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Recognizing 100 Years of Trailblazing Women in Politics at the Shaw Centre

Women Talking on Stage

Published on December 17, 2021

The Shaw Centre was pleased to host Equal Voice, an organization that advocates and supports women and gender diverse candidates at all levels of political office. Their 2021 event celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first women being elected to The House of Commons. With the Shaw Centre’s proximity to Parliament Hill it was only suiting to host Equal Voice at our facility. We welcomed over 700 people to the centre into our Canada Hall, Parliament Foyer, and Trillium Ballroom.

Their goals are to equip women to prepare them for the political landscape by providing networking, skills-building, and mentorship opportunities. As well as advocating for more representation and retaining women in politics.

The day was filled with heartfelt conversations that recognized women MP’s over the last 100 years. On December 6th, 1921, Agnes Macphail was elected as the first woman to the House of Commons. Equal Voice celebrated this milestone on the same day 100 years later with the many women over the last century who have made tremendous strides in closing the gender gap and creating a better and more inclusive Canada. After the 2021 federal election, there was the highest proportion of women MPs to date. However, it is still only 30%, and women with intersectional identities, including women of colour, Indigenous women, 2S, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities, are still under-represented. Progress is being made; however, there is ample room for improvement.

five women speakers on stage

Over the course of the event, women who made impactful efforts in parliament joined the stage to speak to their experience. The roaster of women was impressive, including:

  • The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, 19thPrime Minister of Canada
  • The Honourable Jean Augustine, the first African-American woman elected to Parliament
  • The Honourable Eleni Bakopanos, the first Greek-born woman MP
  • Nancy Karetak-Lindell, the first Inuk woman elected to Federal Parliament
  • Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac, the first Vietnamese-Canadian woman MP
  • Rechie Valdez, M.P.,the first Filipino-Canadian woman elected
  • Salma Zahid, M.P., the first woman MP to wear a hijab in the House of Commons
  • Laurin Liu, the youngest woman ever elected to Parliament at age 21.

Many of the panel discussions spoke to injustices they faced and how they overcame these unjust experiences. The room was filled with an audience of all ages, colours, and ethnicities and were encouraged to always believe in themself and keep fighting for equality over the next century and beyond.

Rechie Valdez

“I think it’s great that there’s so much interest, I’m just sorry that in celebrating the centenary that we aren’t celebrating gender parody in the house of commons that would make it an even more delightful occasion, but it is important to recognize those who changed people’s expectations of who got to do the job of being a member of parliament.”

– The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, 19thPrime Minister of Canada

The panel discussions concluded with Toronto-based recording artist Aqyila who performed her famous song, “Vibe for Me.” Which she first recorded on her laptop in November of 2020 and posted on social media. The track was discovered worldwide when Monica, a famous R&B artist from the late ‘90s and, Lizzo, an American singer, rapper, songwriter, and flutist, took a particular interest, and used the song in their own social media accounts. The song has over 3.2 million videos posted on TikTok using her song to date. Agyila’s success has led to a record deal with Sony Music Canada, and you can find her music on Spotify, which has been streamed over 8 million times.

While attendees broke from the chat, our Parliament Foyer was filled with prelit columns that described women’s history in politics. With parliament literally in the background, this couldn’t have been a more perfect setting to keep learning and educating the audience between chats.

Later in the evening featured a VIP reception which welcomed many of Ottawa’s political elite, including party leaders, the honourable Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole, Jagmeet Singh and Dr. Amita Kuttner, who all gave several remarks to kick off the gala.

conference attendees eating at round tables

The evening’s gala of 700 plus was held in our 6,000 sq ft Canada Hall. Attendees enjoyed a three-course meal while listening and learning from a series of speakers such as The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, 19th Prime Minister of Canada, and Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

Delegates left the evening event filled with inspiration and ready to continue the progress that has been made to close the gender gap and create a better and more inclusive Canada. The Shaw Centre was honoured to be a part of this event which will be remembered and spoken about for years to come.