When I was a young girl, I sat shyly at the top of our winding staircase at home, looking over into our living room in Grande Prairie, Alberta. A man of great stature and with kind eyes was sitting on the couch in our living room with my dad and uncle. It was late, and I thought it was so amazing he was in our house.
This man was Paul Martin, then on tour campaigning to become the Prime Minister of Canada in 2003. And there he was in our living room.
I don't know exactly why writing this piece is causing me to cry, but I have a deeply rooted sense of responsibility to share with you why my vote means so much to me as a 25-year-old first-generation Canadian.
My dad came to Canada in July 1974. The day after he arrived, he started working for the Proctor and Gamble pulp mill just outside of Grande Prairie. He lived with my uncle, and a number of others. His coworkers often complained that on his lunch break he wouldn't mingle with them because he was too busy singing Bollywood songs at the top of his lungs in his buncher.
My mother came to Canada after having an arranged marriage with my dad. A few years after getting to Canada, my dad and uncle tasked her with running East Side Grocery and Liquor, our convenience store that they bought after years of running their own logging trucks. My mom had no experience in business, and had never done a deposit at the bank before for a store. But she figured it out day by day.
Everyday since, they have instilled in me a passion for life, a commitment to hard work, and a pride in being Canadian.
My dad and uncle came to Canada because of the Multiculturalism Act created by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and they stay committed to the party even though we live in the Conservative heart of the country. So much so that we've hosted Prime Ministers and high-level politicians throughout the years, giving me a connection to politics I am so beyond grateful for.
As a kid, I would ride in my dad's truck as we would pick people up from work and take them to the polling stations and back again. I was asked to leave a polling station when I was in middle-school because I was wearing a shirt in support of my Liberal candidate, and this was way before I could even vote! I also visited local farmers and heard their concerns as a youth reporter with Sheila Copps when she made her bid for Liberal Party Leader many years ago.
I'm Liberal because the core values of the party are what raised me. I am a Liberal because without the actions of this party, I would not be here acting with the independence and freedom afforded to me by being born in Canada, and having the freedoms we've been afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A few months ago, I was grateful to organize a meeting for my parents to meet Liberal Party Leader, Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. They were visiting for my birthday, and it was a gift I could give to them for everything they've given me in my life. It was one of my proudest moments. Seeing my dad's face after we left, and having him look at me with pride that he was able to share with the potential future Prime Minister of Canada and Pierre Elliot Trudeau's son, his concerns about soft-wood lumber, and the foreign-workers program meant the world. In that moment I was showered in my Canadian pride.
Being Canadian has made me who I am today.
When I realized this week that Bill C-24 puts my citizenship at risk if the current government felt affronted by my activism or voice, I was floored.
Is this the Canada I believe in? Is this the Canada that has made me a proud, successful business woman and feminist? Is this the Canada that I want to represent as I travel this world with the intention and mission for change?
I vote because I am fighting for the land I love. I vote because this is the system we have, and can improve together.
I vote because I refuse to give up on what it means to me to be Canadian, something that the Harper government has steered us far from.
For me this means being a country that stands for human rights and women's rights abroad, a country that is a source of light, inspiration, and opportunity to millions around the world, and that has a protected and strong economy. A country that when its name is mentioned globally, it brings comments of love, of awe, and admiration. One that does not buy into the fears inherent in difference, but chooses to be united.
I want to hear and reconcile the stories of the missing and murdered aboriginal women of this country. I want to know that everyone in our nation has access to clean water. I want to be proud of our extraction industry for it's environmental record, and I want to know I can make millions through business and support our collective economy with pride. I want to know I am respected and seen as equally 'Canadian' as each of you reading this.
Our differences and diversity unite us. We are the most diverse country in the world. That is amazing. Don't fear it. I am here in front of you to remind you what it looks like to be a proud multicultural Canadian.
I come from a family of immigrants. Collectively we have invested, created, and will continue to create many millions of dollars of growth for our economy. Not with a chip on our shoulders, but with pride for this nation and what it's given us, the opportunities it's afforded us, and what we have given back to it.
Don't forget that this nation is built on the backs of immigrants, and that those indigenous to this nation are really the only ones with true claim of 'home'.
Music is a powerful tool. Yesterday, I came across this song, 'Land You Love' by Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde. It's etched in my soul. It moves me to remember why I am going to vote, and why I hope you will too.
I don't care if you're Liberal, NDP, Conservative, or an Anarchist. All that I ask is that you use the agency afforded you to vote, and be heard. Remember, or find a reason to be compelled to vote.
This matters. Millions around the world do not have this right. We do. Cherish it.
I'll be voting this Friday at the advance voting station, I hope I'll see you there.