Political aspirations inspire page position

Oak Bay High grad among 40 bilingual youth selected from across Canada

James Ashwell

James Ashwell

As a politician or in the realm of civil service, James Ashwell sees potential for a future in parliament.

The Oak Bay High student, who graduates in June, will test those waters in the next year with a spot in the Parliamentary Page program.

“He’s an outstanding kid,” said teacher Scott Alexander.

“For a kid who has bounced around the last two years he committed himself, he just jumped right in to Oak Bay and found places to serve and get involved.”

A newcomer to Oak Bay this school year, in Grade 11 Ashwell was uncertain which future to follow, whether he wanted to pursue science or humanities.

Instead, he applied for a student exchange through his then-local Rotary Club of Dawson Creek Sunrise. He spent a year living in Emsdetten, Germany.

“One of the most impactful things for me was visiting the German parliament buildings,” he said.

The history and monuments to the darker side of their history intrigued him. Their social studies class included economics and he took high school philosophy – classes not available to him back home.

He came back with some ideas and direction.

“That was where I started to realize maybe the political route was something I wanted to do,” Ashwell said.

Ashwell is one of 40 students chosen across Canada for the Parliamentary Page program in Ottawa this fall.

The application included a resumé and short essay. Applicants must also be bilingual, so the longtime French immersion student had to endure a French evaluation he called “pretty intimidating.”

An unfortunate poor connection made it difficult to hear his pair of interviewers.

“He had this burning desire to be involved politically and a genuine desire to serve his country,” Alexander said.

The one-year term starts in September.

“It’ll be really valuable to make the connection with all the other pages – interesting, smart Canadians who are all driven by the same motivation I am,” he said. “It’s a chance to meet people who have decided that’s what they’re going to pursue (and) to see the different roles and working in parliament and meeting these people, I’ll get an idea of what different people can do and what I could do in the future.”

Ashwell plans to attend bilingual studies in philosophy and economics at the University of Ontario this fall.

“He is articulate and a thorough planner. He is an astute observer of world and Canadian politics,” Alexander said. “He wasn’t lucky. It was his preparation and he seized the opportunity.”