For as long as she can remember, Safa Abdel Rahman has had an interest in politics.
Growing up, the North York resident’s parents made sure their daughter was well versed in global and local issues and encouraged her to watch the news for half an hour every night.
So it came as little surprise Abdel Rahman applied for and was accepted into the Ontario legislative page program in Grade 8 and, several years later as an adult, as a page for the Senate of Canada.
Abdel Rahman was one of 10 students selected from across Canada to represent their province or territory for the 2012/2013 Senate page program.
The 19-year-old, a second-year University of Ottawa student studying conflict studies and human rights, said she thought applying for the Senate page program would be the perfect opportunity to see law makers in action.
“You see them really debate laws and see how it affects you in your daily life,” she said.
Senate pages are enrolled as full-time undergraduate students in one of the universities in the Ottawa area. Pages are hired on a one-year contract with the possibility of renewal for a second year.
Pages also have the opportunity of remaining for a third year, if chosen as chief page or deputy chief page. Pages must be fluent in both English and French.
Applicants must submit a cover letter and resume and pass an oral French test. A knowledge test on Canada’s government, Senate and Parliament Hill is then administered and if applicants pass, the final step is the interview, Abdel Rahman said.
The page program has room for 15 students, but since pages can come back for a possible second year, only 10 spots were available this time around, she said.
Days typically begin at 11 a.m., when pages arrive to distribute files, including bills, journals, order papers, and debates of the Senate and House of Commons to all senators and officers in the Senate Chamber. Pages are also responsible for any special requests pertaining to the day’s sitting.
After finishing various other tasks, pages then place a glass of water on each senator’s desk. Pages also assist the governor general, prime minister and supreme court justices.
“We don’t only work the Senate sittings and committees but we also get to participate and work in special events,” she said. “I got to work when the prime minister was giving Diamond Jubilee Medals to Olympians and we got to speak to some of them. We also got to help with the Remembrance Day ceremony and recently we visited Rideau Hall and meet the governor general himself.”
Senators have been warm and friendly to pages, Adbel Rahman said, adding several have given them presentations and have explained what their jobs entail.
“I knew what senators did, just not to this extent,” she said. “The program is a really good opportunity for students to see what goes on in Canada.”
Chief page Julien Labrosse said Abdel Rahman is very devoted to the job and is always ready to lend a hand. “She is professional and accomplishes her page duties with a high standard,” he said.
“She is fluent in both official languages, a skill which has proved useful in her work with senators, members of the administration, and with other activities. Safa has participated in numerous activities of promotion for the program, in which she talked various audiences about her duties as a page and her personal background, in both official languages.”