Teens from across Ontario gathering every year in a model parliament. More style than Queen's Park since 1921.
Ontario Youth Parliament is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it's where they met their best friends. For others, it was why they became interested in politics, or the first time they felt they could truly be themselves. We exist because we make a difference in people's lives. The alumni and youth leaders that currently make OYP happen were once nervous 14-year-old backbenchers wondering what they'd gotten themselves into. Their involvement in OYP helped shape them into who they are—and so they work to make that opportunity possible for youth today.
The philosophy of OYP is built on three main pillars: friendship, debate and spirituality. Click on the headers in the sidebar to read more about the role that these elements play in making OYP an unforgettable experience.
The Cabinet is the group that prepares for the upcoming parliament. It is made up of around 25 youth from different parts of the province who meet four times a year to write legislation, plan themes, and work out logistics.
They are led by an Executive consisting of the Premier, Leader of the Opposition, Registrar/Minister of Finance, Minister of Individual Discipleship and House Leader; and advised by Adult Resource Counsellors (ARCs).
At each parliament, the delegates elect a new Executive, which in turn receives applications for and selects their Cabinet and ARCs for the next year.
They're a skilled group of kids, committed to making OYP the best it can possibly be. Add in multiple coffee blends, fashion competitions and late-night laughter, and you've got the backbone of this organization.
Politics, boring? Not with this crew.
What we know as Ontario Youth Parliament today is the result of decades of evolution and the work of thousands of dedicated youth and adults. The history of this organization spans the entire country, through generations and newspaper columns all the way back to the early 1900s.
At the start was simply an idea, a determination to create a place for youth to come together and make an impact on the world around them. Delegates gathered in the face Great Depression; demilitarization debates fired up the House in the Cold War. Technically speaking, delegates at OYP today are not the same teenage leaders who worked together throughout the 20th century to make a difference in their country. Then again, some things never change.
The roots of OYP are in the organized recreation movement of early-20th-century Canada. In 1914 Taylor Statten, secretary of the YMCA's Boys' Work Committee, established a committee to support and foster training camps and conferences through the Canadian Standard Efficiency Training program. The outcome, in 1918, were the Trail Rangers and TUXIS programs.
Taylor Statten believed that the boys themselves should be able to determine the activities of the programs, instead of adults imposing their own opinions and ideas. In accordance with this philosophy, the TUXIS program inaugurated the annual Boys' Parliament, which first occurred in Ontario in 1917. In the following decades, the movement grew to include eight organizations across the country.
The Ontario Older Boys' Parliament thrived throughout the mid-20th century and was recognized both for its direction of youth activities within the church and the unique opportunity it provided to experience democracy first-hand. In the late 1960s, the Boys' Parliament was opened to girls, becoming Ontario Youth Parliament. It was an organization that grounded young leaders and challenged delegates to face new ideas and speak for their generation on political matters such as gay rights, anti-militarism, environmental and First Nations issues.
1912: The first model parliament was held in Saskatchewan as part of the direction of the Canadian Standard Efficiency Training program.
1917: The first parliamentary session in Ontario was held.
1968: The Ontario Older Boys' Parliament held in Clarkson voted to open the following session to girls.
1975: The first National Youth Parliament was held in Winnipeg, MB.
Due to a number of factors, attendance decreased sharply in the early 21st century. As a result, the parliamentary session of 2007 was cancelled and OYP was nearly disbanded. In the following years, however, there has been a resurgence of interest and participation. OYP 2013 and the years following it have been akin to the gatherings of twenty-or-so years ago fondly recalled by the proud alumni standing on the sidelines.
In many ways, we continue to be what we have historically been: an organization that has brought youth together and changed lives for decades, a legacy of youth leadership in action. OYP has long been known for building strong relationships and leadership skills, challenging youth to step outside their comfort zone and embracing diverse perspectives—from the very first meetings of 1907 onwards.