Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell clears the way for more women in politics with an inspiring speech in the House of Commons

We will not fill all the seats. we’ll share Women do that’: On International Women’s Day, Kim Campbell returned to the House of Commons for the first time since 1993

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OTTAWA — The last time Kim Campbell was in the House of Commons was June 16, 1993, a week before she was sworn in as Canada’s first female prime minister.

He stood up that day to reflect on the historic milestone he had marked in Canadian politics when he won the leadership of the ruling Progressive Conservatives. In his speechCampbell looked back to acknowledge and thank the female trailblazers and male facilitators who had helped clear her path.

The House adjourned that afternoon and by the end of the summer the country was on an election campaign and, well, everyone knows how that turned out for Campbell and the Progressive Conservatives. She would never sit in the House of Commons as Prime Minister.

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But on Wednesday morning, to mark International Women’s Day, Campbell returned to the House of Commons for the first time since that summer day in 1993, and this time she came as a trailblazer, with an inspiring speech that hoped one day. that having a female prime minister would not be such a strange and remarkable thing.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickKim Campbell, Canada's 19th Prime Minister, addresses the Daughters of the Vote (DOV) event, organized by Equal Voice Canada, taking place in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 8. March , 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick ORG SEND: SKP106
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickKim Campbell, Canada’s 19th Prime Minister, addresses the Daughters of the Vote (DOV) event, organized by Equal Voice Canada, taking place in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 8. March , 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick ORG SEND: SKP106

The House of Commons is normally empty on Wednesday mornings, but this Wednesday it was full, every seat filled by a young woman, an aspiring politician from each of the country’s 338 constituencies. They had come to Ottawa as part of the “daughters of the vow”, program, an initiative of the group voice equalitythat works to encourage, support and remove barriers to women who want to run for any political office.

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“It’s a glorious sight to see you all here,” Campbell began. “It is very moving and I know that in the years to come, this vision of young women taking the seats will become more and more natural. We will make room for our male colleagues. We will not take all the seats. we will share. Women do that. But this is a remarkable sight and very moving for anyone who has served in this chamber.”

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made sure to fill his cabinet with equal numbers of men and women, achieving gender parity in the legislature is more difficult. And while all parties now, to one degree or another, have programs to encourage women to seek nominations and run for public office, only one in four MPs are women in the current House of Commons, roughly the same proportion as after the 2011 elections. and only slightly better than the 22 per cent after the 2008 elections who were women parliamentarians.

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As Trudeau himself said when addressing the “Daughters of the Vow” group in the House of Commons, “We have a lot of work to do.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

In her speech, Campbell reflected on the gender achievements, large and small, achieved since her time.

“I am doing something right now that I never did when I sat in the House of Commons. I’m wearing a pantsuit,” she said. And indeed it was. was black

“It may surprise you to learn that when I was a Member of Parliament twenty years ago, a ‘business dress’ is the dress you are supposed to wear and women never wore trousers in the House of Commons. We can thank people like Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, whose uniform is a jacket and pants, people who have regularized and normalized jackets and pants for women in politics and women political leaders.”

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He also touched on a debate that has yet to be fully resolved for current MPs: making the House of Commons a “family-friendly” workplace. MPs in the current Parliament have already considered, for example, cutting the parliamentary working week by one day so that MPs have an extra day to travel with their families and constituents. Other ideas have been discussed but, at least so far, MPs have yet to act on them.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Still, as Campbell pointed out, changes made since his day, for example eliminating night votes, make it more likely that more women will show up.

“It’s not just women who want a healthier life. Men also want to return home to their families. The civilizing quality of life in the House of Commons benefits everyone,” Campbell said. “It’s not something just for women, but women are more likely to speak up and say, ‘Why are we doing this? This is ridiculous.”

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Campbell closed her speech with a story of how bureaucrats fought for her French title when she became prime minister. All the others who had held the post were the first Minister — the masculine version of the English noun ‘prime minister’. In France, they stick to the masculine regardless of the gender of the person holding the position. So, in Paris, the ministers are greeted with: “hello minister.” But in Canada, we would go a different way, at the insistence, Campbell said, of her French teacher and she would be known as the first Ministerthe feminine form of prime minister.

“So we printed stationery and at the top of that stationery it said Prime Minister / Prime Minister. Now, I wasn’t in office very long, so I couldn’t use all the stationery. And I think somewhere in the Langevin Block (the building that houses the prime minister’s office), maybe in an old stationery cupboard, there is a stationery box waiting for someone.” On all sides of the House, the young women began to clap. “I hope some of you use it.”

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