Enbridge Speaker Series Nation Builder - The Honourable Anne McLellan

“Do not be a wallflower!” was the advice the Honourable Anne McLellan offered to women who attended the Famous 5 Enbridge Speaker Series event at the Chateau Laurier on May 18.

Famous 5 Ottawa honoured Ms. McLellan, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Canada’s first Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Chair of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, as a Nation Builder in the spirit of the Famous 5.

Ms. McLellan was welcomed to the luncheon by an eager audience to the upbeat “Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves” by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin.

During her inspirational remarks, Ms. McLellan told of her journey, including her political upbringing, her early career as a constitutional law professor, her entry into a very successful career in politics, and her plan to encourage more women to enter politics. She emphasized the role of strong female role models, especially her mother, had in her life. She underlined the contributions of others, crediting her successes to the goodwill, passion and intelligence of others.

The luncheon kicked off with opening remarks by Isabel Metcalfe, chair of Famous 5 Ottawa. Speaking of Ms. McLellan, she stated that the “Famous 5 - the only individuals who had ever successfully reformed the Senate of Canada – would certainly be happy today that we are lauding this clever, tenacious and diplomatic woman from Alberta.”

The Norton Rose Fulbright LLP Mentorship Program Recipient, Monica Podgorny then took the stage to introduce Ms. McLellan. The highly-accomplished recipient is a young regulatory and business lawyer who works in international trade compliance for an aerospace manufacturer. She previously worked for a Canadian national law firm, and has an impressive volunteer record, in particular with professional women's organizations, such as having served as the Executive Director of the Organization of Women in International Trade and as a mentor for the Women’s Legal Mentorship Program.

 In her introductory remarks, Ms. Podgorny expressed her admiration for trail-blazing women in politics and law, stating that their “demonstrated courage to speak-up with novel or minority opinions coupled with their determination to excel as women in these demanding professions is truly admirable and motivates other women to blaze their own paths.” She then conveyed her appreciation for such remarkable women, in particular the Famous 5 and the afternoon’s honouree.

Ms. McLellan spoke of the significance of the Famous 5 monument, which was unveiled on Parliament Hill while she was a cabinet minister. She indicated that it is the most frequently visited monument on the Hill, and one of the few monuments to feature women.

She provided insight into the challenges she experienced as a woman in political life. When she became a cabinet minister, a Calgary newspaper called her a woman, a feminist, a lawyer and a Liberal. “And I take ownership of all of those words!" she said, to thunderous applause.

Her comments focused on the importance of encouraging more women to stand for elected office. Ms. McLellan congratulated the Honourable Rona Ambrose for her role as interim leader of the Conservative Party and for her own efforts to encourage women to run. “Don't let anyone tell you that having women in government and politics doesn't make a difference,” she insisted. When asked a question about social media haters of women in public life, she advised the “the answer is not to run from the hate. Call it out!"

Among the attendees were Ms. McLellan’s former colleagues, Beryl Gaffney, Marlene Catterall, Bob Kilger, Elene Bakapanos, as well as Sheila Fraser, the first woman Auditor General of Canada, and Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

now this is a song to celebrate
the conscious liberation of the female state
mothers, daughters and their daughters too
woman to woman we’re singin’ with you
the inferior sex has got a new exterior we
got doctors, lawyers, politicians too
everybody take a look around
can you see there’s a woman right next to you
— Aretha Franklin and Eurythmics,
Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves