Four students with ties to Powell River attended British Columbia Youth Parliament (BCYP) in the BC legislature in Victoria over the Christmas break.
Claire Mavin was one of the participants. She graduated from Brooks Secondary School and is now a student at Vancouver Island University. She attended BCYP with fellow Powell River Youth Council members Ally Boyd and Leo Head, along with Abby Head, who is a student at the University of British Columbia.
Mavin said she found the prospect of being in the BC legislature intimidating.
“That was the hardest part of the whole experience,” said Mavin.
She noted that the rigidity of policy and house decorum is more stringent than what she experiences at youth council meetings in Powell River.
“Once I got used to that and recognized that if I messed up, it was not the end of the world, it was a lot easier to be present and participate,” she added.
Mavin said being in the legislature and participating in BC Youth Parliament was an eye-opening experience.
“It was new in that I got to really experience what government is like,” she added.
Mavin said BCYP is non-partisan, so the group does not recognize political parties. She wasn’t a cabinet member, given that she was a first-year member. The premier picks their cabinet and the opposition leader picks their critics. Mavin was a private member but she said private members’ voices are heard just as much as someone in cabinet or the opposition’s critic roles.
While in the legislature, Mavin was able to put forward a private members’ resolution on salmon hatchery enhancement. Mavin, a fourth-generation fisher, strongly advocated for the salmon fishery industry, in that she thinks it’s important to protect the wild salmon. She said she has very strong ties to the fishing industry.
“By enhancing hatchery salmon we can take the pressure off of our wild stocks while they recover,” she said. “My main focus at BCYP was getting that out there. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have it published in the BCYP journal, although it didn’t get debated on because we were so busy.
“It was a great honour for me, especially because that journal goes out to all of the members of parliament and the lieutenant-governor. People with influence got to see that so for me that was really special.”
Mavin said she is a strong advocate for the fish and fishers and wants to see the industry get to a state where it is sustainable.
She is interested in studying political science and has applied to several universities to get into that field of study. She said opportunities such as Powell River Youth Council and BCYP will give participants a good idea of what they are getting into if they plan on pursuing political science or careers in the political field.
“In all honesty, I wasn’t 100 per cent sure about political science until I went to BCYP,” said Mavin. “The fact that I was able to experience it before going away to university has really solidified the fact that’s what I want to be doing.
“BCYP is fantastic. There’s honestly nothing wrong with understanding how your government works and understanding the work that goes behind changing policy. It’s really important for people to recognize.”
Mavin said through government, nothing changes overnight and a lot of hard work goes into making and changing policy. She said creating or changing policy can take a long time and understanding the process provides a deeper appreciation for the work people are putting in to make government run.
Mavin said sitting in the BC legislature was one of the biggest honours of her life. She said while she was in the BCYP, she met Linda Reid, a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) who is “an incredible woman.”
“She’s done a lot for the women at BCYP,” said Mavin. “She was the first woman accepted at BCYP, which, unfortunately, caused a bit of an uproar because up until that point it was a considered a boys’ club. She really changed that. She made it possible for me to be there. I owe her a lot. It was inspiring.”
In terms of local MLA Nicholas Simons, Mavin said she was hoping to get him a copy of her private members’ resolution to see where it can be taken. She said City of Powell River councillors CaroleAnn Leishman and Rob Southcott, who are Powell River Youth Council sponsors, were talking to her about taking it to other places, so she is hoping to gain more traction.
Mavin said she’d like to attend BYCP again in future.
“Honestly, I would like to stay in BCYP until I age out; I have about three years left,” she said. “It’s going to be great to go away to university and learn more and then bring it back to BCYP.”
According to Ranil Prasad, this year’s premier, BCYP is a youth service organization dedicated to fulfilling the motto of Youth Serving Youth. The organization spans almost a century, having its roots in a predecessor organization in 1924, the Older Boys Parliament.
During the winter break, 97 youth ages 16 to 21 from across the province meet in the legislative buildings in Victoria. Youth parliamentarians debate a variety of legislation that outlines projects that will be run throughout the year.
In addition to this, private members’ resolutions are introduced. These give members the ability to propose debate on issues close to their hearts and their communities, while still participating in a practical lesson on the parliamentary process.
Leishman, who along with Southcott also supervises and serves as an advisor to the Powell River Youth Council, said: “I am extremely proud of our local youth council members who have taken the initiative to go through the application process and attend BC Youth Parliament over Christmas break. It is an absolutely invaluable experience for young people to attend a session such as this and I believe it will help guide and shape them as they find their way into the future. I will encourage more of our youth to consider applying every year so they can take advantage of this opportunity.”