Students taste politics at youth parliament

Jan 23, 2003, vol. 26, no. 2
By Stuart Colcleugh

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While many of us were still gobbling up holiday goodies last month, four SFU students were getting a healthy taste of politics and community service.

Chris Lam, Jack Diep, Michael Silvergieter and Nicole Stewart were all given the nod as government ministers and cabinet members during the 74th annual British Columbia youth parliament (BCYP) in Victoria, Dec. 27-31.

They were among 93 provincial representatives, aged 16 to 21, who met in the legislative chamber to learn about the parliamentary process, debate resolutions and plan volunteer activities for the coming year.

The BCYP is a non-profit, non-partisan service organization run entirely by and for young people. “It's a lot of fun,” says Lam, a third-year communication student who was elected this year's premier. “But it's also a great opportunity for us to pool our talents and resources to improve the lives of kids throughout the province.”

BCYP members sit as independents and follow standard parliamentary rules and procedures. They elect a premier and opposition leader who, in turn, appoint a cabinet and shadow cabinet. The year's proposed activities are introduced in the form of government bills. Once passed, they are put into action through various events and regional youth parliaments. During the year, members are also responsible for service and fundraising in their communities.

The group's largest project is Camp Phoenix, a summer camp for underprivileged children held in a different location each year.
“It involves well over half of our budget,” says Camp Phoenix minister Stewart, a Kootenay resident and first-year distance education criminology student.

“Many of the camp's staff are parliament members. They volunteer hundreds of hours each year planning, fundraising and training.”
Aside from the satisfaction of helping others, Lower Mainland East minister Silvergieter says the best thing about the BCYP is the members it attracts.

“I've met some really amazing, dedicated people,” says the fourth-year biology major who plans to pursue graduate studies in marine ecology.

“It's a great way to make a positive impact on your community,” adds Diep, the Interior relations minister and a first-year biology student from Prince Rupert. “I'm looking forward to providing equal opportunities for members from the Interior.”

To be eligible as a member, applicants must be nominated by an organization committed to youth and be willing to commit to BCYP activities for one year.

For more information, phone 604-825-8682 or check out their website at

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