Youth forum focuses on past, present and future


Kate Jackman - Atkinson
The Neepawa Banner

For Kailyn Hanke, Canada’s past and future collided in Halifax last month. NACI Grade 10 student and HOPE member Hanke travelled to Halifax to take part in one of four regional Canada 150 & Me forums. Across Canada, the forums brought together a total of 150 students to talk about issues facing Canadians. Hanke was one of 36 students attending the Halifax event, which focused on immigration and diversity, with the forum itself taking place at Pier 21, the historic point of entry for many Canadians. 

Students were selected to participate in the forums based on projects submitted to the organizers, Experiences Canada. The multimedia projects were done online and while most participants completed their projects as part of a class, Hanke’s was done outside of school. The participating students were between 14 and 19 years of age and Hanke was the only student from the area who was accepted to take part in a forum.

Canada’s past and present

The forum itself took place on Tuesday, May 16, but participants spent six days in the Halifax area. Hanke’s adventure began on Sunday, May 14, when she boarded a plane in Winnipeg to head east. Once she arrived, Hanke and the other participants got settled into their accommodations at Dalhousie University.

Monday’s activities set the stage for the week, focusing on the history of the area and country. The 36 participants started their day at the Pier 21 Museum, where they listened to a presentation by Judy Abrams, a Holocaust survivor. From there, they visited Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the Bluenose II, a replica of the famous racing and fishing schooner which has become a Canadian icon. They also visited Birchtown, which in the 18th century was the largest settlement of free ethnic Africans in North America, and Peggy’s Cove.

Before going into the forum on Tuesday, Hanke said she was very nervous, “I didn’t know what to expect,” she explained. The day included presentations and break out sessions. The event was recorded and live streamed for people to follow at home. “I really enjoyed it,” she said. 

On Wednesday, they learned about some of the issues currently facing immigrants to Canada with a presentation at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. There, they learned about refugees who have settled in Canada, including recent newcomers from Syria.  Hanke said the presenters were both young and old. “It was easy to relate to their stories,” she said. They also enjoyed a meal of Syrian food prepared by the presenters.

From there, they travelled south to Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. Known as “Keji” Park, the site is rich in Mi’kmaw history, such as petroglyphs and heritage artifacts. There, they hiked and took part in a presentation featuring stories and songs about the park. “This was one of my favourite parts,” said Hanke.

On Thursday, the participants took part in a scavenger hunt around Pier 21 and then went to Africville. Located on the southern shore of Bedford Basin in Halifax, Africville was an early colonial settlement populated almost entirely of Black Nova Scotians.  Most of the first settlers were former slaves from the United States or Black Loyalists freed by the Crown during the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. In the 1960s, the area was condemned and residents were relocated to make way for construction of the A. Murray MacKay Bridge and Port of Halifax facilities. In 1996, it was declared a National Historic Site and in 2010, Halifax council ratified a proposed Africville Apology.Since then, work has begun to create a museum and replica of the community church. Additionally, a waterfront park has been renamed as Africville. 

They finished the day with fish and chips over looking the ocean. 

Friday was the final day and before heading back to the airport, the group stopped at Millbrook Heritage Centre and Mi’kmaq Museum. 

Hope for the future

For Hanke, the trip included a number of firsts, including her first time flying alone and her first time seeing the ocean. It also left her with a lot to think about.

Looking back at the experience Hanke said, “I learned so much about the country I didn’t know.” She added that while some of the stories they learned about were depressing, it was ultimately uplifting, “You look around and see how many kids are making a difference.” She added of the experience, “I met so many great people from across Canada.”

Other forums were held in Vancouver, on April 5; Montreal, on April 11 and Winnipeg, May 25. The National Youth Forum will be held June 26, in Ottawa.