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UBC students who sat in House of Commons on Women’s Day share their stories(The Ubyssey)

Posted on Mar 24, 2017

Click to read: https://www.ubyssey.ca/news/women-participate-in-house-of-commons-takeover/

A Daughter of the Vote (Curiosities)

Posted on Mar 24, 2017

Click to read: http://curiosities.sheridancollege.ca/a-daughter-of-the-vote/

Hillary Clinton lost, but she leaves an important legacy (The Globe and Mail)

Posted on Nov 15, 2016

Click to read: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/hillary-clinton-lost-but-she-leaves-an-important-legacy/article32862019/

Canada has more women in cabinet, but fewer sit on Commons committees (Globe and Mail)

Posted on Mar 08, 2016

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail. It was written by Jane Taber on March 8, 2016.



Canada has more women in cabinet, but fewer sit on Commons committees

This story is part of Work in Progress, The Globe's look at the global struggle for gender parity.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attracted international accolades by appointing women to half of the positions in his cabinet and a dozen others as parliamentary secretaries, but now he has run out of female MPs to sit on House of Commons committees, where important work gets done.


This is the unintended consequence of his gender-parity strategy – two of the 24 standing committees have no female MPs – industry, science and technology and access to information, privacy and ethics. Of the seven committees that have one woman, two do not include a female government MP.


Commons committees are crucial to studying legislation, looking at departmental spending and giving backbench MPs a chance to dig into issues, and rookie MPs a chance to develop their political skills and figure out Parliament.


There are 50 female MPs in the Liberal caucus – 15 of them are in cabinet and 12 are parliamentary secretaries. That leaves 23 Liberal women for 24 committees.


“Essentially, we have run out,” said Andrew Leslie, chief government Whip, who is in charge of the committee assignments for his caucus, juggling requests from MPs to sit on certain committees.


Four women – three Liberals and one Conservative – serve as committee chairs. The only committee with a female majority is status of women – it has one male MP, who is a young Liberal rookie.


“I am sorry that there are fewer women on committees,” said Irene Mathyssen, the NDP deputy whip. “As glamorous as it is to be strutting in the House of Commons, committees, we know, are where the real work gets done.”


Diversity on committees is important; women believe they bring a different view to issues.


“It’s not that it’s a right or a wrong perspective. It’s just different,” said Pam Damoff, the newly elected Liberal MP for Oakville North-Burlington and the only woman on the public safety and national security committee. “It’s early going so far, but I do think it [female membership] gives a slightly different lens to look at things.”


There are 10 members on each committee – six Liberals, three Conservatives and one New Democrat. The numbers for each party are based on their representation in the House.


Mr. Trudeau’s promise to make committees more independent has also added to the dearth of female representation. There was criticism among opposition during the past government about having parliamentary secretaries, who are considered junior cabinet ministers, on their respective committees. The view was that the Harper government was using parliamentary secretaries to do the bidding of their minister, hijacking the committee’s independence.


Mr. Leslie said his government was “determined not to repeat that.”


And so, parliamentary secretaries are not on committees, giving Mr. Leslie even fewer female MPs to work with (the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, opposition leaders, and the Speaker are also not appointed to committees).


“Do we need more women in caucus? Absolutely,” Mr. Leslie said.


And not just in the Liberal caucus, but in the entire Commons, where there are a total of 88 female MPs and 250 male MPs; women account for 26 per cent of the 338 seats.


The Conservatives elected 99 MPs – 17 are women. They are allowed to appoint three MPs to each committee. The third-party NDP has 44 MPs, 18 of whom are women. They are allowed one MP on each committee.


“We made a decision to put women on key committees,” Ms. Mathyssen said. Her party purposely put women on the foreign affairs committee and also on international trade, given that the massive trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is one of the most important issues facing the Commons for the NDP.


Ms. Mathyssen suggested that women are more pragmatic and work harder than their male counterparts. “We go in prepared … We’ve always had to be very efficient in terms of time management because of all the things women do.”


For Ms. Damoff, being the only woman on the public safety committee was a surprise. She had asked to be on the infrastructure committee. “When I first got appointed, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m the only woman on here.’” she said. But she quickly realized she could play an important role.


“I do bring a different perspective,” she said. Recently, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appeared before her committee on issues around sexual harassment in the police force. She asked him what he was doing to promote women into leadership roles.


“The only way you change the culture in any organization, whether it is business or politics … is to have women in leadership roles,” she said about why she asked that question. “Not that men may not have thought of it. But it was just a different perspective I was bringing to the issue.”


Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc recognizes that there are too few women on committees, but says the Prime Minister made the commitment to put women in leadership roles in government. “One objective is to encourage more women to run for nominations and get elected to Parliament,” he said. “This would be a direct way to increase the number of women serving on committees of the House.”


Nancy Peckford of Equal Voice, the non-partisan organization advocating for more elected women, says it’s important to have gender parity in cabinet, but the trick now is not to be complacent and think that women have somehow won.


“What this points to is that you have a House that is only 26-per-cent women … so, really, it comes down to electing more women,” she said.


Link to original http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canada-has-more-women-in-cabinet-but-fewer-sit-on-commons-committees/article29093027/?

To get elected, first Patty Hajdu overcame her fear of fundraising (Globe and Mail)

Posted on Mar 03, 2016

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail. It was written by Jane Taber on March 3, 2016.



To get elected, first Patty Hajdu overcame her fear of fundraising

Women in Politics is a new regular column by veteran political journalist Jane Taber. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


As the head of a homeless shelter in Thunder Bay, Patty Hajdu worked in an environment that was volatile and violent.


A confident, intelligent woman, Ms. Hajdu said she learned not to be afraid, how to protect herself and keep her staff safe. And she loved every minute of it.


When it came to running for federal office last year, however, Ms. Hajdu was terrified to ask people in her community to back her political ambition, describing “an intense fear” of fundraising made especially onerous given that the long campaign meant candidates could raise as much as $200,000.


“I think there is probably a gender difference there,” Ms. Hajdu said in a recent interview. “I didn’t have trouble asking people to donate to the homeless shelter – that was always just fine. But to ask people to donate money so that I could win an election felt really awkward.”


The 49-year-old rookie politician, whose surname is pronounced “High-dew,” said she worked through her fear, finding three experienced fundraisers in her community who helped her.


Not only did she win her Thunder Bay-Superior North riding in the October election, Justin Trudeau appointed her Minister for the Status of Women.


She is no stranger to struggle.


As a youngster, she and her brother were sent from Montreal to Minnesota to live with her aunt and uncle because her mother could not care for them. She credits them with instilling in her the importance of an education.


Eight years later, her mom – who moved to Thunder Bay to be near her children – was back on her feet, with a job driving a school bus, and brought them back to Canada.


Ms. Hajdu did not have a relationship with her biological father.


As a single mother herself, Ms. Hajdu raised two sons as she studied at university. She and her sons’ father were not suited for each other, and were together for only about five years, she said.


She was the first person in her family to earn a university degree. “I always knew that education was going to be the game changer for me, and then … for my children,” she said. “Both my aunt and my mother are incredibly intelligent. They just didn’t have the opportunity for education for a whole bunch of reasons, probably mainly economic.”


Ms. Hajdu’s brother, who served in the military, died at the age of 34 of a congenital heart defect. He was homeless. “He really struggled,” she said. “He didn’t have a very good education. I think he had some learning disabilities and he just wasn’t able to ever settle.”


She tells her sons to “put one foot in front of the other.”


Clearly, they listened – one is studying journalism, and the other is a welder.


And Ms. Hajdu earned an MA in public administration, and became executive director of Shelter House Thunder Bay, a busy facility that employed 80 people.


But she was becoming frustrated with the lack of co-ordinated effort at the federal level in addressing issues around social housing, mental health and education. So, when a nurse practitioner she worked with, Tannice Fletcher-Stackhouse, urged her to run federally, Ms. Hajdu jumped in.


“She always gets stuff done. … She was a single mom and she raised two boys on her own, and grew up poor – that actually made her a stronger person,” Ms. Fletcher-Stackhouse said.


So far, this is what Ms. Hajdu has learned from her experience as a woman in politics: “I learned that there are very few of us.”


She said her portfolio involves a lot of work on gender-based analysis.


The Auditor-General has criticized governments for not following through on plans to study the different effects that policies, programs and laws have on women and men.


Politics, Ms. Hajdu said, is still a “rich man’s game,” and for women, the idea of raising the money to be involved is daunting. She said the party put a lot of emphasis on fundraising ability at candidate schools.


Grace Lore, a PhD candidate focusing on women in politics, agrees fundraising is an issue. “To the extent that women are making 77 or 81 cents on the dollar … then women have fewer of their own resources going into politics. But, there is more to it than that: Women often follow different career paths into politics.”


