Breaking down barriers to political participation

A Thompson woman is one of 338 young women from each of Canada’s federal constituencies who will be in Ottawa March 7-8 as a participant in Daughters of the Vote, an initiative organized by Equal Voice Canada to celebrate a century of some women having the right to vote in Canada and to encourage more women to get involved in politics.

Brielle Beardy-Linklater will represent the Northern Manitoba riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski in the House of Commons in Ottawa, a city she is familiar with, having lived there while working for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton.

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Beardy-Linklater says she is unique in a number of ways among the participants, all between the ages of 18 and 23, taking part in this event. 

“I am actually one of the very few of the 338 women who has never pursued any post-secondary [education] but definitely wanted to bring my unique perspective in that I have a lot of working experience from volunteering in Thompson and throughout the north,” she says. “I’ve travelled to different communities and have given different speeches and workshops and that’s stuff that I know so I definitely know that I am an advocate and that I’m perfectly capable one day of actually being a politician.”

As a transgender indigenous woman who has experienced poverty and had her personal life affected by addiction, Beardy-Linklater represents a number of groups that aren’t always reflected by the demographics of Canada’s politicians. 

“I actually had to put off graduating [from high school] a few years because I had to fight for a roof over my head so I was constantly working and bouncing couch to couch to try to survive and eventually did it,” Beardy-Linklater says. “My whole spiel is seeing somebody from a lot different background, someone who wasn’t raised in a middle-class family, who did struggle in school, who did grow up around poverty and addiction. Those things were kind of prevalent in my upbringing so I want women from those backgrounds to feel that they have a chance at one day representing their community in politics.”

There are currently no open transgender women in Canadian politics, says Beardy-Linklater, who is starting studies in political science this fall at the University of Manitoba and has future hopes of changing that situation if nobody else beats her to it.

“If I worked to get elected to any level of government I would be breaking history, Canadian history, so that’s one thing that I’m looking to do is making history,” she says, noting that she has future ambitions to run for MLA of her hometown once her post-secondary studies are finished.

Beardy-Linklater says she’s always been interested in using whatever power she has to make her community a better place, having been involved with the Youth Aboriginal Council while she was attending R.D. Parker Collegiate and now serving as a member of the YWCA board of directors.

“I’ve always wanted to kind of make change in whatever way that I can,” says Beardy-Linklater, who has also been involved in organizing Pride events in Thompson over the past four years. “ I have a lot of experience as just helping out in my community and being very recognized and being vocal on issues that impact people here

In Canada, only 26 per cent of elected Members of Parliament are women and their representation in provincial and territorial legislatures ranges from nine to 37 per cent.

“It’s important for people to be represented fairly and having more women would bring such a different approach because I feel like, looking back at our history with men in politics, that it was a lot rougher times and as time progressed our politics became a little more progressive.”

While women are often more reluctant than men to enter politics because they may take things like childcare responsibilities and their greater likelihood of facing online harassment into account before making the plunge, Beardy-Linklater says the only way to change things is by getting involved.

“It’s just time for women to start being part of the change,” she says. “We’ve always seen men from the beginning of time being our leaders so we need to start encouraging women to do that, too. It’s all about challenging the gender norms that we know. We’re growing as a society where things are changing drastically and I think our politics need to change as well.”

Beardy-Linklater knows one of the other participants in the Daughters of the Vote event - Carly McLellan, a University of Manitoba student who is representing the Winnipeg riding of St. Boniface.

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