It's on the Governor General
Conference has short stop in Yellowknife

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 26/00) - It was Monday evening and the sun was pouring through the back patio windows of Bullock's Bistro while empty beer bottles were piled up on the back tables. Sixteen people sat, stood and leaned around the tables like old friends, maybe remembering other times.

They've only known each other for a week and have come from every corner of Canada to take part in the Governor General's Canadian Study Conference 2000.

Out of 2,000 applicants, 225 were chosen to take part in the conference. On May 17, they met in Banff, Alta., to attend workshops and break off into groups of 14 to 16 people. Each group was assigned a part of Canada to tour for nine days.

One of these groups was drinking beer at Bullock's Bistro in Yellowknife.

"People who have been to this conference have told me it changed their lives," says Ross Galbraith, assistant business manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Saint John, N.B. The conference occurs every four years. It's modelled after the Duke of Edinburgh's Commonwealth Conference, which began in 1956. The first conference was held in 1983.

The conference's theme this year centres around community building and community leadership in the face of rapid change. The conference brings together traditionally opposing facets of society.

"When you dig deep enough, you realize that labour, management, whatever, are striving for the same thing," says Bernard Butler, from the federal government's division of Veteran Affairs,in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

"We challenge each other's assumptions," says Donna Hildebrant, national director of corporate communications for Petro-Canada.

Serge Raymond, an entrepreneur from Quebec City who sells dust mite-resistant bed coverings, says discovering new ideas is one of the exciting aspects of the conference.

"You get to understand where other people come from," he says. "What you learn you take with you and develop it into your own."

Most of the group sitting around the table nods in agreement with this statement.

"It's an amazing thing," Raymond added.

After the meals and drinks disappeared, they all piled out into the Northern evening with smiles on their faces.

The group was to be in Fort McPherson today. On May 29 they will present Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson with their experiences at Laval University, Laval, Que.