While I was in Norway I sometimes found myself lamenting the lack of things that are uniquely Canadian. Well, now back at school, I have found something that begins to fill the perceived or real void of interesting Canadian stuff.
It is … the Parliamentary scrum.
Face-to-face access for journalists to politicians directly outside the House of Commons is unique to Canada.
I like that!
For a story last month as part of Capital News Online (our online publication workshop class at Carleton) I had the chance to partake in this unique experience!
It wasn’t all that successful – I was looking to speak to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney about a change to immigration policy and he managed to avoid my five attempts to speak with him. BUT this was nonetheless a great experience for my producer Carolyn (also a Carleton MJ student) and me.
You can read the story we ended up writing here – without comment from the minister. Citizenship and Immigration Canada recently eliminated the Source Country class for potential refugees to Canada. Another uniquely Canadian idea, it allowed people to apply as refugees while living in their home country. Under usual circumstances, a person must be displaced to another country to be considered a refugee. Even without the minister’s comments, we had some great anecdotes from people who used the class to escape Colombia and are now living safely in Canada.
Maybe I am soft, but I started to feel kind of bad for Minister Kenney after a few instances of me yelling his name and my question while he tried to scurry into the House or up the stairs away to his office. At my first attempt to ask him about the Source Country class, he quietly mumbled that he had a meeting and no time to talk. After four or five of my persistent attempts, he was ducking behind other MPs to avoid me. (At the bottom of the Capital New story, you can see a photo Carolyn took of Kenney walking up the stairs away from us. Carolyn cropped me out but the original photo shows me calling after him in vain.)
I don’t know if HE felt bad blowing me off like that, but I certainly regretted the awkwardness of the situation. He looked uncomfortable. But it’s not like I was going to give up. Why wouldn’t he just talk to me? He barely gave me a chance to explain my article. To the credit of his ministry, the media relations people at Citizenship and Immigration Canada were very helpful and quick in their response to my many questions.
Anyway, even though I didn’t get an answer, I liked being on the Hill. It was fun and exciting! Sort of an adrenaline rush when you are waiting and waiting and finally the person you are trying to talk to emerges from a hallway or entrance and you have to try to grab their attention with a quick few words!