By Daniele Iannarone
Some West Island students got to experience firsthand how complicated international politics can be when they participated in the Lester B. Pearson School Board’s third annual Model United Nations this week.
Senior students at both Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School (PCHS) and John Rennie High School gathered to simulate, as best as possible, real negotiations effectuated by some major political powerhouses in our world today. Before these negotiations could take place, however, the students were treated to a presentation from a special guest who knows a couple of things about international relations: former Leader of the New Democratic Party and Leader of the Opposition Tom Mulcair.
Mulcair gave a keynote on climate change and even fielded some questions from the students afterward. “The students reacted very positively to his visit,” said Hugues Bertrand, PCHS’s contemporary world teacher and organizer of the event. “It was definitely a huge coup for us that he agreed to come.”
Mulcair’s speech on climate change was especially relevant to the students’ projects, seeing as it was one of the major topics they had to debate at the model UN. Bertrand says that the students had to build a national profile for the countries they had been assigned, and then debate various prevailing topics with ‘representatives’ from other countries. Along with climate change, students debated human trafficking and solutions to the current crisis in Yemen.
Bertrand says that, to truly simulate a UN environment, students had to argue in favour of their country’s stance on certain issues, which posed a challenge for some. Students representing the United States, for example, had to argue that climate change was a hoax. “They had to play the part, even if some countries are very controversial,” he says.
Plenty of students received prizes for a job well done, though Bertrand also highlighted the fact that the students enjoyed working on the project, and some may even be considering a future in international relations. “It’s a great example for cooperation and shows them politics,” he says. “It makes the kids realize they like it and want to continue it in the future.”