Candidate survey results – Irene Mathyssen, New Democratic Party of Canada, London-Fanshawe

Candidate survey results – Irene Mathyssen, New Democratic Party of Canada, London-Fanshawe

i Nov 23rd No Comments by

How do you think our current electoral system (FPTP) impacts women and minority groups? What difference would a proportional representation model or other electoral reform make to these groups?

Proportional representation would indeed help both women and First Nations. It’s essential that our governments reflect the population.

The Fair Elections Act removes the provision for people to vouch for those with no ID. This has the potential to disproportionately impede people such as those experiencing homelessness from voting. What is your plan to ensure these individuals are able to vote?

We would repeal or amend the so-called Fair elections Act. It might be possible to introduce changes like the changes proposed by New Democrats at committee.

Newcomers to Canada experience high levels of social isolation and often have multiple barriers to receiving optimal healthcare. If elected, how will you and your party address these challenges?

New comers need social agencies that can support and connect them to the services and professionals they need. There are not enough settlement services and workers in Canada. Good community connections help families to integrate and make the best use of all service providers. family re-unification is also key to good integration.

Please comment on Bill C24, the legislation that gives the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship and also makes it more difficult to become Canadian.

This bill creates two classes of citizens; this is not acceptable. New Democrats have indicated we would withdraw this bill.

How would you address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada? Do you support an inquiry?

There must be an inquiry so that we can look at the systemic causes of this violence. New Democrats have promised we would call an inquiry within 100 days of our taking office as government. First Nations, Metis and Inuit people know and are ready to address the solutions to the tragdey of poverty, violence and lack of opportunity in their communities. We must have nation to nation dialogue and a firm commitment to respecting the treaty, land and resource rights of indigenous people. We also must make sure there are financial resources to address the need for education, decent housing and access to services and opportunities.

Education funding levels in First Nations have long been noted to be sub-standard to what is provided across Canada. On average on reserve education spending is $2000 less per student than what is offered by the provincial education systems. What steps would you take to begin closing the funding gap for First Nations students on reserve?

The cap on First Nations funding must be lifted immediately. We need open, clear dialogue on a nation to nation basis will allow First Nations to articulate their needs. They must be our partners in resolving these issues. Patriarchal governments have not been successful in this very important area.

Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. Where do you stand on creating such a strategy?

We would create a national housing strategy because decent, affordable housing is the foundation of strong communities and healthy families.

Federal funding for homelessness through the Homelessness Prevention Strategy (HPS) has not been increased since its inception over a decade ago. As the rates of homelessness have increased significantly since that time, would you increase funding? What other strategies might you recommend to reduce homelessness? As well the steady decline of low cost housing is contributing to the homelessness problem. What suggestions would you have to address the issue of increasing access to affordable housing?

The current programmed HPS is condescending and is a short term approach. Because of the NDP, there was a national housing strategy from 1971 to 1993. We need to bring back that staratgey and ensure there are affordable, supported units available to familes and individuals of all ages and needs. CMHC is a good resource in regard to the funds needed to restart this vital programme.

A look back at the Women & Politics Election Strategy

i Nov 3rd 1 Comment by

In planning for this 2015 election cycle, the Board of Women & Politics set out a strategy to identify the election issues most important to women in London and area. We started off with a survey to the community that identified 4 priorities:

  • missing and murdered Indigenous women,
  • proportional representation,
  • affordable housing and homelessness, and
  • refugees, newcomers and healthcare.

From there, we organized a Women’s Issues Forum in June where we invited four women leaders to speak on these issues and invited discussion from the broader community. That event was well attended and sparked the formation of a sub-committee focused on election issues relating to young women. Women & Politics, along with the London Youth Advisory Council, successfully obtained a grant from the Laidlaw foundation to hold three evening events for young women. The topics chosen by the committee were, politics and youth, the future of work, and young women’s healthcare. These small group events created some interesting discussions with attendees, and several small election strategies were implemented, including a commitment to talk to young women in our community about health and politics.

Our biggest event was a World Cafe style All Candidates Meeting, organized in partnership with Business Professional Women London (BPW), which was held at Riverside United Church on September 29th. Over 100 people came out to the event, with eight candidates in attendance. Each candidate rotated between tables of their riding made up of 6-10 participants and a facilitator. Candidates were asked a variety of questions by participants and were also asked to respond to questions on the four women’s election issues, previously identified in our survey. The feedback on this event was very positive, with both candidates and participants expressing that the format allowed for deeper discussions and a unique opportunity for participants to engage with candidates.

