North Grenville resident, Michaela Rutherford-Blouin, was chosen to represent our riding of Leeds Grenville, Thousand Islands & Rideau Lakes. Michaela, who is currently studying political science at Queen’s University, was very excited to be a part of this very special event. The Times talked to her about her experience.
NG Times: What was it like arriving in Ottawa on the first day?
M.: Simply put, overwhelming. I had met almost 100 of the other delegates from Toronto at the provincial event but now all 338 of us took over a hotel in downtown Ottawa. I wanted to meet every single person as fast as possible and hear all of their stories. I was lucky enough to know my way around the city having grown up so closely in Kemptville. For many, it was their first time in the capital. It was very exciting getting to know so many other bright, impressive young women and be inspired by them as well. That first day was just the start of an incredible, long, and productive week.
NGTimes: Who of the people that you met were you most impressed with?
M.: I was most impressed with the Indigenous delegates at Daughters of the Vote. Many gave incredibly moving speeches inside the house regarding mental health access on reserves and in Northern Canada. The Indigenous delegates told their stories with grace and with strength. They proved that Parliament is a space for the Indigenous people of Canada. I am so looking forward to seeing not only them but all of the daughters being elected to Parliament one day in the future.
NGTimes: What was the biggest surprise for you about the experience?
M.: We spent most of our days in policy workshops discussing very important issues. What surprised me the most were the honest and open conversations that we all had surrounding these difficult topics. The conversations we had were emotionally very difficult but they were extremely important. We are taking our experiences and we are turning them into policy so that we can make a change. Two of the main subjects that I focused on were mental health and sexual violence. Being a University student, these two issues are very close to my heart. Hopefully these passionate discussions will translate into change.
NGTimes: What was your biggest takeaway from the event?
M: The biggest takeaway of the week is simply that Canada desperately needs to elect more women. On International Women’s Day the House of Commons was filled with 338 women, that is more women than the number to have ever been elected to Parliament in the history of Canada. For a country that prides itself on being diverse and inclusive, its numbers regarding representation of not only women but women of colour, Indigenous people, people with disabilities etc., this is extremely disappointing. There are voices that aren’t being heard and we are going to change that, we are going to make sure that our voices are heard, whether people like it or not. This event was just the start, we will continue to encourage young people to get involved in politics.
NGTimes: Was there anything about the experience that you were disappointed by or something/someone who didn’t meet your expectations?
M.: The one thing that disappointed me was the negative attention and hateful comments that some of the delegates got. Some people can be incredibly rude online, but we had workshops on dealing with online harassment as women in politics.
NGTimes: Did this experience inspire you to run for political office in the future, or scare you off the idea completely? Can you now envision yourself as PM, Premier, MPP, MP, mayor etc., or could you already see that as a future possibility for yourself?
M.: I’ve known for a long time that I want to have a career in politics. Before the event, I wasn’t sure in what capacity I would be involved in politics – whether that was behind the scenes, or as an elected official. After the event, I can definitely say that I feel inspired to run for office. I have a whole new network of women that would support me, so running for elected office may be in my future one day.
NGTimes: Why was this an important event for you and/or the other young women?
M.: This event showed women all across Canada that they can make a difference in this country. They can have the confidence to put their name on a ballot and believe in their abilities, regardless of their gender or any other part of their identity they may think might hold them back. This was an important event, because it will hopefully let elected officials hear the issues that all the delegates are passionate about. Finally, it was important because it, hopefully, showed party leaders the importance of nominating more women. We made history when we took our seats, and we were all so honoured to have been a part of that. It was an event that I will never forget.