What does Trudeau’s “Feminist Foreign Policy” mean for Canada and for women?
By: Kaelen Pelaia, Staff Writer
For the first time, four of Canada’s six G7 member nations are being represented in our country by women.
In recent years, there has been a push around the world for women to become more involved in international politics, and the idea has since manifested as the first female majority of G7 representation—and where better than right here, on Canadian soil.
The Trudeau government has adopted, what it calls a ‘feminist foreign policy’, in the hopes that other governments internationally would do the same. German ambassador to Canada Sabine Sparwasser has remarked that the policy could “help Canada leave a new mark” on the world.
Lakehead University professor Dr. Laure Paquette told The Argus that the federal government, while making an honest effort, could be doing more to ensure the inclusion of women in the upper echelons of Canadian and international politics.
“Canada is really not being that ‘revolutionary’ so to speak,” Paquette says. “The UN has an international guideline that states that ideally, at least 15% of all peacekeeping positions in government should be held by women. Not only that,” she continues, “but it’s essential to have women in high positions when interacting with nations and entities with cultures dissimilar or different to our own.”
“As it stands, women only hold the leading position in 2 of the 5 big ministries,” Paquette says. “The federal government needs to consider appointing women to these positions in government as a next step.”
What does this mean for the future of Canadian politics? Well, a more inclusive and accepting environment for women in politics is always a good idea. It’s certainly a shrewd move by the Trudeau government – they are, without a doubt, fulfilling the vision of egalitarian gender distribution in politics. Over half of the Liberal Cabinet positions are held by women, including Thunder Bay’s own Patty Hajdu as the Federal Minister of Workforce Development, Employment and Labour, and Chrystia Freelandl as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Paquette notes, “The fact that there is a woman, Chrystia Freeland, in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, means that she could be getting the qualifications necessary to eventually succeed Trudeau,” though she quickly adds “…but not in the immediate future.”
While the Liberal government has its own reasons for a ‘feminist foreign policy,’ the logic or motive behind this decision really doesn’t matter – the necessary change is still in motion.
Yet, there is a long road ahead for women in Canadian politics. Despite the fact that there has been a surge of women holding high positions in recent years, institutionalized sexism remains a major issue in Canadian politics. Take the recent example of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, who was dubbed “Climate Barbie” by Conservative MP Gerry Ritz.
Institutionalized sexism is not only present in politics, but in many aspects of society. The government has yet to announce any plans to improve educational incentives for women to enter careers that have historically featured a higher male workforce, or to reduce the workplace instances of women not receiving appropriate compensation for, most notably, maternity leave, which can lead to a lower overall average income of women in particular.
However, the Trudeau government has taken a feminist-oriented approach to foreign aid. They announced in June that over 95% of the budget set aside for foreign aid has been allocated to aiding impoverished women and girls in less fortunate situations and parts of the world.
In a world where divides along lines of race, gender, and religion seem to be growing with every passing week, it is refreshing to see outward support of women in politics from a major international standpoint. However, it is essential to not lose sight of the end goal – a more egalitarian and open government and society, where all forms of discrimination, institutional or individual, are not tolerated.