As a Canadian, it’s hard not to watch events unfold in the United States without feeling at least a bit smug. After all, Canada has socialized health care and a Prime Minister who identifies as a feminist. Compared to the current situation in the states, it almost seems like a paradise. We are home to appointed, not elected judges and a political system that includes more than two parties. Canada boasts some of the most creative political thinkers and has given the world amazing things like insulin and Superman. We are pretty great. However, we are far from perfect. In fact, we also have a series of systemic problems facing Canadian women. Our Prime Minister may have once dropped the mic by asserting “it’s 2015” in response appointing the first gender balanced cabinet in Canadian history, but we still have a far way to go.
In fact, Canada’s stumbles are notable and, quite frankly, embarrassing. There is simply no excuse for any of these incidents to happen in today’s society. The fact that they do, and that there are those who see nothing wrong with them, speaks volumes about how far we need to go. There is an obvious need for change in the States, but it is important for us Canadians to remember that we aren’t perfect either.
Federal Court Justice Robin Camp And His ‘Keep Your Knees Together’ Comment
In 2014, a Calgary judge made headlines the world over for comments made during the course of a sexual assault trial. Several times throughout the trial, the Justice referred to the victim as the accused. Even worse, however, was the fact that he seemed to put the blame for the assault squarely on the shoulders of the victim. He asked time and time again why she failed to prevent the assault from occurring. At one point he asked, “why couldn’t you just keep your knees together”. At another point during her testimony he told her that “sex and pain sometimes go together”. The assailant was later acquitted of all charges.
Despite public outcry, and many calls for his recusal from the bench, Justice Camp continued on in his position. The Canadian Judicial Council formed a committee to lead an inquiry into those complaints about Justice Camp’s conduct. Only twice in Canadian history has the committee recommended a judge be dismissed because of conduct. In both of those prior instances, the judges in question resigned before the committee’s results were reported. In this case, however, Justice Camp waited until after the committee made its recommendations. Camp’s conduct made it obvious that he was hoping he would be exonerated by the committee’s findings.
Halifax Judge Gregory Lenehan Says ‘A Drunk Can Consent’
If you were thinking that 2014 was years ago, and clearly society has made a few strides in that time, Halifax judge Gregory Lenehan is here to tell you that you are wrong. He is also here to tell you that a drunk individual can consent to just about anything. While the satirist in me wants to ask about mugging wealthy individuals who have had a few too many, the female in me is fucking terrified. The facts of this case are terrifying: a woman was found unconscious and naked from the waist down, with her breasts exposed, in a cab by the police. The victim clearly had enjoyed one drink too many, and tried to get herself safely home by taking a cab. Unfortunately, she passed out and had no recollection of what happened next. Justice Lenehan told the court that this fact did not really matter, because “a lack of memory does not equate to a lack of consent.” And just in case he didn’t get his point across the first time, he later asserted that “clearly, a drunk can consent.”
The scariest part about this ruling is the precedent it sets. The next time there is a sexual assault case involving an unconscious woman (regardless of the reason why she is unconscious) a defense attorney could use these comments as a defense for his or her client’s actions. In essence, this judge declared open season on unconscious women in Canada.
Sophie Gregoire Trudeau’s International Women’s Day Post
Are you ready to ignite change? 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. Take a picture holding hands with your male ally & share it on social media using the hashtag #TomorrowInHand. Together, we can create a movement that inspires more men to join the fight to build a better tomorrow with equal rights & opportunities for everyone… because #EqualityMatters. 🤝 Êtes-vous prêtes à faire des étincelles pour allumer un changement ? Cette semaine, à l’occasion de la Journée internationale des femmes, célébrons les garçons et les hommes qui nous encouragent à être qui nous sommes vraiment, qui traitent les filles et les femmes avec respect et qui n’ont pas peur de parler haut devant les autres. Prenez une photo main dans la main avec votre allié et diffusez-la dans les médias sociaux avec le mot-clic #DemainEnMains. Ensemble, nous pouvons susciter un mouvement qui incitera davantage d’hommes à lutter avec nous pour des lendemains meilleurs, l’égalité des droits et des chances pour tous … parce que l’#Égalitécompte.
Have you ever stopped and thought “you know, the real problem with today’s society is that we don’t give men enough credit for being decent human beings?” If so, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau’s International Women’s Day post is definitely for you. For the rest of us, it came off as tone deaf as her Martin Luther King Jr. “speech”, and a lot more Fox News-like that most of us are comfortable with. In her post, she encourages women to celebrate men for, to be blunt, acting like decent people. Treating “girls & women with respect” and encouraging “us to be who we truly are” should be the bare minimum, not something to celebrate and applaud. Society celebrates men for doing the bare minimum every other fucking day of the year, we really shouldn’t have to do so on the one day specifically set aside to honour women. It would have been more appropriate for Ms. Gregoire-Trudeau to post a picture of her holding hands with other women who encouraged her. Why not celebrate them? This post should have been saved for November 19, not March 8.
Oh, and her MLK tribute? It was a song she had written for her daughter. It is hard to figure out why, as Andray Domise from Vice puts it, “a rich white lady singing a song written for her daughter was appropriate for remembrance of a black civil rights leader.” And yet, she did. The event, by the way, advertised presentations by two prominent Canadians, former Progressive Conservative party leader Joe Clark, and Gregoire-Trudeau – both of whom are white. In fact, the event didn’t even mention any Black civil rights activists, from Canada or anywhere else, at all. If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t really feminism.
Canada’s Government Is Feminist In Name Only
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau identifies as a feminist. Initially, this made many of us excited. Our (presumably) first feminist Prime Minister then appointed a gender-balanced cabinet, “because it’s 2015”. Things were going so well. Unfortunately, at some point talk needs to translate into action, and this is where our government faltered. Oxfam Canada released a Feminist Scorecard, grading the Liberal government on the following issues, using their policies and budget as a basis:
- Responses to conflict and crisis
- Ending gender-based violence
- Representation and leadership in politics and other decision-making positions
- Affordable child and elder care
- Progressive tax rules to address economic inequality
- Taking a leadership role in promoting women’s rights across the globe
- Climate change
- Attempts made to address job and pay inequality
The results, as you can see above, are not encouraging. The only area we passed was representation and leadership. Despite promises of inclusivity, the Liberal government received a failing grade when it came to putting their money where their promises were. The report found that the so-called feminist government has “taken no tangible steps to close the gender wage gap or to ensure living wages for the working poor, the majority of whom are women.” The Status of Women Canada (a government agency created to advance women’s issues in government) is sorely underfunded, with the Oxfam report calling it “at a near record-low”. There is a lot of work our so-called feminist government needs to do.
And There’s More…
These are just a few recent examples that have reached international headlines. Examples of how far we have to go can be seen virtually everywhere. In some cases, you don’t need to look very far. Colleges and universities still fail to respond to sexual violence with respect for the victim. Many don’t even acknowledge that there is a problem, let alone try to address it.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my country. I have high hopes that things can go in the right direction – that we can actually be the feminist-friendly country we play dress-up as. Being aware of our shortcomings is a great first step. Holding our politicians and officials accountable is the next. If you are Canadian, you can contact your Member of Parliament. Not sure how? Find out who your MP is, and give them a call or send an email. You can also send letter mail to the House of Commons postage-free.