Raising Our Voices for Political Equality: a note from an Ottawa office volunteer

The percentage of female representation in the sphere of Canadian politics is worrisome. The female population of Canada currently stands at 52%, but only 22% of members of parliament, Canadian municipal, provincial and federal representatives are female. Compared to its international counterparts, Canada is falling behind. Within the realm of international politics Canada ranks 49 out of 189countries in the number of women elected to national parliament. This position places Canada behind Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda.

The great concerns generated by these unnerving statistics lead to the formation of Equal Voice in 2008. Equal Voice is a national organization that offers a variety of programming including public awareness campaigns and initiatives. The main objective of Equal Voice’s programming is to promote the involvement and election of women to all levels of political office. Most notably, Equal Voice’s mentoring program is setting out to reshape the future of female representation in Canadian politics by focusing on Canadian female youth between the ages of 18-30. Equal Voice’s mentoring program matches female youth with a female mentor who works within the Canadian political realm. One is matched with a mentor based on educational background, political experiences and future aspirations. I became aware of this program through the University of Ottawa. As a fourth year Political Science student, it has proven difficult to gain political experience. I initially decided to participate in the program because I desired to not only gain political insight, but also advice about how to pursue a political career.

Through this program, I was matched with my mentor, M.P. Martha Hall-Findlay. Our initial meeting took place in the House of Commons over coffee in November 2009.
Martha’s warm, welcoming disposition made me feel as if I was talking with an old friend. We discussed our upbringings, educational backgrounds and our political interests. Martha’s strong spirited nature conveys her thoughts of breaking gender stereotypes and her belief that one’s ambitions and career objectives should not be disabled by gender. Her “oxygen story” still rings true for me. “Do you know why on airplanes they say to place your oxygen mask on first before assisting someone else with their mark during an emergency?” she questioned. “…Because in life if you don’t take care of yourself first, no one else will”. It was in this moment I realized how strong the woman sitting across from me really is. She has a caring nature, but always remains stay true to herself and never compromises her values or beliefs. Canada has a prosperous future in politics due to Equal Voice and the contributions made by women like Martha.

I have been volunteering in Martha’s parliamentary office since November 2009. I have come across opportunities and meet many inspiring individuals on the hill since my initial meeting with Martha. I feel I am developing a strong foundation of political knowledge and insight. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a candy store on the hill as my fortuity feels surreal at times.

My story was just one of many which were shared at the Equal Voice reception at the Metropolitan in Ottawa on March 12, 2010. The founders, employees and participates of Equal Voice gathered to not only share our mentoring experiences, but to also support one another and share in the hope of reshaping Canadian politics. The room was buzzing with energy as each woman in the room introduced herself, spoke of her Equal Voice experience, her achievements, community involvement, and most importantly, her future goals. Each woman proudly stood tall, expressing “this is who I am!” What encouragement! It was hard to believe that a reception such as this would not have taken place 15-20 years ago.

Due to my experience with Equal Voice, I stand tall and hold great prospects for the future of Canadian politics. Although there are still many hurdles for Canadian women and women abroad, we are gaining strength from one another by collectively vocalizing our thoughts and demanding change. As Margaret Thatcher once said “you may have to fight a battle more than once to win it”. This is one battle we refuse back down on.

- Hollie


Two years as MP for Willowdale

Two years!!

It figures that I was so busy with work, yesterday, on the actual 2nd anniversary of getting elected, that I didn't have time to write a note about it here. I will confess, however, to ending the day with (what better?) some Guiness at the residence of the Irish Ambassador to Canada. If I remember correctly, green beer was flowing in celebration 2 years ago. St. Patrick's Day will always hold an even more special place in my heart than it used to.

Thank you to all those who have sent such great messages of good wishes.

After two years (it feels like yesterday), I want to say something about how wonderful it is to have been elected.

As corny as it may sound, it is an extraordinary honour and privilege to be an elected Member of Parliament, in this great country of ours. Every day that I walk into these beautiful buildings, I pause, I look around, and I say to myself, "Wow---I get to work here."

I have learned so much. I have learned about how MPs lead 2 lives--one in the constituency, doing what we can to help our consituents with their relationships with the federal government (and all sorts of other things :-)); and a second, very different life, that we lead as legislators in Ottawa, working to keep the government to account, making suggestions for improvement, working on our committees, researching and analyzing proposed legislation (with the great help of our teams) and then voting accordingly; engaging in debates in the House--the list goes on. I have also learned a great deal about the many, many issues that affect Canadians; about the challenges of trying to work cooperatively in a very partisan enviroment; about what extraordinary potential that Canada and Canadians possess for doing so much more, even, both domestically and internationally, than we do now.

