Will Canadian Women Turn Their Backs on Their Feminist Prime Minister?

Will Canadian Women Turn Their Backs on Their Feminist Prime Minister?

TORONTO — Being a feminist is not an easy job.

Just ask Justin Trudeau. A day after his non-apology for the political crisis engulfing his government, with accusations that he bullied his female justice minister on a criminal case, the Canadian prime minister planned to meet with young women in Toronto to celebrate International Women’s Day.

But women around the country are grumbling.

“You can’t just add women and stir,” said Lise Gotell, professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “Strong feminist leadership is principled, the antithesis of back-room party politics.”

The prime minister is arguably not just Canada’s most feminist leader, but also one of the world’s must public proponents of gender equality.

He appointed the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet and passed its first gender-equality budget. He increased international aid directed specifically at women, introduced policies to protect women from violence and sexual harassment at work and at home, and unlocked funding for grass-roots feminist organizations across the country.

“He’s all puff, no solid,” said Priscilla Settee, a professor of both Indigenous studies and women and gender studies at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

“He is not used to a strong, Indigenous woman being defiant to his power,” she added. “As an Indigenous woman, I know that behavior.”

Last week, in testimony before a parliamentary committee, Ms. Wilson-Raybould broke her silence and explained her reasons for resigning — that she felt hounded by the prime minister and his aides to change her decision on the case in an inappropriate way, which she felt would bend the law.

She reminded the country that its government had a history of ignoring the law when it came to Indigenous people, and intimated she wouldn’t be part of that.

“I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House,” she said, referring to her Kwakwaka’wakw nation’s center of governance and cultural activities.

Less than a week later, a second female minister quit Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet. The minister, Jane Philpott, who is also a medical doctor, said in her resignation letter that it was a matter of “acting on one’s principles.”

On Thursday, Mr. Trudeau finally told his side. In a rare morning news conference, he repeated that he had done nothing wrong and that at its basis, the problem reflected a breakdown of trust and communication he intended to learn from. He offered no apology.

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