Yellowknife students took their seats in the legislative assembly last Thursday to debate issues in the NWT Youth Parliament.

Angus James Capot-Blanc, left, representing Nahendeh and Robert Paddock representing Frame Lake listen as Ivan Ceria, representing Yellowknife Centre, speaks about the problem of homelessness on the streets Yellowknife on Thursday, May 11 at the legislative assembly. Emelie Peacock/NNSL Photo

Together with eight other young people from across the territory, 10 Yellowknife students made plans to train teachers on youth mental health, passed a motion on marijuana regulation and held a spirited debate on indigenous language learning.

It was all in a day’s work for for the Youth Parliament, an outreach program meant to educate Grade 9 and 10 students across the territory about consensus government and the role of the legislative assembly.

The students held meetings with sitting MLAs and participated in research and the discussions from May 8 to 12, giving them a foundation about how territorial politics work. After that, the passion they brought for the issues was their own.

Ivan Ceria, a Grade 9 student at Sir John Franklin High School, used his minister’s speech to advocate for the homeless population in Yellowknife. This was a concern shared by Macayla Flett-DaCorte, a Grade 9 student at St. Patrick High School.

“I feel for them because I believe everyone should have a happy and stable life where they’re able to be in their homes and have money and take care of their families,” she said. “And it just makes me upset that they can’t have that.”

Anusha Sivakumar, a Grade 9 student at Sir John, called for new arsenic test around Kam Lake in her role as MLA for the area.

She said the experience of Youth Parliament will help her in her career as a doctor.

Myha Martin, right, representing Inuvik Twin Lakes, Lisa Boutilier, representing Hay River South, and Macayla Flett-DaCorte, representing Thebacha, during a sitting in the Youth Parliament at the Government of the Northwest Territories legislative assembly on May 11. Boutilier responded to a motion to regulate marijuana across the territory, which passed with 14 votes for, three against and one abstention. Emelie Peacock/NNSL Photo

“It can help me get Northern perspective so I can come back to the North and help the community in medicine,” she said.

Previously focused on science, Flett-DaCorte said the experience has gotten her interested in politics, a path she may take in the future.

Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart observed the students during the May 11 session. He said he was most inspired by their made-in-the-North plan to regulate marijuana.

“That’s a public policy issue that’s near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to have the same kind of discussions when our legislature resumes.” 

The program normally takes seven students from Yellowknife to form a total of 19 representatives from across the territory. This year there were 10 students from Yellowknife and eight from across the territory.

The 15th Youth Parliament organized by the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories has a budget of $25,000.