My name is Violet, and I am responsible for Québec recruitment and the Theme for the 2020 National Student Commonwealth Forum (NSCF). I was a delegate for the forum last year, and it was definitely the most impactful and meaningful experience that I had during my final year of high school. I was lucky to have been selected as a member of this year’s planning team (PT), and I am excited to show a new group of Canadian youth the NSCF experience.
I entered the forum in 2019 representing Rwanda with my friend and current PT member, Eunice. We were both taking various world studies and humanities courses in high school, and felt that NSCF would be an interesting opportunity to apply some of our pre-existing knowledge to, as well as gain new insight on global affairs. We both believe it was an extremely valuable learning experience worthy of being part of everyone’s high school career.
It’s a critical time for youth to be engaged in politics. At this moment, several far-right governments have been enacted around the world and there is a concerning rise in both populist movements and extremist groups. As a result, it is easy to make rash judgements due to the fluidity of current events. It is important to be an informed citizen, and in fact a civil duty to understand one’s government and to understand ongoing global affairs, to make an educated decision of one’s political compass and to be able to make effective debate about politics.
NSCF is not your typical student forum. Engagement in NSCF promotes speaking skills, and provides excellent networking opportunities. With 53 nations in the Commonwealth, the system compels participants to develop problem-solving skills and to cultivate open-mindedness. The forum puts in the significant position of representing a country at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. In most high school curriculums across Canada, there is little emphasis on the history of the global South. NSCF gives students an opportunity to delve into a foreign nation’s identity and apply their newfound knowledge at CHOGM. This helps to break down ethnocentric barriers we may have created throughout our time in school. Personally, the most impactful aspect of NSCF was how it made delegates critically assess how interconnected our world truly is, and how differently each nation is affected by sustainability issues within the Commonwealth.
Although I call Ottawa home, NSCF was able to still make me feel like a tourist in the city. The unique experiences such as meeting with a representative from Global Affairs Canada, in addition to the Canadian Parliamentary Association event on Parliament Hill would not have been possible without this forum. I also had the chance to host a delegate from Nova Scotia, and it was exciting to visit various local landmarks with her. Ottawa is a small city with a bureaucratic atmosphere, so it was refreshing to meet students from all across the country who brought a piece of their home with them to the forum.
A great takeaway from NSCF is also the lasting friendships and memories from the week-long forum. Canadian cities are geographically distant and dramatically individualized from each other, and it was interesting to notice how there are very niche cultures and perspectives from delegates across the country. I think it is important for Canadian youth to engage in discourse about politics to further mutual understanding. I loved how the diversity of our backgrounds greatly enhanced debate and I was exposed to a variety of ideas that I would have otherwise never considered.