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Student Townhall Meeting with Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May

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Student Townhall Meeting with Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May
by Aaron Norris - Friday, 1 May 2015, 8:52 PM


Elizabeth May recently came to Stelly's to have a student townhall meeting to talk about Canadian government and politics. Thanks Ms. May for coming and sharing with us. Check out the article below written by Helen Gemmrich about the event.

Economy, Environment, Politics and Youth: Which Item Is Unlike The Others?

Well, it certainly isn't youth! Students at Stelly's Secondary recently had the opportunity to welcome Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich - Gulf Islands, to their school for an interactive, non-partisan Question and Answer session. Organized by media teacher Aaron Norris, Stelly's hosted the Teen Town Hall meeting last Wednesday, April 15 , as an opportunity for students to meet May personally and to discuss current events.

May created the Teen Town Hall initiative to address the dearth of youth representation at her riding's bi-annual Community Town Hall meetings. "Oftentimes the community doesn't even know how involved [in current events] their youth is,” says May. "It's important to get the word out that, yes, in fact they are very interested and involved.” By inviting students to meet with her at their schools, she effectively opens up the communication on both sides. Structured similarly to their community counterparts, Teen Town Hall meetings offer students the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns on current issues, as well as receive detailed answers to questions ranging from life as a Member of Parliament to the future of Fossil Fuels, and to Canada's international reputation. Additionally, they also let May know what issues are currently on the forefront of her youngest constituents' minds.

The students who attended the Stelly's Town Hall meeting touched on a variety of topics, notably Canada's position in the Middle East and Syria, climate change, renewable and sustainable energy sources, how tax money is distributed, the proposed Bill C51, empowerment of women and voter turnout. "I like how questions were brought up regarding the Northern Gateway and Enbridge Pipelines, and that in her answer, [Elizabeth May] presented a view that was a lot more scientific than most politicians,” says Sam Wooster, a Grade 12 student at Stelly's. Grade 12 Global Perspectives student Jane Galloway was impressed by the "frank and honest answers” May offered for even the most controversial of topics.

May and the students also talked extensively about Immigration, Citizenship, and the struggles of family reunification under the current immigration laws. Apart from providing thought-provoking answers to the students' questions, May captivated their attention as an exceptionally approachable orator. "Ms. May exhibits an incredible empathy for the stories of individuals, and she remembers everything and everyone!” Alice Liu, a Grade 12 international student, had met May the previous year and was amazed by her MP's ability to recall their meeting. "She was very personable, and asked for everyone's name.” May repeatedly stressed that her role as a MP was to represent all of her constituents, regardless of age and political affiliation. "What really stood out to me was her eloquence and articulation. She did not paraphrase or 'dummy down' her language; she treated the students as equals,” says Kate Reston, an English Language Arts and AP Literature teacher, as well as the Model United Nations coach at Stelly's. Reston was one of the numerous staff that attended the Teen Town Hall.

May has also held Teen Town Hall meetings at Claremont, Parkland and Reynolds Secondary Schools. She hopes to continue holding youth centred meetings in the future; the next one is slated for Gulf Island Secondary School on Saltspring Island, with details to be finalized for Mount Douglas Secondary.

- Helen Gemmrich, Stelly's Secondary Student