Could legislature ‘takeover’ inspire future Famous Five?
Victoria Gibbs wasn’t born yet when women last held five of the most powerful positions in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, and she wonders why it hasn’t happened since.
Gibbs, 17, was one of 27 young Island women chosen to “take over” the assembly on Oct. 11 as part of the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl Child. They learned about the historical implication of PEI's Famous Five in 1993: The Honourable Marion Reid (lieutenant governor); The Honourable Catherine Callbeck (premier); Nancy Guptill (speaker); Elizabeth Hubley (deputy speaker); and Pat Mella (opposition leader).
“I thought that was so cool,” the Charlottetown Rural grade 12 student said of the Famous Five. “Why couldn’t it happen again?”
During her day in the legislature Gibbs and her peers considered how they could influence enduring change to encourage more women to run for public office. She said she would like to see more women in politics to offer a fresh perspective.
“It's always been men,” she said. “This is the 21st century and we know women are capable of holding those positions. We need a mix of different points of view.”
To prepare for the day, Gibbs studied issues impacting women globally such as lower education levels, higher HIV rates, and the injustice of child marriage. Although she recognizes the privileges she grew up with in Canada compared to other parts of the world, she says some things have to change.
“I think it’s ok to get angry,” she said. “Some of these things just aren’t fair. It’s important to be paying attention and listening and trying to change things in any way we can.”
Gibbs points out everyday double standards in what boys and girls can wear. She finds dress codes that apply to women and girls particularly irksome.
“We should be able to wear what we want without worrying if it is distracting boys,” she said.
Gibbs has her sights set on the University of Kings College’s Foundation next year to study history and political science. Between her studies she works as a team leader at McDonalds, plays softball for the West Royalty Rockers, and dreams of authoring a novel for youth.
Gibbs is looking forward to studying history and politics and hasn’t ruled out the possibility she might run for politics some day.
Islanders are invited to the 25th anniversary conference of PEI’s Famous Five October 30.