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‘Chair of the Next Generation’ presented to Pemberton council

Students from Pemberton Secondary School decorated the chair with the topics that matter most to them
The girls from Pemberton Secondary School presenting their 'Chair of the Next Generation' to Mayor Mike Richman at a council meeting on Tuesday, April. 9. Photo courtesy of Maude Cyr

A group of up-and-coming leaders from Pemberton Secondary School unveiled their “Chair of the Next Generation” to Pemberton council at a meeting on Tuesday, April 9.

The “Chair of the Next Generation” project helps young people discover their own voice within their community and further afield. The “Mères au front” (mothers at the front) originated in Quebec and has now made its way to Pemberton. Students are asked to decorate an old chair to represent the topics they care about most. The chair is then moved into council buildings, a reminder of the up-and-coming generation and the problems they will have to face.

Pemberton mom Maude Cyr worked hard over the last few months on Pemberton’s own chairs of the next generation.

Youth in Signal Hill Elementary School were also invited to take part in the project. The Grade 10 leadership club from Pemberton Secondary School previously met with Mayor Mike Richman to discuss what is important to them.

Cyr said the project is also a good way of easing young people’s eco-anxiety and worries about their future as climate change affects our communities in real time.

The mom made a short speech before gifting the chair to Pemberton council. 

“We are here today because we want to donate the ‘Chair of the next Generation’ to you so that a place is reserved for children at your meetings,” she said. “We ask that this chair be permanently placed around the Pemberton council table and that it reminds you of the expectations of future generations regarding the climate emergency. May the protection of life in all its forms be a part of your decisions and actions.”

The project is increasing in popularity around Canada and even further afield in Europe.

“At the moment there are 80 municipalities in Quebec that have this chair in their council offices,” Cyr said. “These people [Mères au front] want to leave a fairer and greener world to our children and future generations. We ask elected officials to put in place the necessary measures to respond to the climate emergency and the degradation of the ecosystem.”

Features added to the chair demonstrate the priorities of the fully female leadership group. They include: a bridge over the river connecting communities; a red dress to symbolize the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women; an orange shirt representing the impact residential schools had on the community and truth and reconciliation; and LGBTQ2S+ colours for inclusion in the community. The three main languages used in Pemberton—English, French and Ucwalmícwts—are also included on the chair.

Proud teacher, Alexandra Alain, thanked the girls for their participation in the project.

“It’s been an honour to be involved with this project with the students,” she said. “I am so proud of them. You give me hope in our world.”

The teens hope the chair will serve as an important reminder to Pemberton politicians over the important years to come.

“Our expectation for politicians is that when making decisions for our town, they take into consideration how it may affect the kids of the future,” they said. “We hope they will not only focus on problems that are present but issues that might come up in the future and will affect the next generation.

“We hope that as time goes on, the chair will still be there to remind politicians about the future generation during their decision-making, but also that it becomes second-nature while making decisions to think about the youth and what they
may want.”

Mayor and council stressed to the girls their door is always open, and that they appreciate any ideas and feedback the students have.