Recently I attended the 79th British Columbia Youth Parliament (BCYP) session over the winter break. The session took place from December 27, 2007 to December 31, 2007. BCYP has the motto is ?Youth Serving Youth?, and that is what the members of BCYP do.
British Columbia Youth Parliament is a youth service organization dedicated to the motto of youth serving youth. Every year 95 individuals, between the ages of 16-21 years old, from around BC gather in Victoria at the legislature and spend a week learning parliamentary procedure, debating and all about British Columbia Youth Parliament.
?Service is the heart of British Columbia Youth Parliament?. From year round community service around the province, to holding a summer camp for children who wouldn?t otherwise be able to attend a summer camp, to holding a gala auction, to holding regional youth parliaments around the province, members of British Columbia Youth Parliament pride themselves on serving their respective communities in addition to learning about the parliamentary process.?
Youth Parliaments have their origins in the ?boys work? movement of the YMCA over a hundred years ago. The first BC Older Boys? Parliament was held in January 1924. Since the 5th Session, resolutions had been introduced to admit girls as members. By the 1960?s the Canadian Girls in Training were taken up by the media, spearheaded by Victoria Time columnist Elizabeth Forbes. By the late 60?s the issue had been taken seriously by the OBP, but with strong Senate opposition, which included the veto of one resolution in the positive in 1971. Some of the ?Older Boys?? who opposed admitting women went as far as to organize an ?Older Girls? Parliament? to sit during Easter Break. The last statement is very important, for this year the boys were out numbered by girls two to one, and in the ministry, there was only one boy.
Our first day in Parliament started as soon as we got to Victoria. We walked from our hotel, the Harbor Towers, to the Parliament building. The first day we went through the formal opening of Parliament, where the Youth Parliament Lieutenant Governor, May Lou-Poy, spoke to us. The Speaker was then the official assigned to that position. The Speaker this year was Kerry Simmons. We had a senate comprised of adults including our Premier, Laurel Hogg. There was a Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet, and all members were divided into Government and Opposition. I was on the Government side and I sat in the desk of Daniel Jarvis.
During Parliament session, in the House of Commons, there were a lot of rules. We could not address or refer to any other member by their real name; when someone were to refer to me, they would call me the honorable member of Peace River South #1. We could only speak if the Speaker addressed us, and we had to speak through the Speaker. We could not have anything in our hand when we were speaking, especially a pen, because it is viewed as a threat. We could not cross over to the other side of the house and if we were to leave the house, we were to bow to the Speaker and whoever was speaking. If we approved something, we were to say ?Aye? and disapproval was ?Nay?. Every time a bill or resolution was passed we would pound on the top of our desks.
We split into groups of our regions and went for supper in-between the Formal Opening of Parliament and the Private Member?s Resolutions. Private Member?s Resolutions (PMR?s) are resolutions that a member of the house puts forward to debate and vote on, which every member was allowed to have their own opinion, state it and vote, but we could only speak once per resolution. The last sitting of everyday, there was at least one PMR, which consisted of things like, ?In the Support of the Resurrection of the Interurban Railway Connecting Surrey to Chilliwack,? ?In Opposition to NHL Involvement in Canadian Politics,? and ?In Support of Provincial Exams being mandatory.? We also had joke PMR?s like, ?In support of the Elimination of Gravity,? and ?In support of the Canadian Invasion of Switzerland.?
The second day in Session we had a Debate Workshop and toured the Parliament building. In the debate workshop we learned how to effectively debate. All through out session we were allowed anywhere in the Parliament building that we wanted to go if it wasn?t locked and on our tour we went in the places that were locked, like the Parliament library. There are incredible stained glass painting around the Parliament, the wall are made of real marble with Gold embedded in parts of the wall. Even the bathrooms were gorgeous, but very hard to find, because all the doors inside parliament are the same.
After lunch, in downtown Victoria, We all rode in taxicabs to the Government House; even the taxi drivers had never seen the sight of 25 taxis following each other to the same destination. The Government House was amazing. It too had many stained glass windows, dedicated to the different regions of British Columbia, to previous Lieutenant Governors, British Columbia and all of Canada. The walls were lined with the pictures of past and present Lieutenant Governors and Chatelaines and artifacts collected over many years. The Government House is where the Lieutenant Governor and the Queen stay whenever they are in Victoria. The last time the Queen stayed there was in 2002. The Government House was fit for a Queen, especially the Ballroom. I still cannot find words large enough to describe how beautiful the ballroom is, it is the spitting image of what every little girl pictures dancing with their Prince Charming in. The gardens were gorgeous, also, but we didn?t get to go in them. To me, it was very funny to see flowers in the winter, and I got a lot of funny looks when I was taking pictures of the flowers to bring back home.
The third day was the day that we went over the Camp Phoenix Act. The member?s at BCYP help organize a camp for kids who have either social or financial problems, and would otherwise never get to attend a camp. The camp takes place at the end of August and they are looking for donations to go towards these campers, so if you would like to make a donation you can please contact me.
The fourth day was finance and going over budgets. To add in a little interest of the members, the ministers added in some joke proposal, like y-chromosomes in the ministry. Most members would say that this was the slowest day. We had our final banquet on this day, and returned to the parliament after supper again.
For the full days of Parliament, we would have to be at parliament at 8 am and would finish at 10 pm. Our few breaks were lunch, which we got an hour and a half for, and supper, which we got two hours for. After the day was done we would have social events to give us a chance to meet those on the other side of the house. The first night was a game night, the second night was camp night, the third night was a Penny Auction and the fourth night was a Dance. Each started after we changed into regular attire and went till about 1 am.
The fifth day was for any final PMR?s, which we didn?t get through half of the ones left, and the Prorogation. Then we had some final pictures before leaving Victoria. We got to ride a Ferry back to Vancouver again where everyone had their Parliamentary Journals out and had everyone signing them. We got to science world at 7 pm and all went our separate ways. I went back to my billets and stayed up to BC New Year, which was an hour after it was at home. My billet family made a big supper for when we arrived there, for my birthday supper with them, and we watched all the different fireworks going on throughout Vancouver from their window.
Session was a great experience and the people who attend it are marvelous. The boys who attended are some of the most polite people I have ever met. My favorite part of session was Question Period, where any member of parliament could ask the ministers questions about concerns they have about how the ministers are using their authority. It was amazing how fast some of the older and more experienced members could just come up with an answer and turn around the question, but sometimes they couldn?t find the thing to say and would resign for a few minutes and leave the house. The ministers kept telling us that Parliament was to meet new people and not for sleeping, and they set very good examples of this. The ministers got a maximum of two hours of sleep a night and not once were caught sleeping in Parliament. I?m one of the few, who got more sleep than others at night, but even then it wasn?t very much and I had to keep waking the two members beside me during the day in Parliament. Over all I enjoyed Session, but I?m not the greatest at debating, so if I were to go back I would need a little more practice. Again, if there are any donations towards Camp Phoenix or BCYP, please contact me.