While the right to vote was granted to some women in 1916, it wasn’t until 1940 that the final province gave women the franchise. ‘Gave women the franchise’ is poorly worded, women truly earned that right through determination, hard work, personal suffering and incredible sacrifice. As a matter of fact, not until 1960 were indigenous women granted that right. Finally, it was only when Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms was passed in 1982, that the right to vote was enshrined in law for women of selected minority groups.

Today, though women make up just over half of the population of Canada, approximately only 25% of Federal MPs are women. On average, women comprise only 28% of elected officials in provincial and territorial legislatures. Only 18% of Canada’s mayors are women. Clearly, the journey of women’s full political participation is far from complete. Though (for a number of reasons) they don’t run for political office as often as their male counterparts, those women that do run, are just as successful in office as men. There is a clear need to have more women seek election at all levels of the political world. A house full of old, white haired men does not accurately reflect the current reality and diversity of the country of Canada.

Equal Voice, a national, bilingual, multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women to all levels of political office in Canada, recently put together a three day event called ‘Daughters of the Vote’ where one young woman was chosen from each federal riding across Canada to sit in their MP’s chair in the House of Commons and participate in other activities. Equal Voice’s objective for their initiative was to ensure these 338 emerging young women leaders, among others, became familiar with Canada’s political institutions and those women and men serving in them. They hoped that the experience would equip and inspire these young women to participate in the formal political sphere in the years and decades to come.

During their three-day trip, these young women participated in various workshops, listened to guest speakers (such as Prime Minister Trudeau, ex-Prime Minister Kim Campbell, and Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May), met with MPs, ministers and other dignitaries and, perhaps most symbolically, sat in their MP’s chair in the House of Commons on International Women’s Day. The group of young women was a very diverse one, including people of different faiths, and indigenous women were also well represented. Some even got the opportunity to be interviewed by national TV and print news media, as the event was widely covered by many media outlets.

Kemptville resident, Michaela Rutherford-Blouin, was chosen to represent our riding of Leeds Grenville, Thousand Islands & Rideau Lakes. Michaela, who is currently studying political science at Queen’s University, was very excited to be a part of this very special event. We hope to have Michaela tell us about the experience in her own words, in the next edition of the North Grenville Times.

The event also had another important local connection, as it was organized by Kemptville resident, and Equal Voice Executive Director, Nancy Peckford. We’ve written about Nancy and Equal Voice before, and we hope to sit down with her again soon to discuss her observations and hear her stories about Daughters of the Vote.

If you’d like to know more about Equal Voice, including how you can help to support the organization, or what support they can offer, visit www.equalvoice.ca, or email them at [email protected] or call 613-236-0302.

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