In January 2017, Karina Gould was appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions, becoming the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history. The Liberal politician and McGill Arts alumnus, made headlines earlier this year as the first sitting federal cabinet minister to give birth while in office. Gould has captured the admiration of parents across the country as one of the few to bring their baby into the House of Commons, furthering discussions and efforts to make Parliament Hill a more family-friendly place.
While paving the way for the next generation of female politicians, Gould has also been mandated with the challenging task of improving Canada’s voting system. In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton, Gould explains that her interest in electoral reform dates back to her undergraduate degree at McGill, where she completed a joint honors degree in political science and Latin American studies. She eventually wrote her thesis on the Canadian Electoral System.
When asked about her time as a McGillian, Gould confirms that she had a great experience as a student. “One of the things I loved most is the diversity of the student body, the fact that there were people from all over the world to connect with. Some of my best friends from McGill are from Canada, but also from the US, Sweden and Hong Kong. I felt really excited about being so connected to the world from Montreal.”
A pathway to success
Gould’s interest in international politics dates back even further than her years at McGill. After graduating from high school in 2005, Gould volunteered at an orphanage in Mexico for a year, which cemented her decision to pursue an education focusing on politics and Latin America.
In 2010, she worked as a consultant on migration work with the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. After completing a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford, she worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican Trade Commission in Toronto. In 2015, at the age of 28, she claimed her seat in the House of Commons, winning over a three-term incumbent. Gould served as Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau for International Development and La Francophonie and became the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. In 2016, she worked alongside the Burlington community to help welcome sponsored and government assisted refugees from Syria.
Her experiences at McGill helped her prepare for a career in public service. As President of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), her mandate was to ensure the availability of great programs and services to Arts Students. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, AUS became a hub for Haitian students and Gould helped raise over $20,000 in just 6 days with fellow members,
“McGill attracts bright, ambitious individuals who are also caring and compassionate,” says Gould, adding that when you put these attributes together and give students the opportunity to pursue their interests, they can accomplish amazing things.
Gould’s work and achievements so far are a reflection of these attributes. Representing the Burlington district, she continues to be an active member in her community, advocating for affordable housing, women’s rights, youth employment, environmental issues, and supporting Canadian manufacturing. Comparing her experience in Parliament to life at McGill, she emphasizes the balance between needing to meet deadlines and executing independent work— whether that be volunteering, extra-curricular, or anything in between.
“As politicians, we’re working on a team with common objectives, but we also have a lot of independence in our work and in choosing how to allocate our time. When there is an opportunity, try to seize it. Life is what you make it. You can choose to do as little or as much as possible. I think Parliament Hill is like McGill in the sense that opportunity presents itself to you and you have to choose what direction you want to go in.”
Your opinion matters
Gould encourages students to set goals and get involved. With a few accomplishments under their belts, students can pursue projects and initiatives that they are passionate about. New rules, laws, and regulations passed are going to affect millennials for most of their adult lives. There are many ways for students to get involved; they can volunteer for a political party, work on a campaign, or just exercise their rights by making their voices heard,
“Just do it. Even if you are not elected, you can do something else that will be just as impactful. Make sure that you are being loud and engaged because people will listen. Now is the most important time to be involved in politics. If you’re not speaking up or reaching out to your elected officials, you can be sure that someone else is and they may not share the same values as you.”
To learn more about the Honourable Karina Gould and her efforts to help shape a brighter future for Canadians, visit kgould.liberal.ca/.