Student gains political insight

Local student Jamie Petrin recently returned from a week in Ottawa, where she had a chance to take in the sights of the city, as well as learn about the workings of Canadian government, thanks to the program “Encounters with Canada.”
Each year, the program offers about 3,000 Canadians aged 14-17 the opportunity to “gain a better understanding of Canada,” according to its website.
“It’s kind of like a youth conference,” explained Petrin, a Grade 10 student at Fort Frances High School.
“Encounters with Canada,” funded through the Department of Canadian Heritage, brings together students from across the country for one week to learn more about their country through presentations, group discussions, and visits to local landmarks.
There also are 11 sub-themes students can choose from, such as law, journalism and communications, arts and culture, sports and fitness, medicine and health, and international affairs.
For her theme, Petrin chose science and technology. “It seemed like the most interesting,” she noted.
Part of the week is spent visiting Canada’s major institutions and includes a visit to Parliament Hill, which Petrin said was the highlight of the trip.
“It was gorgeous,” she said.
Her group of 75 students was able to sit in the visitors’ gallery during Question Period in the House of Commons.
“You got to see how government works,” Petrin said, adding Prime Minister Stephen Harper was there that day and that some of the other students in the group got to meet him.
The group also toured the city of Ottawa, which Petrin described as beautiful. “It was really old and really pretty there,” she said.
She also had an opportunity to visit with Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff.
The presentations and group discussions were eye-opening, dealing with various political issues.
“It just opens your eyes to a lot of matters that are going on in your country that you wouldn’t even think of,” said Petrin. “Things like environment issues and finances and Canadian heritage, and even programs like these [‘Encounters’].
“They were trying to cut it off for a little while.”
Fortunately, Heritage Canada will continue to fund “Encounters with Canada” for now, she added.
In keeping with the science and technology theme, Petrin and her group visited the National Museum of Science and Technology and the Canadian Aviation Museum.
They also saw a presentation on cryogenics.
“They tried to get us in to see the sights in Ottawa and also still be involved with the science part of it,” she noted.
And her week in Ottawa helped Petrin decide what she might want to do after high school.
“I’ve always been interested in politics, and I’ve always been interested in writing and journalism, too,” she remarked. “[The program] lets you think about different things. You get to form your own opinions.”
She also met a whole new group of friends from all over Canada. “Everyone was friends there,” she said.
To apply to “Encounters with Canada,” Petrin simply visited the guidance office at Fort High and filled out the application.
“My brothers did it when they were my age,” she noted.
And as her brothers recommended the experience to her, so Petrin now recommends it to other students.
“They’re always looking for more participants,” she noted. “It’s a really good thing to do.”