Gen­der equal­ity un­der at­tack, Tru­daeau says

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Laura KANE

VAN­COU­VER — Gen­der equal­ity is un­der at­tack and, in the age of so­cial me­dia, it’s never been eas­ier to taunt and spread ab­hor­rent views, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau told a global con­fer­ence on the is­sue Mon­day.

Trudeau, who was in Van­cou­ver for the open­ing ad­dress of Women De­liver 2019, said that ha­tred is creep­ing in the pub­lic de­bate, with in­ter­est groups try­ing to roll back women’s rights, while politi­cians are giv­ing into the pub­lic pres­sure.

“The rights we en­joy in Canada, and the rights so many have en­joyed around the world, are not guar­an­teed. Progress can back­slide,” Trudeau said.

“We’re see­ing it hap­pen. Gen­der equal­ity is un­der at­tack, and I can only imag­ine how hard it is to be a fem­i­nist on the front lines.”

The prime min­is­ter didn’t say what he was re­fer­ring to, al­though last week he said he planned to talk to U.S. Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about the grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­can laws that re­strict abor­tion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has also re­in­stated a pol­icy known as the “global gag rule,” which bans U.S. fed­eral fund­ing for non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions abroad that pro­vide abor­tion ser­vices. Shortly af­ter the U.S. adopted the rule in 2017, the Trudeau gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted $650 mil­lion for sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health and rights world­wide.

Trudeau said the his­tory of women’s rights shows that ev­ery step for­ward is met by an­other push back, and women are still rou­tinely fac­ing misog­yny, racism and ha­tred.

He said politi­cians are “shame­fully” cam­paign­ing to undo women’s hard-won vic­to­ries.

“That’s a daunt­ing re­al­ity to face. My friends, we are not pow­er­less. It’s up to us to fight back,” he said.

He also spoke to the crowd about the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered In­dige­nous Women and Girls, say­ing Canada can and must do bet­ter to end vi­o­lence against all women.

His re­marks were in­ter­rupted by a woman in the crowd who cried out, “Then do some­thing!” An­other yelled, “Shame!” De­spite the brief out­burst, the crowd loudly ap­plauded when he ac­knowl­edged that the re­port con­cluded that vi­o­lence against In­dige­nous women amounted to noth­ing less than a geno­cide.

“Let me be clear, our gov­ern­ment will al­ways be your part­ner, will­ing to ad­mit when mis­takes are made and work­ing very hard to build a bet­ter fu­ture for all our chil­dren,” Trudeau said.

“My friends, I know and you know that we can’t take our foot off the pedal, not even for a mo­ment. There’s sim­ply too much at stake. Canada’s lead­er­ship isn’t go­ing any­where.”

Women De­liver is a global ad­vo­cate for gen­der equal­ity and the health, rights and well-be­ing of girls and women. The four-day con­fer­ence is billed as the world’s largest event ad­vo­cat­ing for those rights.

The con­fer­ence was at­tended by world lead­ers, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dents of Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia, who joined Trudeau for a panel dis­cus­sion fol­low­ing his speech.

Panel mod­er­a­tor Lyse Doucet, a BBC jour­nal­ist, com­mended Trudeau for be­ing one of the first world lead­ers to de­scribe him­self as a “fem­i­nist” and bring in a gen­der-equal cab­i­net.

But she noted he had a “tough year,” given that he brought “tough women” into his cab­i­net, and asked how it had af­fected his fem­i­nism.

For­mer cab­i­net min­is­ters Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould and Jane Philpott were kicked out of the Lib­eral cau­cus this year af­ter they al­leged the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice had pushed for Quebec en­gi­neer­ing firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid a crim­i­nal trial.

Trudeau said the ex­pe­ri­ence has in­creased his fem­i­nism and made him think dif­fer­ently about it.

“Fem­i­nism and di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion is not about mak­ing things eas­ier. It of­ten makes things a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult,” he said. “To have strong voices stick­ing up for dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives means you’re go­ing to get chal­lenged, means you get to chal­lenge back, and you get to try and fig­ure out what the right path is for­ward.

“No one per­son has the mo­nop­oly on all the right an­swers, re­gard­less of their gen­der, re­gard­less of their back­ground, re­gard­less of their po­si­tion as prime min­is­ter.”


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