Two young women from Central Alberta were part of a once-in-a-lifetime event when they joined other women from across Canada to symbolically sit in the House of Commons seats of all 338 members of Parliament on International Women’s Day.
Navneet Gidda, sitting in the chair of Red Deer – Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen, and Shaynna Roan, in the chair of Red Deer – Lacombe riding MP Blaine Calkins, were part of the unique Daughters of the Vote event.
Gidda, 20, is from Red Deer, and Roan, 19, is from Maskwacis.
Women between the ages of 18 and 23 applied and were selected as delegates to participate in the event, put together by Equal Voice, a national, bilingual, multi-partisan organization devoted to electing more women to political office in Canada.
While women represent 50 per cent of the population, there were only 88 women (26 per cent) elected to Parliament in the last election. This does represent the highest number ever elected at once.
All of the 338 seats in the House of Commons were occupied by the women on Wednesday. Included in the event was an address to them by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, the only woman to ever hold the position of prime minister in Canadian history. The other federal three party leaders also spoke to them.
The women have been in Ottawa all week, busy with numerous events including a wide range of round tables discussing issues such as women’s equality, indigenous issues and democratic engagement.
Roan, 19, is the granddaughter of Wilton (Willie) Littlechild, a lawyer from Maskwacis, who was an MP in the former riding of Wetaskiwin from 1988 to 1993. She is currently in her second year at the University of Saskatchewan, studying Education. She’s actively involved in fundraising for causes such as breast cancer and juvenile diabetes through running events.
Gidda, 20, is a third-year political science student at the University of Alberta, an executive member of the Political Science Undergrad Association, a team leader at the campus Food Bank, and an arts/opinion writer for the student magazine.
Reached by phone on Thursday, Gidda told The Advocate that she does expect to enter politics one day and the experiences in Ottawa were very empowering. She said one of the highlights, besides the House of Commons, was meeting with Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status for Women.
As well, after the delegates sat in the House of Commons seats, they then were able to attend and listen to Question Period. “It was so weird to see all those men. Really impactful. You could see that there aren’t that many women in the House,” she said.
On Thursday, she posted on her Facebook page: “I sat in the House of Commons alongside 337 young women from across the country to celebrate International Women’s Day and 100 years of (some) womens’ suffrage. But this celebration wasn’t just about applauding how far we’ve come — it was also about recognizing where we have failed. How we have consistently hurt our black, LGBTQ, indigenous, and Muslim communities; how so many issues (i.e. sexual violence, climate change, etc.) are still being ignored in policy; and how party politics continues to be a barrier to effective change. As many of my sisters indicated in the House, we must urge our representatives to prioritize these issues — to prioritize basic human rights.”