Despite gains toward equal political representation, there continues to be an important gender gap in leadership for all orders of government in Canada. In 2021, women held just over a quarter of municipal council seats. In 2022-23, CanWILL funded research conducted by the Canadian Municipal Barometer at the University of Calgary and found that women currently represent 31% of all municipal elected representatives in Canada.

This democratic deficit is even more pronounced for women from equity deserving groups. FCM wants to help close this gap to ensure diverse voices inform decision-making, enriching our political discourse. 

Canadian Women In Local Leadership (CanWILL) is a three-year project (2021-2024) that is part of FCM’s portfolio of social inclusion initiatives. The project aims to increase the participation and retention of women in municipal leadership and support a more diverse, inclusive and equitable environment in municipal governance processes. The project prioritizes underrepresented women, including Indigenous, Black and other racialized women, as well as youth and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. The project leverages the success of FCM’s Toward Parity in Municipal Politics (2018-2020) and Diverse Voices (2016-2018) initiatives.

CanWILL aims to achieve four core objectives:

  1. Strengthening the capacity of women, particularly women from equity deserving groups, to run for elected office
  2. Creating a more conducive context for women leaders to thrive
  3. Enhancing the capacity of municipal stakeholders to address gender-based violence and harassment
  4. Mobilizing knowledge and sharing best practices across municipalities

CanWILL is implemented in partnership with FCM’s membership, provincial and territorial associations (PTAs), as well as key national partners and local stakeholders. It is funded by the federal government through Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

About the Inclusive Community Initiatives (ICI)

On September 23rd, 2022, we announced grant recipients of our Inclusive Community Initiatives (ICI). The virtual event with Women and Gender Equality Parliamentary Secretary Jenna Sudds, FCM President Taneen Rudyk and FCM CEO Carole Saab welcomed more than 50 attendees for a discussion of practices and measures that foster a more inclusive municipal environment. Representatives from the City of Markham and the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities presented an overview of their respective initiatives. For a full list of the Round 1 and Round 2 initiatives funded through Can WILL, please see below. We thank Wage and Gender Equality Canada for their financial support.

See the event livestream here.


Eight projects selected for Round 2 of our Inclusive Community Initiatives (ICI)

With this funding, CanWILL is supporting municipalities and regions that are working in collaboration with local partners to help women (with a particular focus on Indigenous, Black, racialized, youth and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community) run for office or remain in leadership positions in local government.

In this second round, up to $10,000 in funding was awarded to each of the selected initiatives. 

Vancouver, British Columbia
Pathways to Civic Participation and Community Leadership

Initiative Summary. The City of Vancouver and its local partner, Women Transforming Cities (WTC), believe that demystifying municipal government is a critical step toward civic participation. Their Pathways to Civic Participation and Leadership project was designed to provide interactive, educational workshops to women who are underrepresented in local politics and support them to run for office. The partners are targeting underrepresented women by engaging with local organizations that work with Indigenous, Black and racialized women, youth, and 2SLBTQ+ communities. Communities with low voter turnout in the October 2022 election will be specifically engaged. The workshop content will be developed with the community partners to make sure that it is accessible, culturally relevant, and inclusive.

Purpose and expected impact. By investing in capacity and knowledge development, Vancouver and WTC hope to make civic education accessible to underrepresented groups who have been excluded from political processes. They anticipate that the workshops will engage over 120 people and that they will impact the community organizations who will co-design and evaluate the workshops. This initiative is part of a broader city objective to provide ongoing civic engagement workshops for systemically excluded communities and will become a model for future programs run by the city.

Partners. Women Transforming Cities is Vancouver’s implementing partner for this initiative. WTC is a grassroots non-profit based in Vancouver that works to dismantle systems of oppression for equity-deserving genders and movements. The organization is experienced in delivering initiatives and programs in Vancouver to increase the education, engagement, and participation of equity-deserving genders.

Context. This initiative leverages previous research conducted by the City of Vancouver and Women Transforming Cities that looked at the systemic barriers to women’s participation in local government. The research findings showed the need for civic education to be made more accessible and relevant to underrepresented communities.

