Politics

Trudeau marks International Women's Day as critics question his feminist credentials

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says promoting gender equality is a top priority for his government, but some critics are questioning his feminist credentials amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

Liberal government announces $100M in funding for women's organizations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is celebrating the accomplishments of women, but some are accusing him of being a hypocrite in the wake of the resignations of two women from his cabinet. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says promoting gender equality is a top priority for his government, but some critics are questioning his feminist credentials amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

In a statement to mark International Women's Day, Trudeau praised the achievements, contributions and leadership of women around the world, but noted that inequality and injustice persist around the world. He pointed to the measures his government has taken to improve the lives of women and girls.

"Advancing gender equality is a top priority for the government of Canada," he said. "Last year, for the first time in Canada's history, we put gender equality at the core of the federal budget and provided important new funding for women entrepreneurs, newcomer women and women in trades."

Trudeau's statement comes as he faces a backlash over the resignations of two of his top ministers, both of them women.

Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was moved to the Veterans Affairs portfolio in a Jan. 14 shuffle, quit a month later after a scandal erupted over alleged political interference in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. Jane Philpott resigned as Treasury Board president Monday, citing a loss of confidence in how the government has handled the affair.

Both MPs remain in the Liberal caucus.

Today, Philpott — who has not yet spoken out publicly about her resignation beyond her written statement — praised Trudeau for appointing a gender-balanced cabinet after he was elected in 2015.

"I believe he transformed our country, perhaps the world, in a positive way," she said during an event at Ottawa's City Hall. "He set a bar by which future governments, future councils, future advisory boards and others will be measured."

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said the ongoing controversy over the SNC-Lavalin affair has exposed Trudeau as a "fake feminist."

"Gaslighting a strong woman ... sets women back," she said in the House of Commons after Wilson-Raybould's testimony at the justice committee probing the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Today, many Canadians responding to Trudeau's message on Twitter also lashed out, calling him a hypocrite and a fraud.

"We have been sent back to the kitchen ... Trudeau the feminist is a fake," tweeted one person.

"Sure, unless that woman disagrees with your unlawful orders, in which case, she can expect a demotion and to be called a liar," tweeted another.

Monsef marks day with $100M funding

This year's theme for International Women's Day is #InnovateForChange, highlighting the need to break down barriers to women's success as entrepreneurs and tradespeople, and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In Toronto, Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef announced $100 million in funding for 253 women's organizations over five years. The Capacity-building Fund was announced in this year's budget for projects that support a viable and sustainable women's movement across Canada.

In a statement, Monsef praised those organizations for helping break through barriers for decades, often on little more than a shoestring budget.

"With this stable and flexible funding we are helping them scale up so they can grow and endure, because we know that investing in women's organizations is the most effective way to advance gender equality," she said. "By supporting a movement that has achieved amazing results, we are growing the middle class, strengthening families and communities, and creating lasting change that benefits everyone."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also issued a statement marking International Women's Day, saying he is "inspired" by the strong female leaders in his caucus. He said that despite progress the that has been made, many women and girls live in danger around the world.

"Women face persecution, they are exploited through human trafficking, lack proper access to education and face sexual assault and rape as a weapons of war. The world has come a long way, but we must do better and stand up for what is right in the world," he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh issued a statement today saying his party is pushing for "real and lasting change" that will improve the lives of women.

"Here in Canada, Trudeau's Liberal government was elected with high hopes of real change, but too often their lofty rhetoric has not been balanced with concrete action to advance gender equality," he said.

"Gender equality means enacting strong social programs that help women thrive, like affordable housing, health care and pharmacare."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comments on Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott remaining in the Liberal Caucus. 1:00

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.