Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Canada and the Commonwealth: Celebrating Shared Values

Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Canada and the Commonwealth: Celebrating Shared Values

Article excerpt

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association--Canadian Branch is pleased to report on some of its recent activities and support of exciting initiatives. In this article, the author highlights CPA Canada's support of Equal Voice's Daughters of the Vote event and its own celebration with Commonwealth High Commissioners in honour of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

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Canada's sesquicentennial is an important occasion for the country to reflect on its past with a view to strengthening its future. Canada has been a member of the Commonwealth family and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) for a large part of its history. It is undeniable that membership in these two organizations has contributed to Canada's prominent role on the world stage over the past 150 years.

With this in mind, the Canadian Branch of the CPA is participating in numerous activities this year around Parliament Hill, highlighting Canada's long-standing relationship with the CPA and underscoring its ongoing contribution to Canada's evolving landscape.

While the year has been especially busy and our members have participated in numerous activities, two functions stood out in particular: the Daughters of the Vote initiative, supported by CPA Canada and funded by an unprecedented investment from the Federal government exceeding one million dollars; and CPA Canada's reception on Parliament Hill for Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Daughters of the Vote

This year's International Women's Day coincided with the celebration of an important milestone for women's suffrage in Canadian history: Canada's centennial for women's right to vote. It was in 1917 that some women first won the right to vote in Canada --first in provincial elections and later in the federal elections.

To commemorate this important day, Parliament welcomed 338 young women between the ages of 18 to 23 to represent every riding in Canada. During their time on Parliament Hill, they were given the opportunity to represent their communities in the House of Commons, where they shared their vision for Canada in the seats of their respective Members of Parliament.

The goal of the initiative was to help young women "become familiar with Canada's political institutions and those women and men serving in them--so they are equipped and inspired to participate in the formal political sphere in the years and decades to come."

The event was a resounding success. These future leaders finished their week on Parliament Hill with a greater network of peers who want to make a difference in their communities, and they left many parliamentarians inspired by their enthusiasm and perseverance.

This group of young women from diverse Indigenous, racial, ethnic and religious groups were a good snapshot of Canada's cultural landscape. It was this mix of backgrounds that truly contributed to the event's success. Some Daughters of the Vote described the historic event as powerful and emotional as they were moved by their peers who spoke to issues that touch their lives. Many of their speeches, delivered in the House of Commons, were met with standing ovations from participants and parliamentarians alike.

The Daughters of the Vote also heard from many female leaders from both Houses of Parliament, some of whom are part of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians--Canada Region. They also heard from former Prime Minister Kim Campbell and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who fielded questions during a mock Question Period.

Looking at the diverse group of women in the House of Commons on March 8, 2017, one could not help drawing parallels between this unprecedented event and the great work of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians. Both groups are empowered by their diversity and their common understanding that equal representation is the only way forward. Though the event was a success by all measures, it was a reminder that the road to equality is still long. …

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