Village of Consort, Alberta
Empowering Rural Female Youth to Become Powerful Leaders

Initiative Summary. The village of Consort, in partnership with the Neutral Hills Learning & Community Centre are Empowering Rural Female Youth to Become Powerful Leaders. Through six training sessions, young women in grades 10-12 will learn how to run a successful municipal government campaign. One of the sessions will bring in a panel of municipal leaders from across the region to share their experiences and answer questions. The participants will run a mock election campaign and invite the community to hear their speeches and vote. The project will end with an awards presentation and celebration.

Purpose and expected impact. The project will inspire and build the confidence of rural female youth to engage in local government and see themselves as leaders. The community dinner will help bring awareness to the community on the importance of young women engaging in local government. By combining individual skills development sessions with a community awareness component, the village of Consort aims to create a pipeline of female candidates to lead their community. This initiative will serve as a pilot for both the Village of Consort and the Neutral Hills Learning & Community Centre to determine if they should run the program on an annual basis and deepen their reach and impact in Consort and beyond.

Partners. The Village of Consort and the Neutral Hills Community Adult Learning & Community Connection Centre are working together to help rural female youth find support, knowledge, and skills that will enhance their lives.

Context. Within Consort and the surrounding areas, 49% of the population are female but this is not reflected on council where only 33% of elected officials are women.

Edenwold, Saskatchewan
Women in Government: Campaign School and Regional Committee

Initiative summary. This initiative will have two parts: a campaign school and a regional committee. The municipality of Edenwold and Equal Voice will offer the campaign school in the lead-up to municipal elections in November 2022. The curriculum will focus on different aspects of government and candidacy, from council responsibilities to conflict of interest. The regional committee will bring together female politicians from neighbouring municipalities and Indigenous groups. It will work to identify exclusionary policies that limit women’s participation in government. These initiatives are being delivered as part of the municipality’s Women in Government Program.

Purpose and expected impact. The Municipality of Edenwold conducted research on the challenges faced by women candidates and politicians and identified two prominent areas that contribute: lack of knowledge about municipal government and municipal policies that create exclusionary environments. Through the campaign school and regional committee, Edenwold will help women strengthen their confidence and knowledge about municipal government and contribute to more women putting their names forward for candidacy. The committee will be tackling these issues through a broader analysis using a GBA+ approach.

Partners. Edenwold is partnering with Equal Voice on these initiatives. As subject matter experts on women’s political participation, Equal Voice will support the municipality by reviewing all campaign school and regional committee material and ensuring it meets best practice standards for inclusion.

Context. Across rural Saskatchewan, women are underrepresented in municipal government. Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) statistics show that only 6% of Councillors and 5% of Reeves are women – disproportionately low compared to the general population (50.3%). Edenwold mirrors this statistic: of 8 elected officials, there is only 1 woman. Limited participation in local government among women is one reason why the municipality started the Women in Government Program.

Peterborough, Ontario
Faces of Leadership

Initiative Summary. The Faces of Leadership project is a collaboration between the City of Peterborough and the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough (CFGP). Its goal is to empower equity-deserving groups to see themselves as leaders. The project’s first phase will involve focus groups with local leaders and underrepresented members of the community to understand how to foster greater leadership opportunities for equity-deserving groups. In the second phase, the curriculum will be developed for a community-led leadership circle. Local leaders will help deliver the curriculum through six interactive workshops. Participants will have opportunities to intern with a board of governance, shadow a local leader, take a tour around City Hall, and engage with City staff. An artist rendition of the participants’ experiences and their “faces” of leadership will be revealed at an end-of-project celebration at City Hall.

Purpose and expected impact. This project will equip the participants with the knowledge, courage, and confidence to believe in their leadership potential, and connect them with a community of mentors and allies. The project’s outcomes will inform Peterborough’s future programming, including the design of a Fund for Women and Girls to be administered by GFGP in 2023. It will also have an impact on the city’s diversity, equity, and inclusion plan, and on work that the city is currently guiding to diversify its governance and operating structures.

