After the late night gab fest in our hostel room in St. John’s, I set my alarm for 4am to catch my flight to Ottawa. Regrettably, I only set one alarm (I normally set like 6) as I didn’t want to wake the others up. Consequence? I woke up at 7am, 15 minutes before my flight was to leave.
I got my stuff together quickly, got a cab and hightailed it to the airport, hoping that I could get on another flight.
I was supposed to fly with Porter Airlines and while they had another flight to Ottawa via Toronto, they only had space on the flight from St. John’s-Toronto, with the Toronto-Ottawa flight being fully booked, so it was a no-go. I called Stefanie, my liaison with International Experience Canada (the department that was sponsoring me for the conference) and she advised me to try to book a flight with a different airline and so I ended up with a WestJet flight at 2:45pm. I felt so badly for missing my flight and was so mad at myself, until Stefanie told me that one of the other IECers had also missed her flight, so at least I wasn’t the only one, lol.
Since I had almost 7 hours to kill, I took a cab back to the hostel and went back to bed.
I tried to sleep for about half an hour until the other girls got up and I filled them in on my missed flight.
Lisa, Alex and I decided to go for breakfast and found a place down the street called Zachary’s. The breakfast was really good and we got a chance to try a Newfie special: Toutons (a type of traditional pancake). We tried it with the traditional molasses and it was pretty good! Worth a try if you’re in the area. Then it was time to head back to the hostel, grab my luggage, say goodbye and get yet another cab to the airport.
I managed to actually make THIS flight and I was finally on my way to Ottawa and the One Young World Summit. I had never heard of OYW before I (along with 2 others) had been invited to attend the Ottawa summit by IEC, so I had to do some research before accepting the invitation. OYW is a not-for profit organization started by David Jones and Kate Robertson in 2009 in England. The aim of the summit is to bring young leaders from around the world together with world leaders (acting as OYW counsellors) to talk about global issues. Past counsellors have included Jamie Oliver, Ariana Huffington, Sir Richard Branson, Kofi Annan and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Previous summits have been held in London, Zurich, Pittsburgh, Johannesburg, Dublin and Bangkok. So of course I was extremely honoured to be invited to attend such an amazing summit and I jumped at the chance.
I’ve only ever been to Ottawa once before, and only for one evening which was spent at my friend’s cousin’s house, visiting, so I was looking forward to seeing some of the city this time. When I arrived in Ottawa, I got a cab to the Marriott hotel, checked in and quickly got ready as the opening ceremonies would be starting soon.
My roommate and fellow IECer Alysha-Rae arrived and together we went down to meet up with the last of our trio, Duncan. Canada was well-represented from IEC, with Alysha-Rae from New Brunswick (Eastern Canada), Duncan from British Columbia (West Coast) and myself from Manitoba (the prairies). We walked over to Parliament Hill where the ceremonies were taking place, made it through a long security line, got our free swag and found some seats.
The ceremony started a bit late, but it was worth it. Hosted by Leslie Mackay and Glenn Duncan from Ottawa Tourism, it started with traditional drumming and then a rendition of O Canada (our national anthem) performed by OrKidsta, which is a program that provides free music lessons to children from low-income families. OrKidstra then performed a few songs, followed by a welcome from an aboriginal elder.
There was a welcome from Tyrone Edwards (Much and E! host) before hearing from David and Kate, the cofounders of OYW. Then it was time for one of the biggest highlights of the night (I KNEW he would be there!): Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister!!! I was only feet away from him and it was so cool!!! He introduced all the counsellors and welcomed them to Ottawa, followed by a speech and presenting the inaugural members of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council.
This year’s counsellors were pretty amazing: Kofi Annan, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Sir Bob Geldof, Jon Landau, Fatima Bhutto, Cher, Susan R. Eaton, Harley Finklestein, Bruce Dickinson, Gary White, Mark Tewksbury, Antoine de Saint Affrique, Hans Reitz, Dambisa Moyo, Mariel Von Schumann, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, James Chau, Elio Leoni-Sceti, Senator Murray Sinclair, Thuli Madonsela, Lorenzo Simonelli, Carlos Brito, Marc Garneau, Ronan Dunne, President Vinicio Cerezo, Pesident Carlos Mesa, Marc Kielburger, Maajid Nawaz, Meghan Markle, John Simpson, Emmanuel Jal, James Chen, Carl-Henric Svanberg, Lauren Bush, Li Xiaopeng, Steve Waugh, Carole Stone and my personal favourite: EMMA WATSON (aka: Hermione!)!!!
Next up we heard from Professor Muhammad Yunus, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a pioneer of microcredit and microfinance. His speech was followed by the flag ceremony with the flags of all 196 countries represented at the summit, including the flag representing the refugee nation.
From there, former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson gave a speech about climate change, followed by the unfurling of the One Young World flag by the delegates. Then it was time to hear from Sir Bob Geldof, an Irish singer and political activist. Or as he referred to himself, the “grumpy uncle” of OYW, lol.
The ceremony being held outdoors and with the sun having already set, we were all freezing (and hungry!) by this point and very thankful for the HBC Red Mittens we’d received as free swag (they really came in handy, pun intended!). We were so ready for the ceremony to be over and the welcome dinner to begin!
The welcome dinner was being held at Shaw Center, a 10 minute walk from Parliament Hill, and we were led there by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drums and Pipes Band with volunteers handing out balloons along the way and people dressed up in costumes. It was pretty cool!
The welcome dinner was pretty good, with different buffet stations with a variety of foods. They did a pretty good job of trying to accommodate all kinds of dietary needs/restrictions with an allergen legend and everything labeled (N for Nuts, VG for Vegan, P for Pork, etc…). Unfortunately for Alysha-Rae (a vegan), while things were well labeled, it didn’t necessarily translate to a lot of options and so while there were some things she could eat, there weren’t a great many (a recurring theme for the entire conference). But since I am not anything, there were lots of different things for me to try!
There was music and dancing and a great time had by all! Especially this guy:
That cameraman was the best! Someone who clearly enjoys his job and knows how to have fun!!! Eventually it was time to head back to the hotel cause we all had an early start the next morning, and we were all excited to see what the next few days would bring!
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