Daughters of the Vote attendees slam PM over Wilson-Raybould's ouster
As hundreds of young women descended on Parliament Hill Wednesday to fill all 338 seats in the House of Commons, many came bearing a message: that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ejection of Jody Wilson-Raybould from caucus was a blow to Indigenous people.
The young women gathered for an event called "Daughters of the Vote," which fills each federal seat in the House of Commons with an emerging young woman leader. However, the specter hanging over the event was Trudeau's decision to boot former cabinet ministers Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from caucus Tuesday after they spoke out against the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
When Trudeau spoke in the House, at least 47 women -- some of whom were dressed in traditional Indigenous clothing -- stood with their backs to the prime minister in an act of protest. When speaking to reporters after the event, the young women said they were protesting Trudeau's track record with Indigenous peoples, as well as his treatment of Wilson-Raybould.
"To see an Indigenous woman expelled from a high position of power speaks volumes, not only to us but to all of the other Indigenous youth across this country," Riley Yesno, a 19-year-old participant from Eabametoong First Nation, said.
"It was like a microcosm of the history of Canada, with white men telling Indigenous women where they can and cannot be and exercising their power and their privilege over top of that."
Yesno wasn't alone in feeling this way. Megan Metz, a young woman from the Haisla Nation in British Columbia, had met Wilson-Raybould on Monday as a part of one of the Daughters of the Vote events.
"It was really awesome to see someone that looked like me -- that had regalia on, that also had traditional bracelets. It was really cool to see her and it was just very empowering," Metz said.
The next day, Metz heard about Wilson-Raybould's ejection from caucus.
"I was really upset. I was overwhelmed…to go from such a high of meeting her one day to seeing her be kicked right out from that position kind of made it feel like maybe we don't have a place," Metz said, her voice shaking.
For Georgina Johnston, a young Indigenous attendee of Daughters of the Vote, the decision to turn her back on the prime minister made sense.
"I think a lot of people were really angry with the government yesterday and this was a good way of demonstrating that anger," Johnston said.
Johnston also criticized Trudeau's feminism.
"He claims to be a feminist, but I think that feminism has to be intersectional, so it has to be with women of all races, of all classes. So by excluding Indigenous women from politics, it’s countering his claim to feminism," she said.
However, Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef said she thought the decision to protest showed a lack of respect. Some of the participants walked out of the House of Commons during Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's speech, while even more took part in standing with their backs to the prime minister.
"I don't believe that's respectful," she said.
Daughters of the Vote participants weren’t the only individuals to state that Wilson-Raybould's caucus ejection registered as a slight against Indigenous peoples. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, issued a statement Tuesday saying he was "disgusted" by the decision.
Judy Wilson, also of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, doubled down on Phillip’s assertion.
"The government of Canada has hit yet another low in its treatment of Indigenous peoples today," she said. "Justin Trudeau’s ministerial mandate letters all claim that 'no relationship is more important to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples.' This couldn’t be further from the truth."
Speaking to the Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons, however, Trudeau insisted the government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples remains a priority.
"This is an issue that is probably one of the most important for this government, the issue of reconciliation," Trudeau said. "We have taken significant steps in trying to get Canada back on the right path."
He pointed to the boil water advisories that have been lifted, investments in housing and new schools that have been opened as evidence of this commitment.
As for Wilson-Raybould, she says she's been "blessed" with the feedback she's been getting from Indigenous leaders across the country.
"I'm very grateful for that, not just with Indigenous leaders but Canadians generally," she said.