As I walked into the House of Commons a smile on my face grew from cheek to cheek. I have watched discussions take place in this room on television. To stand on the well-worn green carpet and sit in the chair where Justin Trudeau sits is something that goes way beyond the experience you get from watching it through a television screen. Textbooks can explain the procedures of Parliament and one can watch the news and political channels to view what the room looks like. But no one can really explain what it feels like to walk through the doors and into the House of Commons. From the moment we walked in – through all the chatter and excitement that 70 educators were feeling – there was a sense of pride and peace. Cameras were clicking, women were giddy as we sat in our PM’s chair. Happiness could be seen on everyone’s face. We were proud to be representing Canadian teachers; we were proud to be Canadian.
Tall, brightly coloured, stained glass windows display the flowers of all ten provinces and two territories. Nunavut, the third and final territory to join Canada will hopefully be added when the renovations are complete.
There is a lot of history within the walls of this place. For within this room bills have been passed, amendments accepted, tears shed, hard questions asked and answered. Canadians are represented. However, there is still work to be done to get the voices that aren’t being heard represented in our House of Commons.
While in the House of Commons we were addressed by the Speaker of the House, Geoff Regan. He spoke with humour about the struggles of his job and the ways in which he hopes to create change. He is the first speaker of the House of Commons to be elected from Nova Scotia in 100 years. His main job is to maintain order on the floor of the House of Commons. And from watching news footage of Question Period, we know that isn’t always an easy job. Emotions are elevated as MP’s shout back and forth trying to stand up for their constituencies. We saw this very thing happen when we sat in the balcony and watched as Question Period take place. However, Mr. Speaker would like to see a shift in attitudes in the House of Commons – a calmer way of speaking to each other. We will see how that goes.
Mr. Speaker made us feel appreciated as teachers. He spoke from his heart to us about the struggles and successes we go through everyday. I was touched that Mr. Speaker also had on beaded poppy and after when we got a chance to speak one-on-one I thanked him for wearing it. He gave me a hug.
Watching Question Period on a Federal level was similar to that in our home province. Voices are raised; the same questions are asked over and over. Everyone in that room strives for a better Canada. They wish to improve on what has been done and want to deal with items that need further addressing. Viewing the House of Commons in action – and not with the media edits or network bises – allows one to formulate their own decisions and ideas.
I sat and listened with a translator piece in my ear. My one regret from school is that I didn’t learn French. It has been something I say I am going to learn but have never taken that step. Perhaps now is the time. I wish I had more than 45 minutes to enjoy the banter in the room!
Our dinner was held at the National Arts Centre. MP’s and Senators from our provinces sat with us at our able. Who am I seated beside? Senator Pamela Wallin. In the back of my mind I remembered reading that she was being investigated for overspending while in Parliament but I put that to rest for the night. We talked about travel and she spoke of her time as a journalist before her life in politics began. Words were shared over her time in Afghanistan when she was posted there covering the war. It was an evening filled with laughs and conversations. The man to my right – another Senator from Saskatchewan – handed out business cards, but I left mine on the table under my napkin. We didn’t see eye to eye on libraries and after I shared my opinion with him I didn’t feel as though I would want him to ever come and talk with my students. As teachers we must look out for the best interests of the students we teach.