When stepping inside Ontario’s Parliament at Queen’s Park for the first time, Frederick Funk was in awe.
The Grade 8 student from Sacred Heart Catholic School in Guelph, recently completed a four-week term as a Legislative page at Queen’s Park in Toronto.
“It was a bit overwhelming at first,” Funk said.
“I did have an interest in politics before, but I’ve always really loved history. Being a page, it all just fit together perfectly.”
Funk’s mother, Elisha, says that as an avid history buff, her son was taken aback by his surroundings while serving at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“I think for any page, it’s such an amazing experience and they sure come home with a lot. But I think for Frederick, it was so exciting to see something like a bust of William Lyon Mackenzie King, and to experience all of the history inside that building,” Elisha said.
“I think just being in a place where all of those historical figures were, to see the names on the walls, and just the history of the building itself, really made an impression on him.”
Each year, about 150 young students from across the province are selected to participate in the Page Program.
The program offers an opportunity for students to experience the ‘day to day’ at Queen’s Park, to witness how decisions are made, and how a bill becomes law.
Legislative pages meet key parliamentary and political figures and learn first-hand about Ontario’s Parliament and the legislative process.
The program is designed for outgoing, high-achieving, community-involved students who demonstrate responsibility and leadership.
“My sister was a page a few years ago, and it seemed to really help her in life. It helped her get jobs and she received good references,” Funk said.
“I learned a lot about how everything works, how there’s someone from each riding, and just how parliament works in general.”
There are multiple page cohorts throughout the parliamentary year with about 20 pages serving at a time. Funk says the opportunity allowed him to make some great friendships during his time at Queen’s Park.
“Pages serving with me were from across Ontario. I was the only one from Guelph but there were others all over, near Chatham, Pickering, and Oxford County,” Funk said.
At Queen’s Park, pages fill many different roles including working in the chamber during sittings, as well as meeting with and delivering documents to members of parliament
“For most of the day, we were in chamber. We got water for MPPs, and delivered notes and documents,” Funk said.
“And then we would have class where we would learn all about how bills are passed and everything that happens at Queen’s Park.”
Funk said that he has received a lot of support from his school community at Sacred Heard.
“They were all very happy for me and really excited,” Funk said.
Frederick’s father, Justin, says taking part in the Page Program, was right down his son’s alley.
“Frederick has always been interested in these sorts of things. So, to have a chance for him to be there and do it, it was just fantastic,” Justin said.
“And to be selected out of all of the kids who applied, it’s a confidence builder for any student who decides to do it. I think it will serve Frederick well as ventures further into his education and life endeavours.”
Pages have been an important part of Ontario’s Parliament since Confederation. Early pages were 10 to 14-year-old boys who carried messages and ran errands.
The role of the page remained the same throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In 1952, a tutor was hired to work with the pages a few days a week. Today, eligibility requirements have changed. Pages are students in grades 7 or 8, with a minimum academic average of 80 per cent.
In the future, 14-year-old Funk says he can see himself as an MPP.
“Mike Shreiner is a very nice guy. It was great to see him as a Green party member, representing Guelph, when I was there,” Funk said.
“It is a great opportunity. You get to learn how democracy works and you meet and watch political figures, people you see on the news. You actually see them in real life, and see who they are as people.”
Justin’s parents are grateful that Frederick had the opportunity at Queen’s Park.
“A lot of his later years in elementary school, were under pandemic restrictions,” Justin said.
“This was a great way for Frederick to bust out of that, to really take charge of his extra curricular activities, and to get involved.”
Funk encourages other students to take part in the Page Program, an experience that can open them up to a whole new world of politics.
“It is a great opportunity. It will really help in life, and you get to learn how democracy works,” he said.
“I loved being in a room where our laws are made and to see things that, day to day, actually help and change our lives.”
Applications for the fall 2023 term are now open. Applications are being accepted until June 15th, 2023.
For more information about the Page Program visit here.