King's student attends national Daughters of the Vote conference in Ottawa
March 31, 2021
By Kellie McCarney, Communications Intern
Mackenzie White, a fourth-year student completing a Double Major in Political Science and Social Justice and Peace Studies, represented King’s at the Daughters of the Vote 2021 virtual conference.
Daughters of the Vote is a four-day conference hosted by Equal Voice that typically takes place at the House of Commons in Ottawa. The conference began in 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of some women being granted the right to vote in Canada. Held every two years, this was the first time that the conference was completely virtual rather than taking place in Ottawa. The idea is to invite 388 young women to the House of Commons to represent each riding in Canada. The participants are given the opportunity to voice issues, network, and see what life is like on Parliament Hill.
“Although I began my studies at King’s not really interested in House and party politics, my whole perspective was changed when I volunteered on the campaign of London-North MP Peter Fragiskatos, ’04 in 2019. It was an aspect of experiential learning for a Political Science course called ‘Campaign School’ with Dr. Kate Graham at King’s,” says White.
She first heard about Daughters of the Vote in 2019 from upper year students in her experiential learning class who had previously participated in the conference. Seeing this, White also applied in 2019 but was not accepted. She persevered and applied again, and was accepted for the 2021 virtual conference.
White wanted to participate in this conference because of the platform, and looked forward to networking with Members of Parliament, MPPs and Municipal political leaders, campaign managers, Indigenous Elders, journalists, and official leaders while spending time with like-minded women.
Some of the positive experiences that stand out to White from the conference include being an Expert Witness for the House of Commons Sub-Committee for Canada’s Role on the Support of International Democratic Development (FAAE), participating in breakout sessions with various female delegates from all over Canada, and virtually meeting with MP Jodie Wilson-Raybould, 19th Prime Minister Kim Campbell, and all current Federal Party Leaders. She also met with current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
White describes the conference as an exceptional experience and is looking forward to taking a much more active role in a campaign for the next federal election. Although she wasn’t sure beforehand, she can confidently say that she plans on running as a candidate for a Seat in the House one day.
“From this experience, I learned a lot more about who I am, who I want to be, and how I will make a difference in the world. I laughed, cried, reflected, debated, and listened,” reflects White. “I listened to both officials with a platform, and marginalized voices who had the chance to be heard for the first time. It was incredible, overwhelming, and inspiring to participate. This event has become a huge platform for me in terms of skills and knowledge learned, advocacy heard, change demanded, and opportunities to come.”
However, White says she also experienced and witnessed challenges due to virtual connections. She says she witnessed instances of cyberbullying and discrimination within unofficial group chats and an official chat on the software used for the conference.
“This was a particularly emotional and frustrating pitfall, as multiple Indigenous delegates were disproportionally discriminated against by having their questions to panelists ignored or filtered due to the content and verbally harassed by some delegates online,” says White about the negative aspect of holding a virtual conference. “Some of these experiences would not have been able to occur or may have been handled differently if we were in person at the House of Commons.”
White says these experiences have further driven to her work for change in Canada and to learn how to stand up with courage for equality for all people.