When Julie Lalonde receives her Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case at Rideau Hall next Tuesday, she says she’ll remind Governor General David Johnston that Canada has a long way to go to end sexual discrimination, even in his own office.
The award, which the 28-year-old graduate student and activist will share with four activists, is the only award that does not come with a cash gift.
As much as she appreciates the recognition – for her advocacy of a sexual assault centre at Carleton U. – she could use the money to, as it says in the award’s dedication, “improve the lives of women and girls through her work to end sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
“I think that’s noteworthy,” Lalonde says about the discrepancy in money. “I might get the chance to mention that when I chat with the GG David Johnston because they give a cash award to every other recipient except this. I think that’s noteworthy.”
In the 10 years this native of Sudbury’s made Ottawa her home, she’s become one of the leading, and loudest voices in feminism and the fight against sexual violence, regardless how popular, or unpopular it makes her.
“Receiving this recognition means the work I do is less invisible,” she explains. “You don’t think about sexual assault services until you’ve been raped and suddenly need them.”
The award Lalonde is sharing with Ottawa’s Constance Backhouse, Nahanni Fontaine from Winnipeg, Susan Shiner from St. John’s and Vancouver’s Cherry Smiley commemorates the 84th anniversary of the Persons Case when five Canadian women – Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Edwards – won the right to be legally recognized as persons in Canada,
“I’m not going anywhere,” she says. “I’ll keep pushing the conversation about sexual safety. There’s lots of resistance. My work challenges the status quo. There have been far too many sexual assaults recently, and major problems with OC Transpo. Until they do something to make it safer, better lighting, more surveillance and zero tolerance for harassment, it isn’t safe taking the bus and we have to admit that.”