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Horizons 2021: Burnaby North’s First Model UN Conference
March 1, 2022
Owen Hu, Grade 11

The bright glow of the Sheraton Wall Centre outlined against the sunrise on the horizon. Students in western business attire flowed into the building, picking up their nametags and placards before heading to grand ballrooms in anticipation of the debate to come. Their hours of research and preparation had led to this, and this was their golden opportunity to prove themselves worthy of being the best delegate. Soon, the row upon rows of empty seats would fill up, and these students would be passionately advancing their country’s stance against an opposition that was just as fierce. This is CAHSMUN Horizons, an annual hotel Model United Nations (MUN) conference where delegates are given the freedom to debate, discuss, and discover.

On the weekend from November 27-28, delegates of Burnaby North’s MUN club competed at Horizons 2021 (by Canadian High Schools Model UN), the first in-person hotel conference since the pandemic began. Despite it being many delegates’ first experience with MUN, weeks of dedication and mock simulations led by the club executives led to students bringing home an impressive haul of awards and achievements. The school’s MUN club’s executives played a crucial role in ensuring success at the conference, with Richard Min overseeing the conference operation and Owen Hu directing the committee that the vast majority of North students chose to attend.

At Horizons, students joined MUN, an educational activity in which individuals, representing delegations from countries, debate, discuss, and discover the world of diplomacy and international relations in a committee; the ultimate goal is to progress one’s country’s interests in solving pressing global issues. This year, Burnaby North students delegated in committees ranging from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), debating issues such as Russian aggression and the future of the Belt & Road Initiative. Arriving at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Downtown Vancouver, an endless crowd of diplomats gathered in preparation for the conference. 

A brief opening ceremony was overshadowed by the start of the debate. By the end of the first committee session in ASEAN, discussions were noticeably heating up. The delegates of Japan, represented by North students, were vehemently defending themselves from Malaysia and Thailand, also represented by North students; the committee disagreed over whether China was a reliable distributor of foreign investment and was having difficulty working out a compromise. For the remainder of the first day, each delegate contributed their points in an attempt to advance their individual interests, with growing individualism rendering prospects of world cooperation gloomy. The final committee session of the first day ended with delegates from North viciously attacking each other’s arguments, passionately orating speeches to rebut and assert dominance.

Through the midst of contention and controversy, the secretariat notified everyone that debate was temporarily suspended until the next day. North delegates enjoyed a hearty dinner at a nearby restaurant, and, after a pricey bill, returned for the delegate social, a communal event of games and fun. Students took pictures with a Horizons backdrop at the photo booth, intensely stared down their opponent in a game of chess, and sang along to karaoke songs.

A morning crisis, a unique feature of MUN where delegates respond to fast-paced updates on a simulated global catastrophe, ran early Sunday morning. In ASEAN, the discovery of an Asian Bermuda Triangle fueled suspicions, especially after it was revealed that there were multiple moles in the committee spying for the enemy. “It was wack,” a North delegate quoted. “The crisis was so crazy and was definitely my favourite part of the conference.” By the end of the second day, all delegates were scrambling to complete their draft of a resolution paper, a document of proposed solutions to the committee’s topic. With gavels banging, a resounding cheer echoed throughout the halls as, committee by committee, delegates passed their papers. Although the closing ceremonies involved a memorable conference highlights video and speeches from the secretariat, the most important part to delegates was the Director’s speech announcing the awards for the committee.

Hearts fluttering, hands fidgeting, and eyes nervously darting around, the committee lights dimmed as everyone eagerly anticipated the reveal of which delegates the dais decided to recognize for their exemplary leadership. Despite COVID-19 protocols preventing a grand entrance for delegates to walk down as they travelled to the podium to collect their awards, and despite health measures limiting the number of delegates viewing each closing ceremony to a dozen rather than several hundred, it was still a memorable moment for many North students who received well-deserved awards. In total, Burnaby North walked away with one Best Delegate, two Best Delegations, and one Best Referrals award. As applause filled the hotel, delegates soon bid heartfelt farewells to their new friends before heading on the journey home. 

Overall, CAHSMUN Horizons provided a dozen Burnaby North students with a unique opportunity to expand their diplomatic skills while making meaningful memories and connections. From the hectic debate to the joys of the delegate social, the late-night scrambles and research to the early-morning crises, the conference was a visionary experience for North delegates, staff, and secretariat alike, a transformation worthy of representing the highlight of one’s high school journey.

If you are interested in joining future conferences, Burnaby North’s Model UN club meets every Friday after school in Room 214. The club welcomes those with no prior experience and will be attending several future conferences throughout the remainder of the school year. We hope to see you there!