Of all the customs and traditions that come with working at the Senate, there’s one that takes place away from Parliament Hill that Senate pages anticipate every year: stone-fired pizza in Ottawa’s ByWard Market.
Over the past five years this annual pre-session ritual has served as a stepping stone to long-standing friendships — and it’s a testament to the fact that pages have just as much fun outside the Chamber as they do inside of it.
Just ask Shella Moreau.
The 19-year-old human kinetics student at the University of Ottawa is returning for a second year as a Senate page. She said the thrill of witnessing history while carrying out her Senate duties and the sense of belonging she feels with her fellow pages are the main draws to this one-of-a-kind job.
“The page team becomes a family,” Shella said.
As one of the few pages not studying political science, she said she wants youth to realize that you don’t need to be a political junkie to join the program.
“Being able to work in the Chamber was an extreme privilege,” Shella said.
“Seeing the end of a parliament, that was really cool. Seeing all the legislation, all the bills the Senate passed, sitting in committees and hearing the deliberations, and having witnesses come in and speak as experts — I think those were the highlights last year.”
Every year, the Usher of the Black Rod selects 15 post-secondary students from across Canada to join the Senate Page Program, a paid opportunity to work in Parliament during their studies.
Pages provide a range of services to ensure the effective operation of the Senate and its committees. They witness parliamentary history firsthand as bills are debated, amended and become law, and when Senate committees discuss draft reports that shape public policy.
Chief Page Adrianna McAllister, 20, knows what it’s like to witness history.
The third-year political science and history student said it was an “exceptionally humbling” experience to watch the installation of Governor General Julie Payette in the Red Chamber in 2017.
“I’ve learned more here than I have in class and that’s not to say that the University of Ottawa isn’t a wonderful school. It just really speaks to the amount of history that you’re witnessing here in the Senate,” she said.
“If you want to meet your best friends for the rest of your life and have a great job in the National Capital Region that also exposes you to a lot of career opportunities within your degree, then I would say it’s definitely a place to get your start.”
Veteran page Keean Nembhard, 22, said watching high-profile legislation getting passed makes being a page “one of the best jobs that you can have in your undergraduate degree in Ottawa.”
“You work closely alongside senators, clerks, the Usher of the Black Rod and you make a lot of really great connections and you can network very well,” he said.
“I’ve worked at numerous different places in the past and I’ve never connected with a group of people like I have with Senate pages so I can’t think of a better job.”
Post-secondary students who speak both official languages and meet other requirements are eligible to apply online. The Senate actively seeks a diverse group of pages that is reflective of Canadian society and encourages Indigenous peoples, women, people with a disability and members of a visible minority group to apply.
Rise to the challenge and apply to the Senate Page Program before January 19, 2020!