Young Citizens 2016 – Finalists’ Trip to Ottawa
By Katherine Gilks, Education Coordinator at Heritage Saskatchewan
It was again with much enthusiasm that Heritage Saskatchewan administered the Young Citizens program in this province during the 2016 Heritage Fairs season. Canada’s History Society, with sponsorship from Great West Life/Canada Life/First Life/London Life as well as the federal government, ran this contest across the country and 200 students were selected to create videos about their Heritage Fars topics. A total of 19 videos were submitted from Saskatchewan students.
Thank you once again to our filmmaking workshop leaders Adrian Halter, Taryn Snell, and Adam Kitter! Even with technical difficulties (including a locked facility in Swift Current!), the students chosen from the Regional Fairs to create videos had a lot of fun and learned many interesting things about making videos.
Some of the many topics that our Young Citizens finalists from across the province taught us about this year were Louis Riel, Emily Murphy, Women’s Rights, the Third Wave of Ukrainian Immigration, the CBC, Saskatchewan’s own maple syrup industry, and much more. (Check them out here on Canada’s History’s website.)
The 19 videos were posted online mid-June and the public was invited to vote to help determine who would be selected as one of Saskatchewan’s two winners; the public vote made up 50% of the students’ scores, while a judging panel from Canada’s History determined the other 50%. Two winners from each province and territory won win the grand prize of a trip to Ottawa to participate in the 3rd Young Citizens Forum Nov. 26-29, 2016.
This year, Saskatchewan’s winners were Colby Hough (for his video Banff National Park – Canada’s First National Park) and Ellery Nelson (for her video L’immigration au Canada). Both are currently in Grade 7 – Colby at Eston Composite School in Eston, SK, and Ellery at École Centennial School in Regina, SK. Congratulations once again!
Along with many of the chaperones from each of the provinces and territories, I returned to Ottawa for the third time and it was wonderful to have two national coordinator meetings, where we discussed both our current situations and plans for the future. (More on that later!)
This year, not only did I accompany Colby and Ellery, but our mascot Sunny the Saw-whet Owl also came along for the adventure! He had a lot of fun exploring and meeting his new friend from Manitoba, Reggie the Bison.
Colby, Ellery, Sunny, and I headed off to Ottawa the morning of Nov. 26, amid many travellers leaving Agribition early or heading to Toronto for the Grey Cup. Upon landing, we met with other students and chaperones. The students met lots of new friends from across the country. All had a great time, no matter their age, personality, or interests. The one thing that we all had in common was a love of history and heritage.
Colby and Ellery were wonderful young ambassadors for our province. Together, all of the students visited the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, the Byward Market, the National War Memorial, the Parliament Buildings, the Bytown Museum, Rideau Hall, the Canadian War Museum, and the Canadian Museum of History. It was an unforgettable experience! Ottawa was well-decorated for Christmas (especially Parliament!) and Sunny found a lot of trees. Both Ellery and Colby had the chance to meet their Members of Parliament. The students were honoured at a luncheon at the Wabano Centre where a video compilation of highlights of their videos was presented. Also while there, the students participated in a group activity about imagining the future of Canada. While much of the trip was focused on the past and present, equally important to our heritage is our vision of what we want our country to be and how we picture ourselves and our fellow Canadians within it. The students were able to take what they learned and apply it as they continue through school.
What is unique about the Young Citizens Youth Forum is that students from every province and territory get a chance to meet each other. In such a large country, we rarely get the chance to visit and get to know the different regions of Canada. It is easy to fall into stereotypes and absorb ideas that we hear around us about people from other parts of the country, whether negative or positive, and this trip is an opportunity for students to meet some of their fellow citizens. Provinces and territories have names and faces to them now.
We all returned home with a renewed appreciation for our shared Canadian heritage. It was clear that while we have many regional differences, we have much in common – especially our mutual passion for our heritage and history! We also returned with a renewed appreciation for our democratic institutions and our changing Canadian identity. While there was plenty of time to dwell on the past, most of the trip focused on the future of Canada – and just having lots of fun together.
The Young Citizens program has been renewed for at least one more year, so it will run for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017! Other items discussed at the national meeting of coordinators included how to sustain the Heritage Fairs program across the country into the future, and what might be done for the 2017 Young Citizens trip to make a lasting legacy for Canadians.
Thank you again to Canada’s History for running the Young Citizens program, as well as all of the parents, volunteers, and teachers. Thanks especially to Colby and Ellery for representing Saskatchewan so well to the rest of the country!
We will once again select our Saskatchewan students during the Regional Fairs season in April/May. The deadline for video submission is June 5th, 2017. I look forward to learning more about Canada’s Living Heritage and hearing more stories from our students!
We encourage all students to think about how they could create videos about their Heritage Fairs topic! Onward to 2017!