Nanaimo-Ladysmith’s House of Commons seat remains vacant for another month, but this past week, one young woman from Nanaimo sat there as she tried to get a feel for politics.
Ruby Barclay represented the riding during the Daughters of the Vote initiative Sunday through Friday in Ottawa.
Daughters of the Vote brought together one woman from each of Canada’s 338 federal ridings for a week of networking, education, panels and generally exposure to politics and women in and around politics.
“There were so many powerful messages from qualified women,” said Barclay. “I was so inspired to be in a space where women don’t typically occupy and to hear from women who have reclaimed our right to be in politics and to be in those political spaces.”
Barclay, a 23-year-old VIU grad who works as a youth advisory council coordinator at the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, got a chance to speak in the Senate. She addressed sitting senators and gallery members about a particular area of interest for her, youth in care, and her perceptions of “social injustices” of a care system that sees an over-representation of indigenous children.
“Child welfare systems are governed by provinces, however, I think it’s important that in federal government the youth in care and the foster care systems and child welfare systems are addressed,” she said.
Over the course of the week, Barclay met fellow representatives from across the country and with various political leanings, and had opportunities to hear from women in the Senate, House of Commons and local government, as well as former politicians and members of the media.
Barclay wants women to have equal representation in politics, and she said that balance should include representation for trans women, women of colour and women from different socio-economic experiences.
“We need to make space for under-represented voices and as women, we need to be allies for one another for each other’s voices to be heard and celebrated,” she said.
Barclay said with women only making up one-quarter of the 338 members of Parliament, the strength and resiliency of those MPs inspires her.
“I can only imagine how hard those women had to fight to be there and how challenging and how high-barrier those spaces are to occupy, and how fiercely qualified they are to be there,” she said.
Barclay said she wishes more women and girls in Nanaimo could have the experience she did this past week. She hopes the initiative leads to more conversations and actions around the issue of gender equality in politics, “to ensure that young women have strong role models that represent their experiences in spaces they aspire to be.”