Gulf Islands Secondary School hosted more than 30 young people representing communities across the region on the March 10-12 weekend for the 25th annual convention of the Vancouver Island Youth Parliament.
As a member organization of the British Columbia Youth Parliament, the regional group strives to an ideal of “youth serving youth.” Their events are not set up, as some might expect, as a mock parliament with students representing known political parties. While participants are divided into “house” and “opposition,” the main goal of their legislative debate is to set service requirements and projects for the coming year.
“It is a nonpartisan organization. We have a diverse membership but we all come together to learn and to help our community, which I think is wonderful,” said Lina Losier, a Grade 11 student at Gulf Islands Secondary School who is serving as Vancouver Island premier this year.
Gulf Islands youth are at the forefront of this year’s convention, with GISS alumni and B.C. Youth Parliament cabinet members Kyle Dow and Sky Losier returning to help out. Dow, who is attending UVic with an interest in urban planning and development, was chair of the 2017 regional parliament. As such, his job was to take care of all the organizational aspects of the weekend’s events and ensure they ran according to plan.
The school district responded by supporting the event location at GISS by allowing delegates to stay right at the school. A number of teachers also agreed to be on site throughout the weekend to supervise.
“We hosted the parliament here two years ago and we worked really well with the administration,” Dow said.
“It’s a really good learning opportunity to be able to lead such a big group of people in a small setting,” he added, noting the adult view of youth often casts them as irresponsible and careless.
“I think this event speaks against that narrative,” Dow said.
Losier was elected to her position at the end of last year’s regional meeting and has appointed her cabinet through a merit-based application process. Her academic interest after graduating from high school lies in science, but she feels there is much to gain from early engagement in civil matters.
“I think it’s important for us to have a political understanding because we all have a right to vote and to engage, and I think it’s important for us to exercise that because there are many people around the world who do not have those rights,” she said.
As premier, Losier introduced legislation that will require the regional parliamentarians to complete at least five service hours over the year, and a bill to change the regional group’s name from Vancouver Island to Islands Youth Parliament.
“It’s the 25th anniversary, and I personally think that it’s really important that our parliament changes with us,” she said.