The multi-partisan organization Equal Voice aimed at supporting women in politics faced severe backlash from its supporters after firing three racialized employees at the end of July.
Although the organization denied that the staffing changes had anything to do with anyone’s ethnicity, the incident caused four board members to resign while calling into question Equal Voice’s commitment to diversity as women began sharing their negative experiences with the group.
In the wake of these events, members of the campus group Equal Voice University of Saskatchewan chose to dissolve the group.
*Taylor Martin, a founding member of the U of S chapter and a Daughters of the Vote delegate, says they chose to disband after the “systemic racism within the organization became even more apparent.”
“We thought that it was an organization who elected women, who were good for women,” Martin said. “An organization that fires all of its racialized staff and suppresses Indigenous women’s voices is not what we thought it was.”
The discussions calling out Equal Voice happened largely under the twitter hashtag
#NotSoEqualVoice after the group sent delegates to Parliament Hill last spring for their biannual Daughters of the Vote event. A number of delegates spoke out, accusing the organization of discriminatory behaviour, including Martin who wants the national organization to shut down.
Autumn LaRose-Smith, a Métis fourth-year education student, shares this opinion based on her “terrible” time as a delegate for the Daughters of the Vote event last May.
LaRose-Smith says the organization barely considered Indigenous voices, using the delegates for a “tokenized photo-op” and even “segregated” them to mini-conferences removed from the general discussions.
“In [Equal Voice’s] journey to be non-partisan, they overlooked a lot of feminist issues,” LaRose-Smith said. “But what are their values? Are they wanting to help people of colour and Indigenous people or working on their own agenda?”
LaRose-Smith says the situation became “hostile” for her and the 40-some delegates who chose to protest Prime Minister Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer at the Parliament Hill.
“I’m still going through mental health issues that arose because of that conference. I wouldn’t tell anybody to go to it again,” LaRose-Smith said. “If the organization is not willing to admit to their own wrongdoings and accept them and know that it could help them move forward to be better, then I think that people should just stop supporting them completely.”
Now that the former campus group members have distanced themselves from Equal Voice, Martin says that women on campus who are interested in politics will support other organizations who prove they support diversity with actions. A current barrier is that there are few organizations with the same level of federal funding as Equal Voice which would make organizing an event like Daughters of the Vote financially difficult.
“Going forward, whether with different groups on campus, we have to make sure we’re electing women that are good for women and calling out women who have been elected who are doing things that are bad,” Martin said.
*To respect the privacy of the individual interviewed, their name has been changed.
Noah Callaghan/ Staff Writer
Photo: Autumn LaRose-Smith/ Supplied