Ms. Lore points to Ms. Hajdu as an example. She came from the social-services sector, which does not pay huge salaries – she earned $85,000 a year.


“Not only is your income different, your networks are different,” she said. “You aren’t coming from business or law, and so the people you know don’t have the same amount of resources to support you.”


Link to original http://www.theglobeandmail.com//news/national/to-get-elected-first-patty-hajdu-overcame-her-fear-of-fundraising/article29026850/?cmpid=rss1&click=sf_globe?

Vancouver's female politicians reflect on their experiences leading up to International Women's Day (The Georgia Straight)

Posted on Mar 02, 2016

This article was originally published in The Georgia Straight. It was written by Charlie Smith and Carlito Pablo on March 2, 2016.


Vancouver's female politicians reflect on their experiences leading up to International Women's Day


Vancouver–Mount Pleasant NDP MLA Melanie Mark says her two daughters, Maya and Makayla, motivate her when the chips are down. AMANDA SIEBERT


When Melanie Mark delivered her maiden speech in the legislature as the new NDP MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, she spoke about some of the pioneers in B.C. political history.


She mentioned that Frank Calder was the first MLA of aboriginal descent and that Rosemary Brown was the first black female MLA. Mark also referred to Moe Sihota as the first MLA of South Asian descent, Jenny Kwan as the first of Chinese origin, Mable Elmore as the first of Philippine ancestry, and Jane Shin as the first Korean Canadian in the legislature.


Mark is of Nisga’a, Gitksan, Cree, Ojibwa, French, and Scottish heritage. Her late grandmother and mentor, Thelma Mark, attended St. Michael’s Residential School; the new MLA described that period as “the darkest days of her life”.


“In fact, my maternal grandparents couldn’t vote until they were 30 and 32 years old,” Mark said. “We have come a long way, given that indigenous communities were on the verge of extinction.”


In a bygone era, all the MLAs in the B.C. legislature were white males. In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Mark said she was motivated to run for office because there’s “not enough balance in the legislature”.


“I want to level the playing field by way of public policy,” she stated. “There’s lots of areas that I’m interested in and that I’m passionate about, but I’m going to do so under a human-rights framework. People have a right to safety. People have a right to housing. People have a right to access justice.”


Mark won the seat in a February 2 byelection, the same day that another female NDP candidate, Jodie Wickens, was elected in Coquitlam–Burke Mountain. It’s yet another reflection of a growing number of women in local, provincial, and federal politics.


Nowadays, the elected premiers of the three largest anglophone provinces, including B.C., are female. Fifty percent of federal cabinet ministers and more than 40 percent of provincial cabinet ministers are female. Half of Vancouver city councillors are women. Four of Vancouver’s six members of Parliament are women. In all, 45 percent of the city’s elected politicians at all levels are female.



Liberal MP Hedy Fry says it's easier to be a female politician today than when she was first elected in 1993.


So as we approach International Women’s Day on Tuesday (March 8), does this mean that women have finally achieved that elusive “equal voice”, which has been advocated for years by an organization of the same name?


The longest-serving female MP in Parliament, Liberal Hedy Fry, acknowledged to theStraight by phone that the situation has improved dramatically since she was first elected in Vancouver Centre in 1993. She praised that era’s prime minister, Jean Chrétien, for ensuring that women would run in winnable ridings and that 25 percent of his cabinet would be female.


Fry also credited female MPs elected in the 1990s for lowering financial barriers for women seeking nominations. This came from imposing a spending limit under the Election Act. And she lauded her current boss, Justin Trudeau, for mandating equal representation in cabinet.


“It takes about 33 percent to gain critical mass,” she said. “In our Parliament, we’ve reached that critical mass and we’ve reached a critical mass in cabinet.”


However, Fry maintained that women in politics are still judged by a “completely different yardstick”. According to her, women have to excel or else they’ll pay a high political price.


She also emphasized that although many women tend to work by consensus, she didn’t want to stereotype people by their gender. “I don’t want to say that all women are good or all women are perfect,” Fry said. “This is not true.…A lot of women, in order to become accepted, play by the old rules—and don’t get inside and change the rules.”


Vancouver Green school trustee Janet Fraser told the Straight by phone that she grew up in Britain when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.


According to Fraser, the Iron Lady didn’t do politics any differently than the men of her era. And the Vancouver trustee stated that she’s “not aware” of being treated any differently than male politicians would have been.


