Marika Dewar-Norosky is seeing farm and rural life in a new light following a once-in-a-lifetime trip as a 4-H delegate to Ottawa this spring.
The Grade 11 teen from Newdale 4-H Club was one of six Manitoba delegates visiting the nations capital in early May to participate in the 4-H Canada Citizenship Congress. 4-H Canada has offered this program since the early 1970s as an opportunity for young delegates to deepen their understanding of governance and public policy, while strengthening their communication skills through formal debates.
The young Manitobans were part of a 61-member Canadian youth delegation attending the 2016 event themed ‘Canada: Redefining Rural.’
Dewar-Norosky, a nine-year veteran with the Newdale 4-H Club, says she came home from the event newly inspired about being involved with her community and her student council at her school in Strathclair. She brought back new ideas about what to do after high school too.
“I’d sort of ruled out farming as a future career but I came back thinking about ways I could start farming,” she said. “It really made me proud to be living on a farm. And it got me kind of more interested in politics, to admire politics for what it is.”
Highlights of the trip included a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a chance to debate in the Senate Chamber, she said. They had the ear of the PM for nearly 40 minutes and it was an informal, relaxed discussion, said Dewar- Norosky. Prior to their meeting, they chose a series of questions to ask, most related to their common experience as youth living in rural and remote Canada. No access to broadband Internet and poor cell service were raised. They also talked about how younger people are leaving rural areas and the general disinterest in becoming the next generation of farmers.
The youth delegates also met with members of Parliament, cabinet ministers, and the Speaker of the House and held a mock parliamentary debate of their own in the Senate Chamber. That was a highlight for her, said Dewar-Norosky.
“We did hours of research ahead of our debates,” she said. “To see it all come together was really fulfilling. And to be standing in such a beautiful room in such a beautiful building… it kind of took my breath away.”
Her colleagues from Manitoba included Jenai Buchanan of Clearwater 4-H Beef Club, Clearwater, Amber Dyrda and Christine Kilpatrick with Teulon 4-H Club, Levi Rimke of Oak Lake 4-H Beef Club and Luke Weidenhamer with Dand 4-H Club, Deloraine.
Shannon Benner, chief executive officer for 4-H Canada, said the goal of the annual 4-H Citizen Congress always is to help young Canadians learn about the value of engaging with their communities. The program is also aimed at helping youth better understand governance and public policy while honing communication skills.
“4-H in general is about helping young people find out how they can impact the world around them,” she said. “This is one of the programs that helps young people find that spark and figure out how they can positively impact their communities.”
The 2016 delegates were an impressive group and really shone when they met with the PM.
“They asked really good questions, from hot topics in agriculture and what he sees as important work ahead for his government, to where he sees the most amount of opportunity for youth in general, to his thoughts on youth in rural communities, and what kind of shampoo he uses.
“It was a very authentic conversation, I would say.”