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Young blood takeover hits legislature

Jessica Gray
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 05/06) - Getting young people involved in politics is the main goal of the seventh annual Youth Parliament at the Legislative Assembly this week.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Youth Kam Lake MLA Scott Adlem-Qilluniq, 15, works on an address to the assembly. - Jessica Gray/NNSL photo

Grade 9 and 10 students from across the NWT have taken on the role of 19 MLAs. They did everything from attend cabinet meetings to speaking in front of their peers inside the assembly.

For some students, it's a chance to see if they're cut out for a life in politics.

"I never thought about a career in politics, but I'm starting to," said youth Kam Lake MLA Scott Adlem-Qilluniq, 15.

Each of the students are from the same community their MLA represents and will take over those same duties - including role-playing as the premier and members of the NWT cabinet if their MLA is also a minister.

Youth NWT premier Caleb Harrison, 15, isn't interested in politics as a career, but said this experience has been more than worth it so far.

"People should know what goes on inside of this building," said the Sir John Franklin student.

He said he's learned territorial elected representatives put in a lot of work for the NWT.

Students arrived on Sunday or Monday and were put straight to work.

But organizers made sure to plan some fun events to help students get to know each other better.

"The students went swimming or bowling in the afternoons," said Julia Heyland, public affairs and communications advisor for the legislative assembly.

On Monday morning the students found out what their jobs were and had help constructing an address on a real-life issue, which they presented to the assembly on Thursday afternoon.

The youth got to participate in debates as well - something the students were nervous about, but said it got easier as the week progressed.

"I feel I'm a lot better at speaking in front of people," said Adlem-Qilluniq.

The youth MLAs were coached and given feedback from facilitators like Robert Collinson, senior research analyst for the assembly.

"We want to give them a sense of what goes on in this building and how the system works," said Collinson.

Travel, lodging at the Capital Suites hotel and all food and activities were covered by the legislative assembly.