An Open Letter to Equal Voice:
On March 8, 2017 I was proud to stand in the House of Commons as the Daughters of the Vote delegate for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. On that day I was excited to see the House of Commons, a space traditionally dominated by men and male perspectives, filled with 338 women from across the nation, passionate and ready to work. More to this point, I was proud to be chosen to stand and deliver an address to my fellow delegates on the merits of conservatism as a movement and the impact of conservative women within the Canadian context. It was humbling to know that I had been recommended by a Member of Parliament, Rachael Harder (Lethbridge) and that she had believed in me, as a woman and as a fellow conservative, to represent my riding well and bring my voice to Ottawa. This letter will outline, not only why I am grateful to have been a part of this project, but why I will be stepping down from any affiliation with Daughters of the Vote and Equal Voice, more generally.
I have seen Equal Voice stand up for women time and time again. Most recently, when Liberal Cabinet Minister, Catherine McKenna, was inappropriately labeled “Climate Barbie,” Equal Voice rightfully condemned the slur as well as wrote an Op-Ed to this effect, publicly standing with McKenna in solidarity.
Earlier this week, Rachael Harder was to be nominated as chair of the Status of Women Committee. As is traditional parliamentary procedure, the committee chair is appointed by the Official Opposition, in this case the Conservative Party. Rachael Harder has been recognized as a “pro-life” MP, and has recently endorsed a Private Member’s Bill on violence against pregnant mothers and pre-born children. She has also been vocal in the House of Commons about necessary support for victims of violence and women and girls across the nation as well as sex-selective abortion, a truly abhorrent practice. Now, I would assume that leader Andrew Scheer, having just appointed Harder as Shadow Minister of this portfolio, would want her to chair and represent his caucus on this committee. As was expected, she was nominated. What was not expected was the uproar, lead by NDP MP, Sheila Malcolmson, to boycott her appointment. On the day that Rachael was nominated, NDP and Liberal MP’s walked out of the committee meeting, in protest.
As this is the Status of Women Committee, and a case of women failing to support other women, I naively expected Equal Voice to say something, anything. As a self-proclaimed multi-partisan organization, with women from across the spectrum at the governance level, I expected some show of support for Rachael in this difficult time. As women, and especially as a delegate of Daughters of the Vote, we are always told to #SupportHer and #CelebrateHer – to my knowledge, there is no caveat in place stating “only if she thinks, believes, or advocates in the same way that you do.”
I truly believe that every woman should have a seat at the table, should be supported and celebrated, “controversial views” and all. She should be there because she deserves to be, because she has worked hard, and is a good advocate for her constituents and those who support her. Now, the Conservative Party of Canada, and Andrew Scheer, has been clear that it will not legislate or re-open the debate on abortion however will continue to grant it’s member’s free votes on matters of conscience. To me, assuming that Rachael Harder cannot chair a committee, just because she holds alternate beliefs is not only unfair but ridiculously reductionist. What you are saying is that she is incapable of sober thought or of acting at arms-length of her personal convictions. We always complain about female parliamentarians being reduced to stereo-types like emotional, cold or incapable and now, as an organization, by their silence Equal Voice is participating in this narrative.
Now, this is not the first time that I felt as though I was incorrectly, or inadequately, represented by you, Equal Voice. Shortly after the Daughters of the Vote conference, a group of conservative delegates wrote a letter to the organization with our concerns — it was actually this group of strong and capable conservatives that started Story of A Tory. We received an apology and a “we’ll do better” response after being painfully underrepresented throughout our five days in Ottawa. I was not fully satisfied with this response but thought to myself “baby steps”.
In sum, given this blatant lack of action, and absence of support from Equal Voice on the issue of Rachael Harder’s nomination, especially after her support of the Daughters of the Vote program, I cannot in good conscience, especially a conservative, be affiliated with Daughters of the Vote, or Equal Voice. If, as an organization, you would like to claim to be “multi-partisan”, the first step is to actually be multi-partisan. This doesn’t mean re-tweeting the odd Conservative MP’s tweet, this means real action. If you cannot commit to representing all voices, equally, as is established in your name and mandate, I will leave my representation in the capable hands of the strong conservative MP’s who were elected to do so.
(former) Daughters of the Vote delegate for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner
Disclaimer: Story of a Tory is in no way affiliated with the Conservative Party of Canada or any other political party, be it federal or provincial. The views of each author are independent of all other authors.