The Roger Watts Debate

Be it resolved that the Emergencies Act is justifiably used to quell civil disobedience.

Wednesday, March 30  |  5:30 p.m. PST
Online Virtual Event

In a world of division, debate matters. Support your peers as they engage in the above statement.

The Roger Watts Debate is a partnership of the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science and a community advisory committee. The debate provides a public forum to debate important issues of the day.

On March 30, top UBC Okanagan student debaters will argue their case before a panel of community judges who will decide the winners. Prizes of $1,000 will be awarded to the first-place finishers, while prizes of $500 will be awarded to the runners up. Student participants will also have the opportunity to compete for the People’s Choice Award, with $500 up for grabs.

2022 Winners

Toney Bedell – Deputy Leader — Opposition
Ideja Efendija – Leader — Opposition

The Roger Watts Debate is made possible through the generous support of:


Vancouver International Arbitration Center


Walley Lightbody QC, Sandra Watts, Roger Watts Jr., Central Okanagan Foundation, UBCO Debate Society

Watch the 2022 Debate: Be it resolved that the Emergencies Act is justifiably used to quell civil disobedience.

Watch the 2017 In-person Debate: Be it resolved that personalities have replaced issues in politics


About the Debaters

Name: Braeden Gervais

Position: Prime Minister — Government

Program: B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics | 4th Year

About the Debater

Braeden is the President of UBCO’s Debate Society and has won the Roger Watts Debate twice prior.

“Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy.” — Jesse Jackson

Name: Heather Sham

Position: Deputy Prime Minister — Government

Program: B.A. in English | 1st Year

About the Debater

Heather is a first-year English student at UBCO from Calgary, Alberta and has been debating at national and international tournaments since 2019. In 2021, she was nominated as Alberta’s Top Debate Nominee to participate in the 2021 CSDF Team Canada Tryouts and found success at numerous national tournaments. Her favourite debate style is World’s Style and in her spare time enjoys binging Netflix shows and napping.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” — Master Oogway

Name: Toney Bedell

Position: Deputy Leader  — Opposition

Program: B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics | 4th Year

About the Debater

Toney is a fourth year PPE student whose been involved in debate since day one of his first year. Debate has become more than just another club to Toney, it has become an intimate part of his university experience. It is where he made some of his closest friends, where he found his voice and above all where he hopes to end his time at UBC. Toney came into debate as a young, unrefined but enthusiastic debater. With time, he has grown into his own style and has made the stage a second home of sorts. He aspires to a life in public service and hopes to pursue a career in law and politics. Roger Watts and the UBCO debate society are among his fondest memories of the last four years which makes this year’s final an especially sentimental moment for him.

“It matters very little whether your judgments of people are true or untrue, and very much whether they are kind or unkind.” — Winston Churchill

Name: Ideja Efendija

Position: Leader — Opposition

Program: B.A. in International Relations | 2nd Year

About the Debater

Ideja Efendija is a second-year International Relations student at UBC Okanagan. She is originally from Kosovo but grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. She came to Canada to study international relations in pursuit of either becoming a human rights lawyer or a policymaker. Ideja is privileged to be able to use her voice and would thus like to dedicate her life to creating a world that is safer and more equitable for all. She has been engaged in Model UN and competitive debate for a number of years and loves to partake in academic discourse. She is passionate about human rights advocation, international politics, women empowerment, and climate action. In her spare time, she loves to paint and read, one of her favourite authors being James Baldwin.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Name: Mihai Covaser

Position: Alternate — Opposition

Program: B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics | 1st Year

About the Debater

Mihai has known from a very young age that debate and speech were not only his strongest passions but that, with enough practice, he could also apply them to make a lasting impact in his community and outside of it. To hone his skills, he has been giving ambassadorship presentations and participating in competitive debates and speech competitions for over 10 years. His ongoing mission is to promote accessibility and inclusion in Canada’s institutions for people with disabilities, especially in the sector of education. This motivates him to continue telling his story. He hopes to graduate from UBCO with new skills and experiences to further this vision and looks forward to supporting UBC’s debaters in the future.

“Non nobis solum nati sumus.” — Cicero

Translated: “Not for ourselves alone are we born.”

Name: Lakshay Karnwal

Position: Alternate — Government

Program: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science| 3rd Year

About the Debater

Lakshay is a third-year computer science student vastly fascinated by the insight debate gives about world events’ socio-political and philosophical impacts. Debating was the first hobby that taught him about conveying ideas coherently and decisively. Participating multiple years in Roger Watts Debate Competition has enabled Lakshay to continue honing such skillsets.

“It is safer to search in the maze than to remain in a cheeseless situation.” — Who moved my cheese?

