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The Female Fight: On and Off Campus

When Rona Ambrose, Minister for the Status of Women, rose in the House of Commons last week and voted yes on Motion 312 (a motion that proposed to create a Standing Committee to discuss when life begins), many heads both in and out of the House turned towards her with quizzical looks. Her choice of vote raises a lot of questions on the role of a female Member of Parliament voting on female related issues. Is the job of a female Minister to represent the values and wishes of her constituents, to represent the values and wishes of Canadian women or the values and wishes of herself?

Regardless of your personal position on abortion and when life begins, the question of the role of an MP or Minister regarding women’s moral issues is a difficult one to answer. As women, we want to be represented equally and fairly in the House of Commons and we wish for our voices and opinions to be heard and taken into account. However, we also place a certain level of trust in our elected representative and place faith in her to vote in a manner that best represents that trust.

As such, do we sit back and allow the Minister of the Status of women to vote “yes” on an issue that would directly infringe on the rights of women? On the other hand, do we fight back and defend our concerns? There has been an outward and loud backlash against the Minister’s vote. The majority of Canadian women are deeply frustrated that Minister Ambrose voted yes to re-open the abortion debate. However, the issue at hand is much larger than the abortion debate itself.

We cannot simply attack Minister Ambrose’s vote on the basis that we do not agree with it, since we are all entitled to our own opinions. Rather, we must debate the system we place our trust in for allowing MP’s to vote their conscience. Since the vote was not whipped, Ms. Ambrose had full rights to vote her conscience and not be punished or reap any consequences from her leader. Therefore, fighting the way in which she voted is fruitless – fighting the system that allowed her to vote in that manner might have some more merit.

The debate on women’s issues extends further than what is discussed in the House of Commons. Women
on campus at the University of Ottawa fight discrimination, health problems and gender related concerns on a daily basis. It is our job as students and members of the community to create a welcoming and open environment for these issues to be heard and discussed. If we allow topics such as abortion and the right of a woman to be debated in the House, we must allow female related issues to be discussed on campus. If you are interested in getting involved with the Women’s Resource Centre – an organization that seeks to promote women-friendly safe spaces, and offers feminist resource archive libraries and workshops – you can visit them on the 2nd floor of the UCU (room 220). If you would like to get involved with the University of Ottawa’s Students for Life, you can visit them at: http://ottawastudents4life.wordpress.com/.

While the abortion debate will come and go in the House, women’s issues will forever be debated and discussed on campus. While we must stand up for what we believe in, we must also be prudent that we are fighting the root of the cause.

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I am one of the co-editor-in-chiefs for Her Campus uOttawa. I am in my fourth year of economics and political science. I love to dance and eat chocolate. Check me out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.radtke Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElizabethRadtke Instagram: http://instagram.com/elizabethradtke Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/elizabethradtke/
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