A Mother’s Reflections on a Memorable School Project
Justin Trudeau spoke to a group of Indigenous students in Saskatchewan yesterday. That made the news, especially after high school student Tahris Bear asked a hard question of the Prime Minister about the Third World living conditions in many Canadian First Nations communities.
What didn’t make the news was that the PM also took time out of his day to speak to some younger students in British Columbia. The meeting took place by video conference, and was a highlight of the school year for grade 6 and 7 students at Yaqan Nukiy School, the band-run independent school Lower Kootenay Band. The school, located in the Traditional Territory of the Ktunaxa Nation, has a population of roughly 40 students – one of whom is my youngest daughter.
Culmination of an Ongoing Project
Students in Devan Coward’s grade 6/7 class have been working on their civic responsibility and political awareness all year. “Mr C” invited candidates for the fall federal election to a classroom debate, the class participated in Student Vote, and they later followed up with a mock parliament.
Mr C has also been running a year-long classroom economy. Students are required to pay a “rent” for the use of their desks, and so each student has applied for and been chosen to do a specific job in the class. The “salary” earned through this work allows the students to pay rent and to purchase fun extras. This exercise teaches students the value of hard work, and encourages them to budget so they will meet their expenses. Great idea!
The class continued their foray into the world of politics by holding a classroom video conference with BC Education Minister Mike Bernier. Students used this meeting as an opportunity to practise their interview skills.
Each time such an event is set up, Mr C takes the time to solicit student questions. The class discusses the topics, researches the background, and works on framing just the right question. All of this, leading up to the interview with the Prime Minister himself.
Students have been guided on how to structure ‘deep questions,’ preceded by a statement of fact, informed by evidence, and which demand a more detailed response on the part of the PM.
~ Taken from a letter sent home by Mr C prior to the interview with Prime Minister Trudeau
Polygamy and “Potty” Talk
The students planned to ask Prime Minister Trudeau a variety of different questions. Topics included the economy, sustainable farming practices, funding for Indigenous communities, the role of Canada’s military, and more. Students also had personal questions for Trudeau, about how he became interested in politics and whether his teaching experience has helped him in his role as a political leader.
As often happens, there were more questions planned than the PM actually had time for. But there were two questions that yielded interesting answers. The first was particularly interesting because of the polygamous FLDS community located in our valley. Simply put, this youngster just wanted to know why polygamy is illegal in Canada. I was quite interested to hear that Prime Minister Trudeau say that it probably shouldn’t be, an answer that hearkens back to his father’s philosophy that the government doesn’t belong in the bedrooms of the nation.
The other question relates to this whole “bathroom” controversy our American neighbours are dealing with, and it was asked by my Katydid. She touched on Bill C-279, a bill that was designed to include charter protections on the basis of gender identity. My daughter asked whether the PM supported legislation to protect transgender individuals, and he said he does.
In fact, the entire Liberal Party voted unanimously in favour of legal protections based on gender identity – which is separate from both gender and sexual orientation, traits already mentioned in the anti-discrimination clauses of Canada’s Charter of Rights and related laws. The only thing the kids forgot to ask is what the Liberals now intend to do about the two bills that were stalled before the election last fall, and that now sit in limbo!
It takes an amazing teacher to get kids interested in politics and to organize such a big project. Mr C deserves much praise for the hard work he does. And teacher turned political leader Justin Trudeau should be thanked for making this happen.
How many young people get to say they have interviewed their country’s Prime Minister? Now how many of them come from a tiny school in a rural area of the country? For these kids, a video conference with Justin Trudeau is not just a highlight of the year but something they will remember for a lifetime.