Students Turn a Critical Eye on our Past

Online voting underway to select national history forum participants for 2017.

Written by Nancy Payne

June 15, 2017
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Young Citizens at the 2016 Youth Forum in Ottawa.

Women’s ability to vote. Indian residential schools. LGBTQ+ rights. The treatment of prisoners and people with mental illnesses. Missing and murdered Indigenous women. Students don’t shy away from the tough issues of our past or their modern implications in remarkable videos created as part of the Young Citizens program.

Participants chose a wide range of subject matter for their videos, which include profiles of famous and no-so-famous Canadians, personal family stories and far-reaching national ones, all made vivid and relevant by these young historians.

Students from Grade 4 to Grade 11 who had outstanding Heritage Fair projects used video cameras to highlight an aspect of Canada’s past that interested them, including the arts, sports, politics, war, science, immigration, famous people, community heritage and more, in their choice of French or English. Visitors to YoungCitizens.ca can vote for their favourites from among the resulting 200 videos representing all provinces and territories.

“This is a very socially conscious group of students. Even if their project doesn’t deal explicitly with injustice, you can see how captivated they are by the past and how it relates to them,” said Janet Walker, president and CEO of Canada’s History Society. “And of course their technical skills are excellent, so the videos are also a lot of fun to watch.”

Canadians can vote for their favourite videos at YoungCitizens.ca. Voting begins June 12 and runs until July 7. One recipient from each province and territory will be chosen by popular vote, while a panel of judges will chose another. The 26 honourees will receive a trip to Ottawa in the fall, where they will participate in a national youth forum. There they will have an invaluable opportunity to meet and spend time with other Young Citizens, exploring Ottawa’s historic nooks and crannies with dedicated guides and learning about our country from each other.

“The Young Citizens program encourages young people to explore Canada’s history in a deep, personal way,” said Debbie Down, Manager, Community Relations for Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life. “As we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, it’s heartening to know that in telling the stories of our past, students are showing the way to an inclusive future.”

This year’s Young Citizens projects available now for viewing online include:

  • Mi’kmaq dance traditions (Myranda, Hebbs Cross, N.S.)
  • The true inventors of the lightbulb (Marc, Richmond, B.C.)
  • Canadian spies and spying (Kylen, Calgary, Alta.)
  • Immigration to the Northwest Territories (Madison, Yellowknife, N.W.T.)
  • Little-known Ukrainian-Canadian war artist Leo Mol (Kameron, Winnipeg, Man.)
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