Blog post written by Jacynthe. Jacynthe is a Ranger in the 1st Howick Ranger Unit.
This past March, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Forum for Young Canadians. Not many people know about Forum. I heard about it through my grade 10 history teacher. So, what is Forum? It is an organization that allows select students from across Canada, aged 14-19, to spend a week in our nation’s capital learning about parliament — a week, from the moment you get up to the minute you hit the pillow, that is all about politics.
March 18, 2018 was the day my adventure began. When I arrived, I was greeted with nothing but big smiles as volunteers gave us our tags, parliamentary passes, and other goodies! As of then, Forum had officially begun. Friendships began to form from all across Canada.
When I first heard about Forum, never in a million years did I think it would be as incredible as it was. It didn’t just explain to us what politics is, they created simulations so we could experience, step by step, what politicians go through. This gave me a greater understanding and allowed us, as youth, to create political parties that had our best interests in sight. It also gave us the chance to show our goofy and creative sides with things such as having Céline Dion, Chris Hadfield and Rick Mercer as the heads of our parties.
We also got to experience many facets of Parliament Hill. We toured Centre Block (the main building on the Hill), visited the House of Commons and the Senate Chambers, and got to observe the House of Commons in action while attending Question Period. I even got the chance to speak in a mock trial and to thank Speaker Regan in the House. In this mock trial, participants got to address our speaker in the actual House of Commons. Aside from Parliament, we spent a large amount of time at the Sir John A. Macdonald building where we heard from many special guest speakers and politicians on how we, as youth, can change the world. The most notable activity was the Blanket Exercise presented by Kairos where we spent an hour learning about how the indigenous people were treated over the past few centuries.
Not only did we get to listen to politicians tell stories and answer our questions, we had the chance to meet many of them. On the Wednesday of my trip, Forum hosted a Members of Parliament reception. They invited the representatives from each of the students’ electoral ridings, along with Forum graduates and any other Parliamentarian officials who wanted to attend. I was lucky enough that my MP, Anne Quach, was able to be there and that we were able to talk for about 45 minutes about various topics. The next morning, we had the Senate breakfast where Senators came and talked to us about what matters to us and they explained in more detail how the Senate works.
Although Forum mainly concentrated on politics and our role as youth, there was also loads of fun to be had! On activity night, several of us had the chance to go watch a hockey game, the Ottawa Senators against the Florida Panthers. That night, no matter what team or political party we were in favour of, we were all just friends at a hockey game making memories. On the other nights, we were allowed to hang out together in the student lounge. Those nights were mostly spent having dance parties, including the last night when we had no curfew and stayed up all night with our new-found friends. This just happened to be on the same night that Parliamentarians were also pulling an all-nighter, known as a filibuster.
All in all, my Forum adventure was life-changing. It taught me how I can make a difference. It gave me leadership skills that I could bring back to my Girl Guide unit. It taught me how parliament works in a more profound way and how every part of the government plays a crucial role. And, most importantly, it gave me life long friendships, unforgettable memories, and the knowledge that if you pay your friend 20$, he’ll prom-pose to his friend in front of the whole group for fun! Forum has had such a major impact on my life that I have changed my study path for CEGEP next year and now plan to go into political sciences.
Last but not least, my Forum adventure would not have been possible without many people and organizations. I’d like to thank Girl Guides of Canada, The Canadian Legion branch 196 in Ormstown, and the teachers and staff at Châteauguay Valley Regional High School for all their support and donations towards my trip! It was absolutely incredible. Thank you.