London District Christian Secondary School (LDCSS) students Miranda Van Rooyen and Hannah Deboer would like to see plastic bags banned in Canada, and their views have triggered an outpouring of media attention recently.
They’ve been featured on CBC Television, CBC Radio, a local radio news show and a local Rogers TV station.
LDCSS advancement director Kerry Wilson says the Grade 10 students have become quite adept at responding to the press.
The girls’ story begins last spring when they decided to participate in a local contest asking secondary school students to draft legislation around a national issue.
Spearheaded by London-Fanshawe riding MP Irene Mathyssen, the contest, called Create Your Canada, was designed to engage youth in sharing their ideas to help shape the future of the country.
A panel of local community leaders evaluated the submissions from students across the region, and in the end, Hannah and Miranda took first place for their proposal for a bill to ban plastic bags.
Fast forward a few months: The proposal, which was first presented to the clerk of the House of Commons to be drafted into legislation, is tabled for consideration by Canada’s Parliament. The students and Mathyssen are present for the tabling.
A media outlet picks up the proposal, not realizing it’s been created by students and lambasts it as another tactic of the NDP to “try to run everyone’s lives.”
About 24 hours into the story it comes to light that the proposal was in fact created by students, and, whether or not people agree with the idea, the great story is that there are two 14-year-old girls who have a taken a very active role in their civic responsibilities.
“You know, what a great thing that they participated and put a lot of research and thought into this and got to spend a couple of days in Ottawa, and if we could get kids to be this interested, that they’d participate too,” says Wilson.
Miranda and Hannah both say the opportunity to visit Ottawa and Parliament and speak with the press were all high points of their experience.
“I think it’s just great that we’re getting this very important message out to Canada,” says Hannah.
Both add they’re standing by their view that banning plastic bags would be a positive move.
Miranda notes their research revealed 55 million plastic bags are produced a week and are “way more harmful than we thought they were.” For instance, many animals mistake them for food and suffocate trying to eat them.
“(The bags) are flying everywhere on the streets. It’s quite a mess out there,” she says.
“The environment is really being affected by these plastic bags, and it’s not just a little problem, it’s huge,” says Hannah, pointing out the bags tend to be used for a “few minutes” and then “they’re in the landfill for thousands of years.”
She adds she’s learned that only one per cent of the bags are recycled.
“We only have one Earth to live on … so I hope (the bags) do get banned and our Earth gets better and less polluted,” she says.