Life-Changing Lessons on the Hill
A learning opportunity happens here in Ottawa that is as Canadian—and as good—as it gets. It teaches young people, aged 15 to 19, about government, democracy and citizenship in a way that makes a lasting impression.
Have you heard of it? It’s called Forum for Young Canadians.
Geared to bright, enterprising teens interested in politics, Forum is a one-week high-impact education that happens right on Parliament Hill. Talk about a civics lesson!
Kids involved get to meet key players and get a behind-the- scenes look at politics in action. This isn’t one of those quick tours of the Hill that’s a standard school trip for grade-school classes. It’s in-depth, intense and, by all accounts, indelible.
Tia Yogarajah has seen, first-hand, the impact. The project analyst volunteers with the program as part of a partnership Forum has with the public service. “I love Forum,” she says. “I wish I had done it as a student.” For one thing, she points out, the teens involved “learn things you don’t learn from a textbook. It changes things for them.” For another, they realize the value in mastering Canada’s two languages.
Not only is Forum bilingual and non-partisan, youth come from across the country to be part of the prestigious opportunity. And not only do participants learn about political leadership, they also discover the power of active citizenship. Students are encouraged to embrace their strengths and interests, and with the tools they gather at Forum, they’re invited to put them into action and become active participants in their communities. ey go on to do just that.
There are three sessions per year, with a maximum of 120 participants in each. Highlights include dinner with members of parliament, breakfast with senators, and access to Question Period.
What’s even more impressive is Forum’s track record. This program doesn’t just teach kids about politics, it spurs them on to become political leaders. Nine members of today’s House of Commons are Forum alumni. That number includes three Cabinet appointees: the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
The MP ranks include locals Anita Vandenbeld, representing Ottawa West-Nepean, and Greg Fergus from Hull-Aylmer. Ian Capstick of Power and Politics? Yes, he’s a Forum alumnus, as is former Canada AM host and current MP Seamus O’Regan.
Forum has a long, storied history in Ottawa that dates back to 1975. That’s when the Foundation for the Study of Processes of Government in Canada was incorporated and its first program, Forum for Young Canadians, was launched. The first session took place at Ashbury College in 1976. Ever since, Forum has been introducing students to the possibilities of political life. See www.forum.ca.
If you want to connect with other alumni or become a Forum volunteer, contact Sandra Sawers at firstname.lastname@example.org.