On Tuesday, November 1, 2016 Speaker of the Senate the Honourable George J. Furey Q.C. hosted a learning session for over 70 teachers from across the country in the Senate Chamber.
The session was part of the week long Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy — a professional development opportunity organized yearly by the Library of Parliament during which teachers learn first-hand how Canada’s Parliament works.
The goal is to equip Canada’s teachers with tools they can bring back to their classrooms to educate the next generation about the role of Parliament.
“As a former teacher, I can tell you that I understand both your passion for teaching and the constant challenges that you face,” Speaker Furey said.
“I also know from personal experience that it is important for our educators to have access to tools and practical experiences like the ones offered by the forum.”
Beyond learning about the basic functions of Parliament, the workshop gave teachers the opportunity to discuss the evolving nature of democratic citizenship.
The ideals of the workshop are that students shouldn’t just learn about their Parliament — they should be inspired to want to engage with it.
“Parliamentary democracy can seem intangible and inaccessible to young people, so one of the goals of the forum is to provide you with tools to help you go beyond notions and concepts,” Speaker Furey said.
“Through you, we hope to instill in your students the desire to participate in the democratic process as citizens by contributing to the understanding that parliamentary democracy is everyone’s concern.”
Later in the day, four senators took part in a panel discussion where teachers were provided the opportunity to ask questions and have an informal conversation about the historical and evolving role of the Upper Chamber.
In their words:
Senators Mobina Jaffer, Yonah Martin and Ratna Omidvar delivered remarks in the Chamber.
Senator Mobina Jaffer, British Columbia:
“It was a real pleasure to speak with dedicated teachers who are educating our children – our future.”
Senator Yonah Martin, British Columbia:
“As a former teacher of 21 years, it was a pleasure for me to moderate the 20th annual Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy on Parliament Hill. This wonderful program unites two fundamental aspects of our society – education and democratic governance. Teachers have a primary role in the cultivation of our youth, who may one day become the next Senator, Member of Parliament or even the Prime Minister of Canada.”
Senator Ratna Omidvar, Ontario:
“In order to get youth engaged in the political process and conversation, we need to talk about issues that matter to them. Teachers play an essential role in this engagement and it was a delight to share ideas with them.”