The Forum for Young Canadians, or “forum”, as it is more affectionately known, is promoted as “an amazing and life changing experience” for young Canadians interested in Canadian politics (#cdnpoli) and the study of Government of Canada processes. In my experience, forum did not fall short on its promise.
Over the course of a few short days, students from across the country met political leaders, explored Parliament Hill, participated in various simulations, and developed friendships with like-minded youth. Despite snowstorms, fire alarm evacuations in twenty below degree weather, and endless trips through security, the week culminated in tears, hugs, and laughs as each boarded buses and planes Saturday morning.
Lesser known but infinitely more personal to my experience (and relevant to your reading), was the role played by public servants at forum. I was a group leader, along with nine other people, responsible for the supervision of the students attending forum. We each had eleven people to manage during the course of the event. We lead them through simulations and encouraged their participation in workshops and presentations.
With days that began before 7 am and often finished well after midnight, it was the support of my colleagues from across the public service that made the week possible. It was an honour to be selected from 300 applications and a joy to learn more about the public service and the Government of Canada from these incredible leaders, all of whom quickly became friends.
In addition to building connections with the students and my colleagues, forum provided the opportunity to experience many “firsts” for me that included touring Parliament Hill, the House of Commons, and the Senate; attending Question Period; meeting Members of Parliament and Speakers of the House of Commons and the Senate – and even a surprise meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The opportunity to appreciate our Canadian Parliament – from the top of the Peace Tower out to the Eternal Flame - was indeed life-changing. Participating in forum as a group leader gave me an opportunity to represent CSC and the federal public service to students from across the country. It is difficult to convey the personal impact of watching a group of students take hold of a challenging simulation and work together to build impressive presentations or sip coffee in the lobby of the Senate. My only hope is that forum continues to provide students and public servants this experience for years to come.