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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Test positivity rates in Greater Victoria from April 23 to 29. (BC CDC data)
Leaked data shows View Royal top of COVID-19 list for Greater Victoria

View Royal mayor says week was a blip for the township, not the norm

A member of the Downtown Victoria Business Association Clean Team works along Fort Street. The team will be working weekends from May through September, providing seven day a week coverage. (Photo courtesy DVBA)
Downtown Victoria cleanup service expanded for spring, summer

Clean Team members to patrol sidewalks seven days a week through September

Robyn Sealy of Parks Canada and carver Charles Elliot look at the new interpretive display unveiled May 4 at SMONECTEN, the new name of the former McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve just north of Sidney. (Parks Canada/Submitted)
Campground near Sidney renamed to recognize First Nations

SMONECTEN is new name of former McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Reality/Submitted).
Sidney warehouse proposal receives more than 40 public feedback comments

Sidney has until May 11 to submit comments to Victoria Airport Authority

Carolyn West plans to run each of the Victoria Goddess Runs this year, in support of Victoria Women’s Transition House Society. (Courtesy Carolyn West)
Runner tackles solo Goddess Run to raise funds for women, children fleeing violence

Women’s Transition House Society named official cause for Goddess Runs

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike grounds Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward comes away with the puck after a battle along the boards with Grizzlies defenceman Jake Veilleux. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions

Grizzlies edged Alberni Valley Bulldogs in back-to-back matches to claim title

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read