My name is Omar Karim and I volunteer for Senator Jaffer. First and foremost, welcome to Ottawa! How was your trip been so far? To start out with, I will tell you a little bit about myself. I am 17 years old and going into my last year at high school. I was an IJV for as long as I can remember, graduated to an IVC and now, I am a Big Brother. I play sports and enjoy spending time with friends, as many of you do. This is my first summer working for Senator Jaffer and I am lucky enough to have been given this opportunity by Senator Jaffer and her office. As a student as well, I understand that politics, government and parliament are not the most exciting thing for everyone. However, I feel that this is because many students, such as I did, did not fully understand the role of the government, especially the Senate, and did not bother to learn either. As one student to another, I want to talk to you all today to try to give you my understanding of the Senate and why I think it is interesting.I would like to start by telling everyone a story about a 10 year old boy that absolutely hated the government. This boy felt that the government was boring and full of old people that frankly did not care about anyone in the country except themselves. Instead of understanding and being involved with what was going on around him, he decided to ignore the outside world and focus solely on sports and videogames. In one of his grade 5 classes, there was a unit on the government. This boy, along with many other people in his class, felt this unit was “boring” and “not important”. The teacher told the students that it may seem boring now, but will be important and much more enjoyable later on. The boy thought about what the teacher said and asked his parents and older siblings if they thought the government was enjoyable. The boy’s parents answered this by showing him a political cartoon that was published in the Ottawa Citizen earlier this morning. A political cartoon, the parents explained, are cartoons that are drawn to explain, and joke around with, subjects that are being discussed in the parliament. The story has two endings: the first is that the boy, like some of you here today, may start to get involved in politics through political cartoons. The second ending is that the boy, like me and probably some of you, would just go on living life and not realizing the importance of getting involved in government and politics.
Q: As most of you know, the Senate is red. Does anyone know why the Senate is red?
A: The Senate is where the Queen comes when she visits Parliament, so it is decorated in red which is a traditional colour of royalty.
The senate, basically, examines proposed laws, which are called bills so that the laws are the best for all Canadian citizens. The bills are researched and studied extensively by the Senator and their office to make sure that all Canadian citizens are represented equally and all rights are protected. Without the Senate, no bill can be passed.
A senator is appointed and not elected. In other words, the Prime Minister will choose people to represent his party in the Senate. To become a Senator, there are a few requirements:
- Canadian citizen
- At least 30 years old
- Own property in your province or territory
- Live in the prove or territory that you will represent
Q: If a person becomes a Senator, does anyone know what age they must retire?
A: On their 75th birthday, they must retire from their position of a Senator. That’s a long time to be working as hard as they do.
As youth, it is hard to understand what Senators go through to finishing their work and I want to give you an example that would apply to us, as students. Let me start by asking you a quick question: How many people here would love to have no school or work on Friday? I agree! Let’s say that this “law” was proposed and passed to the Senate. Senator Jaffer, like many other Senators, would discuss this bill and decide if they think this was a good idea; they would give pro’s and con’s for this matter by doing their research, taking notes, and talking to other people like we do, as students, for a project at school. Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee that this would not be passed but it is a fun example nonetheless.
As students in Canada, it is important for us to understand what is going on in the parliament. As we get older, there will be talks in classes about new laws, debates, and other important issues that may catch your interest. As we, as students, continue to grow up, I believe the best way to understand the government is by getting involved in it. Numerous amounts of opportunities are available for us, as youth, as we continue to get older. As Ismailis, Senator Jaffer and her office have graciously given us the opportunity to get involved through the program called Youth on the Hill. In this program, we can openly discuss, learn and better understand topics that are being discussed in the Senate, along with having the knowledge of Senator Jaffer and other honorary guests. Another opportunity is summer employment where students can volunteer at an office, researching and learning about the Senate and bills being proposed and accepted. The page program is very unique as well for students a little bit older. A page is a person that attends to the Senator while they are in Upper Chamber.
These opportunities available are a great way to get involved in the Senate and Parliament to better understand what is going on around us in Canada because as crazy as it sounds, we are the leaders of tomorrow. If anyone of you would like more information on the Senate or Parliament, we have kits available that contain brochures and biographies.
Thank you all for listening and I hope you have had a good trip and stay at Parliament!