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CanadaWhat’s a Feminist Government? Canada, and Trudeau, Grapple With the Question

13:05  15 april  2019
13:05  15 april  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

What’s a Feminist Government? Canada, and Trudeau, Grapple With the Question

What’s a Feminist Government? Canada, and Trudeau, Grapple With the Question OTTAWA — It was the sort of audience meant to be a natural fit for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada — more than 300 young women taking part in a “Daughters of the Vote” day of civic engagement in Parliament. But no sooner had he begun to speak than several dozen of the women stood up and dramatically turned their backs on him. “Respect the integrity of women & indigenous leaders in politics,” Deanna Allain, one of the participants, said in a tweet aimed at Mr. Trudeau earlier this month. “Do better.” Try as he might, Mr.

What would you say to Indigenous women about what went wrong with the inquiry and what they can expect from their government ? Has Justin Trudeau kept his promise of being Canada ’ s “ feminist PM”? How will the NDP plan to take back that mantle in the upcoming campaign?

Mr. Trudeau swiftly turned the machinery of Canada ’ s government toward finding a way to get While other prime ministers grappled with American presidents who were unpopular among What seems more certain is that Mr. Trudeau and his government will be fighting a steady march of

What’s a Feminist Government? Canada, and Trudeau, Grapple With the Question© Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada at the “Daughters of the Vote” day in Parliament this month. Several dozen women stood up and turned their backs on him.

OTTAWA — It was the sort of audience meant to be a natural fit for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada — more than 300 young women taking part in a “Daughters of the Vote” day of civic engagement in Parliament. But no sooner had he begun to speak than several dozen of the women stood up and dramatically turned their backs on him.

“Respect the integrity of women & indigenous leaders in politics,” Deanna Allain, one of the participants, said in a tweet aimed at Mr. Trudeau earlier this month. “Do better.”

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The Prime Minister of Canada is an official who serves as the primary minister of the Crown, chair of the Cabinet, and thus head of government of Canada .

Canada ’ s federal election is not until October, however, and analysts said the result will depend in large part on what happens next: whether Mr. Trudeau can defuse the scandal and the inquiries around it; how successfully his opponents can tar his reputation; and what happens with the SNC-Lavalin case.

Try as he might, Mr. Trudeau can’t seem to move past the controversy that has sucked up most of the air in Canada since February, when the country’s first Indigenous female attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, quit after accusing the prime minister’s office of inappropriately pressuring her in a criminal case.

The episode has propelled Canada into an agonized, bad-tempered and occasionally hairsplitting argument about the rule of law, the exigencies of party loyalty and the role of women, Indigenous people and feminism in political life.

What’s a Feminist Government? Canada, and Trudeau, Grapple With the Question© Patrick Doyle/Reuters Jody Wilson-Raybould, second from left, quit the cabinet after accusing the prime minister’s office of pressuring her in a criminal case.

It has also left Mr. Trudeau, whose cabinet by design contains equal numbers of women and men, repeatedly trying to defend his feminist credentials.

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" Canadians expect their government to have a constructive working relationship with the incoming But Trudeau also enumerated his own principles. "At the same time, Canada is a separate country "I'm never going to shy away from standing up for what I believe in," Trudeau tells Belleville town hall.

The government reported was created by the “ Feminist Government Team” which “includes employees with the departments of Foreign Affairs, Indigeneous Affairs, Infrastructure and Labour, the National Research Council, Office for the Status of Women and Shared Services Canada .”

He has, for instance, had to answer complaints that his treatment of Ms. Wilson-Raybould, and of another female minister who resigned in solidarity with her, has been covertly but classically sexist, a here-they-go-again example of men in power failing to listen to women who dare to speak their minds.

But there are broader questions, too, over what it means to run a country according to feminist principles. Very few places have even embarked on such a thing — in 2014, Sweden proclaimed itself to have the world’s first feminist government, and a few countries have formed cabinets that are at least 50 percent female — so Canada’s experience is a kind of experiment in progress.

What’s a Feminist Government? Canada, and Trudeau, Grapple With the Question© Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star, via Getty Images Olivia Chow, a former member of Parliament, said she saw a familiar scenario in the dispute between the former attorney general and the government.

Mr. Trudeau has lived up to his promise, his foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said in a recent interview, by pursuing feminist policies at home and abroad.

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Canada ' s feminist government has significant work left to do on a range of policy issues affecting women' s equality, Oxfam Canada says in a new scorecard. Investing nearly million in shelters across the country is a part of that. We are working towards poverty reduction with the strategy.

Trudeau had repeatedly promised his government would be more open and transparent than the previous one. Eschewing the customary black cars that carry soon-to-be ministers to the doors of the official residence of Canada ’ s governor-general, Trudeau and his family and the new cabinet arrived

Among these are committing billions of dollars to a program that pays money to families with children under 18, and promoting sexual and reproductive rights overseas.

Still, how is a feminist government supposed to operate? How does having a half-female cabinet change the dynamic among its members? Should negotiations be any different when one or both of the participants is a woman? In tough conversations, or tough debates in Parliament, does gender matter?

With his government lagging in the polls as Canada prepares for a national election in the fall, Mr. Trudeau has come under attack from both right and left; the opposition has deployed the hashtag #fakefeminist all over Twitter as a weapon against him.

“If this prime minister is such a feminist, why is he muzzling the former attorney general?” Michelle Rempel, a Conservative member of Parliament, taunted Mr. Trudeau in a recent debate. In the same debate, her Conservative colleague Candice Bergen ridiculed the prime minister as a hypocrite and then accused the Liberals of “yelling” at her during her remarks.

