SUNIA History

Major changes have swept the world since the Seminar on the United Nations and International Affairs (SUNIA) was formed 67 years ago. Let's take a look back and learn how this inspiring summer program got started and evolved into an interactive experience that remains relevant to today's students.  


Security Council


It all began in 1952, when memories of the Second World War were still fresh and the prospect of a nuclear war was terrifyingly real. Summer camps aimed at teaching young people about the UN, diplomacy, and peacemaking were established throughout Canada with the support of the United Nations Association of Canada. In the province of Alberta, the Banff International Affairs Summer School welcomed its first students. High school social studies teachers volunteered as counsellors and professors from the University of Alberta served as lecturers. While this format proved popular for many years, the exclusive focus on classroom lectures saw participants gradually dwindle in Alberta, along with other provinces.

By 1972, the survival of the program was at stake and a group of counsellors who still believed in its value charted an independent course for the organization that allowed the program to explore a broader and more appealing range of issues and topics related to international affairs and development.

The program developed throughout the 1970s, adding simulations focused on issues like development and immigration, as well as a full-day Security Council meeting. Guests from the United Nations and the Canadian Department of National Defence shared first-hand experiences and insights. Nestled in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, the location allowed students to enjoy hikes, dips in the local lake, games, and campfires

Students, 1981

Students, 1981

Students, 2016

Students, 2016

Today, SUNIA continues to be a go-to for high school students who want to expand their worldview, meet people who share their interest in global affairs, and enjoy a wonderful week in the mountains. Volunteer counsellors, who are all recent program participants, bring new energy and ideas to the organization each year. As an independent, volunteer-run, non-profit organization with no religious or political affiliations, SUNIA is able to tackle a wide range of international issues through special presentations, small group discussion groups, and hands-on interactive simulations.

Over the last 66 years, thousands of students from across Canada and around the world have enjoyed the uniquely interactive and eye-opening SUNIA experience. Register today to become apart of the SUNIA legacy.