Report on Institute of Parliamentary Democracy

I had the good for­tune of being cho­sen as one of 72 teach­ers from across Canada to par­tic­i­pate in a once in a life­time pro­fes­sional learn­ing oppor­tu­nity, the Teacher’s Insti­tute on Par­lia­men­tary Democ­racy in Ottawa. The province of Man­i­toba was well rep­re­sented by seven teach­ers and we had many oppor­tu­ni­ties to work together as a provin­cial team. The Insti­tute is funded by Par­lia­ment and is admin­is­tered by the Par­lia­men­tary Library.

Dur­ing the week long insti­tute we were allowed incred­i­ble access to par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, bureau­crats, lob­by­ists and jour­nal­ists. We toured the inner halls of the Cen­tre Block and East Block, sat in our MPs desk in par­lia­ment and had the oppor­tu­nity to visit the sen­ate cham­ber. We had a pre­sen­ta­tion from both the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Sen­ate. We par­tic­i­pated in a model par­lia­ment and a mock com­mit­tee meet­ing. The high­light of the week was the tour of Rideau Hall and meet­ing with the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral. He was funny, artic­u­late and made you feel a sense of pride in our coun­try and its heritage.

We had a chance to dine with lob­by­ists, and under­stand their per­spec­tive on gov­ern­ment. I enjoyed the many panel dis­cus­sions on var­i­ous top­ics from the work­ings inside the PMO to the his­tory of the Supreme Court and thought behind some of its more impor­tant rul­ings. One of the most enjoy­able moments was the panel dis­cus­sion on the role of a free press in a democ­racy, there we had the chance to get per­spec­tives on cur­rent events from print jour­nal­ists like John Irv­ing from the National Post and Althia Raj from the Huff­in­g­ton Post. As the Sen­ate scan­dal was in full bloom, the com­men­tary was riveting.

All panel dis­cus­sion ended with a long Q&A ses­sion. These ses­sions were given under the premise of Chatham House Rules, mean­ing speak­ers could be can­did know­ing that noth­ing they said would be quoted or in any attrib­uted to them. This allowed the teach­ers to ask pur­pose­ful ques­tions and get unguarded responses. It was truly an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence for those inter­ested in con­tem­po­rary issues and the Cana­dian polit­i­cal scene.

Over­all, I had an intel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing expe­ri­ence that impressed upon me per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally that we in the edu­ca­tion busi­ness must teach our stu­dents the impor­tance of our country’s demo­c­ra­tic his­tory, the impor­tance of our insti­tu­tions and the need for the youth of today to engage in polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion. Edu­ca­tors must ensure that stu­dents develop as knowl­edge­able cit­i­zens able to move Canada for­ward in the years ahead.

There was noth­ing more poignant for me than stand­ing in the blow­ing snow in front of the National Ceno­taph on Novem­ber 11th, lis­ten­ing to the Last Post along with thou­sands of fel­low Cana­di­ans and the vet­er­ans remem­ber­ing the count­less war­riors who died for our coun­try. It made feel that being Cana­dian was some­thing not to be taken for granted, but a priv­i­lege that needs not only to be cel­e­brated but also to be defended.

I would like to thank the Board of Trustees of Win­nipeg School Divi­sion for pro­vid­ing sup­port to me for this valu­able pro­fes­sional learn­ing opportunity.