As I reflect on my first few weeks as a Jaimie’s Intern, working on the team of Randy Boissonnault (MP for Edmonton Centre and the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor for LGBTQ2 Issues), I cannot help but to think of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s convocation address at my graduation. Mr. Mulroney stressed the value of education and opening our arms to include one another within Canada and across borders. Working with Randy, especially because of his file on LGBTQ2 issues, has allowed me to recognize and appreciate that much of Canadian politics rests on relationships and inclusion. The levels of inclusion I’ve seen my time on the Hill rises from my own personal experience in Randy’s office, to political inclusion on the government level, and finally up to global inclusion as Canada connects with international issues.
On my first day on the Hill, I was immediately included as a true member of Randy’s team at the ground level – drafting letters, attending meetings in Centre Block, and working on policy analysis with an eye towards potential effects on Edmonton, Indigenous peoples, and the LGBTQ2 population. I was whisked up another level of inclusivity on day one, as Randy graciously gave me a tour of Parliament Hill that culminated with a surprise visit to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office to introduce us – this a true honour and a thrill! Similarly, the Andersons have included Joudy, Zac, and me in family dinners, garden parties, and a visit to the CBC where we have met many of our political heroes. This inclusion has been a privilege for all of us. These events certainly are so much fun, and they are also deliberate efforts to introduce us to individuals who shape the Canadian political space – and to integrate us into that fabric of political life as well. Through these experiences, I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible from many different individuals.
I’ve also seen high levels of inclusivity at the government level as I’ve worked on material and sat in on meetings for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Through this file, I’ve been given the opportunity to research and analyze current provisions in the Criminal Code and the ground-level effects on certain human rights. I drafted study proposals related to these issues, which were ultimately approved as potential future studies by the Justice Committee. Analyzing bills and laws from a human rights perspective has been rewarding and illuminating – I’ve learned to look at legislation from more pluralistic angles, which speaks to the importance of considering many viewpoints when drafting laws. This was perhaps best manifested when Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould attended Justice Committee to answer questions. Some questions from the opposition directed towards Minister Wilson-Raybould were quite pointed, but certainly represented some constituents’ perspectives. As I listened to these questions, and the Minister’s reply about her commitment towards protecting the rights of all Canadians, I felt proud that a variety of voices could be included, heard, and represented on a public forum – and that, ultimately, all political parties can work together to uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
For me, the pinnacle of inclusivity is the international relationships Canada fosters, as our country works with our allies to learn, share advice, and promote global connection. Joudy, Zac, and I saw this during the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia reception, which Randy co-hosted. Members from each major political party shared remarks, asserting that human rights are a non-negotiable, non-partisan, and international issue that we must commit to both locally and abroad. I also witnessed this global connectivity while attending a Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration meeting studying the importance of protecting forced migrants (both internally displaced and refugees coming to Canada), and again while meeting the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Mr. Yatsenyuk spoke about his visions for the Canadian-Ukrainian and EU-Ukrainian relationships, and how those relationships would benefit each country from human rights and political standpoints. I’ve learned that we must include a cross-section of people in representation domestically and internationally, because representation helps foster empathy and empathy helps us uphold protection of human rights.
In Canada, we still have much work to do – most notably regarding Indigenous rights, which I am learning more about by attending Indigenous Caucus and human rights panels on the Hill. While we must achieve more, I think Canada has a good foundation for human rights protection upon which to grow. As such, being part of Randy’s work has been enriching as we assess, improve, and build on some of those foundations. With this mindset, I am excited for the additional learning and adventures the next three months will undoubtedly hold!