However, Fraser acknowledged that she’s “following in the footsteps of many pioneering women politicians who did face gender discrimination”. She noted that there’s a plaque celebrating the opening of an old elementary school in her area that identifies female trustees by their husbands’ first names.


“It always reminds me that…there’s been a lot of work to get to where we are now,” Fraser said.


Green school trustee Janet Fraser hasn't felt that she's been treated differently in politics because she's a woman.


Another local politician, NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball, told the Straight by phone that she still sees barriers for women who want to enter politics. For example, she said that neophyte female politicians encounter more difficulty when trying to raise money for their campaigns.


“Men don’t give to women, and women don’t give to women, by and large,” Ball said. “They give to male candidates, and so that is very difficult. So when you’re faced with a very small budget, you have to be extremely clever and careful so that you can get your message out to as many people as possible. And that requires more work.”


Ball also said it takes more time for women’s opinions to be valued at the same level as those of men, whether it’s in politics or on boards of directors. “I’ve noticed this, when I have served with all-women’s groups, that there’s much more opportunity, faster, to be able to be part of a group and affect a group and have your thoughts valued,” she stated.


In the Super Tuesday (March 1) U.S. primaries, Hillary Clinton extended her lead over Senator Bernie Sanders, making her the likely Democratic Party nominee for president. Ball argued that the former U.S. secretary of state isn’t judged by the same standards as her male counterparts.


“I mean, the things that people hold against Hillary Clinton are astounding to me when you compare them with the other candidates who can say any kind of awful thing about every other person in the world,” Ball said. “And yet, somehow, that doesn’t matter.”


NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball thinks Hillary Clinton isn't being judged by the same standards as her male counterparts.


Several female politicians interviewed by the Straight, including Ball, said there are more demands on women than men to appear fashionable and to look smart. Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer said that journalists still talk about politicians’ hair and clothes more than necessary. She pointed out that when it concerns Mayor Gregor Robertson, however, “it doesn’t diminish the way people think about him.”


Reimer received a tremendous response from women after posting an article on Facebook about things all females face at work. One universal reality was that women are interrupted more often. The article also stated that people take women’s ideas, either forgetting where they originated or “actively stealing them”. The article’s third point, Reimer noted, was that women are more likely to be subjected to patronizing explanations in the workplace.


“I always find it funny,” she said. “We’re all reading the same Internet…we’re getting information from the same places, so why do you think women need a slower, more patient explanation of something?”


Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer finds it amusing that some people think they always need to explain things to women.


One of the younger elected women in Vancouver, NPA park commissioner Erin Shum, told the Straight by phone that because she has a youthful appearance, she has to work “extra hard” to offset people’s perceptions.


“I do have a lot of experience, from owning my own small business to working with children with special needs with the school district as an educational support worker for children with autism,” Shum said.



NPA park commissioner Erin Shum says her youthful appearance can lead some people to underestimate her experience.


Fry, the dean of Vancouver’s political women, emphasized that the situation is far worse for female candidates in other countries. “I am very involved in gender issues in the Americas,” she said, “and women politicians are being killed. They’re being murdered. So women who want to go into politics in some parts of the world are taking their lives into their own hands to do so.”


Many of the women interviewed for this article cited important mentors, sometimes their parents and sometimes their kids. Mark said that she has been inspired by her grandmother, her mother, and two powerhouse women of aboriginal descent: Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the provincial representative for children and youth, and Cindy Blackstock, a Gitksan woman who spearheaded a Supreme Court of Canada victory on behalf of 150,000 indigenous children in Canada.


Mark also finds inspiration in her two daughters, 12-year-old Maya and five-year-old Makayla.


“They’re a big, big motivator,” she acknowledged. “They definitely give me the strength that I need when I feel like I’m tired and I’m feeling discouraged. We’ve just got to keep pushing so that their future looks brighter.”


Link to Original http://www.straight.com/news/648731/vancouvers-female-politicians-reflect-their-experiences-leading-international-womens-day


At Queen’s Park, Cheri DiNovo’s social activism is linked with her past (Globe and Mail)

Posted on Feb 25, 2016

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail. It was written by Jane Taber on February 25, 2016. 



At Queen’s Park, Cheri DiNovo’s social activism is linked with her past

Women in Politics is a new regular column by veteran political journalist Jane Taber. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


From the window of her well-appointed office at Queen’s Park, Cheri DiNovo can look out onto the park where she sometimes slept as a street kid in the 1960s.


