U of T Women in House is a program co-founded and co-managed by Tina Park and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett aimed at promoting greater female representation in government. Each year, the program takes female University of Toronto students on a subsidized two-day trip to Ottawa and provides them an opportunity to shadow female politicians on Parliament Hill, witness political procedures, and learn about gender equity.

The experience included a special tour of the Supreme Court of Canada and reception with prominent cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, civil servants, and journalists. The following reflections have been written by 2nd-year students with double majors in Peace, Conflict & Justice and Criminology upon their return from Ottawa.

Elena Madorsky

Parliamentary Host: Karen McCrimmon

Elena Madorsky w. Karen McCrimmon

Elena Madorsky with Karen McCrimmon

I had a wonderful experience shadowing MP Karen McCrimmon, of Kanata County and Carleton, on Parliament Hill. Even with her busy schedule she was able to take time out of her day to show me around and explain all the ways that Parliament works and how she was involved in the proceedings. It was fantastic to be able to make connections between what I was learning in class and the real world, and how this shapes our everyday lives.

I also saw MP McCrimmon and Minister Goodale talk to the news about the passing of the new Bill C-83. This bill removes administrative segregation from correctional facilities and replaces them with Structured Intervention Units. Minister Goodale discussed that with this new approach, the correctional facilities will continue to be safe and secure for both the inmates and the staff, while addressing the mental health issues that arise due to administrative segregation. Later that day, I got to sit in on a conference call with MP McCrimmon and other Members of Parliament where she talked them through the new bill. It was really fascinating to see the way that MP McCrimmon spoke about this bill: you could really sense the pride in her voice, and how this conference call wasn’t just another scheduled event on Parliament Hill. Rather, she was really passionate in the work that she was doing, which is how I aspire to feel about my future work.

My absolute favorite part of the day was Question Period. All members of parliament gathered, and I got to witness them asking each other questions, and debating on certain topics that they didn’t agree with. It was so interesting to see the way that Prime Minister Trudeau answered questions in both English and French, depending on what language he was spoken to in. It was amusing to see the Conservative party heckling when they disagreed with what the Liberals had to say, and the Speaker had to stand up and wait for them to quiet down so the Question Period could continue. Everyone had such interesting questions and it was so exciting to see our government at work, picking through so many issues and coming up with solutions to better our Canada.

Finally, MP McCrimmon introduced me to the Invictus games athletes as they were all meeting on Parliament Hill that day. Since MP McCrimmon is a veteran herself, it was amazing to see her speaking to all the athletes and the tight bond that they had.

I had a wonderful experience shadowing MP McCrimmon on Parliament Hill. She is a very strong and inspiring woman and a genuine role model. This experience allowed me to not only see the inner-workings of Parliament, but how strong women fight daily to make a difference.


Soliyana Yared

Parliamentary Host: Hon. Ahmed Hussen

Soliyana Yared w. Hon. Ahmed Hussen

Soliyana Yared w. Hon. Ahmed Hussen

The U of T Women in House trip was a very exciting opportunity to experience a day in the life of those who spend their days in the illustrious buildings atop Parliament Hill. Personally, I was lucky to have been paired with the Hon. Minister Ahmed Hussen who is not only the MP for York-South Weston, but also the Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. As the daughter of two refugees who grew up in a community of immigrants, I was already incredibly interested by the work being done by the Minister and had a plethora of questions.

On the first day of the trip, our group had a tour of the Supreme Court, and had the amazing opportunity of attending a question and answer session with Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella. It was evident that all the girls in the group were entranced when she spoke. She was funny, honest and heartbreakingly inspiring. She answered questions wittily and genuinely and gave us all so much advice for our hopeful futures in both law and politics, while also emanating humility and grace. No one wanted to leave her company, but there was an equally exciting reception that we had to get to.

At the reception, we had the pleasure of hearing speeches from a number of MPs and senators who showed up to support the Women in House program. They spoke with refreshing ease about the need for female representation in Parliament, and how genuinely they encouraged us to take an active role on the Hill. It was interesting to see the MPs in such a casual light interacting with us one-on-one and showing a general interest in us instead of only vice versa. I even got to speak with MP Luc Berthold and he gave me and a few of my friends an impromptu personal tour of some of the nooks of the building after hours. It was an exciting and fascinating experience that my friends and I appreciated immensely.

