Funk represents region at Daughters of the Vote summit

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April 3, 2017
From chief of student council in Onion Lake to sitting in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, Jacey Funk always had a keen interest in politics. Her drive is to be the voice of youth.
Jacey Funk is pictured insie the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ont.
“I want to enhance the importance of youth voices, it’s not fair to have people make decisions for you when they can’t relate themselves," says Funk, a second-year accounting major at Lakeland College. “I want to go home, speak to the youth and find a youth advocate in Onion Lake. I believe council needs to hear their voice as well.”

Funk was selected last year to represent the federal riding of Battlefords-Lloydminster at the Daughters of the Vote summit, an initiative by Equal Voice to promote the election of women to all levels of government in Canada.

Funk and 337 other young women from across the country visited Ottawa, Ont., from March 5-10 to commemorate the centennial of some women being granted the right to vote. This was just the beginning of the journey for women’s formal political engagement on both the federal and provincial levels. Québec was the last province to grant women the right to vote in 1940, whereas Indigenous women living on reserve were unable to vote until 1960.

“I understand the leaders and elders were youth at one point, but things have changed in the 30-40 years since they were youth,” says Funk. “We need to appoint an ambassador to have the voices of the youth heard.”

While sitting in the House of Commons, they were provided with the opportunity to have their voices heard, a moment that attracted many members of parliament (MPs) who sat in the public gallery.

“Every speech got a standing ovation, it was a perfect example of support women give each other,” says Funk, as around 30 women rose at the opportunity to be heard. Although she didn’t personally get to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she did sit roughly five feet away from him as he addressed her and the other delegates and answered some hard-hitting questions. “It was wonderful to see Trudeau take the time to speak to us and answer our questions.”

During the Indigenous-only forum, Funk along with 70 other Indigenous delegates heard from St. John (Manitoba) MLA Nahanni Fontaine, who explained her personal battles in life and what she had overcome to get to where she is today.

“Nahanni has proven that with motivation and determination, you can achieve anything – even if you start at the bottom,” says Funk.

On International Women’s Day, the group of 338 women marched from the National Arts Centre to Centre Block and into the House of Commons, surpassing the number of elected females (88) sitting in parliament.

“It’s a huge impact, and I think it’s an eye-opener for a lot of people to realize women don’t have much of a voice for the visions we have as a country,” says Funk. In 2015, only 26 per cent of elected MPs were women, and 28 per cent of elected officials at the provincial and territorial level are women. “For us to have that big of an impact (in one day), maybe it will start making people realize we need to elect more women.”

Overall, Funk said it was an extraordinary experience she won't forget and encourages all young women to apply in the future.

“We can all bring about change,” says Funk. “You can find a way around anything if you try hard enough.”

Photo: Jacey Funk was among a group of 338 women invited to Parliament Hill during the Daughters of the Vote summit in Ottawa, Ont. held from March 8 to 10, 2017.
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