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Trudeau needs to walk the walk after his big feminism talk: Mochama

The PM got rave reviews for his appearance at the annual Women in the World Summit. But back in Canada, Vicky Mochama is calling for some big actions to match.

Justin Trudeau was interviewed on stage by former New Yorker editor-in-chief Tina Brown at New York's Women in the World summit last week.

AP Photo

Justin Trudeau was interviewed on stage by former New Yorker editor-in-chief Tina Brown at New York's Women in the World summit last week.

Justin Trudeau’s feminism needs to be more specific.

Feminism, especially intersectional feminism, is a big chaotic tent. The diversity of speakers and issues at the Women’s March alone were proof of that. Feminists are concerned about everything from equal pay to environmental issues to Indigenous rights.

So what exactly is the prime minister talking about when he claims to be a feminist?

At the recent Women in the World Summit, an annual conference of activists, politicians, business leaders and artists, Justin Trudeau rolled out his greatest feminist hits featuring a light Lean In seminar. He was interviewed by former New Yorker editor-in-chief and conference creator Tina Brown in front of a crowd at Lincoln Centre, reports Maclean’s.

It was a master class in deflection. Asked about rising populism, he responded with a call for more women in leadership. Asked about being seen as an “elite wonder boy,” he responded that he was proud of being his mother’s son. Asked about his relationship with Ivanka Trump, he didn’t even mention her name in his answer.
Trudeau is a master of evasion, but the New York City crowd evidently loved it.

At home, however, I can’t help but roll my eyes. It’s easy to be a feminist on New York City’s streets, but here in Canada, I am going to need to see some receipts.

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Women in Canada are still waiting for something resembling a comprehensive childcare strategy. Women bear the brunt of the financial costs for childcare; this keeps them out of careers and in poverty. Indigenous children are still waiting for Ottawa to fulfill the order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to reform child welfare. The recently announced budget did not increase international aid at a time when the United States has reinstated the global gag rule on abortion and ended funding for the United Nations Population Fund.

The prime minister has done some positive work. He has lifted the two per cent funding cap on First Nations. Canada has joined others to fill the gap left by Trump’s cuts with a $20 million funding pledge for global reproductive health, including contraceptives and post-abortion care. After years of non-response, the government has convened the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry. And the Liberals have sought to add a gender analysis, albeit an imprecise one, to policy decisions.

But many of Prime Minister Trudeau’s policy changes leave a lot to be desired. Feminism is not a matter of branding. It requires work and accountability. Vague answers and Lean In-style calls for women to step up do a disservice to Canadian women who need their prime minister to do more.

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