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Youth take over government
NWT students given the reins at legislative assembly

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 13, 2013

A group of NWT youth got the run of the legislative assembly in Yellowknife last week during the bi-annual Youth Parliament.

Nineteen Grade 9 and 10 students, one representing each territorial riding, travelled to the capital to spend a week representing their region.

"We've been learning lots about the parliament and what they do," said Tsiigehtchic resident Angela Koe-Blake, 15, who spent the week representing the Mackenzie Delta riding.

Koe-Blake said she was surprised at how much work territorial MLAs have to do.

Brandon Thom from Fort Providence agreed and found parts of the job surprising. Specifically, he was pleasantly surprised that he did not have to wear a suit "24-7," but only while holding a session in the assembly on May 9.

Thom applied for this year's Youth Parliament "to meet new people and find out how government works."

When asked during the session what he understands territorial politicians do, he said. "They make laws and they spend lots of money."

As youth speaker of the house, Larsen Nasogaluak had the unique job of "keeping everyone in line," he said.

"It's very awesome," he said with a laugh.

The youth raised a number of issues during the May 9 session in the house, including a motion to make aboriginal language courses mandatory for all high school students and a motion to lower the legal drinking age from 19 to 18 years of age. Both motions failed by a vote of 11 to five against. Three youths abstained from voting in each.

Although the aboriginal languages motion failed, the general consensus was that aboriginal language and culture classes should be made available in all schools in the territory, however they should not be mandatory.

All participants also worked with their MLAs and family members who travelled with them to Yellowknife to prepare a member's statement on the issue of their choice.

Koe-Blake chose to discuss social passing, a common practice to keep students in the same grade as their peers even if they are behind in their course work.

"It's not right to pass a student off to a different grade when they're not ready and how they're getting taught all different kinds of stuff when they're supposed to be getting taught what they need to learn to go on to study," she told News/North.

Living in Tsiigehtchic means she will have to go to high school in Inuvik or Fort McPherson, said Koe-Blake. She may have to leave her community to attend high school, but the option of driving students back and forth each day is being considered, she said.

"Everyone goes to high school but they end up dropping out because there's no one to take responsibility for them. They're just kind of on their own," she said, adding she would like to see high school classes available in every community so students can stay at home where they have the support of their family.

While in Yellowknife, the students also took advantage of activities often not available in their hometowns, touring the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and taking in a movie.

All three students interviewed by News/North said they were glad their friends and family had encouraged them to apply for the program and all would consider a future career in politics.

"I'd like to do this someday, but it's so nerve-racking," said Koe-Blake.

Fact file

Participants in 2013

Youth Parliament

Brandon Thom - Deh Cho

Kirianne Ashley - Frame Lake

Mary Cairns - Great Slave

Elycia Nimegeers - Hay River North

Kateryna Staszuk - Hay River South

Vanessa Lennie - Inuvik Boot Lake

Chantal Grey - Inuvik Twin Lakes

Anita Kolback - Kam Lake

Angela Koe - Mackenzie Delta

Rhonda Apples - Monfwi

William Alger - Nahendeh

Larsen Nasogaluak - Nunakput

Mohammed Raza - Range Lake

Keesha Antoine - Sahtu

Luke James - Thebacha

Tammy Gon - Tu Nedhe

Zara Tehseenah - Weledeh

Huzaifa Malik - Yellowknife


Ethan Phypers - Yellowknife South

Source: NWT legislative assembly

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