We also participated in the World Homeless Action Day on October 8th, which raised awareness about homelessness in London and was organized by the London Homeless Coalition, London CAReS and United Way’s GenNext. Women & Politics offered up election information and questions one could ask candidates about how they and their party would address homelessness. It was privilege to attend this event and have the opportunity to share information on a key election issue, identified as a priority by women in our community.

Lastly, there was plenty of action happening on our website and on social media with an election resource page, regular blog posts on the identified key election issues, and regular posts related to election issues.

As promised when we initially sent out the survey at the beginning of the election cycle, we intend to hold candidates and their parties accountable for their promises. As such, we are posting the elected MPs survey responses on our website and we will be providing an updated report card on their progress in relation to these issues You can find the surveys here. Additionally, below you can see a quick summary of what Prime Minister Designate, Justin Trudeau and his party promised in relation to these issues. We are hopeful and cautiously optimistic that these promises will be upheld. It is vitally important to women in our communities that these and other issues are addressed.

On issues related to women and the election, on his first day as Prime Minister Designate, Trudeau stated the importance of holding an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. He also made a campaign promise to consult the Canadian people on electoral reform and institute some kind of change from the previous first past the post system, prior to the next election. In his party’s campaign platform, Trudeau pledged to commit $20 billion over 10 years to social infrastructure and to create a national housing action plan that would theoretically provide affordable housing for Canadians at all income levels. Trudeau’s party committed to providing “$125 million per year in tax incentives for developers and landlords to build and renovate rental units.” And lastly on the issue of health and refugees, according to the Liberal Party’s platform, the Liberal government promised to fully restore the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees. While C-24 is not directly mentioned in the Liberal platform, Trudeau has said throughout his campaign that the Liberal government would repeal C-24 and its second-class citizenship. We are pleased with these developments and will be watching local MPs and the larger government to see if and how they fulfill these promises.

Your Voice Counts: Women in poverty and women who are homeless

i Sep 28th No Comments by

Poverty is a hot button issue in our city. Mayor Matt Brown has recently established an Advisory Panel lead by several community leaders who have been asked to bring forth recommendations on how to solve the issue of poverty. It is our hope those leading understand the impact poverty has on women and recognize their needs often differ from those of men.

Women in poverty

A girl born in London is ten times more likely to grow up to be a poor adult. Why? Because of her gender. Poverty is not gender neutral.

Poverty is more than a shortage of income. As the United Nations describes, poverty is “the denial of opportunities and choices most basic to human development – to lead long, healthy, creative lives and to enjoy a decent standard of living, freedom, dignity, self-esteem and respect of others.” In 2014 in Canada, more than 1 in 7 women lived in poverty. The stat itself is problematic because we can quantify 1 in 7 but must use the words “more than” since we know women who live in poverty often live in silence, which makes it near impossible to calculate an accurate number.  

The hidden homeless

The percentage of females living in shelters is far lower than males: 73.6% male to 26.2% female (Sagaert, 2012:14), but this figure does not accurately reflect the number of women who are homeless. Many women will choose to move in to a home with other families or live in dangerous relationships, often abusive, because they are fearful of living in violence and exploitation on the streets. These women are also known as the Hidden Homeless because we know the number is significant but have no way of capturing it.

For many of our Hidden Homeless living with an abuser, regardless if it is the same one day to day, is deemed a safer and better choice than not having a pillow to lay your head on at night. Sadly, many of the women have lived with violence much of their lives and have resigned to a life this way, and often, violence in childhood and adulthood is the root cause of the original homelessness. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, learning difficulties and other mental health issues are all consequences of the violence many of these women have suffered throughout their lives. Once homeless, this is compounded on the streets and often becomes a barrier to regaining a foothold back to a safe and healthy life.

Why it is important we demand our government put more focus on women in poverty and women who are homeless:

  • Women head 80% of all single parent families and 1 in 5 female single parents live in poverty. Helping women in poverty in turn helps children in poverty
  • Homeless transwomen face gender-based violence and discrimination for both being women and disrupting pre-conceived gender norms.
  • 80% of all female crime is poverty-related, such as shoplifting, fraud and sex work.
  • Poverty and homelessness can lead to trauma, which often goes untreated in marginalized women.
  • Homeless women aged 18-44 are 10 times more likely to die than women the same age with homes.
  • Homeless female youth aged 12-18 are 40% more likely to die than housed female youth of the same age. The primary causes are accidental overdose and suicide.

As much as we appreciate our municipal government’s focus on poverty we must demand ALL levels of government follow suit, and we must continue to reinforce that any solutions must be reached using a gender lens.

