The British Columbia Youth Parliament’s (BCYP) 2020 annual session is wrapping up tonight, but in Victoria the Legislative Assembly sits empty.
Normally, “we would meet in Victoria for a week to spend our time at the Parliament Building to make legislation, get to know each other and then whatever we decided upon in Victoria that week, in terms of service projects, we would take into the year and implement those,” said Emily Sergent, a 16-year-old Squamish resident and a representative for the Sea to Sky school district who is attending the annual session.
However, this year’s session is being done over Zoom.
“Imagine 97 teens in suits all together on a Zoom call,” said Sergent.
“It's actually gone pretty smoothly. We definitely expected it to be very strange as everything that has turned online has been definitely very strange, but it's running very smoothly,” said Sergent.
The BCYP is a non-profit and non-partisan organization where students from around the province come together and form a mock government and debate legislation. They are dedicated to fulfilling their motto “youth serving youth” and consist of two pillars: the parliament and service.
Don’t be fooled by the word “youth” into thinking it’s all fun and games. This youth parliament works hard and puts in the hours to make a real impact for youth in B.C.
“What makes us, I think, really distinct and unique from other youth parliaments is that we don't just simulate or do kind of like mock debate. Everything we discuss, all the legislation, gets put forward; our plans outline, projects and activities,” said Adriana Thom, the current Premier of the BCYP.
For example, Thom told The Chief that they had just passed their Project Phoenix Act which is an outdoor and educational camp for kids that would normally not get the chance to do that kind of activity. Thom said ideally, they are looking to run a week-long day camp in the summer, but that they do have backup options in case of pandemic restrictions don’t allow them to host it. Other ideans include a camp-in-a-box program in which they send materials and activities to kids.
“The projects which are implemented throughout the year have a lasting effect on the children, especially the kids that attend camp summit. It's really great,” said Sergent.
“We do follow the same way that the actual government would pass a bill. So, we have around three readings and committee stages. So, it takes a long time,” said Sergent.
“Our days have been around 12 hours on average."
Every year the youth parliament has an honorary Lieutenant Governor to open and close the year’s session. This year that post went to the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“It was very exciting. I think I could speak on behalf of everyone at BCYP when I say that we were all very excited to share that she was going to be our Lieutenant Governor,” said Sergent.
“I always kind of liked the idea of having a public servant filling that role. And at this point, Dr. Bonnie Henry, I think, is the top public servant within the province. And I think having her as our lieutenant governor has meant a lot, I think, to the membership as well, because in some ways, I think it kind of fits with the theme of ‘despite challenges’, we have strong leaders within our province, and you have strong leaders within our organization. And together, we can get through anything,” said Thom.