Every February, the Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Parliament (NLYP) brings youth (between the ages of 15 and 23) together, from all over Newfoundland and Labrador, to learn about the Parliamentary process and debate issues that are important to them.
“We try as much as possible to involve people who are from rural Newfoundland, people from St. John’s, and people from Labrador, people from different ethnic backgrounds and people of different genders, because you can’t get a true representation of what the youth of our province think if you limit yourself to a small portion of them,” explained Regan Burden, NLYP’s Director of Communications.
During the sessions, an elected “Government” presents resolutions, which are critiqued by the “Opposition,” then debated and voted on by members. This year’s Government will be presenting resolutions regarding Nalcor Reform, Animal Testing, and Tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador. Individual members also have an opportunity to present their own resolutions on the final day of the session.
“… resolutions are often about issues that are directly affecting the youth or their communities, those are the issues they want to debate and see changed, that’s what they’ve come to Youth Parliament to talk about.” Burden Explained.
Burden is from Labrador, and when fourteen-year-old Burton Winters froze to death after the Canadian Forces waited 48-hours to dispatch a helicopter to search for him, she wrote a resolution advocating for a Search and Rescue Centre in Goose Bay.
When private members write a resolution at NLYP, they include a note explaining which politicians they would like their resolution sent to, if it passes. Once the session is over the Board of Directors takes passed resolutions and mails them to applicable politicians.
“Often you see us passing resolutions at Youth Parliament before they get passed in the House of Commons or the House of Assembly.” Burden said.
In addition to receiving passed resolutions by mail, politicians from different parties visit Youth Parliament throughout the week to listen to debates and speak with participants. Giving NLYP members lots of opportunities to pass concerns about local issues on to politicians.
Being a part of NLYP is also a value experience for people who hope to make change from outside the political system.
“Even if you’re not interested in being a politician, being able to understand how the political system works, how you can have your voice heard, and ways that you can make changes that are important to you, is a really important skill.”
The NLYP accepts membership applications each fall from youth all over the province. Usually applicants are asked to write a short essay on a topic relevant to provincial politics. Burton encourages anyone interested in applying to attend the sessions happening in the House of Assembly this week.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Parliament are holding their 52nd annual session at The House of Assembly this week. Debate will commence at 1pm on February 1st and will continue in-House daily from 9-4 on February 2nd, 3rd and 4th, the session is open to the public.