March 8, 2017, International women’s day, was particularly memorable for me and 337
other young women. We took our seats in Parliament through Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization with the goal of promoting the participation of women in elected roles at all three levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal). 2017 was chosen as the special year to hold it as it marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of certain women’s right to vote in Canada.
One woman aged 18 to 23 from every federal riding was selected to participate in the event. It was an amazing opportunity to meet the future leaders of our country. Even though we are young, many of us are very involved in politics, be it through youth associations of political parties, student unions, or general community involvement. This meant that Girl Guide leaders fit the profile of people they were looking for. I was encouraged by Girl Guides to apply to the program and I did. In February received the exciting news that I was selected.
On February 15, 2017, all the Quebec delegates traveled by train to Quebec City to be introduced to the program. Fast forward to Monday, March 6, when we travelled to Ottawa for the big adventure: we had our first day of fascinating speakers and inspiring women – the theme of the day was policy.
On Wednesday, March 8, we marched over to Parliament and took our respective seats. I had the privilege of sitting in the seat for Bellechasse-Les Etchemins-Lévis in the House of Commons. This federal riding was established in 2003 and I was the first woman to occupy the seat. We had the opportunity to use this platform and visibility to bring attention to issues that young Canadian women hold near and dear to our hearts, such as accessibility to education, services for Indigenous Peoples and the protection of cultural and religious minorities.
The Honourable Kim Campbell, the first and only female Prime minister of Canada, shared her enthusiasm about this groundbreaking event. Our time in the House of Commons ended with a speech from the leaders of Canada’s main parties.
Our presence at parliament was particularly meaningful as there were more women taking a seat in parliament than there have ever been in Canadian history. This news traveled the world and this what one UK member of parliament had to say:
“I am not sure whether the Leader of the House is aware of the Daughters of the Vote event that was held at the Canadian Parliament on International Women’s Day. Young women from each of Canada’s 338 constituencies or ridings sat in Parliament to gain experience and communicate their vision for Canada, hopefully inspiring them to participate in the political process for years to come. Can we have a debate in this place on how we can encourage more women into politics?”– Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Scottish National Party) on March 16 2017.
The theme for our last day was leadership and we got some helpful tips on how to get involved in the electoral process. They emphasized the importance of going door to door – who knew selling cookies might be the secret the creating the next female Prime minister?
Coming home I feel overwhelmed by the power of the event and the number of like-minded women who wish to see more female representation in decision-making positions. I am grateful for the wonderful experience. I was honored to take my seat in this historic event.
Emma Predan-Lépine is a Guider with the 4th Beacon Hill Guides in Lakeshore district.