AMHERST, N.S. – Mason Carter may have just graduated high school, but is already an accomplished social activist.
Carter is the deputy junior mayor for the Amherst Youth Council, helped to pass a declaration of climate emergency and was the parade marshal for Amherst’s Pride parade in June - and is not even 18 yet.
At the Amherst Regional High School graduation ceremony recently, Carter received the Terry Fox Award for their commitment to social activism. The award is provided by means of a $28,000 scholarship to Canadian youth who honour the spirit of Terry Fox by providing their communities with humanitarian service.
“(I cried) for about a good 10 minutes afterwards," Carter said. "I’ve always looked at all the work I’ve done to be extremely rural and extremely small, and to not have much of a ripple effect or much of any effect at all. When I got the award, it was like all the last three years and all the late nights and the breakdowns after (publicly) presenting were worth it.”
Carter, who identifies as trans and prefers the pronouns they/them, has become a well-known figure in Amherst over the last few years due to their activism in various areas, especially the LGBQT community.
Carter is a member of Cumberland Pride, a youth volunteer for the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County and the first-voice speaker for the centre’s Safer Spaces program. Carter was also the head of ARHS’s Gay Straight Alliance and the co-head for ARHS’s student council’s Social Justice Committee. An article Carter wrote regarding a travelling ministry that promotes conversion therapy was published on HuffPost’s website.
Carter's own experiences with being trans is what prompted them to become involved with the queer community two years ago.
“When I got into looking deeper in regards to the marginalization people face, I’ve experienced very little (as a trans person) in the scheme of things," Carter said. "I had the power to use my voice and my standing to promote (marginalized people), and the fact that they’re being disadvantaged like this, and hopefully find a way to bring them up to the same level that everyone else is currently living at.”
Two weeks ago, Carter’s work with the Amherst Youth Council and ARHS Strikes for Climate Change led to the town issuing a climate emergency declaration. The Town of Amherst has promised to take on more clean energy projects, such as providing affordable solar energy panels to residents and reducing its net carbon output to zero by 2050.
Mayor David Kogan is impressed with Carter’s accomplishments and says the award is well-deserved.
“Carter has served the town quite well. They influenced a great degree of climate change in Amherst and their voice for the LGBQT is very loud and vocal. It takes a lot of courage to do that and I think highly of them in that regard,” Kogan says.
Carter’s mother, Joann, is “beyond proud” of Carter’s accomplishments.
“Carter has, in the past year, constantly surprised me in everything that they’ve done. I don’t know of another mother that could be prouder.”
In the fall, Carter will begin studying journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax. Carter intends to continue working in human rights activism as an investigative journalist in disadvantaged countries. Carter hopes investigation into queer issues in those countries can result in positive social change.
“I want to do my part and help the people that really don’t have anyone here to speak for them. I want to call attention to (these people) and force people to listen to them...They barely have any of the rights that we do. I genuinely just want to leave the world a better place than how I found it.”