PM starts walking the walk on feminism

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Canada’s self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is starting to walk the walk. On Wednesday, he will take another step in his commitment to equality with a federal budget that was submitted to a gender-based analysis. It’s the first time this has happened and it’s long overdue. Gender-based analysis is a critical but underused policy-making tool; it looks at how policy might affect men and women differently. That’s cause for cautious optimism.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/03/2017 (2079 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Canada’s self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is starting to walk the walk. On Wednesday, he will take another step in his commitment to equality with a federal budget that was submitted to a gender-based analysis. It’s the first time this has happened and it’s long overdue. Gender-based analysis is a critical but underused policy-making tool; it looks at how policy might affect men and women differently. That’s cause for cautious optimism.

This follows another move to drag the Canadian Criminal Code into 2017. On International Women’s Day, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced legislation to remove seven out-of-date, so-called “zombie” laws in the Criminal Code. Zombie laws are old laws that remain on the books despite being rendered meaningless.

The timing of her announcement was no accident. One of those zombie laws concerns abortion, or, as the Criminal Code clumsily puts it, “procuring the miscarriage of a female person.”

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESs fileS Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Yes, that’s correct: the law prohibiting abortion that was struck down as unconstitutional in the landmark Morgentaler decision in 1988 remains on the books.

The most recent push to clean up Canada’s Criminal Code was sparked by a cautionary tale out of Alberta. In convicting Travis Vader of second-degree murder, a judge relied on a legal definition that, despite being declared unconstitutional in 1990, remained part of the Criminal Code. The judge later admitted he had erred and changed the conviction to counts of manslaughter.

No one has been convicted of “procuring miscarriage of a female person” in the past 29 years. But the formal and long overdue removal of the antiquated language in the Criminal Code, along with a pledge to spend $650 million over three years on sexual and reproductive rights and health worldwide — also announced on International Women’s Day — suggest that perhaps Mr. Trudeau’s feminist talk is more than just talk.

The former further cements the Liberal party is a pro-choice party, something Mr. Trudeau has been talking about since his days on the campaign trail. The latter, meanwhile, sees Canada stepping up at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump is banning foreign aid to groups that provide abortion counselling.

Many Canadian women, from magazine columnists to women’s rights activists, have wondered if Mr. Trudeau is a faux feminist. Critics have pointed out that his feminism is often of the palatable, bubble gum, girl-power variety — as though he’s the long-lost sixth Spice Girl, Selfie Spice.

He’s been heavy on the T-shirt-friendly platitudes — for $21.99, you too, can own an official Liberal party “Add Women, Change Politics” V-neck — and light on policy that ensures equality for women, in all spheres.

Earlier in the month, Oxfam Canada published a scorecard rating the federal government on what action it has taken to advance women’s rights and gender equality. The government got a green light in only one policy area: representation and leadership, thanks in large part to a gender-balanced cabinet. It got a red light when it came to jobs and pay equity.

Sure, placing the likeness of a woman on a banknote and erasing old language from the Criminal Code is a good start. But the government would do well to remember it’s just that: a start. The government would also do well to keep in mind Canadian women will not accept scraps and sloganeering.

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