Partners. With CFGP’s community reach and connections to local charities, and with Peterborough’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), this project allows the partners to work together to address all four pillars of the Parity Knowledge Hub while also advancing the City’s DEI work and CFGP’s goals for gender equality.

Context. Gender equality efforts led by CFGP thus far have indicated that local leadership roles lack representation from diverse women. For example, even though many women and gender diverse individuals work in the charitable sector, the leadership of the sector does not reflect this diversity.

Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities
Ma municipalité, j’y suis engagée!

Initiative Summary. The Ma municipalité, j’y suis engagée! project will offer five self-directed campaign school modules in French. It will also offer four Zoom discussion sessions facilitated by French-speaking political mentors to engage Acadian and Francophone Nova Scotians on the content of the modules. The project will have a research component to gain a better understanding of the Francophone community’s participation in municipal politics. A survey will identify some of the challenges faced by Francophone Nova Scotians and the kinds of support that could help them get more involved.  The translated campaign school sessions will be promoted through the 11 secondary schools within Nova Scotia’s Francophonie.

Purpose and expected impact. This initiative’s purpose is to provide Acadian and Francophone women with greater access to tools, training, and manuals to encourage their interest in municipal politics. By offering campaign school content in French supported by dialogue with Francophone political mentors, the project will help Francophone women to see themselves as viable candidates in the political arena. Through engagement with the Francophone secondary school system, elements of the project will be integrated into school curriculum and activities.

Partners. This is a first-time partnership between the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities (NSFM) and the Fédération des femmes acadiennes de la Nouvelle-Ecosse (FFANE). While NSFM offers expertise in the municipal political process and the ability to collect information from its members, FFANE has deep knowledge of the Acadian and Francophone community throughout Nova Scotia.

Context. There are currently no French language campaign school materials available in Nova Scotia and there is also a lack of information on the barriers and opportunities for the Francophone community to participate in municipal government.

Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax Regional Municipality Indigenous Women in Leadership Program

Initiative Summary. The Indigenous Women in Leadership Program will establish a campaign school that is grounded in the unique needs and experiences of Indigenous women, gender diverse, and Two-Spirit peoples. The funding will help them set up an advisory committee, develop a marketing and communications plan, identify individuals who will contribute to the campaign school, and develop the campaign school curriculum. A listening and learning event will take place before the launch of the campaign school in May 2023.

Purpose and expected impact. The program aims to reduce the systemic barriers Indigenous women, gender diverse, and Two-spirit peoples face in running for and thriving in local government. Through networking and education opportunities, the program is targeting a 10% increase in the number of Indigenous Women, gender diverse, and Two-Spirit peoples on Halifax Regional Council, Mi’kmaq governance bodies, and municipal advisory boards and committees by 2027. The campaign school will reach 60 people directly.

Partners. This program is being implemented through a partnership involving the City of Halifax, the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and the Mi’kmaq Circle of Hope Society. The partners will work together to ensure that the program connects to existing networks and programs that support Indigenous peoples living on reserve and in urban settings.

Context. In 2020, Halifax achieved gender parity on Regional Council but there is still much work to be done to address the barriers that disproportionately affect Indigenous women, gender diverse, and Two-Spirit peoples’ participation in municipal and Mi’kmaw governance structures. Currently there are no members of Regional Council who identify as Mi’kmaw or Indigenous and only 5.3% of racialized persons, including people who identify as Indigenous, occupy roles on municipal advisory groups, boards, and committees.

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador
The Value We Bring

Initiative Summary. The Value We Bring project is an advocacy campaign that will use short videos to amplify diverse women’s voices and stories. The project will build on a previous Make Your Mark campaign led by Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) in advance of the 2021 municipal elections. It will produce a new season of Make Your Mark TV, with four new episodes featuring women of diverse identities who are leading within the municipal sector. The campaign will launch with a screening of the first episode at the MNL Women’s Leadership Summit in November 2022.