She was 15, and had left the Victorian home her parents operated as a rooming house on Bedford Road in the Annex area of downtown Toronto. The neighbourhood was hardly as tony as it is now, and her home life, she says, was horrendous and rife with emotional abuse.


“I am definitely a survivor of trauma,” Ms. DiNovo, 65, said in a recent interview.


Hers is an incredible story – she has lived about three other lives since her days as a vulnerable girl on the street dealing drugs – and for nearly a decade, she has been at “the Park” as the New Democratic Party MPP for Parkdale-High Park.


Appropriately, her Italian surname means renewal or fresh start. Some who know her say she is fearless. She publicly called for federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to step down and take the blame for the party’s election defeat last year. “Really, like it or not, that result is going to stay with him and be part of his legacy. I don’t think he can recover from this.”


At Queen’s Park, she is just as outspoken, and is a patient champion of causes that resonate with her turbulent past. Ms. DiNovo refers to herself as “an old socialist.”


Along the way, she has become expert at attracting support from all parties to get legislation passed, including a higher minimum wage and changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code to protect transgendered people.


Most recently, her efforts to enable first responders – firefighters, paramedics and police – who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to qualify automatically for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits were rewarded with Liberal government legislation on the subject.


She started this in 2008, after a young female paramedic who was struggling with both PTSD and the WSIB, came to her office. She presented five private member’s bills before the government picked up on it. Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown pushed the government to adopt it, crediting Ms. DiNovo’s work.


Ms. DiNovo believes she suffered from PTSD. “A lot of the tumult of my teenage years was probably a direct result of the trauma I had experienced in my home life.”


Her mother’s marriages to her biological father and stepfather were extremely unhappy. There was a lot of screaming and chaos in the home. At age 12, she discovered the body of her stepfather, a Second World War veteran who had helped liberate Auschwitz, after he shot himself in the head.


“… Sleeping in the park was way calmer and safer than my home life,” she said.


She dropped out of high school, left home and never returned, hanging out in Yorkville, which was the epicentre of counterculture in the 1960s, and selling (and taking) drugs – primarily LSD – to feed herself and keep going.


LSD led to other drugs, and it was when she was in her late teens that she recalls walking along Bloor Street thinking she was about to pass out, realizing that she had not slept or eaten for three days.


Ms. DiNovo had hit bottom. “I thought: ‘Now I can’t keep doing this.’”


She enrolled in an adult equivalency program at a local college, and eventually graduated from York University. She ran a successful headhunting business, drove a Mercedes and lived in a 3,500-square-foot house with a swimming pool in Richmond Hill. She was married, and had two kids.


Her first husband was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1992.


Two other events in the early 1990s changed her life again. The recession hit her business hard, and the Iraq war ignited her social activism.


“When the first Iraq war happened and people in our wealthy neighbourhood were cheering as the bombs were dropping, I thought I was going to have to get involved,” she said.


She started going to church, decided to wrap up her business, and went back to university, earning an MA in theology and becoming a United Church minister, often preaching about her early years as a story of hope.


Like many women in politics, Ms. DiNovo was encouraged to get involved by another woman. Peggy Nash, who was the New Democrat MP in her riding, suggested she run in a by-election in 2006. She has been re-elected three times. (Ms. Nash was defeated in last year’s federal election.)


She is the NDP’s LGBTQ critic, another issue that resonates on a personal level. “I’m queer, too. I’ve always been bisexual … always been part of who I am.” She noted that for the past 17 years, she has been in a monogamous relationship with her second husband.


As tough as Ms. DiNovo is, she believes the world is tougher on today’s young women: “Our daughters are faced with not only precarious working conditions, but they are also faced with having to be perfect mothers, perfect spouses and perfect workers all at the same time.”


For her, politics is still a game for middle-aged and older men: “We are dealing with men of a certain generation in politics. … It’s difficult to teach new tricks. I think that is the simple reality of politics.”


But a lot of consciousness-raising has been done within political parties, she believes. “Wherever it happens, I think women are also enabled and emboldened now to confront it. But yeah, it happens.”


Link to original http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/at-queens-park-cheri-dinovos-social-activism-is-linked-with-her-past/article28921933/

Issues & Answers: Sheilagh O’Leary (NTV) (Video)

Posted on Feb 25, 2016

This Video was originally published on NTV. It was written by ntvwebeditor on February 28, 2016.


Sheilagh O’Leary discusses municipal issues after winning a by-election to become the new St. John’s city councillor in Ward 4.


Link to original and video http://ntv.ca/issues-answers-sheilagh-oleary/?