Job shadowing opportunities don’t get much more unique than Breanne Lavallée-Heckert’s day on Parliament Hill. The second-year McGill law student got to spend Oct. 5 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he went about his duties.
“It was absolutely amazing. It was really great,” she said the next day.
Lavallée-Heckert was one of 17 young women in Canada who got the chance to see their dream jobs up close through the #GirlsBelongHere initiative, which celebrates International Day of the Girl (Oct. 11).
Lavallée-Heckert arrived on Parliament Hill at about 8 am, accompanied by a small entourage from Plan International Canada, which organized the initiative that allows young women to experience their dream job for a day and demonstrate every girl’s right to achieve their potential.
“For the first part of the day, I basically got 45 minutes to hang out with the prime minister, which was super cool. I’m realizing it more and more now how unique of an experience it is to have 45 minutes with the prime minister.”
She asked him why he set his sights on being prime minister. And yes, the topic of McGill came up, with Trudeau, BA’94, asking why she chose to study here. (She loved the McGill law program with its “transsystemic approach,” teaching common law and civil law at the same time.)
Next up was a tour of Parliament, with Trudeau showing her his favourite place there, she says, the Library of Parliament.
“It was actually really cool in the House of Commons. I was able to sit in his seat. They all have nametags on all of the seats. He actually gave me his little tag that has his name on it and it’s signed in the back … A little piece of the House of Commons that I get to take with me.”
Lavallée-Heckert had tweeted at Trudeau in late September saying she dreams of being prime minister one day and challenged him to share his office with her for #DayoftheGirl “to prove that #GirlsBelongHere!”
Trudeau quickly accepted the challenge.
While shadowing him, she attended an event for people with disabilities, a wheelchair race, and had lunch with him and his chief of staff, Katie Telford. “I talked a little bit about missing and murdered Indigenous women, [the focus of a national inquiry], says Lavallée-Heckert, a Métis from Winnipeg.
“With the inquiry just kind of being seemingly stalled at this point, I’ve been not really knowing where it’s going, and so it was good to be able to talk with him about that and recognizing that it’s a complex issue and just I guess getting to hear some of the nuances behind it, it was really great.”
Lavallée-Heckert has been involved with Plan International Canada since she was a high school student. She launched a “Because I am a Girl” club with friends at the time.
Gender equality became important to her in high school where she noticed boys took up space in rooms and she observed some of her friends taking up less of it. She realized “that maybe I’m not taking up as much space as I should be.”
Meeting Trudeau’s staff was inspirational for her.
“Plan International Canada and #girlsbelonghere is all about gender equality, and so seeing that our prime minister, who describes himself as a feminist, is actually surrounded by young, competent women, it was super inspiring and I was actually really proud to be part of that and to experience that.”
Lavallée-Heckert was allowed to briefly watch Trudeau prepare for Question Period and then watched it unfold in the House of Commons before saying her goodbyes mid-afternoon.
As she has gotten older, Lavallée-Heckert, says she has felt that there might be barriers that would prevent her from being prime minister, like having a family at the same time and what would it be like to be a woman in that environment.
“But after being there yesterday and just seeing how many women support the prime minister in his role, I realize that, of course, a woman could do it. Not that I didn’t think a woman could do it, but just that it was that much more [attainable] for me as an individual.”