A maple tree was planted on the grounds of the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre in Ottawa on Sept. 20th to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Encounters With Canada program.
During the ceremony a youth representative from each province and territory who was attending a session of the program that week poured soil and water from his or her home province or territory into the hole around the base. Encounters With Canada Executive Director Linda Brunet and Historica-Dominion Institute Chairman Stephen Smith symbolically shovelled dirt around the tree for the ceremony.
“They say you don’t plant a tree for yourself, you plant it for the next generation to enjoy,” said Historica-Dominion Institute President Anthony Wilson-Smith at the start of the ceremony, comparing the planting of the tree with the future represented in the youth attending the program.
Brunet, who has been with the program since it began in 1982, thanked The Royal Canadian Legion as one of the earliest sponsors of the program. Dominion President Gordon Moore and Dominion Secretary Brad White attended the ceremony which included a dance number performed by the students.
Guests were also invited to join students in attending a special citizenship ceremony welcoming dozens of new Canadians.
Over the 30 years, more than 90,000 have passed through the bilingual program which brings youth of Canada to Ottawa for one week to learn about Canada and its institutions such as Parliament, the Supreme Court and the many national museums the area offers. Guest speakers ranging from members of Parliament, senators and cabinet ministers to local professionals, artists and journalists present lectures and hold seminars throughout the week. The students also learn about different parts of the country through interacting with each other.
Each week attracts about 130 students, aged 14 to 17, from all across the country. During the 2011-12 school term, 1,630 students attended the program. Students had a choice of 10 different career-themed weeks, including Medicine and Health, Sports and Fitness, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, International Affairs, Arts and Culture, Politics in Canada, Vimy: Canada’s Coming of Age, Inuit Arts and Culture, Science and Technology and Ecology and Environment.
The program was created by the Canadian Unity Council. When its funding was cancelled in 2006, Encounters With Canada was transferred to Historica, the not-for-profit organization which publishes the Canadian Encyclopedia and produced the Heritage Minutes commercials on television. In 2009, Historica merged with the Dominion Institute to create the Historica-Dominion Institute.
The program is financially supported by the Encounters With Canada Support Foundation. It also receives donations from Dominion Command and various branches of the Legion. In April, Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore announced funding of more than $10.2 million over three years.