Saskatchewan

Sask. sexual health advocate appointed to Prime Minister's Youth Council

Topaza Yu, who was born and raised in Saskatoon, will be the only new member from Saskatchewan to sit on the council.

Topaza Yu, who was born and raised in Saskatoon, is the only new member from Sask. on the advisory council

Topaza Yu, born and raised in Saskatoon, will be the only member from Saskatchewan on the council. (Submitted by Topaza Yu )

A fourth-year University of Saskatchewan student who advocates for sexual and reproductive health is among the latest people to join a youth council that advises Canada's prime minister. 

Topaza Yu was one of 10 new members recently appointed to the Prime Minister's Youth Council.

Yu says she will use her position on the council, which officers advice to the prime minister on issues affecting young people, to advocate for access to free or low-cost contraception.

She also said she'll work to end the Canadian Blood Services policy of prohibiting men who have sex with men from donating blood in Canada, unless they've been celibate for at least three months.

"It is based on questionable science and perpetrates a stigma against men who have sex with men, while limiting the already very limited Canadian blood supply," Yu said in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

She said her drive to advocate for others comes from own personal experiences in the sexual and reproductive health and rights sector. 

I'm a strong believer for the principle of 'nothing for us without us.' … It's extremely vital to incorporate youth voices in all levels of government.- Topaza Yu

She had been prescribed birth control by her family doctor that made her feel sick. 

She had to turn to other places like Saskatoon Sexual Health and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights for information on other forms of contraception. Yu said it's not something she wants other youth to experience.

She also doesn't want them to experience the difficulties she had navigating sexual and reproductive health services.

"I was very much frustrated about the lack of accessibility and how limited resources were. And I wanted to find ways to break down barriers for youth who were facing similar barriers as I was, and still do," she said. 

Financial barriers and a lack of education can also prevent young people from access the services they need, Yu said.

Yu, who became part of the 18-member youth council last month, is the only current member of the advisory council who is from Saskatchewan.

The youth council is made up of Canadians age 16-24 who meet online and in person throughout the year, and offer advice to the prime minister on issues of importance to young people. The council's members also engage with local and national organizations, attend events and meet with cabinet ministers.

Aside from the youth council, Yu — a past CBC Saskatchewan Future 40 winner — is also an active member of the Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights team, a charitable organization that aims to provide access and education regarding sexual and reproductive health to others.   

Yu has also done other humanitarian work in the past, including starting a community initiative project called "CovidPacs," which delivered a total of 160 care packages to Saskatoon families in need. 

She said she hopes to bring her knowledge and experience on sexual and reproductive health and rights to the youth council and continue to create a space where everyone's voice matters. 

If the government is making decisions for youth, youth should also be involved in the process, she said.

"I'm a strong believer for the principle of 'nothing for us without us.' So I think it's extremely vital to incorporate youth voices in all levels of government so the policies can better reflect and represent youth needs."

With files from Saskatoon Morning

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