Forum for Young Canadians approaching quickly

by Charlene Booy
Garden Valley Collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

Preparations for the annual Forum for Young Canadians are underway all over Canada.

Students participating in the forum spend a week in Ottawa learning about our country and how our government works. The Foundation for the Study of Processes of Government in Canada sponsors the project, which attracts more than 500 senior high-school students and CEGEP students. The week-long sessions will start in March 1999 and many schools are nominating their delegates now.

At the forum, students from 16 to 19 years of age learn first-hand how the Canadian government works. The week is filled with speakers, discussions, and even simulations of an election, Cabinet committees, a House of Commons question period, and a federal-provincial conference. There are also sessions where students look at the relationships between the government and business, labour, the media and citizens' groups.

Students also take part in a tour of the National Capital Region, participate in sports, and enjoy both an evening of skits and entertainment and a closing dinner at the National Arts Centre.

Besides the official agenda, there is a hidden agenda. The latter includes all the things students do and learn that are not on the formal agenda, such as meeting people and making friends from other parts of the country. Forum students learn about other cultures and about breaking stereotypes, says Steve Holbrow, a history teacher at Garden Valley Collegiate.

Students nominated to attend Forum for Young Canadians must have specific qualifications. These include a reputation for responsibility, an indication that he or she will benefit from the experience, leadership potential, and good performance in school work. The student should also be interested in current national and community affairs and have a willingness to share the forum experience with others.

There will be four sessions held in 1999, with the first one starting March 13-20. Subsequent sessions are scheduled for March 20-27, April 17-24, and April 24-May 1. Canadian schools are invited to recommend two students who have the appropriate characteristics. Provincial and territorial committees then make final selections based on the number of people allowed from their region.

The Forum for Young Canadians costs $690 which includes tuition, and room and board. Participating students must raise the first $195 of travel expenses and the rest is covered by Open House Canada (the youth-exchange program of the Department of Canadian Heritage) and by the Foundation for the Study of the Processes of Government in Canada. Many students obtain financial support from local sponsors, including school boards, students councils, community organizations, service clubs, private companies, and interested individuals.


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