Purpose and expected impact. This project is about celebrating the diversity that already exists within Newfoundland and Labrador’s (NL) municipal sector. The previous Make Your Mark campaign contributed to a 2.8% increase in the number of people who put their names forward for election. By amplifying the voices of underrepresented women, the project hopes to see more people of diverse identities running for office. The videos and feature stories will be housed on the Make Your Mark website and can be freely accessed by organizations and individuals for training and learning purposes.

Partners. MNL and Equal Voice Newfoundland and Labrador (EVNL) have worked closely on several initiatives. As a multi-partisan organization that advocates for gender parity and inclusive representation in Canada’s Parliament, provincial legislature, as well as municipal and band councils, EVNL is an obvious partner for MNL to encourage diverse leadership in the municipal sector.

Context. There is growing diversity within the NL municipal sector, but more work remains to be done. In the 2021 municipal elections, the number of women elected increased by 10% compared to 2017. Black women, Indigenous women, women of colour, and women in the LGBTQ2S+ community are still underrepresented.

Moncton, New Brunswick
Tending to the Playing Field: Enhancing Everyday Democracy

Initiative Summary. Moncton is carrying out a gender-based analysis+ (GBA+) to identify the gaps and systemic biases within its operations and structures that keep women and other underrepresented groups from getting involved in municipal politics. The audit will involve surveys and interviews with past and present councillors, volunteers, and staff to assess internal awareness and knowledge. Existing studies and tools, such as the Toward Parity Framework, will be drawn on to assess the city’s governance structures and policies. Recommendations developed from this analysis will support and encourage women and underrepresented community leaders to participate fully and thrive within Moncton’s municipal structures.

Purpose and expected impact. This initiative will build the city of Moncton’s institutional integrity so that it can more meaningfully engage with women and underrepresented groups. The project will have permanent effects on Moncton’s governance framework. It will also serve as a model for other small and mid-sized communities across Canada who have less representation of people of diverse identities within their councils and administrations. By cultivating a more gender-responsive work environment, Moncton hopes to open the door to more women, Indigenous, Black, racialized, 2SLGBTQ+, youth and other underrepresented groups getting involved in the work of local government.

Partners. Moncton has hired the multi-partisan organization Femmocracy Now to conduct the GBA+ audit and review of the city’s political and operational processes. Femmocracy Now has worked with the City of Moncton to encourage women to run for municipal office in the greater Moncton area.

Context. Currently, there are no young people or visible minorities on Moncton’s municipal council. Leadership positions within the administration are predominantly occupied by men and there are no visible minorities.


Ten projects selected for Round 1 of our Inclusive Community Initiatives (ICI)

In this first round, up to $10,000 in funding was awarded to each of the selected initiatives. 

L’Association française des municipalités de l’Ontario (AFMO)
In 2022, let's aim for parity, diversity and inclusion

Initiative summary. AFMO will offer a training in French to women, youth and members of Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ communities to help prepare anyone interested in standing for the October 2022 municipal election. The course includes 6 video clips featuring elected Franco-Ontarian leaders/role models (women and men) from different regions and backgrounds. Additionally, a campaign will be conducted among the public and with AFMO’s 39 member municipalities to raise awareness about the importance of parity and diversity in municipal politics. AFMO plans to launch two additional initiatives to sustain and augment efforts to achieve the goals of parity, diversity and inclusion in French speaking communities: the establishment of an AFMO Women’s Commission and a discussion with its members to build agreement around developing a provincial strategy. 

Purpose and expected impact. The aim of the Parity, Diversity and Inclusion in 2022 project is to increase the number of women candidates/elected women from underrepresented backgrounds in the 2022 municipal election, particularly in French Ontario. The project will generate increased awareness and understanding of the importance of parity in politics in AFMO’s 39 member communities and enrich municipal leadership in French Ontario with the inclusion of French-speaking women from historically underrepresented communities. The partners will make the new French language training and resources accessible to AFMO members and others who may be interested in replication. 

