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Passing the torch - Senate partnership with Forum for Young Canadians spans generations
Passing the torch - Senate partnership with Forum for Young Canadians spans generations
January 23, 2018

A group shot from the early years of the Forum for Young Canadians.

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.

"They get to experience Parliament firsthand and are naturally transformed by their experiences," says Senator Yonah Martin. "As a former educator for 21 years, I look forward to meeting these students each and every year."

"It's a real privilege to meet them," says Senator René Cormier. "The curiosity and appetite for learning about public affairs shown by these young leaders was a real source of inspiration and shows great promise for the future of democracy in this country."

"Involved, engaged and proactive - Canada's youth stands as the best investment in the future of this country," says Senator Marie-Françoise Mégie.

"Any effort to expose young Canadians to how our democracy works benefits us all - an educated electorate is an engaged electorate," says Senator Terry Mercer. "Visits by young people always brighten up Parliament."