One activist on her decision to shun Trudeau: ‘A refusal to sit idle’

Riley Yesno: Why absence and silence was so powerful at Daughters of the Vote


Trudeau looks to the audience for a question following his speech to Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday April 3, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

“Your seat is your power. By giving up your seat you’re giving up your power”.

That’s what Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, told me and the other two dozen or so delegates from Daughters of the Vote, who protested in the House of Commons by walking out on Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and turning our backs on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on April 3.

Run by the non-profit organization Equal Voice Canada, the Daughters of the Vote program is an initiative that brings together 338 women, gender-fluid and non-binary folk—one from every federal riding in Canada—to engage with women in politics, sit and speak in the House of Commons, and provide a platform for young leaders to have their voices amplified.

Although many of my fellow delegates and I didn’t say a word during our protests earlier this week, I think our messages were certainly heard.

The peaceful action attracted unanticipated media attention as reporters and journalists swarmed many of my colleagues following our exit from the House. The main question they wanted answered: Why?

Read more: The fall of the feminist Prime Minister

While I cannot speak on behalf of any of my peer’s individual motives, I know that some said they were prompted, at least in part, by the ejection of former ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus.Others said they protested in response to the policies, programs, and beliefs held by  Scheer and  Trudeau that have violent implications for their communities; such as Scheer’s anti-2SLGBTQ+ stances on marriage equality, or the Trudeau government’s sale of weaponry to countries like Saudi Arabia and large-scale environmental offences for example. Several people simply saw others taking action, and knew that this was a time to enact meaningful allyship and show solidarity. MORE

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Canada can’t rely on luck to protect northern waters

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Tanker Jana Degagnes under tow by the Canadian Coast Guard on March 22, 2019 after breakdown in the Cabot Strait. Photo from the Canadian Coast Guard
Last week marked the thirtieth anniversary of the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill. As director of the largest, local conservation group in Alaska back then, my life was immediately overtaken by trying to compel response to the spill, manage clean-up of oiled marine life, and search for long term policy fixes.

Typically, this anniversary is a time when I reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go to protect the safety of our seas and mariners, especially in northern waters.

But, instead I was transfixed by a narrowly averted disaster as the disabled Viking Sky cruise ship rolled in heavy seas off the coast of Norway. With over 1,300 passengers and crew at risk, a dramatic rescue was launched, lifting close to five hundred passengers one-by-one from the foundering ship to a helicopter battling strong winds. Nine crew members of a nearby cargo ship also had to be plucked from the sea when they were forced to abandon ship in the extreme conditions.

At the same time last week, the Canadian Coast Guard had to dispatch two icebreakers to assist a tanker loaded with 8,000 tons of oil products. The tanker had lost its steering after its rudder was damaged by heavy ice in Cabot Strait off the southwest coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In both cases passengers and the marine environment got lucky. Response equipment was in the area. No one killed, no fuel spilled.

But with Arctic ship traffic on the increase, we can’t afford to rely on luck. MORE