After a 10 days of volunteering, meeting senators, discussing our country’s future, and celebrating Canada 150 in the nation’s capital city of Ottawa, I am back in Nova Scotia! I have many things planned for the next five weeks leading up to the pageant, including fundraisers, youth empowerment group meetings, events, and more!
For now, I am going to amalgamate all the fun activities and events I have taken part in Ottawa over the past week into one giant blog post! Canada 150th birthday is a time to reflect on the past, celebrate the present and create the future, and I am so honored to have been chosen as one of the 150 youth selected to partake in the celebrations and to attend the national youth forum as part of the Experiences Canada 150&Me program.
The day I arrived was the day it all started. I was already meeting so many interesting and inspiring people from regions all across Canada, and I loved listening to their stories and learning about their own unique cultures. After we got settled at Carleton University, where we would be staying the whole week, a group of us walked down to a powwow near the canal! After that, all 150 youth gathered for an opening dinner to celebrate Canada and discuss our plans for the coming week.
The next day, we were split into groups for our forum presentations that we would make in front of His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston at the National Gallery of Canada. The presentations were to be done in the form of a video, a speech, a song, or anyway we wanted to convey our ideas about the challenges and opportunities facing the next generation of youth in Canada. Since many members of our group, including myself were dancers, we decided to do a presentation of spoken words and song, called 150 years of momentum. Our country is constantly evolving as new ideas, concepts, and technology are introduced into society, and no matter what, we will always be moving forward.
The presentations turned out to be pretty good! There were a lot of inspiring speakers at the National Canada 150&Me Youth Forum, and I left feeling hopeful for the future of our country. We finished off the day by heading to the Canadian History Museum across the Ottawa river in Gatineau.
On Tuesday, we volunteered at Gatineau Park to help clean up the pathways and to preserve the wildlife. Gatineau Park’s numerous lakes, trees, and heritage buildings attract 2.7 millions visitors per year, and the park is run almost fully on the efforts of volunteers. After cleaning up the walking path and going on an 8km hike, the 150 team enjoyed a nice picnic on the beach!
On Wednesday, we visited Aga Khan Foundation Canada on Sussex Drive, which serves as the Saudi Arabian embassy of the Ismaili Imamat. AKFC is an organization that works in developing countries to promote the 17 sustainable development goals, including the elimination of poverty, clean energy, and gender equality. The 150 youth attended workshops to learn about ways we can have a positive impact in the lives of impoverished children from around the world.
After touring and learning about the beautiful architecture of the embassy, we headed off to the Aga Khan community gardens to volunteer on the farms. 🙂 It was great to help out and learn about one of the most important industries in Canada, the agriculture industry.
On Thursday, we started off by touring the exhibits of the Canadian Museum of Nature, then we headed to the Rideau Shopping Centre! I was surprised to find a WE store there, and coming from a small town, I didn’t even know they existed! As member of the WE program at my school, I’m impressed on how much this organization is doing to help families and communities flourish, and they have many opportunities for youth to get involved in helping make our world a better place!
After a couple hours of shopping, we made a brief stop at Carleton to get ready for the 25th Governor General Performing Arts Awards. All 150 of us youth, as well as the youth ambassadors, were invited as special guests of the Governor General of Canada. Performing arts is such an important element of our history and our culture, and I think it’s amazing that our country is acknowledging the contributions our people have made to the art world. Musical sensations such as Michael J. Fox, Martin Short, and Michael Bublé were among the nominees for the 2017 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award. It was a great chance to hear some awesome music and to meet some of the most prominent Canadians!
On Friday, we returned to the National Gallery of Canada, where the youth presented speeches on the Canadian and Indigenous pieces of artwork. We then met up with the French-Canadian politician Mélanie Joly.
To finish off the day, we had a reception with senators in downtown Ottawa. It was truly inspiring to hear their stories as well as their words of wisdom. I am so thankful for all the cool things we get to do with Experiences Canada. I even got the opportunity to meet a couple senators! After the reception, we returned to Carleton to get a good night’s sleep before Canada day.
So… everyone was up bright and early to head down to Parliament Hill. Despite the pouring rain, the lines to get in were INSANE. Luckily, all 150 of us were performing in a number with singer-songwriter Marie-Mai, so we had backstage passes! Some of us were flag-bearers, some were in charge of shooting the colored smoke, and others were dancing in Canadian mascot masks. It was a great experience to perform onstage live on Canada Day.
We stayed on Parliament Hill for pretty much the whole day until midnight, where we watched the fireworks show. The rain even cleared up at some points! Regardless, I never would have thought that I would have have the chance to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, let alone Canada’s 150th birthday!
For the final day, we volunteered at the Picnic on the Bridge over the Ottawa River. My group had the clean-up shift, and even though we didn’t get to serve lunch to picnic goers, we got to enjoy the beautiful views of Ottawa and neighboring Gatineau. It was the perfect end for a perfect trip!
In my opinion, traveling is one of the best ways to learn more about culture and to become a more open-minded person. My experiences in Montreal and Ottawa have shaped the way I am as a person and have inspired me to make change in my community. The last 150 years have been full of discovery, innovation, and contributions. Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live in, and it is time to learn from our past mistakes to make the next 150 years some of the best times in history!
Zoe, Miss Teenage Nova Scotia 2017