The first BC Older Boys’ Parliament was held in January 1924. The Premier was Walter S. Owen, who later became the Lieutenant Governor of BC (1973 – 1978). Our mace was the donation of St. Andrews Presbyterian (now United), where Owen’s Tuxis group met.
While the 15th Session prorogued with full intention of holding a Session in 1940, OBP did not meet during World War II. By war’s end, the Tuxis movement had diminished and the National Boys’ Work Board was in a weak state of affairs. It took the Boys’ Work Secretary for the United Church, Rev. Robert McLaren, to revive the Older Boys’ Parliament. Through his efforts, the pre-war partners joined forces to establish a Parliamentary Convention in Vancouver to rebuild the organization. Delegates from around BC attended this conference, which expanded to include representatives of other boys’ groups.
The 1940’s were an unstable period for the OBP. Fortunately, key alumni and strong Premiers with good cabinets carried OBP through the late 1940’s when a proper Senate and well founded Parliament were established. During the 1950’s Parliament began to develop a more service oriented programme run by its own members rather than working with programmes run by other organizations. Parliament’s social service programme expanded in the 1960’s and while camping had been a steady part of Parliament since its inception, Parliament had always been involved in other organizations’ camps, never our own. This changed in December 1967 when the 37th Session legislated Camp Phoenix. That first camp was held at Camp George Pringle with 36 underprivileged and handicapped boys.
Since the 5th Session, resolutions had been introduced to admit girls as members. By the 1960’s the Canadian Girls in Training were taken up by the media, spearheaded by Victoria Times columnist Elizabeth Forbes. By the late 60’s the issue was being taken seriously by the OBP, but with strong Senate opposition, which included the veto of one resolution in the positive in 1971. Some of the “Older Boys’” who opposed admitting women went as far as to organize an “Older Girls’ Parliament” to sit during the Easter break. With the election of the NDP under Dave Barrett, pressure came from the government to open Parliament to all or face losing the use of the legislative buildings. Thus the BC Youth Parliament came into being for the 44th Session in 1974. Our first female Premier was Susan Hunter of the 49th Session in 1977 (numbering of Sessions was altered in the mid-70’s). Developments of the 1980’s saw Statten’s dreams of 1916 come to fruition with the formation of the National Youth Parliament in 1982. A Western Canada Youth Parliament was also formed in this period. While the National Parliament has collapsed, the WCYP continues on a bi-annual basis.
As part of this new direction from bigger national (and even international) projects, a long standing goal, going back to similar projects in 1970, was realized. The creation of the Regional Youth Parliaments programme, which was meant to include more than the 80 or 90 youth who could attend the Parliament in Victoria, and spread the youth parliament movement. The first Kootenay Youth Parliament was held as a pilot project in 1987, and was followed in 1988 by Regional Youth Parliaments held throughout the province.
In the 1990s, with increasing costs of running BCYP’s annual Session and holding Camp Phoenix, both Senate and Parliament became increasingly concerned with fundraising and the long-term financial health of the organization. Starting with a bequest from Walter S. Owen, the Alumni Society undertook the “Walter S. Owen Fundraising Campaign” between 1991 and 1993. The campaign raised $75,000 in donations and the Vancouver Foundation matched that amount, to establish the Walter S. Owen Fund in the amount of $150,000. That Fund continues to provide the Alumni Society with financial security. BCYP undertook its own fundraising initiative, by holding a dinner-dance and “Dream Auction” in 1992. The auction subsequently evolved through various formats, to become a major annual fundraising event for Youth Parliament.
Current parliament events all have roots in past history. Trends in the Parliament include a growing role for RYP’s, rejuvenation of camp, concerns about Parliament’s role in community service, and establishing a sound financial base for the growing expense of its projects. The BCYP is proud to stand apart from other provincial youth parliaments in that ours goes beyond being a “mock” parliament, with our legislation becoming action in our community. The Parliament is also proud of those notables who have worked to promote the Parliament. Many distinguished community figures have served as Lieutenant Governor, and alumni have taken their parliamentary experience into such diverse fields as art, law, journalism, politics, business, religion, and medicine. Prominent alumni include Walter Owen, Allan Fotheringham, Jack Davis, Eric Nicol, Linda Reid, Russel Brown and D.E. Turje.
The Youth Parliament, which has “lasted longer than any of the organizations that go into the making of its structure,” according to a past Premier, is sponsored by the Youth Parliament of BC Alumni Society, which was formed in 1974. Its board of directors is commonly known as “The Senate”. While one current Senator once wrote over a decade ago that “like in Ottawa, our main function is to be old,” the Senate carries on the duty of ensuring a session is held annually and supporting the endeavours of the Parliament.