On October 14th, the NDP campus clubs from across the Lower Mainland got together to host an evening with Laurin Liu – the youngest woman in Parliament. The event was a head-on challenge to the agism that roared throughout the media in the months that followed the last federal election.
Liu was one of the five McGill students elected in Quebec last May, as part of the NDP near-sweep of the province. Liu made no attempt to hide the fact that when she signed up to be a candidate, she never thought she’d be elected. But now that she’s a Member of Parliament, Liu recognizes the extent of the opportunity: “I got involved in politics because I care about issues such as affordable housing, student debt and the environment.” Now, she has a chance to make an impact.
In fact, Liu has been appointed the Deputy Environment Critic, a portfolio that suits her to a tee. Her responsibilities include fighting for legislative change, as well as fostering relationships with grassroots organizations. “If we lose our connection with the communities working on these issues outside of politics, that would be like losing our connection with the critic area.”
Many of the people in the audience were young activists, so Liu addressed some of the challenges that come with being a young woman in the public spotlight: “The challenge is to get people to see beyond my age. I am more than just a young person.” With that said, Liu remains positive that there are plenty of advantages to her age: “Many people are looking for political change, and young people – whether we deserve it or not – symbolize that change for a lot of people. I’ve had a number of people come up to me and say ‘I see myself in politics now, because of you.’ It’s been very encouraging.”
As many of us are well aware, it is difficult to change social perceptions and biases. However, having people as poised and committed as Liu in the spotlight is a good first step to changing attitudes.