On any given day, senators debate how best to serve Canadians’ needs.
Most of this important work takes place in the Senate Chamber and in committees, where senators scrutinize legislation and draft reports on important issues like challenges faced by Syrian refugees, Canada’s participation in United Nations peace support missions or assessing the risks and benefits of options the transportation of crude oil.
But any institution requires support and the dynamic group of Senate pages is one that supports senators’ work daily.
It is ten minutes before a Senate committee is to get underway, but already a young woman in a black blazer and white gloves is flitting silently about the room to make sure everything is ready.
Sharpened pencils, fresh notepads, name cards for senators and witnesses — she makes sure everything in place before senators take their places and begin their work.
She lingers at a discreet distance, scanning the room for senators trying to catch her attention.
“A lot of the time, being a good page is figuring out how to be invisible,” Shona Moreau says at the end of the meeting, just before she scurries off to the Senate Chamber for another shift.
Invisibility may be the standard, but senators know very well who their pages are. One senator asks Shona how her exams are going. Another gives a quick hello.
Then some other pages gather for a quick break.
“The pages all get along quite well,” Shona said. “We’re a really diverse group of people too which is great. I remember one time a colleague of Indian descent couldn’t make it home for Diwali so we brought it to her and had a little Diwali party amongst pages.”
She first found out about the Senate of Canada Page program when a poster caught her eye on her university campus. After learning more about it from a friend at school, she jumped in with both feet.
Now her days are jam packed, with classes in the morning, page duties from lunch to evening, and maybe some time left over for homework in the Parliamentary library at night. It’s busy but well worth it.
“The first day I showed up for work there was a wheelchair race going on around Parliament Hill,” she said. “Sometimes I get to chat with the Usher of the Black Rod. It’s always something different and there’s lots to learn.
“Plus my professors love the citations I pick up from the Senate’s work.”