10/27/2015 04:33 EDT | Updated 10/27/2016 05:12 EDT

These Women Are Making A Difference In Canada's Political Environment


Beatriz Alas' uncle went out to vote and never returned.

It happened decades ago in her home country of El Salvador, but it is an incident that taught her the value of civic rights at a young age.

Now, Alas is a community engagement coordinator for the North York Community House in Toronto, Ont. She helps organize outreach programs that encourage youth and newcomers to Canada to get out to the polls.

In this month's episode of Her Story, we not only hear from Alas, but we also take a look at women's voice in Canada's political system as voters and as leaders.

As I was approaching the community room to meet Alas, I stumbled upon a group of teenage girls with a bucket of chalk, sitting on the sidewalk in front of an apartment building.

I was taken aback; It was not what I was expecting on a Friday evening in the Eglinton-Lawrence area.

"This is a low income community so a lot of people are having to work shift jobs or multiple jobs," explains Alas. "A lot of people who live in this area are recent immigrants or long time immigrants."

The group of girls were drawing pictures of people voting, with arrows pointing to the nearest polling station. It was days before the federal election and they were trying to encourage people to get out to vote.

"If you don't vote then for sure, nothing is going to go your way," says one of the girls named Emily. "But if you vote, then there's a chance you can get someone you want elected and they can help you out with issues you're concerned about."

Emily is 17 years old and is counting down the days until her 18th birthday.

"I'm waiting for my 18 years so I can finally vote. I want to contribute on how everything's going to run in the future," she tells me.

I found it inspiring to hear someone her age eager to hit the legal age for voting, rather than the legal age for drinking.

Alas says she witnesses it all the time; It's one of the things that motivates her to continue to encourage young people and newcomers to Canada to exercise their civic rights.

"Just like a muscle in the body, if we don't exercise our rights and if we don't exercise our responsibilities, we lose them," said Alas.

Meanwhile, former Liberal MP Sheila Copps says she not only wants to see more people out voting, but she wants to see more people -- specifically women -- getting involved in politics as a career.

"Certainly when I started there weren't that many women role models," says Canada's first female deputy prime minister. "Having a woman in that role gives people -- especially young women and girls -- a chance to see that there is an opportunity for women to advance in the political system and to be leaders in their own right."

Eighty-eight women will have their voices heard as they take their seats in Canada's 42nd parliament. That's up from the 76 seats held by women in 2011.

On top of that, prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau is set to announce his cabinet on November 4, with a promise of having an equal number of men and women: a first for Canadian history.


Canada's Election Night Photos 2015