Carleton Place council receives Planet Youth update

Planet Youth Logo
Photo submitted.
Posted on: November 14, 2018

Brian Turner

On Tuesday, Nov 13, Carleton Place council held two of its final meetings before the newly elected members take the reins on Dec 4.  Following a brief full council session (with Councilor Brian Doucett and Deputy-Mayor Jerry Flynn absent), Councilor Theresa Fritz convened the Policy Review committee meeting.

One of the highlights of the Council procedure was Deputy-Clerk Stacey Blair reading the bylaw into effect that names her the town’s clerk effective Jan 2019. She replaces retiring clerk Duncan Rogers.

Deputy Clerk Stacey Blair left and CAO Diana Smithson right. Photo credit: Brian Turner.

On the Policy Review committee agenda was a presentation from Municipal Drug Strategy Chair, David Somppi highlighting the progress of the Planet Youth Lanark County initiative.  He spoke of the history of Planet Youth, created in Iceland to try to stem the tide of substance use among youth, which, over 20 years ago, was the highest in the European Union for alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis (48%).  After societal changing approaches, based heavily on survey-gathered evidence and growing from the grassroots up, this isolated nation now boasts the lowest rates of the same substances in the same young age group (5%).  By the time this came to the attention of a group of Carleton Place residents in 2016, the Icelandic Approach (now known as Planet Youth), was in use in over 40 countries around the globe.  It involved many facets of daily live but centered around building stronger bonds between parents and children and increasing opportunities for more positive sports, arts, and cultural pastimes for youth.  The overall purpose at the beginning was to delay the commencement of regular substance use in youth.  Not only did the rates of use drop, but incidents of theft, bullying, homelessness, and vandalism fell substantially as well.

Deputy Clerk Stacey Blair right and Mayor Louis Antonakos left. Photo credit: Brian Turner.

In early 2017 this community ad-hoc committee made a presentation to the town’s Municipal Drug Strategy committee, who, after review, wholeheartedly supported moving forward to launch this ground-breaking methodology in Lanark County.  In quick order support was received from the area municipal drug strategy steering committee, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, Open Doors for Lanark Children and Youth.  Somppi pointed out that this community table of leaders now includes representatives from school support staff, police services, the United Way of Lanark County, medical and addictions specialists, and media and fundraising supporters.  They’ve mapped out action plans and are in the research stage at present time.

Somppi was looking for the town’s assistance in publicizing and supporting open public meetings coming up later this month.  One of the Icelandic researchers and pioneers of their successful efforts, Alfgeir Kristjansson PhD, MSc will deliver comments and take questions from the public on Wednesday Nov 28th at the All Nations Church in Carleton Place and at the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Perth on the next evening (Nov 29th) from 7 to 9 pm.  He’s now an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Public Health as well as maintaining a senior researcher position at Reykjavik University in Iceland.  As other towns and cities in Canada are beginning to look at Planet Youth for solutions to their own challenges, Somppi mentioned visitors from other provinces will be attending Carleton Place for the first public meeting.

The Planet Youth Lanark County group has created a website (planetyouthlanark.ca) and Facebook page as well as an eventbrite.ca listing to permit organizers to gauge attendance.