In mid-November of last year, my two youngest boys and I were driving home for lunch when we came to a stop at a major intersection here in Woodstock, Ontario. On the corner was a young man holding a large sign that had a picture of a bloody dead fetus. This was something I had never seen before, or that my three-year-old son had never seen before.
The sign was large, bold, and if you wanted to turn your head the other away there was another activist on the opposite side with a similar sign. Not only did this invade the personal space of my child but it invaded a personal space within me that I did not know existed. I began to wonder who allows this? Who are these people?
What are they trying to say with these images? It was 11:00 am on a Wednesday right before lunch hour started for students in high school and in elementary school. I wanted to get to the bottom of this and figure out why and how someone could use these signs in this aggressive way.
In four short weeks I had contacted city hall, applied to be a delegation, started a petition asking for a by-law banning graphic imagery in our public space, became close allies with the ARCC (Abortion Rights Collation of Canada), educated myself on the Charter seeing as this was a form of "expression", contacted Advertising Standards of Canada to find multiple complaints filed against this imagery, and educated myself on the CCBR (Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform) or in other words "the big bullies on the block". Through this short but tough journey, I had found plenty of support from members of our community. I had women contacting me to sign the petition but to also shed light on their experiences with this imagery. Many that had been harmed by these images were women and children that had nothing to do with abortion. For me, this was about having the right to censor what our children view, how does anyone have power over me and my children? How does anyone have the right to force my child (my three-year-old child) to view something that is full of fear and shame without my consent?
Throughout this uphill battle, I took an interest in politics and democracy. I wanted to know more about our current council, the mayor, and how they decided on issues. I felt that three-quarters of the council ignored me, dismissed me, and did not take this national issue as seriously as I had hoped. Also after a private meeting with our Mayor, it was clear he could not separate "church from state". I felt that this was the year that I would try to gain a political role here in Woodstock. I am an active member in our community, working locally, involved in various groups, and consistently supporting our downtown core, and I am dedicated to representing young women and mother's who would like a future in politics.
The anniversary of the Women's March was fast approaching and I wanted to attend a march as I had heard Canada was going to show full support for this global movement. I remembered last year women travelling to Washington and I remember wishing I had been apart of that. Then the lightbulb went off... how about I host a march here in Woodstock!
Within one short week, I was able to get the information I needed, register Woodstock through the Women's March Canada, and I was able to spread the word like wildfire. This march was important to me for many reasons, the most important being that we need to remain current with national and global issues. Having been in local headlines for this exact reason I felt it was my responsibility to host Woodstock's first Women's March and I did just that! We marched loud and strong through our downtown core (one of my best friends had purchased a megaphone for me that morning-that was fantastic) we shared stories and ideas of what this year and many more years will look like for women in our community. This was a great day that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Through the March, I was able to connect with multiple women across Canada. One being Sara, she had mentioned to me that Waterloo was hosting a Women's Municipal Campaign School a week after the March. This was something I was interested in because I had recently decided that I am going to run for city council here in Woodstock. Attending the school this past Saturday has opened my eyes to many possibilities. I believe the most important piece I took with me is that my time is now, anyone that doubts me is someone that fuels me to work harder, and that I want to do the work! I hope to educate myself on various platforms that would better our community.
I hope to remain connected with the women I met on Saturday in Kitchener seeing as they have knowledge, drive, and passion. I have seen another side when it comes to my battle with the CCBR. Our current council did not pass a by-law and did not decide to regulate the flyers that are being distributed to private mailboxes but I do believe when I am elected I will keep this issue on the agenda seeing as Canadians are being harmed by these images every day. I learned not to campaign when you are angry, channel that into other areas that will fuel my fire to become elected on our council. Having no political background and being a 27-year-old woman with three young boys I believe the school taught me that I can do this! With the support of my husband, my family, and close friends, I will make this year a year for change in Woodstock.