Former cabinet minister Judy Foote bids farewell to House of Commons
OTTAWA -- With tears in her eyes and her daughters and granddaughters watching from the gallery, MP Judy Foote bade farewell to the House of Commons on Thursday by urging more women to take up the challenges of politics.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal announced in August she would step down as MP to be with her family. She had been on a leave of absence from her Public Services and Procurement portfolio since spring.
The two-time breast cancer survivor earlier revealed that she inherited the cancer-causing BRCA2 gene.
"Getting my head around what having the gene could mean for my children, Carla, Jason and Heidi and their children, if they inherited it from me, was difficult and needless to say remains so, because unfortunately two of my three children did," she told the House.
She said that raised the spectre of genetic discrimination as she urged her fellow MPs to enshrine protection in the human rights act.
"No one should be discriminated against on the basis of their genetic characteristics."
Foote was first elected to the Commons in 2008 after 11 years as a member of the provincial legislature and eight years as a senior aide to then-premier Clyde Wells.
In her first job as MP, she was named a party whip, entering cabinet after Justin Trudeau's Liberals won power in 2015.
Before entering politics, she was a CBC broadcaster. She told the House that one of her most memorable stories was covering Terry Fox and his cancer-fighting Marathon of Hope.
Memories of Fox came pouring back years later, when she was first diagnosed with cancer, she said. He had told her how his thick thatch of dark curls grew back after chemotherapy and she took solace in that when she lost her own hair under treatment.
"As it grew back, I thought of Terry and his curls, but especially his positive attitude," she said, visibly fighting back tears throughout her speech.
Foote urged other women to get into politics.
"As a women who has spent 28 years in political life, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to encourage more women to get involved in what I consider an honourable profession," she said.
"It really is possible to make a difference in the lives of others, especially the most vulnerable."
Foote acknowledged that women can face discrimination in politics, but said they can face it.
"It takes a strong individual to stand up and fight back against bullying of any sort, especially if the bully is in a position of authority," she said.
"As I continue to encourage more women to get involved, I tell them of my positive experiences and that in my opinion there is no profession more rewarding."
Trudeau, who entered the House in the same election as Foote, praised her courage and fortitude.
"She is, and always will be, an example of resilience, passion and grace to us all."
The prime minister called her a dear friend.
"I'm going to sorely miss you having you by my side, but I know we all know that your family and friends need you by their side even more. I love you."
The two hugged as MPs rose in an ovation.