'Daughters of the vote' take seats in House of Commons

Today 338 young women — one from each federal riding — are in Ottawa to take part in Daughters of the Vote, a program Equal Voice created to promote the participation of women in politics and government.

From pay equity to child care, advocates say 'feminist' PM has much work to do

The Daughters of the Vote event, organized by Equal Voice Canada, brought 338 young women representing every riding across Canada to take a seat in the House of Commons on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Aygadim Majagalee, a young woman from the Nisga'a Nation in northern B.C., said she wants to look beyond past struggles and into the next century of possibility, where she imagines a revolution led by women.

"I envision a Canada that is fierce in its leadership and shows just how much every person is equal," the 22-year-old, who also goes by her English name, Teanna Ducharme, told MPs who had gathered Tuesday to hear her address the House of Commons committee on the status of women.

She is one of 338 young women between the ages of 18 and 23 — one from each of the federal ridings — in Ottawa this week to take part in Daughters of the Vote, a program Equal Voice created to promote the participation of women in politics and government.

Their visit coincides with International Women's Day, which the Liberal government is planning to celebrate with much fanfare.

On Wednesday morning, the delegates took the place of their MPs in the House of Commons.

Thirty young women were called upon by another young woman acting as the day's Speaker to rise and give a one-minute speech on an issue that was important to them.

A Muslim woman, Srosh Hassana, taking part in the Daughters of the Vote event on Parliament Hill, addresses islamophobia and xenophobia in a statement in the House of Commons on International Women's Day. 3:12

At first glance, it would appear Canadian women have much to celebrate on this occasion.

Trudeau, who proudly calls himself a feminist, has committed to promoting gender equality both at home and abroad, garnering a reputation from which even U.S. President Donald Trump tried to benefit through their roundtable on boosting female participation in the workforce when they met in Washington, D.C., last month.

Still, advocates for gender equality argue there remains much to be done before a vision anything like the one laid out by Ducharme comes to fruition.

"For Canada to say we are a leader on gender equality is one thing, but to act like a leader is something else entirely," Megan Hooft, deputy director of Canada Without Poverty, said Tuesday as she appeared before the status of women committee ahead of the Daughters of the Vote.

Women between the ages of 18 and 23 were selected to represent each constituency. Thirty were selected to speak on an issue important to them during the Daughters of the Vote session. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

'Ceiling made of brick'

On Monday, Oxfam Canada released its own assessment of how the Liberal government has been doing on feminist issues, giving Trudeau credit for naming the same number of men and women to cabinet, restoring funding for groups advocating for women and girls and improving the use of gender-based analysis.

The report called out his government, however, for waiting until next year to bring in proactive pay equity legislation that would ensure men and women get equal pay for work of equal value.

"It's definitely the time to speed up," said Diana Sarosi, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam Canada.

Lianna Rice, an Inuk woman from Labrador tells of her suicide attempt, and her brothers suicide, and calls on the government to listen to the voices of Inuit that want to be heard. 2:23

The advocates who appeared before the status of women committee all called for subsidized child care spaces as the surest way to boost female participation in the workforce, including making it easier for women with part-time jobs to gain full-time employment, with the accompanying increase in earnings.

They also called for dedicated leave for the second parent as a way to increase the involvement of men when it comes to unpaid work on the home front.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, who is married to the prime minister, included the importance of male allies in her message marking International Women's Day.

"Let's celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls (and) women with respect, and who aren't afraid to speak up in front of others," Gregoire Trudeau wrote in a message posted to Instagram, accompanying a photograph of her holding hands with her spouse.

Vicky Smallman, director of women's and human rights at the Canadian Labour Congress, said the government should focus on removing systemic barriers that prevent many women from coming anywhere near the glass ceiling.

"There is a whole other ceiling made of brick for a bunch of other women down here," she said.

Looking to her fellow Daughters of the Vote, Ducharme said the possibilities are in their hands.

Former PM Kim Campbell addresses Parliament and notes that it's only a matter of time before another woman serves as Canada's Prime Minister. 3:37

"I can't wait to work with all of these incredible matriarchs in training," she said. "I can't wait to work with them in the future — as future ministers, as future prime ministers."

With files from CBC News