A country’s future is only as bright as its next generation. As part of its larger youth-oriented initiatives, the Senate is proud to collaborate every year with the Forum for Young Canadians — a week-long, behind-the-scenes, educational experience for students from across Canada.
The Forum got its start in the 1970s, when Tony German, the director of development at Ottawa’s Ashbury College, looked for ways to develop a structured way for students from across Canada to learn more about Parliament, in a procedural, non-partisan fashion.
Parliamentarians got behind the idea. Senate Speaker Renaude Lapointe changed the Senate’s rules to allow students to sit in senators’ seats so that they could conduct sessions in the historic chamber. Then-senator Eugene Forsey, one of Canada’s most-respected voices on constitutional matters, agreed to lead off each course.
In 1976, the first sessions began with 50 boys and 50 girls from every part of the country. Travel subsidized, the young Canadians took part in presentations, panels, discussion groups and simulations in the heart of Canada’s capital.
Senators have continued to host an annual session since.
“The Forum is an important opportunity for young people in Canada because it allows them to establish a sense of belonging within our parliamentary institutions,” says Senator Jim Munson.
”It helps to peak their interests in a future in politics.”
The Forum’s impact has gone well beyond education too. In the words of Tony German, participants frequently repeated “some version of ‘I came an Albertan (or Cape Bretoner, Québécois); I left a Canadian.’”
A resounding success, the program grew over the years, separating from Ashbury in the 1980s, with Forum alumni eventually taking over the reins. Indeed, the Forum for Young Canadians helps keep Canada’s flame strong, passing the torch from one generation to the next.
Interested in applying for the program? Click here.