I love all aspects of what I do, very much. I am indeed very fortunate.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the people of Willowdale for electing me--now twice!--and for showing their confidence in me. Thank you, too, to all of those volunteers who worked on those two successful campaigns, and to all those who have contributed financially. I want to thank the wonderful people with whom I work, and without whom we simply couldn't do the work we do for the people of Willowdale and for the country: In Willowdale, Michele, Carol and Lily, and all the Willowdale volunteers; in Ottawa, Anne-Sophie, Puneet and Elizabeth, and all the Ottawa volunteers; and to all of the fabulous people who make up the Willowdale Federal Liberal Association. Doing good things takes a real team effort, and I'm incredibly lucky to be able to count myself a part of this great group of people.

Thank you all, so much, and I look forward to many more years of being able to serve as the MP for Willowdale.

All best,


Journée internationale de la femme

Il y a maintenant 100 ans que l’idée d’instaurer la Journée internationale de la femme a été proposée.

Il aura fallu 65 autres années pour que les Nations Unies désignent 1975 « Année internationale de la femme » et sanctionne officiellement le 8 mars comme la Journée internationale de la femme.

Depuis, nous avons parcouru beaucoup de chemin. Mais il en reste beaucoup à faire.

J’adore mon travail. En tant que députée, j’exerce l’un des meilleurs emplois que je pouvais imaginer. Mais n’eut été des nombreuses personnes qui ont lutté si longtemps pour que les femmes aient les mêmes droits, je ne pourrais occuper cet emploi, ni affirmer ce que je viens de dire. Après tout, il n’y a pas si longtemps, on ne reconnaissait même pas le droit de vote aux femmes (au niveau fédéral : en 1928; dans la plupart des provinces : à peu près à cette époque; au Québec : pas avant 1940!) Avant que les législateurs, tous de sexe masculin, acceptent de « nous donner » ce droit, nous ne pouvions pas voter, encore moins nous présenter à des élections ----et être élues. Si je suis ici, c’est parce que beaucoup de gens ont travaillé très fort et ont offert leur soutien.

Toutes les femmes, moi comprise, qui peuvent aujourd’hui réaliser leurs rêves et leurs aspirations professionnelles, dans un milieu où les femmes étaient jadis exclues, doivent avoir de la gratitude envers celles qui les ont précédées. À notre tour, nous le devons à toutes celles qui nous succèderont et qui continueront d’œuvrer à l’égalité complète et à l’égalité complète des chances pour les femmes de partout.

Nous ne pourrons pas nous reposer sur nos lauriers avant que toutes les femmes du monde aient le droit, et la capacité, de se protéger; le droit et la capacité de prendre leur place sans crainte et sans peur des récriminations; le droit et la capacité d’affirmer leur indépendance personnelle et économique et, enfin, le droit et la capacité de réaliser, sur un pied d’égalité, le plein potentiel dévolu à leurs homologues masculins.

En tant que femme, je suis fière, je suis reconnaissante et je suis remplie d’espoir. Je vous invite à partager cette fierté, cette gratitude et cet espoir, en célébrant la Journée internationale de la femme – toute l’année durant. Nous devons toutes aller de l’avant.

International Women's Day

It is now 100 years since the idea of International Women’s Day was first proposed.

It took another 65 years before the United Nations designated 1975 “International Women’s Year” and officially sanctioned March 8 as International Women’s Day.

We have come a long way, yes. But we still have a long way to go.

I love what I do. As a Member of Parliament, I have one of the best jobs I could possibly imagine. But I wouldn’t be here and able to say that, if it weren’t for so many people who have struggled and fought, for so long, for equal rights for women. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that we women couldn’t even VOTE (federally in Canada, 1918; in most provinces around the same time; not until 1940 in Quebec!) Until the male legislators agreed to “give us” the right, we couldn’t vote, let alone run for public office----and get elected. I am here because so many others worked so hard, and then offered their shoulders to stand on.

Every woman--including me--who today can pursue her dreams and her career aspirations, in environments that not too long ago excluded women---every one of us owes a debt of gratitude to those who have come before us. And we, in turn, owe it to all those who will come after us to continue to work toward full equality and full equality of opportunity for women everywhere.

We cannot rest until women the world over have the right, and the ability, to protect themselves; the right, and the ability, to stand up for themselves without recrimination and without fear; the right, and the ability, to assert their personal and economic independence; and the right, and the ability, to realize on an equal basis all of the potential afforded to their male counterparts.

As a woman I am proud, I am grateful and I am hopeful. Please join me in that pride, that gratitude and that hope, in celebrating International Women’s Day—all year long. We must all keep moving forward.