Souris-Moose Mountain Daughters of the Vote delegate Brit Sippola, who grew up outside of Whitewood, and Souris-Moose Mountain MP Dr. Robert Kitchen in the House of Commons last week.

Sippola protests by turning her back on PM

Souris-Moose Mountain delegate to Daughters of the Vote

April 8, 2019 7:45 am
Kevin Weedmark

Brit Sippola went to Ottawa representing Souris-Moose Mountain in Daughters of the Vote, hoping to learn something about politics.

She learned more than she ever could have imagined as she and others turned their backs on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons Wednesday and gained national media attention.

On Monday night last week, the women met with Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had resigned from cabinet over the SNC Lavalin affair, but was still a member of the Liberal caucus at that point.

“It was really cool to meet her,” says Sippola. “She got everybody’s attention. People were thrilled to see her. She had a huge amount of supporters in the room.

“On Tuesday evening we heard the news that Jane Philpot and Jody Wilson-Raybould were removed from the Liberal caucus.”

“This really struck a chord with a lot of us. Equal Voice (the group that organized the Daughters of the Vote event) is a multipartisan organization, so there are people from all across the political spectrum and this message rang out for us.

“It was an indigenous delegate’s idea to turn our backs as a way to silently show that we were upset with his actions and with how he has treated these women, and his actions throughout this entire scandal.

“We chose to do this because we felt it was the most respectful thing we could do while still showing how upset we were. We made sure it was a silent protest. We wanted to make sure we weren’t disturbing anyone. We wanted it to be completely peaceful. We just wanted to turn our backs to Justin Trudeau to show that we were upset.”

Decision to protest

She said she made the decision to turn her back on the Prime Minister on the day the women were in the House of Commons.

“It was talked about hypothetically the night before,” she said, “but there was no firm plan in place.

“However, just before Justin Trudeau came in, whispers went out throughout the room and I think it kind of connected people who hadn’t already heard the plan. People were whispering throughout the House, saying ‘this is what we’re going to do,’ so I honestly couldn’t tell you how many people were turned around, because I was turned around. I couldn’t see them. But a number of us chose to turn our backs when he walked in. Some of us stayed with our backs turned the whole time, some people joined us partway through.

“I knew as soon as I was told, yes, this is what we are doing right before he came in, I knew I was going to do that, but as I did it my heart was pounding. It was really crazy for me to be so close to a man who I had really admired in the past—to be that close to the leader of our country—and to not look at him because I was so disgusted by his actions.”

Making an impact in the media

Sippola said she is shocked by the amount of coverage of the women’s act of protest across the country.

“I have been completely shocked, honestly,” she said.

“I didn’t get the sense that any of us thought this was going to make a big splash or anything. It’s been interesting that it has.

“A lot of us have been interviewed, a lot of us have seen the headlines and it’s been really interesting. A lot of people from across the country who have never heard of Daughters of the Vote have now, and that’s a big win for our organization. It’s definitely an unintended consequence.

“The night before we went to the house, Equal Voice reminded us to make sure we were respectful, that there would be no heckling, so we made sure to be quiet and respectful as we protested. Equal Voice didn’t anticipate that the Daughters were going to do something like this. I’ve been really thrilled to see the impact our message has had, and how powerful it was.

“With Andrew Scheer, I can’t really tell you what the motivation behind that was. I wasn’t involved in that and I hadn’t heard of any planning of that.”

“As I did it my heart was pounding. It was really crazy for me to be so close to a man who I had really admired in the past—to be that close to the leader of our country—and to not look at him because I was so disgusted by his actions.”
Brit Sippola

Kailey-Arthurson, the Daughters of the Vote representative for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski which covers all of Northern Manitoba, turns her back on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons Wednesday. <br><br><br />
Arthurson said the protest was her way of supporting Jody Wilson-Raybould. She said she wanted Trudeau to “realize when he shoots down one Indigenous woman, he can’t shoot us all down. We all wanted to make a statement together.


Speech onelectoral reform

Sippola had an opportunity to speak about electoral reform in the House of Commons. In her speech she reminded people that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised voters that the 2015 election would be the last election on the first past the post system, and he reneged on that promise.

“I spoke about voting reform. I personally think we should explore different options. I want to eliminate first-past-the-post. It’s not up to me to decide what form that takes, whether it’s mixed member representation, proportional representation, ranked ballot—that’s up to the Canadian people to decide. I wanted the Liberal Party to follow through with their promise to eliminate first-past-the-post.

“It was really fantastic to get up and share my opinion. It was great to have a voice, and to see the reaction to my speech. It was good to see that it resonated with a lot of people. There were four delegates who touched on electoral reform either as their main topic or part of their topic.”

Daughters of the Vote

Daughters of the Vote brings together young women with an interest in politics from across the country. Each woman represents one federal constituency.

“Daughters of the vote is run by an organization called Equal voice,” explains Sippola. “Equal voice is a multipartisan group that wants to encourage more women to get into politics. Daughters of the Vote is an event Equal Voice puts on where they bring one young woman from every federal riding in Canada and they bring them together for a week of training and workshops, and they bring them to Parliament. They select some women to speak in Parliament, and some of them give testimony to different subcommittees.

“In the House of Commons we got to sit in our MP’s spot. I was so excited to be sitting in Dr. Robert Kitchen’s spot. It was fantastic to see the entire House filled with women. There are only 27 or 28 per cent women in Parliament, so to see that many women actually there was really cool.”

Interest in politics

Sippola said she has always had an interest in politics. “My father, Larry Sippola is a farmer and works at the potash mine, but has always been super involved in the community, whether being on the Co-op board, a hockey coach or municipal council. My grandfather has been hugely involved in the community, including serving on town council. I’ve been surrounded by political discussion all my life. We’ve always been interested in following the news, and in history and current events. It’s always been a love of mine and something I’m interested in pursuing.

“The events of this week and especially the last couple of days have really made me want to get into politics. I don’t know the timing of that—I just graduated university, I’m new in my career, but it’s definitely something I see in my future.”

Learning experience

Sippola said Daughters of the Vote was a learning experience.

“I feel I learned a lot about what it is like to be a woman in politics and the nuances between municipal, provincial and federal politics and working behind the scenes in any of those roles. It’s definitely sparked my interest particularly in running for municipal or provincial office because I’m starting to get tired of party politics. I’d like to serve the community more than serving a party.”