Imagine 500 of your closest Guiding friends, one big campfire, an unbeatable location, and surprise guests who are truly living the Guiding Promise to “take action for a better world.” That’s pretty much what happened at this year’s Girl Guide campfire on Parliament Hill.
Every year, Ottawa Girl Guides gather on the third Wednesday of October for fun, friendship and adventure, singing songs around Canada’s best-known fire – the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill. The 2016 celebration was perhaps the best yet, with spectacular fall weather, a huge crowd, and many special guests.
Guider Vicky Wallace, better known as Thumper in her job as year-round Camping Programs Supervisor at Camp Woolsey, created a terrific program of songs to keep the crowd active and engaged. With her 12th Qu’appelle Rangers, they led the crowd in a lively singalong for an hour on a beautiful autumn evening. Girls came together from all over the greater Ottawa region, travelling on foot, using transit and school buses, all to converge upon Parliament Hill en masse!
Hosting a campfire right on the Hill was especially convenient for some of the evening’s attendees, whose offices were just steps away. Guiding is currently very well-represented in the House of Commons and Senate of Canada. As the gender balance continues to improve in our federal government and more women take their seats, the caucus of former Girl Guides has grown to more than 20 Members of Parliament. With their fond memories of Guiding in mind, these MPs and many other friends of our organization gladly accepted our invitation to say hello after evening votes in the House of Commons concluded.
The keen campfire-goers who came to sing and dance included: Patty Hajdu, Minister for the Status of Women; Anju Dhillon, Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women; Peter Schiefke, Parliamentary Secretary for Youth; Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister; and over 15 other MPs, parliamentary secretaries, and ministers.
A few highlights from our Guides-turned-MPs:
- Parliamentary Secretary Gudie Hutchings earned her Canada Cord during her 15 years as a member
- MP Sheri Benson completed her fire safety Guide badge and even still goes by the nickname “Safety Sher”
- MP Bernadette Jordan enjoyed Brownies and Guides, then gave back to girls as an adult by becoming a Guider
- MP Alaina Lockhart made great connections with Guiding in her eight years as a girl member, and now has a daughter completing the Guiding program
- MP Lisa Raitt was awarded with her first aid badge and many more as a Guide member
- MP Hedy Fry was enrolled in Brownies through Rangers in Trinidad and went on to become a Tawny Owl
- MP Sonia Sidhu became a keen hiker as a Junior and Senior Leader in India
- Parliamentary Secretary Joyce Murray joined her local Brownie unit after immigrating to Canada, which helped her quickly settle into her new home and life in Vancouver
- MP Alexandra Mendès logged over 50 nights of camping adventures in just four years as a member in Portugal
Those experiences have strengthened their ability to confidently lead, and lucky for us, have strengthened Guiding’s connections to decision-makers in our nation’s capital. Girls can be inspired by the diverse female role models who have walked in their same footsteps as Girl Guides, song-singers, camp-goers, adventure-seekers and more, who are now taking on vital roles in public service.
These inspirational women have taken to heart their life-long Promise to be true to themselves, their beliefs, and Canada, as they take action for a better world by representing their communities. Once a Girl Guide, always a Girl Guide!
Guest post by Diamond Isinger. Diamond is an Ottawa Guider, keen camper and communicator. Recently transplanted from Vancouver, she previously served as West Coast Area Commissioner and PR Advisor, sharing stories of girl greatness. Check out her previous posts: Meet Charlie; Girl Guide cookies + green activities = a sweet combo!