People who want to think politically are in good hands on the Thinking Canada tour. Alexej Schlotfeldt, who took part in this special journey in September 2010, says: “When I was studying for my MA in education at the University of Bremen, I also had courses in politics and economics. But Thinking Canada gave me completely new insights. Even at the start of the tour in Brussels we already learned a lot about political ways of thinking, and above all how politics actually works,” Schlotfeldt continues. The tour traditionally begins in the Belgian capital, the seat of many EU institutions. Thinking Canada, which is funded by the European Commission, is an initiative of the European Network for Canadian Studies, which aims to inform the tour participants about Canada in general and bilateral relations with the EU in particular.
“We want as many students as possible to be able to get to know Canada really well,” says Professor Martin Kuester, President of the Association for Canadian Studies in German-speaking Countries. “That’s why, when selecting the tour participants, we try not to take people who have already spent a long time in Canada.” The aim is also to win participants for the tour from as many EU countries as possible. Kuester announced a record for September 2012: “The 33 participants came from 24 nations; the only countries not sending students this time were Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal.”
The travellers were provided with a challenging program of eight hours a day of seminars and discussions, often with high-level people. The subjects covered ranged from political and economic issues to questions of the environment and urban development. Under the generic heading of Cultural Diversity, they looked into Canada’s bilingualism, its multiculturalism, and the role of the indigenous First Nations. “I was very impressed by our meetings with members of the First Nations,” says Alexej Schlotfeldt. “And I liked the fact that we were always able to ask critical questions on the tour.” A clear consensus developed despite some differences of opinion, whether between Europe and Canada or between different European countries: “But when it came to fundamental values, such as human rights, we all had very similar ideas.”