On Febraury 17th, 2016 Equal Voice held a Welcome Reception at the Rideau Club for the women of the 42nd Parliament. The reception was a resounding success, featuring speeches from women of all parties and political spheres. It allowed Ottawans to welcome new women members of the House of Commons and discuss the future of women in politics.
The evening began with networking and socializing opportunities, as Equal Voice welcomed Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Parliament, Councillors, local organizations and community members to gather and talk over canapés, hors d ‘oeuvres and refreshments.
There was then a surprise special guest appearance made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed feminist and advocate of equal rights. He politely shook hands with many attendees and made his presence known in an effort to show his support for Equal Voice.
First Nation Algonquin, Barbara Dumont-Hill, began the opening speeches. She commenced by acknowledging that we were on Algonquin territory and welcomed us all, drumming and singing songs that honour her aboriginal ancestors.
Following this, Denise Siele, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Operations for Equal Voice National, took to the stage to introduce The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women. Minister Hadju spoke about her experiences at the grassroots level and her transition into politics, emphasizing the challenges that women continue to face in leadership positions. She stated that women need more financial support if they are to get involved in politics. It was at this moment where she congratulated Equal Voice for providing child care services free-of-charge at the reception.
Minister Hadju proceeded to announce the call for proposals for projects intended to increase women’s political participation. This is a plan that will be put into motion via two streams. The first stream will involve “Empowering Indigenous Women for Stronger Communities”; the second stream will be composed of two themes, “Empowering Women for Political Action” and “Empowering Women for Community Action”. More information on these projects can be found on the Government of Canada website.
It was also an honour to hear Lisa MacLeod, Member of Provincial Parliament for Nepean-Carleton, speak. She made mention of the fact that we were standing in a room where men were the only ones accepted at the Rideau Club at one point, further acknowledging how far women have come in public life. This sentiment resonated in the talks that followed by Sheila Malcolmson, NDP Member of Parliament for Nanaimo –Ladysmith, as well as by Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.
Nancy Peckford, National Spokesperson, and Lynne Hamilton, National Chair of Equal Voice, ended the reception with the closing speeches. They thanked everyone in attendance, in particular the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), for their continued pursuit of its goals to advance the well-being of aboriginal women and girls; and Johnson & Johnson, the longest sponsor of Equal Voice to date. But most importantly, Ms. Hamilton thanked the men in the room who joined us and supported us in our efforts to achieve equal representation.
It was an absolute honour to be among so many inspirational and empowering women. We look forward to the triumphs that lie ahead, and the continued role we play in being a voice to the youth as a chapter of the national organization.
—-Jessica Saviotti, Co-President & VP Finance of Equal Voice uOttawa Chapter