News Gazette staff
Don’t be surprised if you see Bernardo del Castillo Eckermann’s name appear on ballot box somewhere down the road.
The 16-year-old Belmont secondary student has set his sights on a life in politics after he finishes high school, gets his law degree and works for 10 years. Eckermann said attending the BC Youth Parliament in Victoria in December has furthered an interest in politics that dates back to growing up in Brazil.
“(From a young age) I always liked social studies and history and why things happen the way they do,” he explained. “I saw many things going on that I didn’t think were right and that led me to following politics closely.”
That interest continued when he moved to Langford two years ago. The biggest difference he sees between politics in Brazil and Canada is that elected officials in Brazil are tied more closely to local issues, as opposed to Canada, where he believes candidates tend to stick to the party line more.
“I feel that federal and provincial politicians here aren’t engaged enough in the communities they represent,” said Eckermann, who is in Grade 11. “They focus too much on what the party wants and not what the people in their community want. In general, people want more freedom, less regulation and the opportunity to make their own choices.”
He is passionate about equality as well. “Look at how First Nations communities don’t have proper water, something we take for granted,” he said. “It should be a basic right for everyone.”
It’s been an easy transition since moving to the West Shore at age 14, Eckermann added. “Everyone has made me and our family feel welcome. The students and teachers at Belmont have treated me nicely. The principal, Ray Miller, and my career teacher, Nadine Nicholson, have been a huge help in making me believe I can reach my goals.”
Eckermann doesn’t have any political preferences at this time. “I’m trying to decide which one best suits my beliefs,” he said. “Langford is my home and I want to represent the people who live here.”
He is looking forward to attending the BC Regional Youth Parliament later this month in the Kootenays. “It’s a great way for young people to get engaged and get a look at what the life of a politician might be like.”
He’s also focused on working at the youth parliament’s summer Camp Phoenix this summer, which provides opportunities to attend camp for kids eight to 12 who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend.
“It’s very rewarding to feel like you can make a difference for someone who doesn’t have the same opportunities as me.”