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Future leaders immersing themselves in parliamentary process

Spending the week drafting, tabling, and debating legislation may not be how many of us would choose to spend our winter break, but for a group of nearly 80 high-school and post-secondary students, they wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else, as the 102nd sitting of the Youth Parliament of Manitoba continues this week.

The longest consecutively-running youth parliament in Canada, the annual event which takes place over six days each December has been occurring since 1922.

Xiao Zhang has been taking part in the Youth Parliament of Manitoba for four years now, and currently serves as the Deputy Premier. He laughs when telling Global News about how he got started with the organization and looks forward to it every year.

“My mom actually signed me up because I wasn’t doing too well in public speaking in English class,” laughed Zhang. “I came here as an opportunity to practice public speaking as we do a lot of debate in the chamber. But throughout the session, I got really attached to the community and found some really great friends here and found it to be a really great learning opportunity.”

During his time with the Youth Parliament, Zhang said he and other members have discussed a wide range of legislation, from issues regarding gender equality, access to public transit and healthcare, and his own legislation which passed in the 100th sitting which focused on limiting video game addiction in youth.

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“When I was the Minister of Revenue, I passed the Online-Video Game Regulation Act, which limited online video games access for children as to combat video game addiction,” explained Zhang.

While a handful of the participants have dreams of one-day pursuing a life in the public eye, others find the experience of learning how the parliamentary process works critical information more Canadians should learn about.

“There’s a lot that you can learn from our systems and (by) understanding them,” said Madison Jones, who is now in his second year as a Cabinet Member. “Understanding your rights and understanding the laws that go on to govern everything in your life is absolutely important.”

One of the newest members to the Youth Parliament of Manitoba this year is backbencher Harisharn Bahra. When speaking with Global News she explained just how happy she felt becoming a part of the organization.

“I’ve had certain experiences that a normal teenager would never get to have,” explained Bahra. “I’m truly privileged thanks to youth parliament… One of the things we get to do is talk to previous [serving] ministers, MLA’s… and it was an amazing experience.”

Bahra is also happy to be part of a growing number of young women learning more about and participating in politics.

“Being a female myself, having youth parliament as the opportunity to bring me into one of these chairs and possibly be in that chair in the future is amazing,” Bahra said. “This is something that anybody who wants to see change instead of just talking about it should be involved in, so this is perfect.”

When asked, Zhang, Jones, and Bahra all had advice for those currently representing Manitobans at various levels of government. First was to keep an open mind when developing and discussing policy. Second was to not be overly partisan, and most of all was to govern with intent to serve all Manitobans to the best of their ability.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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