I recently watched a thought-provoking documentary called 25 Percent. The purpose of the documentary was to address the underrepresentation of women in political seats, across municipal, provincial, and federal tables. The United Nations set a minimum standard for engagement of women in democracy at 30% and unfortunately Canada stands at 25% across all three levels. To examine why Canadian politics has yet to achieve this minimum standard of gender equality and to discuss some steps that could be taken to ensure that all Canadians are represented in our democracy, the documentary featured the opinions of veteran and new politicians from various political ideologies, and engaged community leaders, academics, as well as young activists.
Although my initial impressions of the documentary were positive, after further reflection I realized that there was an integral aspect of Canadian society that was notably absent from the film. Specifically, the documentary had no consistent representations of racialized women. I watched the documentary again to see if my conclusion was correct and unfortunately it was. Amongst the group of older speakers there was only one woman of color that had a speaking roles, Liz Akano a Vice Principal working in the Thames Valley District School Board. In fairness, the documentary did feature quotes from former Governor General Michelle Jean and Rosemary Brown the First Black Woman elected to parliament. Amongst the participants of the Head Start Change Camp, young girls in the 16-24 age bracket, I was pleased to note that there were more young women of color with prominent speaking roles.
My goal is not to belittle the months of planning and hard work that went into crafting the film. However, for a documentary that stresses the importance of having a diversity of viewpoints, I was disappointed by the inadequate representation of racialized women. Considering that since 1981, the proportion of women of color in Canada has consistently increased, as of 2011 they constitute 20% of the countries population, the equal representation of visible minority women is crucial in any piece of art that highlights aspects of Canadian culture that need to be improved. When thinking about the documentary I could not help but recall my mother excitedly calling me downstairs to watch the swearing in of Michelle Jean, the first black Governor General of Canada. I was only 13 at the time and did not understand the enormity of having someone like me, an immigrant woman of color, occupying a prominent position in Canadian politics. Nearly 10 years later, I now understand why my mom eagerly sent me news clippings of Michelle Jean during her 5 years as Governor General. It is my hope that future documentaries, which highlight the need for greater diversity in government, will feature more visible minority women in prominent speaking roles.
Aramide is a student at Western University studying political sciences.
Hear their voices. Witness their courage. A generation standing up for change.
For the past year, London has participated in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Head Start program, an initiative to encourage young women to actively participate in civic issues and politics. As a result of the program’s extensive consultation with young women they have partnered with web.isod.es to produce a documentary film to be released this fall. The purpose of the film is to address the underrepresentation of women in political seats across municipal, provincial and federal tables.