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Senate Page Program allows Oak Bay brothers to witness history

Employment experience, new friendships, networking skills among benefits
Oak Bay brothers Tareq Winski, left, and Karim Winski are both working in Ottawa while attending university. (Christine van Reeuwk/News Staff)

Oak Bay’s Winski brothers are impressed and inspired by the work they do on “the front line of lawmaking.”

That’s how Tareq, the younger of the two, describes it.

In his first year at the University of Ottawa last fall, the 2021 high school graduate began working in the Senate Page Program, following in the footsteps of elder brother, Karim.

Karim started at U of O after graduation in 2018, but didn’t find the page program until second year. A friend from Greater Victoria was leaving a position there and recommended it.

Each year 15 students fluent in French and English are selected to participate in the program and are given a range of responsibilities. Karim and Tareq find the biggest perk of the job is witnessing history as bills are debated, amended and become law.

It provides them with flexible work hours while going to school and often sets up connections for future employment, as Karim can attest. Now in his fourth year – with law school anticipated for September – he now works in the office of Quebec Sen. Pierre Dalphond. Karim said he’s proud to contribute to the “important and hard work” of the Senate.

Pages earn a salary of $16,000 a year based on about 500 hours. While the work times are flexible, the workload can be intense when final exams coincide with sittings of the Senate, Karim said. It taught him good habits in balance and time management.

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It also diversified his friend circle. He met new friends beyond his U of O residence and classes, his coworkers came from nearby post-secondary institutions and were in various stages of their education. It’s given him a smart, driven crowd of contacts and valuable friendships.

“That’s really because of the program,” Karim said.

Tareq agreed, extolling the good work environment alongside like-minded coworkers, all there for the love of politics. While he expected to enjoy it, he was surprised by the breathtaking nature of watching the debate and formation of Canada’s laws. He too plans a future in law.

A key skill learned on the job, beyond organization and time management, is the art of the casual conversation, the brothers agree. It’s a job that can hone interpersonal skills and the ability to carry on a conversation with a virtual stranger.

Both returned to the cold climate of Ottawa this week.

Like most workplaces, the Senate of Canada adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic, both young men are on a hybrid model of work – from home and in-person.

Karim has some in-person classes with a hybrid at the senator’s office.

Though his classes are all online this semester, Tareq and fellow pages returned to parliament as the Senate sat Tuesday, Feb. 8.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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