An Inuvik resident was one of the dozens other young women who turned their back on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons on April 3, the day after he booted two high profile female former cabinet ministers from his Liberal caucus.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous woman to be appointed attorney general of Canada, and Jane Philpott were ejected last week after expressing non-confidence in the prime minister’s handling of the ongoing SNC Lavalin saga.
Wilson-Raybould was pressured by the prime minister and others to defer criminal prosecution of the Quebec-based company over bribery and fraud charges.
Eighteen-year-old Lesli Kisoun, who was among the Daughters of the Vote on Parliament Hill last week, said she turned her back on Trudeau after he expressed support for Indigenous Canadians.
Kisoun said that, at first, she didn’t know what was happening.
“I didn’t really know what to do,” she said.
“I walked in. I was pulling for him. And then when he said he supports us Indigenous people, I turned around and I walked out because I did not see no progress in him helping us Indigenous people.”
The day after, Kisoun stood in the Red Chamber to tell senators about the threat to the Porcupine caribou herd brewing over just across Canada’s northwest border, in Alaska.
“Our food security and our way of life is going to be effected and impacted forever if oil and gas drilling takes place in our calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou,” reads the speech she’d prepared.
Daughters of the Vote brings young women from every federal riding in Canada to the House of Commons to listen to our political leaders and question them in turn.
Kisoun found out she’d been chosen to represent the NWT on March 25 and was in Ottawa just a week later, though she didn’t find out until the last minute that all 25 speaking slots had been filled.
The speech she’d prepared at the last minute focused on the threats facing the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge following the Trump administration’s decision to open up the area for oil and gas development at the end of 2017.
“It’s really important,” she says, adding that she has seen little effort from Canada’s leadership to intervene.
Kisoun, who is Vuntut Gwitchin, is one of many Gwich’in leaders—young and old—from the NWT, Yukon and Alaska who’ve been trying to put a stop to this development before it happens, putting at risk the calving grounds of one of Canada’s few remaining healthy caribou herds.
“I thought for sure I was going to talk at the House of Commons but I didn’t know that they already had 25 picked out,” she said.
“I thought, ‘I wrote that speech for nothing.’ I was pretty mad.”
After getting the opportunity to speak with the senate, and with NWT MP Michael McLeod, she feels the trip was a good opportunity to keep this story on the minds of Canada’s leaders.
After their meeting, McLeod called Kisoun a “very inspiring young Northern leader.”
“I value her passionate advocacy for protecting the Porcupine caribou calving grounds in the ANWR,” he said.
“This is an important issue to Northerners that I have also raised many times over my term, from conversations with colleagues to speeches on the floor of the House of Commons.”