Gina Benjamin, Clerk of Councils for St Helena Government has recently returned from an overseas training course in Montreal, Canada. She attended the McGill University of Canada on an International Executive Programme for Parliamentary Staff. "The purpose of this course was to bring parliaments of the Commonwealth together so that there is a more collaborative approach being taken in parliament," said Benjamin.
The programme was designed for mid-level parliamentary staff and Benjamin took the course with 30 students from 13 countries. "We had representations from Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Trinadad & Tobago, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria."
Benjamin was sponsored by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and FCO for the 18 month correspondence course that started with a week's residency at the University. "It was a crash course into how parliaments are supposed to work," said Benjamin, "what are their functions, how are they to fulfil these functions, what support they need and how could we provide that support. We discussed core functions of parliament, oversight, legislation and representation; those are some of the key things that parliaments are supposed to do. We covered procedures in parliament, corporate management, what is the relationship between legislative and executive bodies." The course has 7 modules and includes a research project relevant to each student's parliament. "I've been considering doing roles and responsibilities of council committees."
Benjamin added "I was also very lucky to go to the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. It's a massive building. It was strange to see how other parliaments operate on such a large scale. It was really an eye opener." Did you do much sightseeing? "I couldn't do a lot of sightseeing, but Canada has beautiful, stunning scenery. I used to take strolls around the town."
Are you raring to go with your new skills? "I am and there are some brilliant ideas that I have," said Benjamin. "It's just finding the time to try and incorporate some of them in the work place. It was a lovely experience to raise awareness of the island. It was good meeting and making new contacts and we developed close friendships."