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Young leaders: fresh faces gather at the BC Legislature for annual youth parliament

Ninety-seven young people from across the province are in Victoria for the annual British Columbia Youth Parliament

By Emily Vance
December 30, 2022
Politics
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Young leaders: fresh faces gather at the BC Legislature for annual youth parliament

Ninety-seven young people from across the province are in Victoria for the annual British Columbia Youth Parliament

By Emily Vance
Dec 30, 2022
The 91st BC Youth Parliament in 2019, at their last in-person session before the pandemic. Photo: Sky Losier/BC Youth Parliament
The 91st BC Youth Parliament in 2019, at their last in-person session before the pandemic. Photo: Sky Losier/BC Youth Parliament
Politics
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Young leaders: fresh faces gather at the BC Legislature for annual youth parliament

Ninety-seven young people from across the province are in Victoria for the annual British Columbia Youth Parliament

By Emily Vance
December 30, 2022
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Young leaders: fresh faces gather at the BC Legislature for annual youth parliament
The 91st BC Youth Parliament in 2019, at their last in-person session before the pandemic. Photo: Sky Losier/BC Youth Parliament

The Legislature may have adjourned for the holidays, but parliament is still sitting–and the members have a hip new look. 

The British Columbia Youth Parliament, or BCYP, is hosting their annual December session, which runs from Dec. 27 to Dec. 31. Now in its 94th year, the BCYP is a youth-led, nonpartisan organization where people aged 16-21 participate in a mock parliament. The annual session sets the course for the organization’s activities in the new year, which focus on providing services and inspiring political participation in young people across BC. 

Every year since 1924, 97 members of the BCYP gather to participate in a five day simulation of the Westminster Parliamentary System, the democratic system used in Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand among others. Members legislate bills that go on to govern the BCYP’s activities for the remainder of the year, focused on providing youth services.

This year marks a return to in-person sessions after the past two pandemic years were held over Zoom. 

Abby Head, a 21-year-old political science student at UBC, is the BCYP’s current premier. Though she said the virtual sessions were an important part of continuing the group’s services during the pandemic, she’s happy to be taking part in an in-person session for her sixth and final year with the group.

“That face to face interaction was missing, and being in the building is a lot different [from] when you are calling from your childhood bedroom,” Head said with a laugh.

“Being back in the physical chamber is like a really, really good energy. … Everyone's very excited, and everyone's very inspired. Everyone has the same drive to do good for British Columbians.”

Participants arrived in Victoria on Tuesday from across the province. There was a briefing on chamber etiquette and an opening ceremony, then participants started putting forward private members’ bills and introducing the acts that are the focus of this year’s session.

Greater Victoria members of the 2022 BC Youth Parliament inside the Legislature. Photo: Sky Losier/BC Youth Parliament

Though Head has risen to the top of the political structure within the BCYP, this will probably be her last stint in politics. She has, however, been inspired by her time at BCYP, and plans on pursuing a career as a civil servant.

“BCYP has really shown me the power of what people working together can achieve, and the way the institutional government can work for people sometimes, and work to better the community. And I think that really inspires me,” she said.

One of the key services that the BCYP provides is Camp Phoenix, a free overnight summer camp for kids ages 8-12 whose families can’t afford to send them to other camps. Camp Phoenix takes place every year for five days at Camp Barnard, just west of Sooke. The majority of the camp is staffed by BCYP members, who host a variety of classic summer camp activities, including arts and crafts, theatre, sports, games, and swimming.

Camp Phoenix was able to run for the first time since 2019 this summer, marking the first time that many of the younger BCYP members were able to participate. 

“We could come this year with a lot of people who have really fond memories from last summer, and are really excited to implement that this year again,” said Megan Ryan-Lloyd, the BCYP Minister of Camp Phoenix. “It's really the most incredible feeling.”

Megan Ryan-Lloyd and Abby Head at Camp Phoenix. Photo: Sky Losier/BC Youth Parliament

Ryan-Lloyd, a 20-year-old political science student at UVic, runs the administrative side of  Camp Phoenix. She said the camp experience is a big reason that many BCYP members return to the program each year. 

Last summer, the camp offered spots for 48 children to participate. This year, BCYP members will be voting on a new Camp Phoenix Act, which proposes to increase camp enrollment to 60 spots. 

In addition to planning out next year’s iteration of Camp Phoenix, the BCYP will work on projects like regional youth service committees for those under the age of 16, weekend parliamentary simulations for high school students, local letter-writing projects, garbage pickups, and food security projects across BC. 

The combination of youth service and politics is what keeps Ryan-Lloyd coming back to the BCYP. A former camp counsellor, she said that working at Camp Phoenix and providing children with an experience they likely wouldn’t have otherwise is especially rewarding.

“When you have a child express their appreciation to you, that's such a special thing that you hold on to for your whole life,” she said.

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Young leaders: fresh faces gather at the BC Legislature for annual youth parliament
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