My day began by meeting with one of the the Ministers and one of his Staffers, Matt. After introducing ourselves and taking a photo, the Minister was whisked away to an emergency meeting and Matt decided to take us on a tour of the prettiest parts of Parliament Hill. We got to go to up to the Peace Tower, and sat down in the gorgeous parliamentary library. Then, we were picked up by the minister’s private driver and brought over to the Immigration Office to meet a bunch of the people who worked there. I was able to have amazing conversations with many people that work in a variety of different fields within Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees and came from very different walks of life. I had insightful and engaging conversations with people doing incredibly meaningful work in outreach, policy and law. They were all incredibly supportive and encouraged me to stay in touch and get involved.

Next was a much-anticipated lunch with the Minister. I had so many questions for him and he answered every single one. He was genuinely interested in our conversation and was very honest and supportive in his answers. We spoke not only about politics, but about his personal struggles as a teenage refugee and a visible minority. He gave us advice about school and how hard we needed to work, but how rewarding it would be. It was astounding to see someone who was so accomplished tell you about the potential that he sees in little old you.

After lunch was Question period in the House of Commons. We were then invited to a committee meeting with representatives from the EU in order to discuss the creation of more effective models of migration in the EU that resemble Canada’s. Both of these were fascinating insights on the intellectual discussion being had up on the Hill and its real-life impact on not only Canadians, but people around the world.

All in all, this trip was a fantastic opportunity to see the lives of those making such significant impact on the lives of Canadians nation-wide. I was inspired to see the amazingly rigorous work done by those up on the Hill and I cannot wait to someday do my part. I want to express my utmost gratitude to the Hon. Minister Ahmed Hussen and his entire team for being so welcoming and kind and making this experience one I will never forget.


Vaish Vijayan

Parliamentary Host: Ruby Sahota

I was able to spend my day on Parliament Hill shadowing MP Ruby Sahota from Brampton North. This experience allowed me to use my learning from Peace, Conflict & Justice and Criminology to understand the legal system and the way values and ideas play a role in shaping policy. I was able to learn about the legislative process and the day-to-day work an MP has to do, while staying true to their agendas as well.

I was interested in MP Sahota’s job and understanding various legislative policies, such as passing two bills at separate times which can have elements that tie together. Additionally, it was intriguing to understand the various dynamics in being loyal to your party and its values, but also maintaining your values and the ideas of the people you represent.

Vaish Vijayan w. Ruby Sahota

Vaish Vijayan w. Ruby Sahota

During the day, my partner and I were able to sit in on a committee meeting for Bill C-76, which focuses on amendments to the constitution concerning elections, based on advice from Elections Canada. We were able to experience a clause-by-clause debate on the bill to understand its impact on Canadian elections, such as polling stations.

On the Hill, the most interesting part of the day was Question Period. Immediately prior to this, my partner and I had been invited to the back gallery of the House of Commons by MP Sahota, to sit in on her meeting discussing trade unions. This was a captivating experience to be able to get see MP Sahota “in action” and see the work that she is doing directly in Parliament. When were at the Question Period in the gallery, it was amusing to see the opposition heckling the Liberal Party. I remember one distinct moment when the speaker of the house was standing up and simply waiting for the MP’s to quiet down.

It was very interesting to be able to compare the House of Commons to the student government at my college – the University College Literary and Athletic Society. I was able to make comparisons between the various roles in Parliament and my own student government, such as the “representatives” at my college, and the MPs in the House of Commons.

I think one of my favorite parts of the two days was being able to talk to Supreme Court Justice Rosie Abella. I was amazed at everything she had been able to accomplish. I think the most memorable part of her talking was when she discussed how a lack of role models in the field of law at her age, allowed her to be the one to shape the future for other women. This was really inspiring for me—seeing Women in House break the glass ceiling.

Content provided by the students. Article compiled by Aloysius Wong.