Activist, minister, now a first time Toronto council candidate
Local resident has track record of taking action to help people
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier May 3.)
Don Valley East resident Peter Karl Youngren is the kind of person who takes action when he sees a problem.
He’s volunteered in refugee camps, started a non-denominational church and founded a charity to help at risk youth.
Now the Victoria Village resident is running for council in Ward 34.
“I live here. I work here. I love it here,” he said.
He’d like to see more leadership to solve local and city problems including the disappearance of a local resident.
“Elizabeth Chirwa, one of the women who lives in the area, went missing,” said Youngren, who a member of the 33 Division police committee. “I was at a Community Police Liaison Committee meeting on (April 27) Tuesday night and no one mentioned this missing woman.”
The afternoon of April 27 officers issued a news release, YouTube video and held a press conference about Chirwa’s disappearance yet no one was talking about finding the 22-year-old woman at a police meeting the same night. She’d been missing since April 20.
“I stood up and said we need to find this girl,” he said. “There’s a lack of leadership in bringing people together.”
On April 28 he and a team of volunteers went out into the community to try and find Chirwa. As of the May 3 press date, she still hadn’t been located.
His need to help stems back to 1994 when he heard former MP and minister of defence David Collenette speak about the genocide in Rwanda.
That prompted Youngren and his father to volunteer in a Rwandan refugee camp with Oxfam.
“It changed my life,” he said. “I have never seen that level of evil or level of good in people. We worked with 50,000 kids who had witnessed family members being dismembered. I was only 19 at the time.”
Later he studied political science at the University of Waterloo and in political philosophy at Oxford. But before he had a chance to consider a life in politics he turned to theology and became an ordained minister.
A decade ago he founded a local non-denominational church in Don Valley East. It welcomed all faiths and sexual orientations and included programs to help people find work or learn English.
“We were doing a lot of great work, but we realized the place for some of it wasn’t with a church. I launched 4 Life Foundation,” he said of his charity that started in 2005.
The not-for-profit is one of the largest anti-violence, youth mentorship programs in Canada, states his website.
He’s also like to see more action from the city to help neighbourhoods.
“I’ve been disturbed in the last four years this ward’s faced some challenges,” he said.
For instance the United Way and the city have named Victoria Village in the southern part of the ward as one of 13 priority neighbourhoods.
“There is no plan to get us off this list,” he said.
Not surprisingly for someone who’s running against incumbent councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, he said it’s time for a change at city hall.
“I believe this is the time for community leaders, who have already been doing the work rolling up their sleeves, to take up the reins. As long as they are qualified,” said Youngren.