Catherine McKenna
Hon. Catherine McKenna
Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre

March 20, 2017

Earlier this month, I had the honour of representing the riding of Ottawa-Centre in a historic session of Parliament, one made up entirely of women. This was made possible thanks to Equal Voice, who came up with the idea of Daughters of the Vote. For those who are unfamiliar, Equal Voice selected 338 young women between the ages of 18 to 23 – one to represent each federal riding in Canada. I was selected to represent the riding of Ottawa-Centre. This was held to celebrate both Canada’s 150th birthday and 100 years of SOME Canadian women getting the right to vote in federal elections.

The event consisted of 4 days of guest speakers, shared ideas, and just general love and support for one another. The event was called Daughters of the Vote, but by the end of it – I considered these 337 girls my sisters. These were some of the most talented, driven, and inspirational women I have ever met. I was so thrilled to know that I was going to be sharing this historic moment with them.

On Wednesday, March 8th 2017 – I, a 20 year old, Métis woman was able to take my seat in the House of Commons. This day was beyond my wildest dreams. I began my day by attending Mayor Jim Watson’s International Women’s Day breakfast as a guest of Minister McKenna. I knew Minister McKenna was speaking at the event and wasn’t sure where I would fit into the equation. However, I would come to learn that the Minister McKenna was going to cut her speaking time short to give me the opportunity to speak. This to me was so unbelievable and is a true testament to Minister McKenna’s personality and soul. She is so giving and kind and has treated me with the upmost respect that I am not sure how I will ever be able to repay her. So there I was standing in front of my Mayor, my MP, and hundreds of other special guests with a microphone in my hand. I kind of blacked out after speaking and cannot remember quite exactly what I said but I know I thanked Minister McKenna and the Mayor for making Ottawa an amazing city to be in and to have leaders such as them who make women, especially Indigenous women, a priority. I also mentioned how emotional it is for me as an Indigenous woman to take my seat.

Following this, I headed to the NAC to begin the march to Parliament Hill with my other 337 sisters. This was quite historic and emotional. Knowing that I would be able to sit in the House of Commons as an Indigenous woman was unbelievable. I came in loud and I came in proud. There I was sitting in my seat in the House of Commons with my eagle feather out and proud, my sweetgrass out and rocking my moccasins! It is very emotional to think that this is the same room where my people, the Métis, were voted as not being considered Canadian citizens. This is the room where they stripped my grandmother and great grandmother of their rights to be Indian. This is a room which was built for people to come in and take control of me and my ancestors. This was a room which was never meant for people like me to sit in – and yet, there I was. Needless to say, tears were shed. It was incredible to stand there and act in a sign of resistance against 150 years of colonial and male dominated politics.

I am still trying to process this – but if there is one thing I have already processed, it is how fortunate I am to have Catherine McKenna in my life. I just have to thank her again because I have not done it enough. She is my mentor, role model and my biggest support system. If there is one thing this world needs, it is more people like her. She has been my guiding light as I make my way into the political world and I could not think of anyone better. Going into this event I was not sure why I was picked, but Minister McKenna backed up my doubts. She reassured my faith in myself. Having a strong female leader like her on my side is just beyond words. This is one thing this experience has taught me is the importance of leadership and mentorship. As women in politics, we must be there for one another – because this world is tough and cruel.

In conclusion, I was thrilled and honored to be a part of this event and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for my 337 sisters and me!

Miigwetch / Thank You,

Ally Freedman

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