Valley students attend parliamentary session

SEVERAL COMOX VALLEY students were in this group at the 2012 Parlement jeunesse francophone de Colombie-Britannique.  - PHOTO SUBMITTED
SEVERAL COMOX VALLEY students were in this group at the 2012 Parlement jeunesse francophone de Colombie-Britannique.
— image credit: PHOTO SUBMITTED

Retaining or removing the monarchy as Canada’s head of state was one of many topics debated en français last week, under the marble columns and decorative gilt plasterwork inside British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly.

Soleil Rainville, 17, of Comox was one of several local youths participating in the recent Parlement jeunesse francophone de Colombie-Britannique held in Victoria Jan. 12 to 15.

Chloé Martineau, Kenza Belhadi and Mélanie Rutherford from Courtenay and Erika Massicotte and Isaïah Rainville of Comox were also part of this year’s BC Francophone Youth Parliament.

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 BC Francophones.

The Francophone Youth Parliament  brings more than 80 youth from across the province to Victoria each January to learn about, and participate in, the democratic process. While the elected MLAs are on Christmas break, the province’s youth take over the legislative chamber to get a taste of what it is like to participate in a real parliamentary setting.

“The Youth Parliament programs foster pride in the province and encourage civic engagement and community involvement,” says Ray Parks, CEO of the Provincial Capital Commission, which financially supports both the Anglophone and Francophone parliamentary sessions held in the provincial Legislature each year. “It’s also a great opportunity for them to connect with, learn about and celebrate the provincial capital.”

There are about 70,000 Francophones living in British Columbia and more than 300,000 residents who can speak French fluently. For Soleil, bilingualism is just part of life, with both official languages spoken at home. But her interest in the democratic process was a result of some peer pressure from some friends.

“They talked me into it,” she laughed. And she’s happy they did.

Now in her second year with the Francophone Youth Parliament, she’s learned a lot about how Canada’s democratic system works. “We read all about it from text books, but that doesn’t work for me,” she said. “It’s really good when you can see it first hand and can experience it. I’ve really learned how Parliament works and how to follow the rules of Parliament.”

With thoughts of one day becoming a teacher, Soleil hopes to eventually pass on her enthusiasm for the democratic process to her students.

“My involvement with the program has helped develop a sense of civic engagement and responsibility,” she said. “It makes me feel kind of good to take part.”

Organizer Rémi Marien agrees.

“Learning about the process of politics, how our government works and the rules of parliament improves their leadership skills and allows them to develop public speaking and debating skills,” he said. “They also learn about civic responsibility and are more inclined to vote, which is really important for any young person.

“They need to decide in what kind of world they want to live in and realize they have the power in their own hands.”

— Conseil Jeunesse francophone de la Colombie Britannique

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