Miss Canada – exhibiting strength and humility in abundance
Jaclyn Miles is a very modest woman, despite the fact that she was recently honoured with a Women of Excellence award by the YMCA and has been Miss Canada for the past year. In fact, she would never have considered running for Miss Canada had her close friends not urged her to do so and secretly nominated her (she thinks)! Even after her name was put forward to the Committee, Jaclyn needed persuading. At a younger age Jaclyn competed in a beauty pageant, feeling at that time that she was validated by the way she looked. Brescia and her feminist-based courses made her realize that, instead, she should be valued for the qualities that she will have her whole life: intelligence; integrity; and compassion. She says, “When the Miss Canada group assured me that this was not a beauty pageant, I began to do some research. I learned that the event was more about the principles that each competitor stood for than about looks or talent.”
In Montreal Jaclyn was in “competition” with 1,600 other young women. Maybe it was because she didn’t see it as a competition so much as a chance to tell her story, that she was chosen as the overall winner. In the final round, 20 women were asked a question. Jaclyn’s was, “What is the most important issue facing Canada today?” Her answer was simple: abuse. She qualifies this, “The solution to abuse is, of course, not at all simple. More than anything, I want to convey to others that we must all show empathy when we hear about cases of abuse and be careful not to judge. Abuse does happen and, when you are in an abusive situation, getting out of it is not as easy as it seems. People should not be thinking, ‘What’s wrong with her that she let herself be abused?’ Rather we should be asking, ‘What’s wrong with the perpetrator?’” Jaclyn also knows that women’s self esteem can be greatly diminished if they have been in an abusive relationship. When she speaks publicly about the issue, which she has done frequently this year as Miss Canada, she tries to tell young women, and men, that what matters most are the choices we make and our resolve to become a better, stronger person.
Jaclyn spent two wonderful years studying at Brescia, working towards a combined honours degree in French and Family Studies but had to interrupt her studies here when her brother was in a serious accident. Since then he has recovered and is able to walk again, despite a grim prognosis. Jaclyn finished her degree in her hometown at the University of Windsor and went on to complete her education degree at Althouse. But it was Brescia, she says, that won her heart.
What is next for Miss Canada? She says, “Following a summer in Guyana working on a national action plan, I realized that I want to help women in Canada or abroad.” In the meantime, it is clear that Jaclyn will continue to help those around her feel better about the situations they are in,and about themselves.