ATHABASCA – Grade 6 students at Landing Trail Intermediate School (LTIS) got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Alberta’s parliamentary mace up close as part of an educational presentation, with one catch —hands off the mace.
Nathan Cooper stopped off in Athabasca as part of a trip that took him as far north as Fort Chipewyan. Cooper, who was at LTIS Sept. 21, took the time to talk with the Grade 6s’ about the importance of democracy, how it works, and why it matters.
“One of the initiatives as speaker that’s really important to me is trying to connect people with democracy,” said Cooper in an interview after the presentation. “Lots of what we do in Edmonton, the symbols we use, they can all seem so foreign. This was a great opportunity to speak with young people and show why we do it all.”
As part of his presentation, Cooper brought Alberta’s parliamentary mace with him, a 13 pound, 68-year-old mace made of silver that symbolizes the monarchy. Until 2015, the mace had only left the legislature for repairs, but Cooper is continuing the work of his predecessor, Bob Wanner, who started taking it with him on educational trips.
Accompanying the Speaker was deputy Sergeant-at-Arms Gareth Scott, whose role includes ensuring the safety of the mace. Scott also spoke to the students, where he touched on the ceremonial nature of his role, and the history behind it.
Cooper said the intent of the presentation is to help students see themselves as an important part of Alberta’s democracy as they grow up.
“Our democracy is important and meaningful, and I hope that they can see themselves in it. I’m trying to make it interesting, engaging, and relatable,” he said. “When they’re older, I hope they go ‘Hey I met that guy once and he seemed nice.’ This stuff matters.”
The Grade 6 students at LTIS are currently learning about democracy, and the various forms of government in Alberta. Joe MacIsaac, LTIS’s principal, said the day was an “excellent” opportunity for the students, who seemed to really enjoy the experience.
“One of the curriculum components is learning about the roles and responsibilities of the various forms of government,” said MacIsaac. “This fell in perfectly with what they’re going to be learning, they’ll learn what the portfolios and files are, so having the Speaker come in is quite exceptional.”
MacIsaac touched on the importance of democracy and collaboration in a Sept. 21 follow-up, during which he highlighted the principle of collaboration that MLAs have to foster.
“Each MLA, in their own way, is looking after the best interest of their constituents. They often have similar goals, even if they get to them in a different way,” said MacIsaac. “It’s important that (the students learn) that even though they may butt heads, they still want what’s best for their communities.”
As part of his visit to Athabasca, Cooper had an opportunity to speak with local leadership, including Athabasca County reeve Brian Hall, and Town of Athabasca mayor Rob Balay.
“I had a good opportunity to meet with local community members, including community leaders, tour the university, and get a real sense of the community, while trying to connect it all to the democracy,” said Cooper.