Partners. The Association of Francophone Municipalities of Ontario (AFMO) is partnering with Leadership féminin Prescott-Russell (LFPR) - the only organization in French-speaking Ontario dedicated to women's leadership in municipal politics - to implement the project.  

Context. Currently, women councillors represent only 29.5% on Ontario’s municipal councils and no Ontario municipal association offers a strategy aimed at achieving both parity and diversity.  

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Chestermere, Alberta
Toward Parity Project: Next Generation

Initiative summary. A series of activities designed to include and support women from marginalized or newcomer communities to run for municipal leadership positions is being implemented in Chestermere. This new project – Next Generation - builds on successes gained through previous efforts to build parity. Project activities includes a survey with female residents from underrepresented backgrounds to help define current challenges and barriers, dissemination of information about municipal governance and how to contribute, a virtual skills development workshop, the creation of a new participatory platform and network to foster dialogue and mentorship and sponsorship initiatives.   

Purpose and expected impact. This initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of women, particularly those who are underrepresented, to run for, assume and/or remain in leadership positions in local government. Enhanced inclusion, improved access to information and increased support for women, particularly those from marginalized and newcomer communities is anticipated. The project is expected to lead to more positive community perspectives about parity, diversity and inclusion, enhanced civic participation in the local democratic process, and a more gender and diversity-responsive municipal government. Local knowledge, tools and best practices on municipal roles and responsibilities will be available beyond the life of the project.  

Partners. A new partnership involving the City of Chestermere, the Rocky View Immigrant Society and the Synergy, Youth and Community Development Society has been created to expand community connections, identify women and girls across all marginalized and newcomer groups interested in local leadership, and to implement activities.  

Context. The City of Chestermere’s history includes strong, female elected leaders.  However, recent analysis confirms all women continue to face barriers in engaging in municipal politics, and generally, citizen engagement and participation remains low.   

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Edmonton, Alberta
Policy Competition and Councillor Matching Project

Initiative summary. In this Edmonton-based project, young women and non-binary people (aged 18-40) who are Black, Indigenous or racialized, marginalized and low-income learn how to develop policy and ground it in their lived experiences. The competition’s theme is “recognizing leadership capacity all underrepresented people already have” and incorporates inclusive, gender-based analysis approaches (GBA+).

Six participants will win a spot in a week-long mentoring program with Councillors to help them build connections and networks and secure endorsements. Activities include outreach, participant and competition judges’ recruitment, mobilizing business sponsorships, delivering a virtual workshop/panels, developing a campaign kit and media training. Participants are also receiving transportation support to facilitate their participation.    

Purpose and expected impact. The Policy Competition and Councillor Matching project will address the lack of representation in local politics from diverse women from historically underrepresented groups by working with them to identify challenges and barriers unique to them and offering resources and support to help them run for and thrive in local leadership. New initiatives and tools will support more women and gender diverse individuals to assume a seat at the municipal table and contribute to city building. The partners expect the policy competition and matching program will become an annual event with assistance from current councillor mentors during the remainder of their terms (2025) and from local sponsors.

Partners. Edmonton is partnering with Parity YEG and its Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton (WAVE) Committee to implement activities.  

Context. The last municipal election resulted in 8 women, including 2 of colour, elected to Edmonton’s Council. Discussions with these officials identified multiple challenges during their campaigns including tokenism (more interest in their views about race than policy priorities) and a lack of connections and endorsements. 

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Federation of PEI Municipalities (FPEIM)

Initiative Summary. One virtual and 5 in-person campaign schools are being organized in 3 rural and 2 urban municipalities to provide women with knowledge, skills and tools to successfully run for municipal leadership positions in the upcoming municipal election. A campaign manual, childcare and travel assistance are supporting candidate participation.

The project will showcase diverse women’s experiences and promote them as municipal leaders. Post-election, course effectiveness will be evaluated by looking at the proportion of women from historically underrepresented groups who ran and the percentage who won. A post-election roundtable will provide an opportunity for candidates to share their campaign experience including any trauma or gender-based violence faced. Candidates will also be asked to identify structural changes, advocacy needs and/or other recommendations to help reach gender parity.

