STEP EXPERIENCE PROJECT: Internship
Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program –A reflection by Louisa Edzie
On May 9th 2015, I embarked on a groundbreaking experience made possible by STEP. I went to Canada to work as an intern for Senator Mobina Jaffer through the Canadian Parliament Internship program.
The Canadian Parliament Internship program is a five-week program during which interns work in the office of a Member of the Canadian Parliament. Students choose which party and what area of expertise the Member represents. Students are asked to assist in writing and editing materials, research issues of importance to the Member, write a statement/question for Question Period, write speeches, and conduct tours of Parliament and general office work.
The program was challenging because it required a lot of the interns. I aided my senator in numerous ways essentially whatever ways they ask, and, thus, every day came with a different task. Alternatively, I was told to work intensely on one task over several days which was my research project about Boko Haram.
I relished the opportunity to learn by coming up with appropriate responses to the challenges I encountered. Working directly with a Member of Parliament gave me insight into and perspective on practical politics that my formal coursework did not provide. I used the research knowledge acquired from my formal coursework. This helped me in understanding and processing matters of practical politics.
Career-wise, this experience helped broaden my knowledge in Politics as political science major especially in the field of legislation. This experience also built on my resume as I plan on going to law school to learn more about Government after my undergraduate education. I wrote statements which senator Jaffer read in the senate on Bills. I did a statement on Bill S-227, a bill about respecting national sickle cell awareness day. Part of my job was also answering calls at the senator’s office and filing binders for committees the senator sits on. I also followed the senator to senate committee meetings and caucus meetings. This was a really transformational experience I had never imagined. Essentially this program transformed me into a senator for the short period I was in Canada.
My time in Canada though short was well spent. On my first day as intern I was given a warm welcome, introduced to a couple of senators and shown around the office by my senator, Senator Mobina Jaffer. I had a meeting with Senator Jaffer, senator informed me about what I will be doing at her office.
I was entrusted with a research project on Boko Haram an extremist Islamic group in Nigeria. The research topics ranged from the history of Boko Haram to the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram. I also gathered information about the looming threats of the insurgency and possible ways to curb the insurgency.
Together with my senator, we came up with a new initiative about embarking on a new campaign to rescue the abducted Chibok girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Working on Boko Haram opened my eyes to the atrocities and the damage of Boko Haram related violence. Before I worked on Boko Haram, I had read in the news about their infamous kidnappings. However, I did not had a vast knowledge about this terrorist group -how it was formed and all the atrocities they have committed since their creation.
As part of the program on May 15th, we had a trip to Quebec, a province in Canada. We were given a tour to the Quebec National Assembly and a tour of the old city of Quebec. The Quebec national assembly is an equivalent of a U.S. State Legislature.
Interns met with Senators White (Conservative) and Ringuette (Liberal) as part of the program package, on May 26. The senators talked about the mutual relationship between the Canadian government and the U.S government. They also briefed us about their experiences as senators and reasons for their appointment.
We again had a session with the Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Sheer on May 27. The Speaker briefed us about his appointment by the Prime Minister as the Speaker in the House and how he combines his work as a Speaker and at the same time represent his riding.
We also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Bruce Heyman and his wife Mrs. Heyman. After parliament resumed from recess, I followed my senator to Chamber meetings. During that time, I got a firsthand experience on how bills are introduced in the senate and eventually passed into law or defeated, debates, rebuttals and all the tensions that goes down in the Senate of Canada. I realized it takes a large amount of time for legislators to make laws especially when the opposition party is not in favor of a bill. It also takes a great deal of time for bills to be studied by senate sub-committees and brought back to the senate chamber to be discussed and voted on.
Going straight to Canada’s capital on my first visit was a lovely experience. Aside the official work as intern, I got exposed to Canada by visiting the old city of Quebec which still has fortification and a citadel- the city’s two main defensive works. I met great friends and formed great relationships with them. Even more lovely and greater an experience was working on Parliament Hill.
Through this internship, I got to meet and interact with Canada’s legislators and dignitaries which was a firsthand experience for me. It is not every day that an individual get to experience what it feels like to be a senator. The aura around the Hill is superb. The feeling that I was contributing to something great by working on issued with senator Jaffer was surreal. Parliament Hill attracts hundreds of tourists daily.
I could not have embarked on this trip to Canada without STEP. STEP fellowship funds made my first internship and study abroad possible. I am very grateful that through STEP I am now acquainted with much knowledge about Canada’s Parliament and much prepared for the next chapter of my life.