MVDS student trustee among Renfrew County Student Leaders visit to Parliament Hill

Student Senators representing every secondary school in the Renfrew County District School Board (RCDSB) and Indigenous student leadership had a very special up close and behind-the-scenes visit to Parliament Hill, visiting the Senate of Canada and House of Commons. Among them was student trustee Ava Beggs from Madawaska Valley District School who is completing her final year of a two-year term as she graduates this June. RCDSB student leadership met with Government of Canada Senators, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, the Speaker of the House, the Sergeant-at-Arms, and the staff that support the work of governing, on a whirlwind day. Above: RCDSB student group on Parliament Hill (Photo submitted)

In Ottawa, students were joined by the Chair of the Board, Susan Humphries, Vice Chair, Leo Boland, Trustee Dave Dobson, and RCDSB Board and Indigenous Education staff.

The day began at the Cenotaph, the national war memorial. From there, the group arrived at the Senate of Canada first speaking with former RCDSB student and current SenGage staff member Eliza Moratz who shared how she came to work at the Senate. Next Senator Judy White (Indigenous, Nfld)  met with the students and staff to share her journey and perspectives.

Senator Rob Black joined the group again this year. With a special interest in 4H and youth, Senator Black knew members of the RCDSB contingent. He gave a tour of the Senate, including a visit to the floor of the Senate, only allowable as a guest of a Senator. The Senators explained the role of the Senate and the duties of Senators inviting questions and sharing opportunities available to students. They also heard directly from a student Page about their experience working at the Senate while also in school.

Students learned that the Senate of Canada moved to the renovated former train station across from the Chateau Laurier on Wellington Street, and the House of Common moved from Centre Block to a renovated courtyard, while the permanent homes in Centre Block are being restored. Students were awed by the grandeur of the new building.

The group headed to the House of Commons for the afternoon with a first stop at the cafeteria where MPs and staff who were going about their days stopped by to say hello and share reflections.  

RCDSB students were lucky to be escorted onto the floor of the House of Commons by the Sergeant-at-Arms, Pat Macdonell, and the Speaker of the House, MP Greg Fergus. Both gentlemen wore the official uniform while explaining many of the functions of the House of Commons and their roles.

Above, far right: MP Cheryl Gallant, Renfrew-Nippissing-Pembroke, with RCDSB student leaders group. (Photo submitted)

Local Member of Parliament for Renfrew-Nippissing-Pembroke, MP Cheryl Gallant joined the crew from RCDSB for a photo. She presented each member of the contingent with a pin. Students heard from MP Gallant some highlights from her long career.

A special opportunity for the contingent was a quick meeting with the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Arif Varani, followed by an in-depth discussion with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Honourable Gary Anandasangaree. The Minister took questions from the group inviting them to not hold back. Students responded with questions about the government’s efforts to end drinking water advisories, work on the recommendations for reconciliation, and lessons learned from the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Commission. The genuine commitment to reconciliation and openness of Minister Anandasangaree was eye-opening and inspiring.

 The last part of the day was a study of Question Period (QP). Beginning with the parade of the mace enter the Commons that included the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Speaker of the House. The RCDSB group then took prime seats in the Gallery, first hearing Member’s Statements, followed by a raucous Question Period. As it was a Wednesday, it was the Prime Minister’s QP and students got to watch The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau live and on his feet answering questions from all parties of the House of Commons for an hour. When QP was over, the students and staff were given the use of a board room to debrief what they had witnessed with MP Bardish Chaggar, a former Government House Leader. Students, trustees, and staff alike appreciated the authentic answers and insight to the questions they posed.

Before heading to the Antrim Truck Stop for a bite to eat, students spoke with another former RCDSB graduate Rob Jamieson, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Public Security. It was  full circle, as Jamieson earlier in the day, provided Antrim’s butter tarts as a thank-you to many staff and dignitaries who gave so generously of their time to the Ottawa Valley student leaders.

Over dinner the students shared their appreciation that so many people took the time to make this a truly memorable experience, noting that the access they were afforded was unique and special.

The RCDSB has seven secondary schools. Each school elects two students to represent them at the Student Senate. The Student Senate meets several times a year led by two elected student trustees who have a dual role as student representatives to the Board of Trustees. MVDS student trustee Ava Beggs, mentioned above, was accompanied by student trustee Grace Ding from Mackenzie Community School in Deep River who is ending her first term. Sydney Dougherty, from Arnprior District High School, has been elected as a student trustee for the 2024-2025 year to serve with Grace Ding.

The Indigenous Student Leadership is a new initiative this year under the guidance of the Indigenous Education department and educators Logan Wright and Barb Scott-Cole.

Caplan Jamieson,M.,RCDSB Public Affairs & Communications(2024,May29) RCDSB’s Student Senators End Term at a Special Session on Parliament Hill [media release]

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