Mi’kmaq woman sees importance of fight for ethnic and gender equality


Published on March 11, 2017

Bethany Bernier of St. George’s is seen sitting in MP Gudrid Hutchings seat in Parliament as part of Daughters of the Vote activities in Ottawa this week.

©Submitted photo

Fighting for ethnic and gender equality is important to Bethany Bernier, who is spending this week in Ottawa.

The 20-year-old St. George’s woman, a third-year psychology student at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, is representing not only the federal riding of Long Range Mountains but also Mi’kmaq people in Daughters of the Vote, a program of Equal Voice created to promote the participation of women in politics and government.

She is one of 338 young women between the ages of 18 and 23, one from each of the federal ridings, in Ottawa this week to take part in the event which coincided with International Women’s Day.

“I believe myself and this group of delegates can achieve ethnic and gender equality by using our voice,” she said.

Bernier said on Monday they were involved in an indigenous forum with workshops that focused on different problems indigenous women face.

On Tuesday they learned about how different policies are made and a listened to a talk from women’s council representatives.

On Wednesday morning they were involved in a national women’s march to Parliament before delegates took the place of their MPs in the House of Commons, which was a highlight for Bernier — one  of 70 indigenous women that took part.

Then there was dinner with their MPs and sitting in on question period.

Thursday the delegates took part in a leadership conference before heading for their respective homes on Friday morning.

Part of the celebrations were to mark 100 years since some women were given the right to vote — although Bernier noted aboriginal women weren’t permitted to vote until later.

She said this week’s events were much more that she had hoped be because it’s not strictly about politics as there is more focus on leadership.

“We’re (delegates) learning how we can still make a change and different ways of how we can make change,” Bernier said.

She said MP Gudie Hutchings is very inspiring and she demonstrates how she could make a difference for women.

Bernier said Judy White, chief executive officer of the Aboriginal Assembly of First Nations, also needs to be recognized and she’s in the type of position that Bernier aspires to in the future.

This is Bernier’s second time in Ottawa as some years ago she was there to take part in Encounters with Canada, but this is even more exciting.

“But even this is small compared to the difference that we’ll (delegates) make in the future,” Bernier said. “I’m here surrounded by 337 other women who lift you up, understand your ideas and values and share similar goals.”

She said with them she is sure that change can be made.

 

fgale@thewesternstar.com

Twitter: @WS_FrankGale