Club starts new year with exclusive tour of Laurier House

After a year-long hiatus, the University of Ottawa Parks Canada Campus Club has returned with their inaugural event of the semester. The club kickstarted their revival with an experimental tour of Laurier House featuring prime ministerial debauchery, competitive trivia, and being handcuffed to strangers.   

The club was founded in 2012 to get students and youth involved in Parks Canada programs and raise awareness of Canada’s many national parks and heritage sites. It aims to provide students with a range of opportunities to experience and connect with the country’s unique history. Through volunteering, tours, day trips, and activities, the club hopes to bring a new generation into the world of conservation.

“We want to get people out to national historic sites, national parks, and we want to support conservation efforts,” said Sara Hélène Dubé, the club’s co-lead and a third-year environmental studies student at the U of O.

At its core, the Parks Canada Campus Club wants to get Canadian youth experiencing their own history.

“I think it’s important to know where you come from so that you can feel confident in the present and move toward a good future,” Dubé said.

Parks Canada has been facing decline in people visiting national parks and historic sites for years. Their campus outreach programs are part of an initiative appealing to youth through revamped programming and site accessibility. Last week’s Laurier House tour demonstrated their commitment to this goal. Dubbed the “Confessions” tour, the event aimed to break down the indifferent attitude that many younger citizens have towards historical landmarks. Facts about dignitaries and architecture styles were discarded in favour of raunchy stories and a more interactive trivia experience, and drab speeches were replaced with champagne and costumes.

Heather Gallant, the second co-lead and recent U of O history graduate, expanded on the demand for a more interactive approach to learning history.

“Doing my undergrad in history, I realized what was flawed in the system: everything seems to be textbook based. You’re expected to read a book, learn about it, learn about what some random guy in Europe did and how it had a huge effect on Canada,” she said.

Gallant felt she was a perfect fit for Parks Canada’s fledgeling student programs.

“For me, there are so many other ways of learning about history and getting to know history … being able to physically experience history—that’s what interests me. I want to get away from that canonical idea of sitting down and reading a textbook,” she said.

At its core, the club hopes to prove that history can be accessible to everyone and isn’t a strictly academic pursuit.

“There are already groups on campus doing a fantastic job organising multi-day nature events. So instead we want to focus on the day trips and how accessible (heritage) is,” said Gallant. “We want to tell students that even though we are in a downtown campus, you still have an opportunity to explore and experience so much of Canada’s history.”