Purpose and expected impact. SheLeads is empowering women from underrepresented communities across PEI to run as candidates in the October 2022 municipal election. The campaign workshops, guide and report will be posted on the websites of the FPEIM and PEI Coalition for Women in Government to promote ongoing remote learning and to inspire replication. Partners also plan to advocate for multi-year funding from municipalities to enable ongoing efforts towards diversity and parity. A final project report will be presented to FPEIM’s 41 members and the provincial Municipal Affairs Branch.

Partners. The Federation of PEI Municipalities (FPEIM) is partnering with the PEI Coalition for Women in Government to implement this initiative and engaging PEI’s Council of People with Disabilities, Immigration and Refugee Services Association PEI, BIPOC-USHR and the 2SLGBTQ+ PEERS Alliance to assist in reaching the participant target group.

Context. While women make up 39.7% of councillors and 26.9% of mayors in PEI, women with disabilities, from BIPOC and LBGTQ2S+ communities and youth (18-35) are poorly represented. This initiative addresses that disparity.

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Hamilton, Ontario
Reaching for Power

Initiative summary. Reaching for Power is targeting 60 women from historically underrepresented groups in Hamilton (non-binary persons, racialized women, Indigenous women and LGBTQ2S+ individuals) to participate in an interactive learning conference that will give them the training, tools and confidence to participate in municipal politics or municipal leadership roles.  

Health guidelines permitting, the in-person (alternatively virtual) conference is taking place in Spring 2022 and featuring 10 workshops covering topics that reflect needs identified in a community consultation survey as well as running in a municipal election, municipal leadership roles/responsibilities and how to navigate leadership and political systems. The conference is featuring a keynote speaker and leaders from underrepresented communities as workshop facilitators. It is designed to reduce barriers to participation by providing space, interpretation, a live-captioned conference video, take-home resources and participant travel support. 

Purpose and impact. This project will help women/youth from underrepresented backgrounds to engage as municipal leaders.  Project partners plan to repeat the event virtually to reach a wider audience, share conference lessons and promote participants’ names and face recognition. They will also encourage participants to share their new knowledge and experience with their communities/organizations.  

Partners. The City of Hamilton and YWCA Hamilton have a longstanding relationship and experience advancing women’s issues. The project will build on results of the partners’ 2020 Reaching for Power initiative and deepen relationships between the city and diverse community partners to leverage support for women’s participation in civic leadership. Hamilton’s Status of Women Committee has also committed their support.  

Context. Hamilton is a very multicultural city and although 7 of its 15 Council members are women, the first woman of colour was only elected in 2018.   

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Markham, Ontario
Leading for Change

Initiative summary. A series of 6-8 weekly virtual and in-person learning opportunities are being offered to 10 individuals from underrepresented communities aspiring to municipal leadership in Markham. A range of media vehicles is being used to promote the initiative. Workshops, networking opportunities, coaching circles and mentors will guide and support participants. Thematic sessions will include how municipal government works, leadership and decision-making, the electoral process and campaigning, civic engagement and addressing local gender and race-related barriers and challenges. Resource experts are designing the curriculum and tools and helping champion the initiative and community elders/peers will provide culturally relevant coaching as participants navigate their journey to municipal leadership.  

Purpose and expected impact. The Leading for Change project will equip women and non-binary individuals and youth from BIPOC communities with the knowledge, training, skills and networks to pursue municipal leadership roles. Participants will benefit from new infrastructure (community networks, mentorship and sponsorship programs) and a supportive leadership learning environment. There is potential for continued engagement for current and future participants as mentors/coaches, guest speakers and workshop facilitators.  The city-community partnership has strong potential to facilitate continued work on municipal leadership parity and diversity.

Partners. Markham is partnering with the South Asian and Tamil Women’s Collective (SATWC), with support from a community advisory group to co-design and implement the project.

