A worthy role model

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Catherine Callbeck New photo, Oct 2012

Thanks to Catherine Callbeck, countless girls and women in P.E.I. have been inspired to pursue public service

The P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government believes, as Marian Wright Edelman once said, “You can’t be what you can't see.”

We were thrilled to attend the open house in honour of Catherine Callbeck’s birthday and retirement from the Senate on Friday, July 25. As an organization dedicated to increasing the opportunities for women to be elected to government, we were pleased to join over a thousand Islanders in recognizing the Honourable Catherine Callbeck’s truly remarkable career.

Catherine Callbeck has long been a trailblazer for women in public life, beginning in business and later as an elected official. Impressively, she has served her community and province for over 40 years.

First as an MLA, where she held a cabinet position as minister of health and social services. Later she became the first and only woman to date to be nominated for a federal seat by the Liberal Party of P.E.I. — a seat she won.

She went on to represent the riding of Malpeque as MP in the House of Commons before leaving to seek the leadership of the Liberal Party of P.E.I.

In 1993, Catherine Callbeck made history as the first woman in Canada to be elected premier of a province or territory. It would be 18 years before another woman — Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador — would lead a provincial party to leadership.

As former leader of the Opposition Pat Mella notes, “Catherine Callbeck has given Prince Edward Island a place in the history books as the first female provincial premier. All Islanders, especially women and girls, should thank and honour her for that.”

Her time as a public servant, both elected and as a senator, was marked by work in such areas of importance to women’s equality as prevention of violence against women, promotion of women in business and leadership, and addressing poverty, particularly in rural communities.

Last week’s celebration of her birthday and retirement demonstrated to us how deeply valued she was by her neighbours and friends close to home. It was a good reminder that our leaders of the future are already among us in our communities, ready to recognize role models and follow their example.

Thanks to Catherine Callbeck’s leadership, countless girls and women in P.E.I. and Canada have been inspired to pursue public service. Her willingness to dedicate her time and energy to serving her community and province as an elected official is valued and appreciated.

By Dawn Wilson (guest opinion)

Dawn Wilson is executive director, P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government.

Organizations: P.E.I. Coalition for Women, Liberal Party of P.E.I., House of Commons

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island

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