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SHEPHERD: Daughters of the Vote – An embarrassment to young women

We young women are not all so intolerant of a diversity of ideas, and we don’t need decompression spaces and 24/7 support services to be able to participate in public life.

Daughters of the Vote (DoV), a biennial program that invites 338 young women – one from each federal riding – to Ottawa to get a insider’s look at political life in Canada, made the news this month when some of the delegates protested both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Approximately 40 delegates turned their backs to Trudeau during his speech in the House of Commons on April 3rd over his decision to eject Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus over the SNC-Lavalin scandal. About a dozen delegates also walked out during Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s speech because he has “not been willing to condemn” Islamophobic rhetoric.

DoV is organized by Equal Voice, a multi-partisan non-profit organization that seeks to get more women elected to office in all levels of government. Largely funded by Status of Women Canada, DoV pays for all travel, accommodation, and meal expenses of the 338 delegates.

To participate in the program, all delegates had to complete anti-oppression and anti-racism training and sign a code of conduct with an indigenous land acknowledgment that ordered delegates to “create spaces and avenues for which First Nation, Inuit, and Metis peoples may thrive and feel safe.”

The delegates were also given literature on how to recite a territorial acknowledgment – literature which asked the delegates to reflect on what intentions they have to “disrupt and dismantle colonialism” beyond their acknowledgement.

Right from the get-go, ideological conformity is established. By being required to sign this contract, young women in particular are being targeted and groomed to serve a social and political agenda.

It also seems as if DoV wants to encourage women to be dependent on social supports, or assumes that women need an array of services in order to be able to function.

For the duration of the program, DoV provided the young women with access to a full-time equity coordinator, a full-time indigenous coordinator, support workers onsite 24/7, indigenous elders onsite 24/7, a “decompression room”, a prayer room, and an indigenous forum, among other services.

If some sort of equivalent “Sons of the Vote” program existed, would the male young adults also need all of these services? Do young women really require a plethora of “support services” to participate in political life? How sad.

On April 3rd, the 338 young women sat in the seats of their respective MP in the House of Commons, and thirty women were given the chance to stand up and address the chamber with a brief speech. The leaders of all of the major political parties also addressed the young women, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech was followed by a Q&A session. The sitting was livestreamed on CPAC.

At least five indigenous land acknowledgments were heard throughout the sitting, at least three women cried, and there were countless nods to systematic racism, colonial institutions, oppression, and marginalization.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May thanked the indigenous nations of “Turtle Island” for their “hospitality and generosity”, marked herself as a “cisgender woman, pronouns she and her”, and sang a “Woman Warrior” song of the Musqueam peoples. During the Q&A session with Trudeau, one delegate asked him if there would be “consequences” for the leader of the Conservative party, Andrew Scheer, for “taking pictures with Faith Goldy.”

I can’t imagine what she means by “consequences.”

The same delegate also called for “white nationalists” to be banned from “meeting in online spaces” and travelling internationally, to raucous applause by her peers.

Behind the scenes accounts of the program proved to be even wackier.

DoV delegate for West Nova and Conservative nomination candidate Hannah Dawson-Murphy made a public video statement that has now been viewed over 35,000 times where she recounts her experience with the program. Dawson-Murphy reports that once the DoV delegates found out she and her friends identified as conservatives, “they would call me white woman, they would call me racist and fascist, they would call us colonizers…One girl told me that my cross necklace that I always wear was offensive to her and that the next time that she saw me she might do something about it.”

Another six women went to the media claiming that their experience at DoV “left them feeling unsafe, unacknowledged and traumatized”, and that they had spent much of the four-day event hiding and crying in their Ottawa hotel room. They also claimed the presence of Senator Linda Frum and Conservative MP Kellie Leitch made them “uncomfortable” because of the alleged “anti-immigrant” sentiments they’ve expressed.

On their last night together, the six girls, “along with many others, sat in a room for six hours and cried over their experience.”

Some of the indigenous delegates had also “set up a safe space where they could smudge and participate in a sharing circle because they were upset about Wilson-Raybould and Philpott’s ejection” from Liberal caucus.

There are still many people out there who believe women are too emotional for political office, and therefore unfit to run. I fear that the performative hysterics of the Daughters of the Vote will make more people take this position. Many of the Daughters – let’s presume the majority – were composed and gracious. But the loudest ones were engaged in histrionics that make me embarrassed for my gender.

We young women are not all so intolerant of a diversity of ideas, and we don’t need decompression spaces and 24/7 support services to be able to participate in public life.

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