A Day Spent Shadowing the Prime Minister: An Interview with Breanne Lavallée-Heckert

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shares his office with Breanne Lavallée-Heckert, 23, on Oct. 5 as part of Plan International Canada’s #GirlsBelongHere initiative, which celebrates girls in positions of leadership and power leading up to International Day of the Girl. 

Breanne Lavallee-Heckert is a second-year law student at McGill with an undergraduate degree in human rights. What most people know about her is that she was at Parliament Hill last month to hang out with the Prime Minister in his office for a day, but here are some things you probably didn’t know about her.

Catherine Ke for HC McGill (HC McGill): I’m going to give you a lightning round of “tell me about yourself questions” to keep it interesting… What’s your favourite food?

Breanne Lavallee-Heckert (BL): Mmm… Probably stir fry.

HC McGill: How about hobbies?

BL: Um... With school and everything there’s not really time for hobbies, but shopping online?

HC McGill: Haha, that counts for sure. Are you involved in any clubs or organizations?

BL: Well, I’m involved with Plan International Canada and Plan for Change Youth Advisory Council. I’m also a member of the Plan International Global Youth Advisory Panel, and I also volunteer with Pro Bono Students Canada, and I’m working with an organization called LEAF, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Breanne Lavallée-Heckert, 23, to Parliament Hill on Oct. 5 as part of Plan International Canada’s #GirlsBelongHere initiative, which illustrates every girl’s right to pursue her dreams and fulfil her potential. 

HC McGill: Any guilty pleasures?

BL: I really like Nickelback, that’s probably my guilty pleasure.

HC McGill: What’s one item in your wardrobe that you can’t live without?

BL: I actually just got this cape, poncho type thing, and it’s very Veronica Lodge-ish and I’m really into it, and now I feel like I wasn’t really living until I bought it. It’s like wearing a blanket, it’s great.

HC McGill: If you could tell your freshman-self one thing, what would it be?

BL: Probably that it’s all going to be okay, that it’ll all work out.

HC McGill: Being a current McGill student, what’s your favourite thing about McGill or Montreal?

BL: I really love the people that I’ve gotten to know, my classmates, they’re just amazing human beings. My favourite thing about Montreal, um, I really like having a metro, because in Winnipeg there is no subway system, so this is kind of like a novelty, I still get a little bit excited every day when I get to take the metro.

HC McGill: What would a typical day look like for you?

BL: Usually I’m up around 5:30, just reading, and then I go to school, do more reading, um, come home, feed my cat, have dinner, and then yeah, that’s a pretty typical day. I like getting up early and having a good start.

HC McGill: What’s something you’ve done that you’re the proudest of?

BL: I think I’ve really been good at remembering why I do the work that I do, and so I think the fact that I’m always able to remember that at the end of the day. I just really like kids, and I think that no boys and girls share the same opportunities, not just in Canada but all across of the world. I think that I’m proud of being able to stay grounded in that.

HC McGill: When did you start getting involved in clubs and fighting for women’s rights?

BL: I started volunteering with Plan when I was in Grade 10, so it’s been quite a few years.

HC McGill: What processes did you have to go through to get to the Prime Minister’s office? Can you just briefly run me through it?

BL: Yeah, for sure. This is the second year that Plan International Canada have had their event Girls Belong Here for International Day of the Girl. As part of the day, 18 girls across Canada stepped into the job they had always dreamed of doing growing up. I applied for it this year and was lucky enough to be selected to step into the role of the Prime Minister. I tweeted at him, he tweeted back, and then the plan was set into motion.

 

 

HC McGill: That's absolutely insane. What was your favourite part of the day with the Prime Minister?

BL: I was able to have like 45 minutes to just kind of get to know him, and it was really cool to be in a casual atmosphere with the Prime Minister and be able to talk about going to school and things like that. Just those moments that I don’t think many Canadians are lucky enough to experience.

HC McGill: He’s an alumnus, right?

BL: Yeah, we talked about McGill a little bit too.

HC McGill: What has your journey in activism taught you?

BL: Well, two parts. I think that one, it’s taught me that there are countless women who have gone before me and have paved the way for me to be able to be in a position where I can fight for rights, and I can be part of something that is much bigger than myself. And you know, being very grateful to those women. But then also recognizing that I have a responsibility to girls. Women were never really given rights, they had fought for their rights. I’d always remember that just as easy as it is to pass a law, it’s also too easy to strip someone of their rights. I remember that rights are fragile. It’s responsibility and also recognizing that it’s not just my fight, it’s not just recently, it’s been countless years that women had been working to make a better future for girls and women.

HC McGill: What advice would you give to young collegiates who are taking initiative in something they’re passionate about?

BL: I think to remember that you’re only as good as your team and that nobody changes the world on their own - and to have fun. If it’s not something that you’re passionate about, if it’s not something that you enjoy, you’re not going to be inspired to keep doing it. Even though there are challenges, and things can get frustrating, and the issues are very real, it’s still important to take time to laugh with your colleagues and embrace life.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau celebrates Plan International Canada's #GirlsBelongHere initiative in recognition of International Day of the Girl alongside #GirlsBelongHere participant Breanne Lavallée-Heckert and Plan International Canada President and CEO, Caroline Riseboro. 

HC McGill: Is there a quote you live by or some kind of inspiration in life?

BL: You know those canvas-like things with really cheesy quotes on them that people put in their houses? I have one of those. And it says: “Anything less than mad passionate love is a waste of time, there are too many mediocre things in life and love shouldn’t be one of them.” And I’ve always kind of followed it, whether it’s in a romantic relationship or in friendships or pursuing a career. I’m not going to do something unless I’m mad and passionate and about it.

HC McGill: That’s amazing. We’re getting near the end here, is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

BL: I would just say to go out and do it, take up space. Don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble because I think when girls and women, and boys as well, when we do things like whether it’s hanging out with the Prime Minister for a day or you know, get involved with a club, everything matters. So keep going and remember you’re not alone when you’re doing it.

                                                                                                               

 

 

Images Obtained from Interviewee and Sources Listed Below:

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Photo Credit: James McDonald & Adam Scott