Kathleen Wynne, the first female premier of Ontario and the first openly gay premier in Canada was the keynote speaker March 8 at an International Women’s Day event at the University of Ottawa.
A recurring theme of her speech was the impact women had in the development of Canada. She constantly referenced a picture of the fathers of confederation, but noted the absence of their wives.
“We all learned about Canada’s fathers of confederation in grade school. Who are the mothers of confederation? Who are they?” said Wynne. “We know they were there, but they aren’t mentioned.”
The speech was used as a place for Kathleen Wynne to underscore her government’s efforts to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.
“I am determined to use my influence to make change,” said Wynne. “The need for action and influence, I think, is particularly acute when it comes to issues surrounding sexual assault and violence against women.”
The University of Ottawa was a very topical place for Wynne to speak of her administration’s efforts to institute a policy for sexual assault because of the recent case of the university’s men’s hockey team. The team is under suspension because of allegations of sexual misconduct on a road trip to Thunder Bay.
“There is a real danger in silence. If we don’t talk about it or we pretend that it’s not pervasive or that it’s not happening, then we are doing nothing to stop it from happening again and again and again.”
The Ontario government and Ontario colleges recently accepted a new set of guidelines governing the handling of sexual assault at all public colleges in Ontario, which includes Algonquin.
The standing-room-only crowd was roughly split between men and women. Kevin Page, former budget officer and the host of the event, took the stage at the end and said, “I feel inspired … and I am a guy”
Others in the crowd were inspired by the message. Kyle Barnes, a second-year political science student at the University of Ottawa, was accepting of the message the Premier put forward.
“I definitely think we need to take a more proactive approach, we can’t just act like these issues are just going to resolve themselves.”
Wynne remarked at how diverse the crowd was and how the message might finally be resonating with the wider public.
“Maybe one day, we won’t need these kind of events,” said Wynne.