Opinion

Justin Trudeau's government is all about promoting women as long as they have the 'correct' opinions

Having grown up in Pakistan, I share Rachael Harder's concerns on issues like sex-selective abortion

Rachael Harder

Liberal MPs walked out on a status of women committee meeting Tuesday in opposition to the Conservative pick for chair, Rachael Harder, who has advanced anti-abortion views in the past. (Rachael Harder/YouTube)

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Many Canadians were happy to see Liberal MPs walk out of a status of women committee meeting last week over the anti-abortion views held by Conservative pick for committee chair, Rachael Harder. I, on the other hand, felt betrayed. On Tuesday, Harder's nomination was defeated and Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, who did not want the job, was voted in as chair.

Justin Trudeau's government always tells us how it is pro-immigration and pro-feminism, ready to defend the rights, opinions and values held by the women and men who call Canada home. I'm forever thankful that I was able to migrate from Pakistan to Canada five years ago. As a Muslim, however, it is clear that my pro-life views and my voice are not being respected since they are not in line with Trudeau's supposedly feminist views.

It appears that to be a member of Justin Trudeau's government, women (and men) in politics have to toe the party line in terms of the "acceptable" opinion on women's issues. But that's not feminism. And it's definitely not welcoming to immigrants with diverse sets of values.

Rachael Harder's history

By most objective measures, Rachael Harder is a phenomenal role model for women in politics. She was voted in the top 40 under 40 in her region and has a long history of standing up for women.

Harder has defended Bill C-225, also known as Cassie and Molly's Law, which was pushed forward by the pro-choice partner of a Windsor, Ont. woman who was killed while seven months pregnant. The bill would "make it a separate offence to cause injury or death to a pre-born child during the commission of an offence against the child's mother."

Harder has also pressed the topic of sex-selective abortion, asking Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef in a meeting back in March if she considered the practice "gender-based violence."

As a young woman growing up in Pakistan, I saw firsthand what happens when girls are not counted as equal to, or as valuable as, men. For that reason, sex-selective abortion concerns me, and I am not alone in that worry: polls have shown that 90 per cent or more of Canadians are uncomfortable with sex-selective abortions. Would Liberal MPs walk out of meetings with those Canadians present, too?

It is one thing for Trudeau to demand that his MPs share his exact opinion, at least in how they vote, on matters of abortion. But it is quite another to refuse to accept as valid MPs elected from other parties who happen to have different perspectives.

Simply put: this is not respecting democracy. This is not respecting women with diverse views. I'm not asking that Liberals to agree with Harder, but simply that they respect her as a woman elected by Canadians.

This government likes to claim that it values diversity, and it attempts to showcase that by accepting many immigrants and repeating the mantra that "diversity is our strength." But does Trudeau not understand that many new Canadians, immigrants like myself, have pro-life and socially conservative convictions?

Promise of diversity

The stunt at the status of women committee makes it seem like we've been brought to Canada for a photo-op, but are not actually welcome at the table. How can Trudeau truly profess to be against Islamophobia if my pro-life convictions, shaped by Islamic beliefs, mean I would not be allowed to chair a committee if I were elected?

Moving to Canada was an incredible gift for me. I loved my adopted country. I believed in Canada. I believed it was a place where women with minority views have a voice. Canada should be a place where Jews, Christians, Muslims and Canadians of all other faiths could freely have and express their pro-life views. I was promised that Canada has freedom of expression and freedom of beliefs, resulting in a beautifully diverse society.

We need to see that diversity — diversity of opinion — in politics, too. I know I am just one of many young Muslim Canadian women, together with many immigrants and refugees, who share MP Rachael Harder's convictions. In that sense, the Liberals didn't just walk out on Harder, but on me and literally millions of other Canadian women. 

Palvasha Qureshi is a 21-year-old student taking health science at the University of Ottawa.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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