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Looking Back on Last Semester: McGill’s Women in House Program

Advertised as a once in a lifetime opportunity, the Women in House Program did not disappoint, in fact it exceeded my expectations. Our day began with a morning panel of speakers, all with equally inspiring views. One of the things that I carried away from the panel, and will not soon forget, is Isabel Metcalfe’s encouraging exclamation that we all need to display sass.

From the morning panel, we were off to a tour of the centre block of parliament. Parliament at this time of year is absolutely magnificent; decorations were starting to go up – beautiful trees and lights. From our tour, we continued to observe Question Period in the House of Commons. It was incredibly interesting to say the very least, and much more dramatic than I expected.

From question period, our group made its way to the second panel of the day. This consisted of MPs Mylène Freeman, Susan Truppe, and Rathika Sitsabaiesan, as well as our first male panelist of the day, MP Irwin Cotler. It was a privilege to hear from such inspirational and passionate speakers.

The first evening, we attended a cocktail party graciously hosted by Senators Frum and Fraser. It was both a pleasure and a privilege to speak with them. Also in attendance was Senator Martin, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, who also happened to be one of the participant’s middle school teachers. As the senate is an appointed position, it was very interesting to see how each of these women got to where they are now. It was also great to meet staff for various MPs, one of whom was a very recent McGill alumni.

The next morning, I was to meet Mississauga South MP, Stella Ambler, in her office in the Justice building. I received my House of Commons Pass and was greeted enthusiastically by members of Mrs. Ambler’s staff, Liat and David. While waiting for Mrs. Ambler to arrive (she was in a committee meeting; her day had already started before I even got there at 9:30). I began reading a report on missing and murdered indigenous women. Not the lightest read for early in the morning, but eye opening nonetheless. When Mrs. Ambler entered the office the whirlwind began.

At first, when Mrs. Ambler was speaking to her staff, I hung back, not wanting to impose myself until Mrs. Ambler invited me in and told me to be her shadow. We hopped on the bus to the main block and ventured through the Lobby on the way to the first event of my day: a celebration in the Speaker’s chambers acknowledging award winning teachers and early childhood educators. Here’s a picture posted on her Facebook from the event:

After that, we were off to lunch with the Italian Ambassador, Gian Lorenzo Cornado. There were about eight people in attendance, including Mrs. Ambler, the ambassador, their colleagues and me. I was awed by the amount of topics in which they were all so well versed. After lunch, Mrs. Ambler and I stopped for photos in the rotunda. Here is the one she tweeted:

After this photo, I attended question period for the second time, this time prepared for what was to come. I then waited for Mrs. Ambler outside the Lobby among a crowd of journalists and security and some other Women in House participants. When Mrs. Ambler found me, we went on our way to the next meeting, where I met the Israeli Minister of Defense. We then headed to the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women, for which Mrs. Ambler is the Chair. Having remembered I had mentioned which riding I lived in first thing that morning, she introduced me to the MP for this riding, Mississauga-Erindale MP, Bob Dechert. My day with Mrs. Ambler ended after this meeting, a whirlwind 10 and a half hours after it had started.

The ‘once in a lifetime’ hype surrounding this opportunity is not just hype. It was wonderful to have 38 McGill women in the House as a group together the first day, and when our paths crossed the next, it brought a sense of familiarity and an abstract sense of belonging to a new place. The trip is also worth it for all the wonderful people you get to meet while in Ottawa. Indeed, everyone I met on this trip was inspiring and passionate. Being able to listen to them speak on panels or at our cocktail party the first day and throughout the next was truly enlightening. It is also amazing to have the chance to get paired with an MP. This coupling is exciting in that each experience – like each MPs’ day – is different. I am so very grateful for the day I spent with Mrs. Ambler.

For me, this trip was inspiring, motivating and truly humbling. Getting to see what goes on in Parliament from the perspective of a shadow allowed me to appreciate the thoughtfulness and preparation required to be a Member of Parliament. I am astounded by the amount of work each and every one of these people puts into bettering our country everyday. Everyone’s story of how they got to their position was unique. Some, like Mrs. Ambler, always knew they wanted to be involved in politics. Others started out as journalists, educators or lawyers and then moved into public life. Personally, this is somewhere I would like to see myself in the future. At this point, I’m not sure at what point in my life, or in what capacity, but I am forever grateful to the Women In House program for this new experience and perspective. I cannot recommend this program enough.

Photos retrieved from: https://twitter.com/womeninhousehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Stella-Ambler/135858743139392https://twitter.com/StellaAmblerMP/status/403596809970253824/photo/1

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