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BC students try hands at lawmaking

VANCOUVER - If several Bulkley Valley students have their way, the federal government will ban the export of asbestos and introduce mandatory bike lanes across the country.

These proposals are being presented in Ottawa today as private members’ bills on behalf of four B.C. students, winners of the “Create Your Canada” contest.

Students from the province’s School District 54 were invited by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen to submit proposed legislation on how they would improve the country.

The winners received a trip to Ottawa and the opportunity to see their legislation presented in the House of Commons.

“It’s hopefully getting kids to recognize the real power of politics,” Cullen said.

While in Ottawa, the students will also have the opportunity to participate in a press conference and meet with parliamentarians and public interest group representatives.

Submissions proposed creative solutions to an impressive variety of issues, such as climate change and animal rights, Cullen said.

One of the winning entries would require the government to allot federal funding for an extensive system of bike lanes on roads and highways across the country. The other proposal tackles the highly controversial topic of asbestos exports.

“These kids are really thinking critically,” Cullen said.

But the goals of the initiative go beyond the educational value for students, he said.

“I hope it will inspire Parliament to think a little different and to take the views of young folks seriously.”

The participants’ proposals have already received considerable interest from both parliamentarians and non-profit groups, he said.

Organizers also hope the project will ultimately lead to new processes that will better engage youth in the political process.

“We generally pay lip service to young people,” Cullen said. “If we’re really keen on them we have to bring them into the conversation as full participants.”

There are plans to expand the project next year throughout northwest B.C., Cullen said, and a number of MPs have already approached him about setting up similar projects in their own ridings.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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