P.E.I.'s Youth Council member impressed with group

P.E.I.'s member of the brand-new Prime Minister's Youth Council has just finished the first meeting of the 15-person group, this past weekend in Ottawa, and describes the members as 'extremely passionate'.

Charlottetown's Chris Zhou has first meeting with 15-member group reporting to Prime Minister

Chris Zhou of Charlottetown is a health sciences student at McMaster University. (Government of Canada)

P.E.I.'s member of the brand-new Prime Minister's Youth Council has just finished the first meeting of the 15-person group, this past weekend in Ottawa.

Charlottetown's Chris Zhou was chosen from 14,000 applicants for the council, made up of young people aged 16 - 24.

Zhou is now a first year student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and said the group heard directly from the boss himself at the meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"It was really obvious that he was genuinely passionate about youth," said Zhou. "We only had a brief meeting, so he outlined his expectations of the council. He stressed the importance that we remain non-partisan, and that we do not hesitate to inform him of our opinions, whether he might like it or not. So I'm extremely honoured and excited to be able to work with them for the next two years."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the inaugural Youth Council on the weekend in Ottawa, and told the group to be non-partisan. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
The council was set up because the Prime Minister wants young people to have a say on government policy, and inform him on issues directly affecting youth.

Zhou feels this group has the right membership to do that.

"I was extremely impressed by the other members of the Youth Council," he said. "It was the most diverse group of Canadians I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. We each came from all sorts of backgrounds, experiences and cultures. And in our discussions it became really obvious that this diversity is one of our biggest strengths. Everyone's extremely involved in their communities, and everyone is unbelievably passionate about making positive impacts."

Zhou wanted to be part of the council because of the opportunities Canada has given him and his family, who immigrated to the country six years ago from China.

The Youth Council also includes four young women from Canada's North.
"We were welcomed by the kind and loving community in P.E.I.," he said. "So I am really passionate about giving back to the community which has given so much to me and my family. And I think that the Youth Council is a great way to make sure that the youth on the Island can have their voices heard."

P.E.I. topics will be raised

Topics particular to P.E.I. that Zhou wants to bring up include the trouble many young people have finding employment on the Island, and the need for improvements to the education system.

He says he's always been interested in making positive change to government policy, something that goes back to his youth in China.

"The health care system in China is different. If you want the best care, you would have to pay the doctors extra. It's sort of like bribery almost. And I was really sick as a child, and I've been through hospitals as a child and been through that system of health care, and I feel betrayed by that system. So that's what inspired me to get into policy. I want to be a health care administrator here in Canada."

The group spent three 14-hour days in discussions over the weekend.

As the inaugural Youth Council, it's up to this group to decide how best to achieve their mandate, and figure out what they want to accomplish.

They will meet every few months together, and stay in contact all the rest of the time via Skype or email.

Zhou said he was already given one very important piece of advice — to manage his time well, as his work with the council will keep him busy.

With files from Island Morning