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Trudeau stressed that Canada still has a long way to go. He cited the male-female earnings gap as one example and violence against women — especially aboriginal women Asked by the moderator how he started using the term, Trudeau referred to his parents. He said his mom was a feminist , but the

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“We will not be lectured by the Conservatives about women’s role in our society,” Mr. Trudeau responded.

In this noisy game of they said/they said, the rest of the country is trying to sort out what is politics and what is objective reality.

“We’re all looking at a Rorschach picture and coming away with different interpretations,” said Elizabeth Renzetti, a columnist for the Globe and Mail. “But because Trudeau has so diligently nailed his colors to the feminist mast, then any step he takes outside those rigidly proscribed boundaries is going to reflect badly on him.”

“It’s a hoist-by-your-own-petard situation,” she said, of the expectations raised by Mr. Trudeau’s avowed commitment to feminism: “Live by the F-word, die by the F-word.”

Olivia Chow, a former member of Parliament from the left-leaning New Democratic Party, said she saw a wearyingly familiar scenario in the dispute.

“She said, ‘No’ — once, twice, three times, four times — and they just kept at it,” Ms. Chow said, referring to Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s complaint that the prime minister’s office relentlessly leaned on her to consider a civil penalty for a company accused of bribing Libyan officials to win contracts there. “At some point you feel like, ‘How many times am I going to say, ‘No,’ and you won’t listen to me?’ ”

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Is Canada ’ s feminist image too good to be true? Canada ’ s prime minister is a self-proclaimed feminist . Two years ago, Justin Trudeau ’ s appointment of the country’ s first gender-equal But now Canada ’ s own record on gender equality has been called into question by a perhaps unlikely source.

Justin Trudeau . One year on, what has emerged is a government that seems to go against the political tide Trudeau ’ s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau , Canada ’ s prime minister during the late 1960 s , 70 s and 80 s , once Trudeau to be questioned by ethics watchdog over reports of cash for access.

The Trudeau government said it pushed for the civil penalty because a criminal conviction would have cost the company government contracts, imperiling Canadian jobs.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s complaints are wide-ranging, but have focused on two aspects of the episode: first, that a senior adviser to the prime minister used “veiled threats” to compromise the integrity of her department, and second, that as a woman and an Indigenous leader — she is a former regional chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations — she has been silenced in her efforts to speak truth to power.

“I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth teller,” she said recently. And in a written submission to the House of Commons, she said the government’s treatment of her had included “undeniable elements of misogyny, much of it aimed at myself.”

Tracey Ramsey, a member of Parliament from the New Democratic Party, repeated criticisms leveled by the opposition that members of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party had used loaded language to demean Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who was also the justice minister.

“The prime minister’s office has attempted to make this a gender issue by labeling a strong, capable woman difficult to work with, something that women hear all the time when they’re trying to challenge the power structure,” she said. “The characterization that she ‘experienced this differently’ — how many times have women heard that in workplaces?”

But what some people call mansplaining, others — including women in Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet — call politics, pure and simple.

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Patricia A. Hajdu, the employment minister, said in an interview that being a minister entailed having “vigorous conversations about things that you don’t agree on.”

The issue is not one of sexism, she said, but of disagreement. “Obviously with strong leaders around the cabinet table we won’t always agree on everything,” she said. “To think there’s a gender normative way that women behave is actually sexist.”

She added: “There’s a phrase I used to like, ‘Add Women, Change Politics,’ but it’s not the whole story. Absolutely add women. But just because we have more women doesn’t mean things are necessarily going to be gentle or more cooperative.”

Ms. Freeland, the foreign minister, agreed. “I think it is both wrong and a mistake to somehow represent women in politics as somehow being better by virtue of our X chromosomes,” she said.

“I know some women who are wonderfully kind and generous and loving,” she added, “and I know some men who are — and I know some women and men who are tough and ruthless and cunning. The moment you start attributing any kind of characteristic to one gender or the other, you’re not reflecting the world I live in — and you’re setting the women up for failure.”

She said, too, that a minister should support the prime minister “99 percent of the time in private, and 100 percent of the time in public.”

Arguing that he is far better than the alternative, supporters of Mr. Trudeau point to measures like the introduction of gender-based budget analysis; the enactment of a parental leave policy for second parents; and heavy investment in public housing as examples of programs that specifically benefit women.

“By any objective measures — and I would put this in bold, in italics, underlined, highlighted — this is, bar none, the most feminist government Canada has ever had, period,” said Kate Bezanson, the chairwoman of the sociology department at Brock University.

“The charge of #fakefeminism is a handy alliterative stance for a party that is anti-choice, anti-gun control, anti-childcare legislation,” she added of the Conservatives.

One of Mr. Trudeau’s problems may be that, much like President Barack Obama, he has raised expectations.

“Something there is kind of bubbling up that has nothing to do with politics, but is more of a generational discontent,” said Penny Collenette, a prominent Liberal who now teaches at the University of Ottawa, citing the anger expressed by the young women at the parliamentary event earlier this month.

“The world needed a man to stand up and say that he was a feminist, and Trudeau did that,” Ms. Collenette added. “If he can reset — and there a number of ways he can do that, if he can make people understand that he knows he’s made some errors and has honestly apologized — will that be enough to reassure everyone?”

Mr. Trudeau himself thinks he can reset.

“You define labels not by what you choose to affix yourself with, but with what you actually do,” he said in a recent interview. “There’s lots more to do, and I am not going to worry too much about labels. I expect people to judge me on my actions.”

Ian Austen contributed reporting.

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