International Women’s Day

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Halls of Parliament, Ottawa

Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, I rise today to celebrate International Women’s Day. The theme this year is #EmbraceEquity. This is a day dedicated to the celebration of women’s achievements while also acting as a call to action in the pursuit of gender equity.

The first step toward gender equity in the Senate began when the first woman was appointed in 1930. Today I see many of my colleagues with diverse, intersecting identities. I see many of my colleagues who have achieved firsts, which indicates that we are just starting out with gender equity in the Senate.

For example, Senator Mobina Jaffer was the first Muslim appointed to the Senate. Senator Yonah Martin was the first Canadian senator of Korean origin. The first Haitian-Canadian woman named to the Senate was Senator Marie-Françoise Mégie. Our recently retired colleague Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas was the first Indigenous woman from Atlantic Canada to serve in the Senate. Senator Yvonne Boyer is the first Indigenous senator from Ontario.

There are senators here who have celebrated firsts outside of this chamber. Senator Pat Duncan was the first woman to serve as premier of the Yukon. Senator Bernadette Clement was the first Black woman to serve as a mayor in Ontario. Senator Sharon Burey was the first Black woman to serve as president of the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario. Senator Gigi Osler was the first racialized woman elected as president of the Canadian Medical Association. I could go on. There are many more impressive achievements, and I have only had time here to name a small selection.

It is so very important for young people to see diverse women participating in positions of power and influence. It inspires them to lead in their own communities.

Honourable senators, I invite you all to join me on this International Women’s Day in celebrating the achievements of all women as we continue our journey toward equality and equity. I wish a happy International Women’s Day to all our colleagues here in the Senate. Asante, thank you.

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