Context. Diversity and inclusion are priorities in Markham’s Strategic Plan, Inclusion Charter and Diversity Action Plan.  Still, 75% of Council members are men, more than 60% are white and Markham ranks 22/32 on the Ontario 2021 Municipal Democracy Index revealing certain gaps in public participation and diverse representation.  Although education and training about diversity, racism and bias are provided by the city, certain barriers still need to be overcome.

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Middlesex County, Ontario
Increasing Women's Participation in Local Government

Initiative summary. A virtual workshop is bringing together women from underrepresented groups living in small, rural communities to take the first steps towards leadership in Middlesex County. The event is also open to women from underrepresented groups in the City of London and area, as well as men who wish to support women leaders. The workshop will build women’s knowledge, confidence and capacities to help them put their name on the ballot. Guest speakers will share their experience and expertise on eliminating barriers, building networks and acquiring skills and tools needed to run for local office. Sessions will also cover volunteering in a campaign and advocating for local solutions to issues impacting women from rural communities. To enhance participation, the workshop is being widely advertised through social and traditional media, and childcare and transportation will be provided.

Purpose and expected impact. The project’s purpose is to assist women from underrepresented communities to run in Ontario’s 2022 municipal election. Candidates are expected to run and hopefully win. The Women’s Caucus plans to continue advocating for women and families in the County through follow-up with participants, new webinars/events and networking. Engaging two tiers of local governments to increase diversity and gender parity in rural leadership introduces an innovative, collaborative municipal approach that can be replicated in other rural communities to ensure more voices at leadership tables.  

Partners. The Middlesex County Women’s Caucus is launching the Increasing Women’s Participation in Local Government project in partnership with the Dorchester and District Lions Club and the London Middlesex Immigration Program has offered to support the initiative.

Context. The County’s Council, which represents 8 municipalities in rural Southwestern Ontario, currently has gender parity and is committed to maintaining and advancing parity in future.

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Niagara Region, Ontario
Seat at the Table Workshops and Mentorship

Initiative summary. The 2022 municipal election provides an opportunity to advance Niagara’s 5-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan through Seat at the Table, a virtual 7 workshop series and mentorship program that targets 150 – 200 women participants from underrepresented groups. The project will be broadly promoted through 200 community organizations that serve women from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds (BIPOC, low income and faith groups and newcomers). Pre-election sessions will cover municipal government, civil engagement and thriving in the political sphere including handling discrimination and harassment, campaigning and entering politics. Post-election, sessions on council meetings and procedures will be presented to 40 – 50 newly-elected women. The final session will be offered to 100 men interested in championing women leaders. New tools, resources, networking and mentoring opportunities as well as childcare and transportation assistance will support these activities.

Purpose and expected impact. Seat at the Table aims to create a more welcoming, inclusive community and support women from underrepresented backgrounds to run for election. More women from diverse backgrounds are expected to be elected as municipal officials or take on community leadership roles. The partners plan to continue promoting women’s leadership and providing access to resources after project completion and hopes their collaborative, regional partnership and approach will inspire other communities to replicate their model for bridging the gender parity - diversity gap.

Partners. Niagara Region and its 12 municipalities are partnering with the Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Niagara (WIN) Council and the City of St. Catharines to implement the project. The YWCA, Future Black Female, and Services 4 Humanity (Muslim Senior Circle) will assist with conducting outreach, updating workshop content and providing speakers and mentors.

Context. Women hold only 27% of seats on elected councils and 45% on advisory committees/boards and no visible minority women serve on councils.

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Rossland, British Columbia
Pride and Power

Initiative summary. Rossland’s municipal leadership and diversity project - Pride and Power -  is engaging the LGBTQ2S+ community using a community-centered, participatory approach and safe, comfortable communications and engagement methods. Stakeholder “listing and learning” sessions with Pride groups and city officials and staff will review city policies, procedures and programs and develop data on systemic discrimination related to gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. Research will seek to uncover policies, training and best practices in rural municipalities that are successfully supporting diverse public participation and leadership. And a 3-part engagement series is facilitating participants to review research findings, develop localized solutions and prepare a report and recommendations for presentation to Council.

