Haleema Ahmed, a second-year student in Faculty of Science, is part of the Prime Minister of Canada’s Youth Council and provides input into government programs and initiatives. She’s also a freelance writer with an impressive list of published stories.
In between attending classes, studying, and volunteering, Haleema Ahmed is busy serving as a member of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council (PMYC), providing regular input on government programs and initiatives from a youth perspective. She and the council meet with senior government officials and federal agencies once a month to discuss issues of importance to them, their community and country. From Aug. 29 to 31, Ahmed and the council gathered for their first in-person meeting since the pandemic began. At this meeting, which took place in Ottawa, the council met with its Chair, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Vice-Chair and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Marci Ien, as well as other ministers.
“Serving on the council allows me to bridge youth issues and my opinions to a national table that shapes the future of our country. Having this access has also really motivated me to do more outreach,” says Ahmed. “I have been able to voice my perspectives on the issues closest to me, including mental health and Islamophobia.”
Ahmed joined the council in July 2021 as part of its fifth cohort – just as she was preparing to begin her studies at York as a biomedical sciences student that fall. The cohort began meeting virtually every month with agencies like the Public Health Agency of Canada, Elections Canada, Health Canada and the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, bringing their perspectives and stories to the table to shape policies. During their August 2022 meeting, the council discussed issues ranging from pharmacare to mental health to reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. Ahmed also spoke to the prime minister about Islamophobia and the need for federal action on Bill 21 in Quebec.
“It’s always insightful to hear from the other council members, who live in different parts of Canada and have unique experiences and perspectives that I may not have considered before,” says Ahmed.
She began her studies at York University on a York Science Scholar Award, a $10,000 entrance scholarship that includes a paid summer research position after the completion of first year. As part of this program, in summer 2022 she worked with Assistant Professor Jude Kong in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, studying the cultural and sociodemographic factors affecting the pandemic response by Canadian universities.
She is also a freelance writer, publishing articles about her views on high school education, Islamophobia and social justice for media like the Toronto Star, the Markham Economist & Sun and MYVoice Canada. Her latest opinion piece in the Toronto Star (May 5, 2022) discusses how to meaningfully include youth at every decision-making table.