About the Debate

A Roger Watts Debate has been held annually, beginning in 2014. Resolutions and participants during the first six years have been as follows:

2021: Be it resolved that the government should have the ability to make vaccination mandatory

Christine Semeniuk, Toney Bedell

Braeden Gervais, Lakshay Karnwal (Winners)

Trinity Schredl, Brendan Stewart

People’s Choice Award:
Christine Semeniuk

2020: Be it resolved that technology is our best answer to climate change

Finalists – Cowinners:
Kathleen Lortie, Braeden Gervais, Toney Bedell, Nicole Michalewicz

Christine Semeniuk, Nathan Romanchych

2019: Be it resolved that Canada needs more pipelines

Christine Semeniuk, Michaela Sullivan-Paul

Toney Bedell, Nick Huertas (Winners)

Mackenzie Edwards, Davis Tessema

2018: Be it resolved that Western democracies are failing

Tyrel Lamoureux, Jason Wu

Mackenzie Edwards, Laura Fylyshtan (Winners)

Brett Shaigec, Michaela Sullivan-Paul

2017: Be it resolved that personalities have replaced issues in politics

Tyrel Lamoureux, Laurence Watt

Michael Flood, Nicole Tomasic (Winners)

Jordan Britnell, Mackenzie Edwards

2016: Be it resolved that Canada has an obligation to take refugees

Lina Gomez, Daniel Kandie

Sarah Nunis, Kimberly Owuor (Winners)

Alana Firedancer, Richard McCurrach

2015: Be it resolved that government surveillance is justified

Kevin Ilomin, Ayla Lovell

Sutheeksan (Dixon) Sunthoram, Laurence Watt (Winners)

Alina Malicki Casas, Tyrel Lamoureux

2014: Be it resolved that social media brings us closer

Maisha Maliha Badhon, Jordan Kostaschuk

Kathryn Helmore, David MacLean (Winners)

Kevin Ilomin

Roger WattsThe Roger Watts Debate follows the parliamentary form of debate, with members of each team alternating with the opponents, and allocated certain time limits. The moderator may choose to intervene if he feels that a debater requires another minute to conclude a point; if the open debate requires more time for adequate rebuttal; or if any debater defies the standard of parliament either by unduly personalizing the debate or using unfortunate language.

  • Prime Minister 5 minutes opening
  • Leader of the Opposition 5 minutes response
  • Deputy Prime Minister 8 minutes response
  • Deputy Leader of the Opposition 8 minutes response
  • Rapid Fire Round, 8 minutes no speaker to exceed 2 minutes
  • Leader of the Opposition 3 minutes closing statement
  • Prime Minister 3 minutes closing statement

Roger Watts

Roger Dennis Watts


Born in Scotland in 1945, Roger was a well-travelled child having lived between Britain, Canada and California before moving to Africa in 1953. He fondly remembered his youth spent in Rhodesia and South Africa prior to his return to Canada in 1958. He handled the relocations by developing a charm to captivate new friends everywhere he went.

Known by all who had the opportunity to spend time with him as a man of compassion, energy and generosity, he truly savoured each day and lived life to the fullest. He lit up any room he entered with his unabashed, hearty laughter and his infectious enthusiasm for life. He loved to be surrounded by friends and family, an audience for his copious stories. He was always up for adventure and loved travelling, playing tennis and sailing. A true romantic, he embraced his dreams as well as the dreams and passions of those around him.

Roger obtained both his bachelor and Law degrees from the University of British Columbia.  Called to the British Columbia Bar in May, 1975, he then moved to the Okanagan to start his first law practice and to raise his family. Roger practiced personal injury law focusing on complex brain & spinal injuries and chronic pain with an emphasis on jury trials.

He developed a long and successful career as a trial lawyer filled with unbridled passion.

In Roger’s words:
“I endeavor to meet each of my clients with compassion to listen and learn about you, your background, your family and your dreams for the future.

I am also committed to fighting passionately on your behalf against administration, rules and the system, and to communicate to the court that you are not just a number in the queue, but an individual who matters with real hardship.”

Roger loved to teach and mentored many articling students who aspired to be trial lawyers.  He spoke about the powers of advocacy as a guest lecturer on Contemporary Canadian Law in the Political Science department at UBCO. It is very fitting that an endowment fund set up in his memory is now supporting young advocates of the future. 

Read the article published in The Advocate by Walley Lightbody, Q.C., and Roger Watts Jr.

Interested in participating in the next debate?

Students, please contact Toney and Braden for information on training:

Julien Picault

Associate Professor of Teaching, ECONOMICS

Phone: 250.807.9227

UBCO Debate Society

UBC Okanagan’s Debate Society is a non-competitive group of students who meet weekly to practice the art of debate. Welcoming students from any faculty, the Debate Society gives students of all abilities a fun way to develop their oracy skills. Every week the executive team puts on different activities and lessons to help students with their critical thinking skills and to build up confident communication.

The Debate Society also enlists the help of mentors, who are professors and other local community members, to give feedback and comment on the students’ practices. The Debate Society also aims to help students to become more informed about political and global affairs. Although the society offers some competitive opportunities, UBC Okanagan’s main competition is the annual Roger Watts Debate Competition where students have the opportunity to try out and debate in the community for cash prizes. All-in-all, the Debate Society is a great way to get involved on campus, meet new people, and develop the skills of debate.

Learn More

Watch on the Real Deal


The event is made possible through our generous donors and community sponsors. Donations are welcome and payable to the Central Okanagan Foundation Roger Watts Debate Fund.

Donate by selecting “Watts, Roger Memorial Fund” from the drop-down menu.

Donate now