Kyle Dow, Sky Losier, Astra Lund-Phillips, William McDonough, Shay Lynn Sampson and Sarina de Havelyn are among the Saanich area residents who are participating in the 89th session of British Columbia Youth Parliament (BCYP). Wolf Depner/News Staff

B.C. Youth Parliament embraces political inclusion

Youth from across the province take part in 89th session at B.C.’s Legislative Assembly

These are truly historic times for politics, and one of the groups helping to produce the future generation of leaders is marking its own bit of history.

As members of the British Columbia Youth Parliament (BCYP) take part in their 89th session in the halls of the Legislative Assembly, they will be doing so against the backdrop of B.C.’s first minority government in 65 years, and the first government ever shaped by the B.C. Greens.

It is also the age where almost every day the public learns about more cases of sexual misconduct by powerful individuals shaping political discourse, be they politicians themselves, influential journalists, or movie moguls with a distinct political agenda.

Sky Losier alludes to this backdrop as he discusses BCYP’s history, whose roots date back to 1924, when it started as the Older Boys Parliament.

That name points to its less-than-inclusive orientation and past that did not change until 1974, when it allowed women to participate – 60 years after British Columbia expanded the franchise for some but not all women, as B.C. denied various minority groups full political rights until the late 1940s.

In short, an organization that contributed to the political education of B.C. youth for decades systemically excluded women for decades after women themselves had actively participated in real-life provincial electoral politics. In fact, by 1974, women had routinely won seats and served in cabinet.

“It’s mind-boggling,” said Losier, a Saanich resident who will be playing the role of premier.

So what caused the change? The government of then-premier David Barrett – B.C.’s first New Democratic premier – had made it clear that the province would not allow the organization continued use of the Legislative Assembly unless it became open to all, said Losier.

This intervention gives this year’s session of the Youth Parliament a special significance, because it means that the number of sessions with female participation (45) will have surpassed the number of sessions without (44).

“It is important to tell the women of the Youth Parliament that they are a valuable part of the organization, and that we couldn’t do the work we do without them,” he said.

Unlike other model parliaments and debate societies, the BCYP has a social-service focus under the motto of ‘Youth Serving Youth’ as its 97 members debate and decide legislation that describes various projects that the non-profit, non-partisan organization supports over the year.

The largest of these is Camp Phoenix, a four-day sleep-away camp for children aged eight to 12, held in different locations.

Astra Lund-Phillips, a Saanich resident who serves as minister of public relations, said this work has made her appreciate the many things others do not take for granted. It also shows the public that her generation is not as apathetic as it might appear, she said.

“They are active, not just bystanders,” she said.

As part of their service, youth parliamentarians must fundraise at least $150 each, and fundraising contributes up to $18,000 towards the budget of the group.

As one might expect, its membership has a high level of political knowledge and engagement, with many studying politics in school and a record of working on various real-life political campaigns.

Losier, however, stresses the non-partisan nature of the organization, and what actually appeals to him is the diverse range of opinions that exist among the parliamentarians. Save for the designated cabinet and shadow cabinet usually comprised of returning parliamentarians, all youth parliamentarians sit as independents.

It is rewarding to meet people who challenge your ideas, said Losier. Lund-Phillips, meanwhile, appreciates the real-life lessons in parliamentary procedures and democratic techniques, something missing from more formal academic settings.

Organizations in their home ridings nominate would-be parliamentarians, who must also submit a personal statement that describes their reasons for participating, their community engagements and potential contributions to BCYP.

BCYP’s list of alumni is a long and impressive one. It includes judges, journalists and not surprisingly, politicians, including Linda Reid, who had sat in the legislature for 26 years between 1991 and 2017, holding various government posts.

Reid, who did not run in the last election, also served as speaker between 2013 and 2017, the third woman in the history of B.C. to do so.

Just Posted

Search for missing Saanich Peninsula pair ends in tragedy

Vehicle found with two deceased occupants inside

Improvements to Sinclair Road coming

Development comes after Cadboro Bay Residents Association (CBRA) raised concerns

Saanich councillor open to more commercial operations in local parks

Coun. Ned Taylor had raised the issue during his election campaign

Langford’s Sarah Beckett Memorial playground opens

Life of West Shore RCMP Constable honoured with new playground

Greater Victoria gemmologist shines with life-time achievement award

Anthony de Goutière received award from Canadian Gemmological Association

VIDEO: High-speed crash at Douglas and Bay Streets caught on camera

Police watch-dog has assumed investigation of Victoria crash that sent three to hospital

Island murder victim’s mom expresses outrage over mental fitness decision of the accused

Smith vows to keep fighting until justice served for Descoteau

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Vancouver Island man dead after reported hit-and-run incident

Oceanside RCMP seek public’s help gathering information

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

Most Read