When Summerland student Mélanie Girard travelled to Victoria last week, it wasn’t the first time she visited the capital city to participate in the B.C. Francophone Youth Parliament.
In fact, Girad has joined in the event twice before. But this year, when the session opened on Jan. 12, Girard was there as leader of the chamber, with extra responsibilities, like taking charge of the trip scheduling and helping other deputies. And with 82 youth, ranging in age from 14 to 20 years old, there was a lot of shepherding to do.
The Francophone Youth Parliament brought these youth from across the province together in Victoria to learn about, and participate in, the democratic process. While the elected MLAs are on Christmas break, the group takes over the legislative chamber to give the youth a taste of what it is like to participate in a real parliamentary setting.
“I feel so lucky to be with a group like this and participating in an activity like this,” Girard said.
The annual session is also an opportunity for Francophones students to meet up and speak their native language.
“It creates a bond between French-speaking students and BC,” said Girard, who, with a French-speaking father from Quebec and an English-speaking mother from Alberta is at home in either official language. “Every aspect of my life is bilingual.”
Retaining or removing the monarchy as Canada’s head of state was one of many topics debated in French last week in B.C.’s Legislative Assembly. Along with Girard, there were several participants from Summerland and Penticton, including Gabriel Girard, Elyse Blais, Solenn Madevon and Dezzaray Williams.
The annual parliamentary session is organized by the Conseil Jeunesse francophone de la Colombie Britannique, a non-profit youth-run organization that also hosts a variety of sports and cultural events, educational trips and training programs for B.C. francophones.
“The Youth Parliament programs foster pride in the province and encourage civic engagement and community involvement,” said Ray Parks, CEO of the Provincial Capital Commission, which financially supports both the Anglophone and Francophone parliamentary session held in the provincial Legislature each year.
“You learn a lot about the parliamentary system,” Girard said, adding that she’s not particularly interested in becoming a politician. “But it is important to learn about parliamentary procedures and the democratic process.”