Engaging youth in the parliamentary process

Literacy, Education & Employment

Youth Parliament of Manitoba builds important leadership skills and educates the next generation about the process of legislation.
Left to right: Michelle Bergen, Senior Financial Analyst, The Winnipeg Foundation; Deborah Tsao, Premier and Chairperson of the 98th Youth Parliament; Abigaïl Theano-Pudwill, Deputy Premier and Vice-Chairperson of the 98th Youth Parliament; Rachel Forbes, Accountant, The Winnipeg Foundation Photo courtesy of Youth Parliament of Manitoba.

For 98 years, Youth Parliament of Manitoba has been fostering generations of future leaders and informed citizens.

“It’s always important to be aware of the way [the political] process works, be involved with our communities, and learn about how we can make a difference with our voices and [political impact],” says Abigaïl Theano-Pudwill, Deputy Premier and Vice-Chairperson of the 98th Youth Parliament.

In a model parliamentary session, participants go through the process of legislation writing, debate, amendment, and a final vote.

“An intimate understanding of the mechanics of politics can better inform youth advocacy about political change they’d like to see, and can help inspire youth to get involved in politics themselves,” says Deborah Tsao, Premier and Chairperson of the 98th Youth Parliament.

Youth Parliament of Manitoba is a youth-led charitable organization, with a five-member Board of Directors elected from its participants. While the program provides practical experience through the political process, the skills are also highly transferable.

“The skills you develop in Youth Parliament, such as critical thinking – when you can look at one piece of legislation and be able to think of arguments for and against, to be able to challenge your own preconceptions – is so valuable no matter what field you pursue,” Tsao says.

Participants also learn about the importance of public speaking, time management, and how to communicate effectively and respectfully with team members.

Each year, Youth Parliament holds a Winter Session from December 26 to 31 at the Manitoba Legislative Building. During the five-day session, Tsao says members of Youth Parliament make lifelong connections.

“For many [participants], it’s the first time they’ve been in a group of people who are as passionate about social change and politics as they are,” Tsao says. “Youth Parliament has been the source of some of my closest friends in my life, and it’s the same with almost every single person I know who’ve come through the organization.”

Some notable alumni of the program include former politicians Lloyd Axworthy and Bill Blaikie, foreign correspondent Nala Ayed, and community activist Michael Champagne.

Youth Parliament is open to students all across Manitoba, and strives to be accessible to as many youth as possible to ensure that everyone can be involved.

“We make sure every single person that wants to take part in Youth Parliament is able to, whether it be a financial barrier or a public speaking barrier,” Theano-Pudwill says.

To increase the program’s accessibility, Youth Parliament has expanded its financial aid programs during the past several years. A scholarship provides opportunities for Indigenous youth to attend the session, covering travel costs from northern Manitoba as well as additional expenses. Additional awards have also helped make Youth Parliament accessible to newcomer youth and refugees.

“It’s not just the registration fee. It can be things like not having the right clothes to wear, or not having the means to fly to Winnipeg,” Tsao says. “By removing these types of financial barriers, we’ve been able to improve the diversity of people who come to session in the past few years.”

An intimate understanding of the mechanics of politics can better inform youth advocacy about political change they’d like to see.

Deborah Tsao
Youth Parliament of Manitoba Premier and Chairperson

In 2021, Youth Parliament of Manitoba will be celebrating its centennial year, and to lead up to the milestone, it has launched a capital campaign with the goal of building its Agency Fund at The Winnipeg Foundation to $100,000.

“We want to make sure Youth Parliament is accessible, stable, and long-lasting,” Theano-Pudwill says.

Tsao says establishing the endowment fund will give Youth Parliament of Manitoba financial stability while eliminating financial barriers for participants.

“The interest generated by the endowment fund each year will create enough income to cover costs of all the registration fees for a Winter Session,” Tsao says. “It’ll provide a lot more opportunities for us to give financial aid, build our operations, and expand our outreach in rural and northern areas.”

Youth Parliament’s capital campaign is being supported by The Foundation’s Agency Fund matching program, which in its current phase stretches every $5 gift by an additional $1. “We’re really proud of that partnership,” Tsao says.

Learn more: ypmanitoba.ca

Fund: Youth Parliament of Manitoba Fund
Cause: Literacy, Education and Employment
Supports: The organization’s financial needs

To learn more about Causes, visit Find your BeCause


Established to support local charities, Agency Funds are permanent endowments funds held at The Foundation. The annual income generated is used at the charity’s discretion. An Agency fund is typically part of a longer-term strategy aimed at providing sustainable core funding.

Learn more: wpgfdn.org/agencyfunds

This story is featured in the Fall 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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