attended the 2000 Commonwealth Youth Parliament as the delegate of the Quebec
In November 2000, young
people from throughout the Commonwealth took part in the “Millennium Youth
Parliament”. It took place over a three-day period in Manchester and featured
many lively debates and exchanges of ideas. The following article was written
by the Quebec delegate to the Youth Parliament.
One cannot return from such an
experience without being affected by it in one way or another. The first memory
that comes to mind is the vitality of the persons present.
Looking at the group photograph,
I am still surprised that so many people from such distant horizons were able
to come together for three days. I see Akima from Grenada, Aadilo from
Manitoba, Linda from Zimbabwe and Naomi from Australia. I also notice Pascal
from Kenya. I chuckle as I remember his admiration for Quebec superstar Céline
Many participants demonstrated
an openness and a will to express themselves that make you want to do the same.
There was no shortage of ideas, and the viewpoints were often well grounded.
When the participants rose to
speak, they were spontaneous, amusing and surprising. Time was taken in
preparing their comments which were both articulate and moving. I have still a
vivid memory of the comments by Simone Donaghue of Australia, who taught us
that a physical handicap is above all in the eye of the beholder. Her message has
stayed with me: take interest first and foremost in the person behind the
handicap. I also remember the spontaneity of the youngest participant in the
Assembly, of the rightfulness of Paola's arguments and of Juan's sense of
The challenge of taking the
floor before such an assembly is not the only one to be faced. The formulation
of a motion by such a large number of people from such diverse origins is an
achievement in itself. It is necessary to come to an agreement, to share a
common ideology. Meetings were lengthy and the discussions were sincere, as all
had their hearts set on persuading their colleagues of the soundness of their
ideas. And that is the main ingredient in a successful debate.
There are also personal
challenges, such as preparing one's comments. One must weigh words and choose
arguments carefully, because it is not often one has the attention of an
audience that is so international and interested in similar issues. Approaching
strangers to make their acquaintance is an ongoing challenge when one meets so
many new people in such a short time. Such a gathering creates a mix of
cultures, but also of characters! Indeed, it is an accelerated course in
geography! I was also surprised that the level of English was so high,
considering the diversity of origins of the participants, not all of whom are
from English-speaking countries.
I was pleased to have met a few
people there who were ready to engage in politics in their own way. My
experience with parliamentary simulations taught me that all too often the
participants reproduce politics as they perceive it, which focuses more on the
interpretation of it than on participation. The sincerity of comments cannot be
taken for granted. I have a penchant for idealists who are aware of their power
to change the face of the world, and have the courage to think differently.
There was no shortage of bold
ideas. Let us take the parties and their ideologies. Mine promised to eliminate
the use of the automobile. The government wished to grant the right to vote
from the age of 14, and the third party wished to abolish Parliament! All this
leaves plenty of room for open minds that dare to put forward unusual
We debated the decriminalization
of soft drugs, as well as obligatory voting and free education. During these
debates, I was also initiated to surprising and amusing parliamentary customs:
for example the government was brought down in a parliamentary committee, and
the Members had to express their vote by shouting!
These few memorable days went
well, to a large extent because of the good preparation by the team of
organizers. Here I wish to express my congratulations to Anthony Staddon and to
his team. They were not only good organizers, but also friendly and amenable
I am very proud to have
represented the National Assembly at such an event. It was my first trip to
England. I cannot conceal my appreciation for that country. Indeed as I write
these lines, I am taking steps to study in London next year.