Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver, Monday, June 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Hatred of women creeping into public debate, Trudeau tells equality conference

Women Deliver is a global advocate for gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of girls and women

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.”

READ MORE: All Canadians have a role to play in ending MMIW ‘genocide,’ report says

READ MORE: ‘Now the real work begins:’ Families urge action after missing women inquiry report

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.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vehicle incident causes Hwy 6 closure and power outages in Slocan Valley

A Thursday afternoon incident has closed the main highway in the Slocan Valley

Emergency dental clinic to open in Nelson during COVID-19 shutdowns

Only people with serious pain, infection, or trauma will be admitted

Nelson and COVID-19: everything you need to know

Check this page for every local story related to the outbreak

Blewett Elementary expansion denied provincial funding

The pre-approved $5-million plan would have added 112 seats to the packed school

Nelson product commits to Cranbrook Bucks

Noah Quinn will make the jump to Jr. A next year with the BCHL’s newest franchise

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Celebrate Easter in a ‘safe way,’ Dr. Henry urges as B.C records 6 new COVID-19 deaths

Top doctor urges British Columbians to halt non-essential travel within the province

B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others

Practising physical distancing, frequent hand washing and resisting touching your face are proven methods

Most Read