On May 19, I accompanied a student from my grade 6 class to a mock Parliament at the National Assembly in Quebec City. Her name is Angeline Sam. She was democratically elected by her class peers as their representative. We went to Quebec to participate in a project aimed at initiating the young people of Quebec into the concept of democracy and how the National Assembly works.
In its fifth year, the project was open to all French Grade 6 classes across the province. Angeline was the first ever to accept the challenge from the circumscription of Ungava. She presented a proposal for a law which would promote cultural exchanges between students from different regions in Quebec. The initial idea was that a youth from Chisasibi probably knows very little about the day-to-day experience of a youth from Montreal, and vice-versa. Just as a youth from the Gaspé coast would have a hard time understanding the day-to-day experience of youth from Hull and vice-versa. The province of Quebec is enormous and true communication can often be difficult.
In developing this proposal, our goal was to break down certain barriers that exist between different communities and, hopefully, help banish the prejudices and discrimination that are often unfounded and exist all around us. Intolerance is often the result of a lack of understanding between a population and/or an individual. However, all good ideas are useless if they are not expressed and defended. This is a very tall order and was the task set out for Angeline Sam. She was up to the challenge. She was mandated to serve and defend her idea to a completely francophone audience that included the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, 100 student representatives and accompanists, not to mention television cameras.
On May 19, Angeline Sam had the courage to stand up and express herself. She put aside the fear that can come from sitting in the chair of a cabinet minister, she put aside the fact that French is not her first language. As Angeline’s teacher, I am proud that Angeline saw this project to its completion and that she found within herself the courage that often keeps us from expressing ourselves when we have the chance. Watching her speak, I imagined the pride her parents must feel. I also imagined what it would be like to be Cree… and the pride they would feel to see one of their own capable of overcoming her fears and exercising her right to free speech.
Angeline discovered a lot about herself by participating in this project. Certainly, she was afraid of not being up to the challenge, of making a mistake, but nobody said it would be easy. It is up to each of us to find our courage.
Thank you, Angeline!
Regular French, Grade 6 Teacher
James Bay Eeyou School,