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Activity 2.3
Memo to the Minister - Part 1

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Class Discussion

The purpose of this activity is to help prepare students to write a memo containing advice to a Minister representing a particular government department or agency on how to deal with the crisis being experienced by Irish Potato Famine immigrants.

Students will also discuss how Ministers respond to media scrums and explore various government departments' different mandates for public safety.

The questions and points for discussion below may be completed verbally or in a written format, as a class or in small groups. These questions will introduce students to the main concepts they will be working with when writing their memo to the Minister (Activity 2.4).

1. Have students ever seen a news report of a "scrum" outside the House of Commons: a pack of reporters questioning a Member of Parliament or Minister?

2. What did students notice about how politicians responded to the press? (Point out the politician's choice of language, how carefully he/she replied and how the politician "stayed on message.")

3. Who does the Minister represent? (Discuss the various government departments.)

4. a) Have students take a look at the different government departments, listed in the table below, that would be involved in a crisis health situation that began overseas.

b) Ask students the following questions:
What do they think would be the vested interests of each of these departments?
What do they think is most important to each one?
How would this affect the kind of advice they would give the Minister of each government department?

To aid in discussions, the table below lists the different government departments that could be involved in a health crisis. They are hyperlinked to their mandates on public safety.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=36
Canada Border Services Agency
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=48
Canadian Security Intelligence Service
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=18
Canadian Coast Guard (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=37
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=28
National Search and Rescue Secretariat (National Defence)
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=39
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada - Labour Program
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=47
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
www.safecanada.ca/
role_e.asp?DeptID=26

c) Have students look at the mandate of different departments in relation to public safety. (You may wish to have the mandate of each department printed out for ready use, or assign different departments to different students to search online. Refer to: Safe Canada: www.safecanada.ca/role_e.asp. Ask students if what they found is similar or different to the points that were raised in their earlier classroom discussion.

d) Based on the actual mandate of each department, ask students what kind of advice these departments would be seeking if they had existed at the time of the Irish Potato Famine. Students should also examine the following questions:

What is bias?
How would the interests of a department influence the kind of advice it would be given, or would be looking for?
Would this reflect bias? Why or why not?

e) Remind students that if these departments had existed during the Irish Potato Famine, the Ministers representing each department and making decisions for Canada would have been in Britain. How would this affect the advice the department's Minister would be looking for?

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