• Stephanie O’Hanley

Turning a strike day into a learning opportunity


From left to right: Nicolas Buonvino, his mom, Nathalie Humbert, Gianluca Buonvino (Sam the Wolf), Zahra Yagoub, Amanda Shaw and Noah Yagoub (in furry dog costume) howl and gesture during the Sam the Wolf campaign song.

A strike day last week forced parents of students attending Lester B. Pearson and Commission scolaire des Trois-Lacs elementary schools to find something for their children to do. Instead of sitting at home watching TV, about 30 parents and children, including homeschoolers, gathered at the Paul-Émile-Lépine Community Centre in Île-Perrot December 9 to hold a mock federal election.

Children representing five Arctic animals - Charlie the Raven, Desneiges the Polar Bear, Max the Walrus, Neevee the Caribou, and Sam the Wolf, sat on chairs below posters of each animal mascot.

“Does everyone have their voter registration card?” asked Amanda Shaw, the event’s organizer. While children from babies to those aged 11 attended, this actual voting was done by those aged three or older.

“Today we have five candidates who are running for office,” said Shaw. “The office they are running for is to represent our group.”

“They’re going to run?” asked a little boy. “They’re going to run for office, which means they’re going to try to win the election to represent us,” said Shaw, who carefully explained the voting process step by step.

Shaw, a Notre Dame de l'Île Perrot resident who recently started homeschooling her three children, told Your Local Journal she got the idea of hosting a mock election after she saw a link on Facebook for free teaching materials. To her surprise, Elections Canada sent a kit with “gorgeous materials,” including giant election posters, a ballot box and voting screen, 35 activity booklets and a CD of campaign songs for each of the animals.

“I thought I was just doing it for my kids,” she said. “It had so much material I decided to do something with it.” Shaw’s friends and acquaintances happily accepted her invitation and the community centre offered a room free of charge.

Each candidate gave a speech for the mascot they represented but since many candidates were unilingual, Shaw’s daughter, Zahra Yagoub, delivered French or English versions of the speeches. When each child sang along with their animal’s campaign song, Shaw and Zahra joined in (Zahra also represented Desneiges the Polar Bear), singing and doing the gestures for each song. The mood was infectious when the campaign song for the final candidate, Sam the Wolf, played, with children excitedly howling along when they heard the lyrics “Everybody go aroo.”

A potluck lunch offered candidates a chance to mingle and then it was time to vote. Shaw held up a ballot box. “It’s very important to show you that the ballot box is empty. We didn’t stuff the ballot box with votes for Max the Walrus. Alex is going to seal the ballot box so we can’t open it and stuff other votes in.”

After Julia accepted Shaw’s I.D card, putting a sticker on it, Shaw took the initialed, folded ballot she received from Anna Lucia over to the voting screen. Many children seemed keen to follow Shaw’s lead and mark their ballots “with an X, check, or fill it in,” in secret.

Children eagerly lined up to quickly cast their votes. As ballots were counted and names read out they cheered whenever they heard the name of their favourite mascot. Finally “Sam is the winner,” Alex announced. There were no spoiled or rejected ballots.

Though the other candidates were disappointed, there were plenty of cheers when Shaw placed a certificate in the hands of Gianluca Buonvino, the boy who played Sam the Wolf.

For more photos of this event, see our Facebook page.

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