EDITOR’S NOTE: Ali Cosby took part in a Youth Forum of Canada event in the nation’s capital recently. Ms. Cosby relates her impressions of the experience here.
by Ali Cosby
On March 2 I had the opportunity to attend the Youth Forum of Canada. This is a program which gives 15- to 19-year-olds a higher understanding of our government system.
My first excitement came waiting in line to go through security to get on the plane at the Sudbury airport. Just a few people behind me was our MP, Carol Hughes. After starting up a conversation I found out that she was going to be in Ottawa this week too and I would see her again at our MP dinner. Ms. Hughes is a fun person to be around, easy to talk to and overall is pleasant. She even gave me her business card and told me to call if I needed anything while staying in Ottawa.
Once arriving at the Capitol Hill hotel in Ottawa, I received my nametag (which was to be worn at all times or else you must sing), schedule, handbook and forum pin. I was amazed at how friendly everyone was. In the first 10 minutes I learned where people were from, their names, what brought them to forum and so much more.
The first day was a huge shock to my system. Ottawa has such a different environment than Manitoulin. Also, I found out that in order to run on a solid five or six hours of sleep, I need to rely on tea! Parliament Hill is a castle, easily the most extravagant building I have ever seen. My all time favourite room would be the library. The library was one of the few rooms of the original building built back in 1859 that wasn’t destroyed by the 1916 fire. I can speak for all of the other students when I say the room gives you chills.
The lectures that we attended were quite fascinating. Throughout the week we were spoken to by the egg and dairy farmers of Canada, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the Senate, MPs and many other interesting people.
My group also got to experience the event of a lifetime. We got to sit in on a Question Period at Parliament Hill. We got to witness the debates that took place between Stephen Harper and the opposition. We also got to attend a breakfast with some of the senators and discuss politics and their jobs with them. This was very interesting especially because earlier in the week we had the privilege of meeting the speaker or the Senate and the speaker of the House of Commons.
The culture was also an amazing part of the trip. I met people from Northern Quebec that spoke little or no English. I also met people all the way from Nunavut. This meant that all of the lectures would be spoke in English and in French. By the end of the week I was able to have basic conversations and decipher written French.
We also visited Rideau Hall where the governor general works. The stories that the tour guide was able to tell us were quite intriguing. For example there is a room in Rideau Hall called the ‘tent room.’ This room is wall papered in fabric and is designed to look like a circus tent. It was used for a room to unwind and relax after a long day and play tennis. The fabric would be all rolled up and a net would be strung across the room.
We also went to EDC where we learned about the trade system. This would prove to be one of my favourite activities of the week. We participated in a trade simulation where a company in Chile was attempting to purchases mining drills from a Canadian company.
We did many simulations throughout the week, which proved to be very educational and fun. We did a Supreme Court simulation where each side presented their case about media being able to attend the sites where seals are hunted. We also did a election simulation where within our set groups we picked historical people in Canadian history and gave them platforms and we campaigned for them.
The over all experience of the Forum for Young Canadians was amazing. I will hold on to the memories I now have and the friends I made. All of our inside jokes and our close calls with traffic lights. Standing in the hotel of the lobby crying because we didn’t want to go was the only low of the week.
Lastly, I would like to thank my sponsors: The Manitoulin Expositor, Pam Rohn, Dr. Jim Veitch, Sam Nardi, Dr. Sherry Price, First General, Al Eagleson, Rona, my family and the Northeast Town for helping make my dream of going to Forum a reality.