Purpose and expected impact. This initiative aims to engage and encourage LGBTQ2S+ individuals to consider municipal leadership. Participants will increase their civic knowledge and form new relationships with each other and the city. Rossland will strengthen engagement with communities representing diverse women/youth and have new information about policy, language and procedural barriers that need attention. Although partners hope for results in the 2022 municipal election, they expect more gender-diverse individuals will consider municipal leadership over the longer term. And they intend to share their approach and results with FCM and other municipalities who may wish to replicate it.

Partners. Rossland and the Seven Summits Centre for Learning are partnering to implement the work with support from a local consultant with expertise on intersectionality in rural development needs and contexts.

Context. While LGBTQ2S+ candidates for elected office are increasing at provincial and federal levels, most candidates are in urban centres with few in rural ridings. Rossland has embraced and supports Pride-related activities to send the message of inclusion. However, to date no individual from the LGBTQ2S+ community has run for office locally nor has research been conducted on their concerns and issues.   

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Kitimat & Smithers, British Columbia
Elect Her! Northwest BC: This is What Leadership Looks Like

Initiative summary. Elect Her! Northwest BC is providing online (potentially in-person) panels, workshops and training sessions on running for office and how to thrive once elected to participants who self-identify as Indigenous, Black and other racialized women, youth and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. Thematic workshops will explore a) redefining leadership (traditional Indigenous leadership and governance, barriers to running for office for women with diverse backgrounds, policies that promote a diverse, inclusive municipal environment), b) running a campaign and entering office and c) developing skills to shift a discriminating culture and remove structural barriers.

Gender analysis, model policies and best practices are being disseminated to small communities in the region to help them adapt their practices and tools to foster a more diverse, inclusive and equitable municipal environment and support individuals who wish to pursue leadership roles. Once elected, participants will have ongoing opportunities to connect to other networks and attend workshops on relevant topics. Participants are being provided with childcare and transportation to support their participation in the project.

Purpose and impact. This project aims to decrease the gender/diversity deficit in Northwest BC and normalize the role of women of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientation and lived experiences as elected leaders contributing to gender parity in all First Nation and municipal councils. Residents in the region will be more awareness of the benefits of electing diverse women leaders to their councils. More underrepresented women will gain knowledge, skills and confidence to run for elected office and existing and potential women leaders from diverse communities will be highlighted and celebrated regularly as candidates and elected officials. Municipalities plan to ask municipal and Indigenous councils for small grants in 2023 and beyond to support ongoing campaigns. This alliance showcases a unique regional collaborative partnership and capacity building model that can be replicated in other rural areas of Canada.

Partners. Two female Councillors, one each from Kitimat and Smithers, have created an Interim Steering Committee that includes the second ever female Chief of the Haisla Nation. Their community partners, the Bulkley Valley Social Planning Committee (Smithers) and Tamitik Status of Women (Kitimat) will undertake outreach and engagement strategies and implement campaign activities. This project will engage 24 Councils, 12 municipalities and 3 regional districts to help women in the region learn about leadership.

Context. Kitimat has its first female, non-white mayor. However, Kitimat and Smithers only have 1 women on each of their 7 member councils. And while both communities have a significant First Nations population, the councils do not reflect this diversity nor other underrepresented groups.

This initiative is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) Program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence (Nov-Dec 2021)

To mark the annual advocacy campaign, we partnered with leading organizations to host two successful events for elected officials and municipal staff. We thank the nearly 100 participants who made these webinars truly interactive.

On December 9, with Glitch, an expert on online safety based in the UK, we offered Digital citizenship and online safety for women in local leadership, a free, two-hour workshop where participants learned how to identify and document different types of online abuse and how to help someone who is being targeted, among other useful skills.

On November 29, with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and White Ribbon, we presented Municipal Allyship: Campaigns to End Gender-Based Violence, a free, one-hour, webinar to explore the simple, yet powerful, tools and tips that these organizations designed to prevent gender-based violence.

For access to the recordings, please contact


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