Your Voice Counts: Issues Affecting Women New to Canada

i Aug 11th No Comments by

This past spring, Women & Politics surveyed women from across London, Ontario to hear what issues were important to them for the upcoming Federal election. Four themes emerged:

  • Missing and murdered Indigenous women
  • Affordable housing
  • Issues affecting women new to Canada
  • Getting more women elected and proportional representation

Women & Politics held a public event with experts to discuss each topic at the beginning of June to help women learn more about these issues. You can find a summary of the event here. Our next step was to learn where candidates stand on these issues. Women & Politics is currently conducting an online survey with all of the candidates of each riding in London, asking them pertinent questions that relate to each area. We will provide their responses on our website in the next few weeks.

To further explore each topic, Women & Politics is also dedicating a blog post on each topic. This blog post will focus on Issues Affecting Women New to Canada. This topic will be broken down into two areas: access to healthcare and Bill C24. The online survey to candidates asked questions pertaining to these two areas.

 Access to adequate healthcare as a newcomer

In Canada, the type of resident that you are determines your level of access to healthcare. This is especially true for newcomers. If you came as a permanent resident, you have access to the same health care as all Canadian citizens. If you arrive to Canada as a refugee, you receive the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). In 2012, the Federal government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reduced the healthcare services to which refugees would have access to. In 2014, the Federal Court of Canada found these cuts not only “cruel and unusual” but also unconstitutional. The Conservative government is appealing this decision but this will not be heard until after the election.

 Further reading:

Newcomers who are not refugees still face significant challenges in receiving optimal health care such as language barriers, racial discrimination, increased social isolation, eligibility issues, and a lack of understanding of the Canadian health care system. These layered challenges are often especially true for women newcomers who are often, at first, more isolated and less integrated to their new Canadian communities.

The next government can help newcomers receive better access to health care by offering better supports and helping them navigate the system more easily.

 Further reading:

Bill C24 – Strengthening the Canadian Citizenship Act

In June 2015, the Conservative government instated new legislation that effectively creates a two-tier citizenship system in Canada. This new legislation allows the Canadian government to revoke Canadian citizenship to dual citizens who have been convicted of terrorism, spying offences or high treason. A dual citizen is anyone who is eligible to receive citizenship from another country from Canada, even if they were born in Canada. For example, a Canadian whose mother was born in Britain, may not have applied for dual citizenship but is eligible for dual citizenship, can have their Canadian citizenship revoked, if convicted of terrorism, spying offences or high treason.

Further reading:

We have asked candidates who are campaigning in the London area the following questions related to this topic:

  • Newcomers to Canada experience high levels ofsocial isolation and often have multiple barriers in receiving optimal health care. If elected, how will you and your party address these challenges?
  • Please comment on Bill C24, the legislation that gives the Canadian government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship and also makes it more difficult to become Canadian.

Please stay tuned to read each of their responses.

25% Documentary

i Jan 19th No Comments by

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[1], 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.


25 Percent: A Documentary

i Nov 4th No Comments by

Hear their voices. Witness their courage. A generation standing up for change.

#30Days2Vote – get caught up!

i Sep 29th No Comments by


If you’ve just signed up for #30Days2Vote and haven’t received tasks from earlier in the month – get caught up by clicking through the challenges for each day below!

30 Days of Voter Engagement

i Sep 18th No Comments by

30Days2Vote-01One key barrier to voting that we’ve seen is citizens who don’t feel educated enough to vote or confident in their knowledge of key issues.

Our #30Days2Vote challenge is designed to help voters flex their civic engagement muscles. Follow along with us, participating in small, easy-to-complete, daily tasks that will help you prepare for the election.

Spend 30 days learning a little more about the responsibilities of municipal government, the candidates running in your area and their platforms. Gain the confidence you need to head to the polls on October 27.

Much like a 30 days fitness program, you may find yourself more advanced than a particular day’s activity. You may already know some of the information or have completed some of the tasks and that’s great! If this is the case, consider reaching out to someone in your community – a neighbour, a friend, or a coworker – and help them to become more informed and engaged that day.

On October 27 we want to raise the bar on voter turnout. We want you to feel more confident in your vote and have fun along the way!

Get started:

  1. Sign up for the challenge here (you will receive a daily email for 30 days with instructions and resources for each task)
  2. Tweet your progress using #30Days2Vote
  3. Vote on October 27!

Our #30Days2Vote challenge is open to anyone and everyone who would like to participate, regardless of gender identity.

Download and share the calendar and poster!

Get caught up! 

If you’ve just signed up, and haven’t received tasks from earlier in the month, click through the daily challenge emails here. 

25% Film Trailer

i Jul 17th No Comments by

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 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.

Watch the video below, or on the 25% website here. Join the conversation on twitter using the hastag #25pct.