Politics

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau defends post urging women to thank men on International Women's Day

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has stepped out to defend a controversial social media post she published on the eve of International Women's Day, after many took her to task for encouraging women to "celebrate the boys and men in our lives."

Liberals criticized for fundraising off the back of International Women's Day

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau hold hands as they arrive at the Daughters of the Vote event, as part of International Women’s Day, in the House of Commons on Wednesday. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has stepped out to defend a controversial social media post she published on the eve of International Women's Day after many took her to task for encouraging women to "celebrate the boys and men in our lives."

On Tuesday, Grégoire Trudeau asked her followers to take a picture holding hands with their "male ally" and share it on social media with the hashtag #TomorrowInHand.

"This week, as we mark International Women's Day, let's celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect, and who aren't afraid to speak up in front of others," she said in the post.

The post garnered widespread criticism on Facebook, where women filled the comment stream with their disappointment.

  • "I think I'll spend International Women's Day focused on the women who encouraged me to be who I am instead," said Becky Cooper Clancy.
  • "Ugh, really?!?! Don't we already celebrate men enough?? Do we really need to make International WOMEN'S Day about the men in our lives???" said Kristina Kurth Benoit.
  • "In case you missed it, Sophie, this is International Women's Day. You don't have to turn everything into a way to promote your husband. Shameful!" said Anne Dunlop.

By Wednesday afternoon the message had collected almost 3,500 comments.

Explaining the post

Grégoire Trudeau used an event on Wednesday to explain that she created the post because she wanted men, women and boys to "hold hands in the fight for more equality."

"Because if boys and men aren't part of the equation where we learn from one another, have truthful conversations and complement one another, we will not achieve the prosperity and peace that we deserve as human beings," she said.

Grégoire Trudeau said women should "thank the men around us who believe in us."

The prime minister's wife posted that on Women's Day women should celebrate the men who support them 2:11

That message was not well-received by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel

"My personal opinion is, today, rather than saying we are celebrating men and boys, let's talk about public policy options, or other things that we need to raise awareness on to see continued gender equality."

Rempel said she would have rather seen Grégoire Trudeau use her public profile to remind people that genital mutilation on women is still widely practised in parts of the world, or to speak out against early and forced marriage for girls.  

"It looked like the PMO sat around and said, 'How can we make International Women's Day about a photo of Justin Trudeau,'" she said.

Inappropriate fundraising?

Grégoire Trudeau was also criticized by opposition MPs for a fundraising email she sent out on Wednesday asking people to help raise $25,000 for the Judy LaMarsh fund to help support women who want to run for political office.

"International Women's Day fuels me with motivation for the work ahead," she says in the letter.

"And one important way we can achieve meaningful change is to empower the women leaders we know to become decision-makers in Ottawa, by supporting them in running strong, successful campaigns in their communities."

Conservative MP Gérard Deltell said politicians need to be very careful when using a non-partisan event or occasion to fundraise for a political party.

"I think it's very touchy when you make a fundraising reach to an event that is non-partisan," he said. "So you have to be very careful when you call that kind of shot."

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu said the Liberal government was blurring the lines between what its responsibility is as a government and what it does to fundraise as a political party.

"I really hate it that the Liberals are using every opportunity to use their governmental position to do fundraising for the Liberal Party," said Gladu.

"I think it's a shame that they chose to take advantage of International Women's Day."

That sentiment was echoed by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, who said the move just didn't feel right.

"I think that International Women's Day should not be about political parties," he said. "It's not a partisan issue, it's a human issue, equality issue, for everyone — maybe it's not appropriate."

Braeden Caley, a spokesperson for the Liberal Party, said the fundraising email was about ensuring the "involvement, representation and election of more women in politics." 

"Today's email by Mme. Grégoire Trudeau is one important way that goal is being supported, building on her long record of work with grassroots Liberal supporters and all Canadians to help achieve gender equality in politics," Caley said in an email to CBC News.