Every year, Women in House participants spend two very busy days in Parliament, gaining exposure to the world of politics.
Participants from former years reflect on their own experiences:
2015-16 Experience: Rebecca MacLeod
Women in House was an unforgettable experience. I was paired with Ruth Ellen Brosseau, an NDP MP who serves as the Agriculture and Agri-Food Critic. Because my career goals are centred around policy creation in the agriculture or food security sectors, I could not have picked a better match for who I would have liked to shadow (which the coordinators deserve credit for!). Our day consisted of press conferences, lobby group meetings and question period, which was especially exciting because Ruth asked a question! Throughout the day she answered all of my own questions about working in Parliament, specifically as a woman, and issues surrounding agriculture. Although this was a more subtle aspect of the day, having the downtime for these conversations was the most beneficial part of this program for me. It really allowed me an inside look at what the life of a Parliamentarian in this sector would look like.
Further, I would say what I most took away from this experience was affirmation. I have long dreamed of working in government and more recently been excited about these specific areas. The Women In House program affirmed these feelings. I felt as though it was where I wanted to be, that I could do that job and that I was meant for it. And although I love school, this was the first time I have been excited to graduate and get out into the working world. Aside from my day with Ruth, the tours around Parliament and Ottawa, as well as, the panel discussions from other females working in the government were also inspirational. It was extremely encouraging to listen to the stories of women who have graduated McGill and are now working in the positions we aim to achieve. These women were insightful and relatable. Lastly, I would say that an externality of the program is getting to meet and befriend the other girls. I could not recommend Women In House higher and my only critique would be that I wish it was longer!
2015-16 Experience: Kharoll-Ann Souffrant
L’expérience Women in House était inoubliable. Les discussions et les rencontres furent hautement enrichissantes. En tant que future travailleuse sociale, je juge crucial de mieux saisir le fonctionnement de l’appareil politique afin de comprendre comment cet appareil influence la vie des populations vulnérables avec lesquelles je suis amenée à travailler. D’avoir pu entrer dans les coulisses du Parlement, d’avoir pu échanger avec des femmes précisément à propos de la sous-représentation des femmes en politique et d’avoir été exposée à différentes idéologiques politiques m’a aidée à remettre plusieurs choses en perspective. Mon intérêt envers la politique et mon désir d’y contribuer par mon travail au quotidien se voient accentués par cette expérience que je recommande à toutes.
2014 Experience: Taylor Holroyd
Women in House was a truly remarkable experience and I am so thankful that I was able to participate. We had a fast-paced first day full of panel discussions, Question Period, a tour of Parliament, and a cocktail party with several female politicians. As a biology student, my political background was previously rather limited, so I was thrilled to learn a great deal about Canadian politics and gender throughout the day. I particularly enjoyed a discussion with my fellow participants on the intersectionality of gender with race, sexual orientation, and economic background, and how these combine to affect female political participation. On the second day, I had the amazing opportunity to shadow with MP Libby Davies of Vancouver East. Libby made me feel extremely welcome and engaged throughout the day. The highlight was certainly the meeting of the Standing Committee on Health, where I got to see Libby in her element: asking candid questions and responding with eloquence and ease. Libby has over 17 years of experience as an MP, so she had many fascinating stories to tell about her time in Parliament. We were able to speak frankly about sexism on the hill, overcoming gender barriers, and the importance of women in government. It was an extraordinary privilege to be able to ask questions and hear sincere answers, especially because I am considering a career in public policy. Overall the experience tempered my perspective of Canadian politics and strengthened my passion about gender equality.
2014 Experience: Malaya Powers
It is impossible to overstate the impact this program has had on my life. I have always aspired to be a Member of Parliament, but considering my young age and the low representation of women in the House of Commons, I felt that this was perhaps more a dream than a possible reality. Spending the day with MP Rosane Dore Lefebvre taught me that as long as you have passion and tenacity, being an MP is a reality. Mme Lefebvre honestly, candidly and openly gave me a real experience in to her day to day life. We talked earnestly for about two hours over lunch at the incredible Parliament restaurant about a range of topics: from her being a new mother and how this played out in her career to the gender dynamics within Parliament. Not only was I inspired by her promoting female representation through the very fact that she participated in this program and was elected to the House, but also by her continued work she does as an MP to promote women’s rights. The very day before, her very own Private Member’s Bill on National Midwife Day had passed the second reading in the House of Commons, receiving support from all the parties, including the Prime Minister himself. Upon receiving much congratulations the day I was with her, it was so inspiring and refreshing to witness how Mme. Lefebvre had connected successfully with her male counterparts from all parties to work towards the goal of promoting issues important to women. This program truly inspired me to do what I can in my every life to promote women’s participation in government. I am very thankful to Mme. Lefebvre, her equally inspiring assistant Genevieve, and the Women in House organizers and donors for providing me with this unforgettable experience.
