Young Indigenous female leaders from Manitoba represent ridings at Ottawa event

With the goal of starting careers in Canadian politics, First Nation youths Brielle Beardy and Shania Pruden, both from Manitoba, might soon become household names. They are two of the 338 delegates invited to a special conference in Ottawa called Daughters of the Vote.

Daughters of the Vote gives youth from across Canada a taste of life in politics

Brielle Beardy and Shania Pruden are representing their federal ridings at Daughters of the Vote, a four-day political event in Ottawa. (Daughters of the Vote website)

With a goal of starting careers in Canadian politics, First Nation youth Brielle Beardy and Shania Pruden — both from Manitoba — could someday be household names.

They are two of the 338 delegates who were invited to a special conference in Ottawa called Daughters of the Vote, taking place this week.

Daughters of the Vote is an event organized by Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization that works to see more women elected to political office in Canada.

Equal Voice has invited 338 young women, from ages 18 to 23 — one from each federal riding in Canada — to shadow their member of Parliament and represent their communities at the Daughters of the Vote event, running from March 6 to 9.

"[Daughters of the Vote] is a great networking opportunity to meet with other like-minded women from across the country," said Beardy, a 22-year-old transgender woman from Thompson, Man. and a member of ​Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.

"It's an opportunity to grow and learn how to expand my skills in advocacy and raise awareness on a lot of the issues that are personal for me."

As the Daughters of the Vote delegate for Manitoba's Churchill-Keewatinook Aski riding, Beardy says she brings a unique perspective to the event.

"There's no one like me in politics currently, at least openly," said Beardy. "There are a lot of issues that impact [transgender] people like me. It's hard for someone to advocate for me when they don't even know my issues."

No stranger to politics, Beardy has worked on campaigns for Amanda Lathlin, the NDP MLA for The Pas, and NDP MP Niki Ashton, who represents Churchill—Keewatinook Aski. Currently, Beardy is working as a constituency assistant for the federal NDP.

She says she plans to one day put her name in the running for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, and she hopes to highlight the issues affecting people who live in rural northern Manitoba.

"There are so many people here in [the Churchill-Keewatinook Aski riding] that need so much more that isn't being provided," said Beardy, who cites the issue of housing as one of her top priorities.

"Whether or not I'm involved in politics, or if I'm working with organizations that push politicians … I'll still be fighting for the well-being of the people in my region."

This year's Daughters of the Vote is special, because 2017 marks 100 years since some Canadian women won the right to vote.

But the anniversary is not one celebrated by Indigenous women, who did not get to vote until 1960.

"The organizer, Equal Voice, has vocalized that it's 100 years for some women," said Beardy, who expects the topic of First Nations suffrage to be discussed at the event.

Highlights International Women's Day

March 8 is International Women's Day — which will be the focus of the day's events at Daughters of the Vote. But among the celebrations, heavy topics will also be covered.

Shania Pruden, a 19-year-old who lives in Winnipeg and is a member of Pinaymootang First Nation, has been invited to present on the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in front of the the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Pruden's advocacy on the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women started after she noticed negative coverage on the issue.

"Missing and murdered Indigenous women are usually labelled negatively … it struck me, and I was instantly inspired to help educate more people on this, and speak up for [the women]," said Pruden.

For her presentation, Pruden plans to focus on the grassroots work happening in Winnipeg around the topic of MMIW, including that of Winnipeg's Bear Clan Patrol.

Currently, Pruden is working for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Youth Secretariat — a position that has fuelled her passion for politics.

She was excited when she got to meet the MLA from her Winnipeg riding, the NDP's Nahanni Fontaine, and says hearing her story was inspiring. Pruden says she hopes to speak to Fontaine a bit more, since they both are attending Daughters of the Vote.

Looking down the road, Pruden imagines she will get into federal politics, but for now she wants to go to university to get a degree in psychiatric nursing.

But she has ambitions even beyond that.

"Maybe one day I'll even become prime minster."