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Local delegate not part of protest during Ottawa event

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Prince George's Lila Mansour kept that saying in mind when when some unexpected controversy flared up in the House of Commons this week.
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Lila Mansour speaks in the House of Commons on Wednesday when the Daughters of the Vote delegates appeared in the chamber.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Prince George's Lila Mansour kept that saying in mind when when some unexpected controversy flared up in the House of Commons this week.

She was among the 338 young women from across the country who were in Ottawa as part of the Daughters of the Vote program and, on Wednesday, they were in the chamber to give speeches on issues that mattered to them.

But perhaps the biggest statements were made when dozens of them turned their backs on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and walked out on Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Mansour was not among them.

"I prefer to keep the dialogue open and if I don't agree with someone's point of view I prefer to listen to them and hear their perspective and voice my opinion and be able to have a conversation with that person," Mansour said in a telephone interview.

"And so I preferred not to walk out, I preferred not to turn my back, but instead to listen."

Mansour said those who chose to turn their backs on the PM did so in protest of the decision to eject former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould out of the Liberal caucus.

"It was a critical issue especially for the Indigenous women who felt it was inappropriate that he removed an Indigenous minister speaking truth to power," Mansour said. "They felt that was kind of threatening them and how they are going to speak to power."

About the same number walked out on Scheer when he addressed the delegates just prior to Trudeau. Mansour said they did so because he did not want to fund the Daughters of the Vote program, which is run by Equal Voice, an organization that advocates for equal representation of women in parliament.

Each of the delegates got a chance to deliver a speech and Mansour, who is of Syrian descent, thanked the government for letting so many refugees from the war-torn country into Canada but added they still need support.

"It's not just about bringing them over, it's about helping them to become part of this country," Mansour said and added she touched on racism and Islamophobia.

"I'm also passionate about Indigenous issues, so I made sure I mentioned that as well," she said.

She had to pack all that into just one minute.

"You can barely scratch the surface in a minute, but it was a powerful minute," Mansour said. "Any time is wonderful."

The graduate of College Heights Secondary School is currently in her second year of working towards a bachelor of arts in economics at University of Northern British Columbia and plans to study law afterwards.

Mansour is also very active in the local community - she is an organizer for youth activities at Relay for Life and is a volunteer at the Justice Education Society. She also led a Hijab for a Day event at UNBC and has helped at Open Mosque events in town. In 2017, she was named the city's youth of the year.

In 2017, Mansour was among the 150 youth from across Canada chosen to present issues that Canadians will face for the next 150 years. It was a result of that experience that she became interested in Daughters of the Vote.

"I wanted another opportunity to share my opinions and express concerns about issues that are going on in this country," she said.

Mansour sat in the seat occupied by Prince George-Cariboo MP Todd Doherty but is not sure a career in federal politics is right for her. It's "definitely a little bit scary," she said.

However getting involved in local politics is not out of the question.

"I'm very passionate about my community," she said.