2014 Experience: Justine Brien
J’ai eu la chance de passer la journée en compagnie de la Sénatrice Claudette Tardif de l’Alberta. La journée a débuté à 8h00 au Comité sur l’agriculture et les forêts où l’Honorable Claudette Tardif siège. Ce fut une expérience très enrichissante et j’ai grandement appris sur l’agence d’Inspection des aliments et sur Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada dont les représentants témoignaient devant le Comité. Par la suite, je me suis dirigée vers le Bureau de la Sénatrice où nous avons pu discuté de plusieurs sujets dont les langues officielles et l’éducation postsecondaire. Nous avons également parlé de l’Alberta car j’ai passé l’été.
2014 Experience: Ayesha Talreja
I was paired to shadow MP Rathika Sithsabaiesan of Scarborough – Rouge River for my day on the hill. I was excited to participate in Women in House as a few friends had participated in an earlier program and had had great experiences.
It was exciting to discover that as immigrants to Canada, I shared many experiences with MP Sithsabaiesan and we also had many similar interests and experiences, as well as a strong passion for social justice issues. Seeing someone with a similar background to me in the halls of the Parliament buildings was an inspiring feeling. It was equally compelling to see the inner workings of parliament, meetings, and watch the tumult of Question Period.
After my experience in Ottawa, I came away with the feeling that while a number of women have been able to become MPs, we need to see even more women to truly represent Canada’s changing and diverse population at the government level. Women in House offers a platform for shaping future careers in public policy and civic engagement.
2013 Experience: Siobhan Reid
During the day, I had the privilege of shadowing a fellow-Calgarian, MP Diane Ablonczy. Our day started with a board meeting, which was then followed by the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Ablonczy and discuss her former law practice, the highlights of 30 years as a Parliamentarian, and her advice for young women pursuing a career in Canadian politics. For this opportunity, I feel most honoured and grateful; Ms. Ablonczy spoke frankly and earnestly about being a female politician and the sacrifices she has made throughout her career. Most remarkable however, was her patriotic spirit and her commitment to the people in her Calgary North riding. After that unique experience, I attended Question Period with Ms. Ablonczy’s assistant, who gave me information on the history of Question Period in Canada and explained each of the speaker’s backgrounds and responsibilities. Following a lively and spirit Question Period, I joined Ms. Ablonczy in her last board meeting of the day. I am so thankful for this enriching experience with Women in House, and want to thank Ms. Ablonczy, the Women in House organizers, donors, and fellow members who made it such a memorable opportunity!
2013 Experience: Angela Yu
Having been aware of the program since my first year at McGill, I decided to apply to Women in House following the encouragement of a few friends who had previously participated. Despite the early departure time, I was eager for the (brief) opportunity to be in a new place with new people. With a relentless schedule of panels, tours and Question Period, I was acquainted with the formal political atmosphere of Ottawa by the end of the first day. As a Women’s Studies major, I felt particularly lucky to be paired with Niki Ashton, the Official Opposition critic for the Status of Women. Over breakfast, Ms. Ashton, who represents the Churchill riding of Manitoba, fulfilled her reputation of being a candid, dedicated and intelligent MP. We covered a broad range of topics, from Aboriginal communities to her education in China. Amid the formalities of Parliament Hill, I was struck by the warmth and engagement of my fellow participants. My favorite moments were the ones spent with the other women, discussing politics of race and gender. My experience with Women in House strengthened my belief in the importance of community-based discussion, critique and collaboration in the move towards equitable gender representation and feminist perspectives in politics.
2012 Experience: Nicole Leonard
I met Senator Fraser in the morning in her beautiful office in the East Block, where we talked for a few minutes before running off to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. I had met Senator Fraser the evening before at the Women in House reception that she hosted with Senator Frum, who was also on the same committee. We heard two witnesses speak regarding proposed legislation on reforming the complaint procedure for prisoners to consider frivolous or vexatious complaints. After that, I had lunch in the striking Parliament restaurant with two of Senator Fraser’s aids; I saw a few other Women in House participants there as well. After a delicious lunch, I went to watch the Senate Question Period, which was interesting to compare to the previous day’s Question Period in the House of Commons that we saw as a group. We returned to her office afterwards and discussed her work in the Senate, the progress in the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and her journalism career before she was a Senator, which was particularly exciting due to her ties to McGill and Montreal. Overall, it was a wonderful day and I am very thankful to the Women In House organizers and donors for making this great experience possible for me!
2012 Experience: Andrea Morden
The day Finola Hackett and I spent with MP Elizabeth May was exhilarating and highly educational. We began our day with Elizabeth May and her staff at their offices and attended their morning staff meeting. Elizabeth May showed us around the Opposition Lobby where we met many other MPs including Stéphane Dion and Bob Rae, and we watched Question Period from the Opposition Gallery. We were able to watch Elizabeth May participate in two television interviews in the late afternoon and attended a Green Party fundraiser in the evening. It was an action-packed day that demonstrated to us how hard our MPs work, particularly Elizabeth May whose many roles include being a MP, the Green Party leader and the entire Green Party caucus.
We learned many valuable lessons about life in politics, including that the first priority for any MP is their constituents’ interests, which comes before their personal lives and their Party’s priorities. Elizabeth May is a refreshing reminder that entering public life as an MP should be about advocating for Canadians, not pursuing partisan politics. I am so grateful to have received this incredible opportunity, and the lessons I learned from the amazing women we met in Ottawa, including Elizabeth May, will stay with me as I begin to form my own career.