As we continue to face challenges related to COVID-19, it becomes increasingly important to look for even small surprises that remind us how a pandemic can actually bring new experiences.
In late October, a Grade 11 Canadian History class at Institut collegial Vincent Massey Collegiate (ICVMC) had the unique opportunity to connect with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Excitement quickly spread through the school, “I had other students begging to come into the room, begging to get onto the Teams [session],” said, teacher, Chris Yard.
Mr. Yard spoke to his class and gave them the opportunity to submit questions to ask the PM in the session. Students asked a variety of excellent questions on topics such as:
- the sustainability of the government’s response to the pandemic
- the most important issue facing Canadians today besides the pandemic
- support for Canadians struggling with mental health issues
- Indigenous rights
- the lack of substantive conversation around politics in the social media age
This last topic was a focal point for Rachel Lambert, a Grade 12 student at ICVMC, who was one of the guests admitted to the special session as part of her Global Issues class.
“It was neat to be in the same space as the PM,” shared Lambert. She noted he was friendly and definitely wanted to listen to their questions. Rachel’s own question for Mr. Trudeau was both bold and frank:
“With politics around the world becoming increasingly paired with scandal and sensationalism in the media, do you think that discussions about policy are still relevant and make as much change as news that sells? And do you think a move away from discussions about policy makes for a more divisive political climate?”
The Grade 12 student was eager to share Justin Trudeau’s reaction to such an articulate question.
“I don’t think he expected a question on policy like that from a high school student,” she said.
“He looked happy I asked it.”
Mr. Yard was duly impressed with the students’ level of engagement.
“During our short preparations for the event, it became very clear that students had informed opinions about issues of national importance to Canada,” he said. “As a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] school, ICVMC makes a concerted effort to engage our students in issues of national and global importance, and this experience allowed them to display those interests while engaging in conversation with a world leader.”
Certainly, with the divisive political trends we are witnessing, especially on social media, it gives great hope to see youth engaged as citizens in this way.
Pembina Trails would like to thank Prime Minister Trudeau and also Jim Carr, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre who sat in on the session, for taking the time to connect with our students. Not only was it a highlight of the year for those who attended, but it was also an opportunity that was in fact made possible by the pandemic-related challenges of online learning.
For Rachel, this truth is evident: “If I were to look back at this year, this will be a highlight that wouldn’t have been possible if it [weren’t] for COVID. This was something good to come out of this pandemic: a virtual meeting with Justin Trudeau.”