility. As a motivational speaker, she recently gave a TEDx talk on overcoming challenges and providing for every child with special needs. She is interested in working toward better access to education and employment for Canadian youth with disabilities. She believes that everyone counts and can be an agent of change in Canada.
Molly French is a high school student who commutes daily from her Sherwood Park, Alberta, home to attend classes in Edmonton. She is a Science Expo Ambassador, a Student Senator, and a Student Trustee for her school district. Molly has also served on the Strathcona County Youth Council as treasurer. She is passionate about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She pursues that passion through such ventures as volunteering in a robotics laboratory, peer tutoring, and speaking to younger children about science. She is especially interested in working to increase graduation rates for women in post-secondary STEM programs.
Lauren Kennedy is a teaching consultant and new mother living in Ancaster, Ontario. She is a strong leader with experience and training in youth facilitation, mentorship, and restorative justice. In the pursuit of her interest in anti-bullying and mental health, she co-founded Titans for Titans, an anti-bullying group in her high school, and continued to provide support for the group after graduation. For her work in contributing to a safer and more inclusive school, she was awarded the Premier’s Award for Accepting Schools, and she is eager to bring the same changes to communities across Canada.
Dana Kenny is from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages at the University of Prince Edward Island. He has served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity PEI as a Youth Engagement Director, as well as President of the UPEI Student Union on the UPEI Board of Governors. Dana brings with him experience living abroad in Spain and France, where he has studied and worked. He believes in a grassroots approach and is passionate about increasing democratic engagement, promoting and celebrating la Francophonie, and improving supports for victims of sexual assault through policy development and education.
François-Olivier Picard lives in the city of Québec, where he is currently in the master’s program at Laval University’s Institute for Advanced International Studies. He is heavily involved as a leader in extracurricular activities on his campus. He is a veteran of the FSA ULaval debate team, as well as the Student Association’s former vice‑president of external affairs. He is a member of both the International Office and Laval University’s League of Arab States delegation. He recently set up a business to give guided jogging tours of the city of Québec. As a member of the Council, François-Olivier would like to get young Canadians more involved in political life.
Neha Rahman is a McGill University History and Classics student who, after immigrating to Canada at age three, grew up in Toronto, Ontario. Her passion for community involvement is closely connected to her own experiences as an immigrant and a woman of colour. As a high school student she was involved in such efforts as founding a Feminist Club and leading the Social Justice club. A few examples of her initiatives include raising funds and awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, collecting clothing for donation to a women’s shelter, and lobbying school faculty to deliver in-class content about women involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), for which she was awarded the District 12 Status of Women award.
Gabe Senecal credits his rural, farm upbringing near Melfort, Saskatchewan, as the source of his personal interest in community, equality, and justice. His degree in Regional and Urban Planning at the University of Saskatchewan dovetails with his passion for bridging the divide between urban and rural Canadians. As well, Gabe is interested in reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians. While attending university he proudly served as Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union. Now living in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, Gabe works with his local Member of the Legislative Assembly.
Sara Wheale lives in Breton, Alberta, where she works as a heavy equipment operator. Her roots are in agriculture and she has created and led an organization for raising awareness of agricultural issues. With her professional experience in the oil and gas industry, she has developed a passion for advocating on related subjects and she sees getting oil to tidal water as an economic priority for Canada. She is also interested in developing programs related to Indigenous youth.
Justin Charles Wong is in his fourth year of Computer Engineering at the University of British Columbia and lives in West Vancouver. He is a fourth-generation Canadian who believes in diversity, perseverance, and that helping others should come naturally. He is an avid chess player, singer, fitness enthusiast, web designer, and independent developer of iOS applications. Justin also co-founded an app development team for his high school and produced an application that was well received by more than one thousand users and the West Vancouver Superintendent of Schools. He is passionate about positive youth mental health, access to transportation and education, as well as strategies to mitigate and prevent bullying.
Riley Yesno is an Eabametoong First Nation woman living in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she attends high school. She is a strong leader who uses her voice to represent those who are underrepresented. She is a highly engaged community member, a youth facilitator, a public speaker, and a feminist. As a school board representative at the provincial level, she advocates on behalf of her peers. As a First Nations woman who has lived on reserve, she is most passionate about equity for Indigenous people in Canada, with a particular interest in missing and murdered Indigenous women.