With Christmas and the end of 2016 fast approaching, end-of-year reviews are always a good way of looking back, pointing a finger at the bad and giving props to the good. While a jolly old fat man who doesn’t seem to trust any female reindeer to drive his sleigh and leaves Mrs. Claus in the shadows while hogging all the limelight isn’t necessarily my top feminist of the year, I’ll go ahead and borrow his “naughty or nice” list as inspiration for my own unique Canadian round-up of 2016.
The nice list.
The National Film Board
The National Film Board of Canada has announced that it is committing 50 percent of its future production budget to films by women — a commendable move, considering the majority of Canadian taxpayers funding the organization are women. Current numbers are pretty abysmal and are not in the least representative of the Canadian population. A report by Women in View on the Canadian film industry recently found women represent only 17 per cent of directors, 22 per cent of writers, and 12 per cent of cinematographers, in a sample of 91 feature-length films produced in 2013–2014.
Our prime minister makes the list for continuing to proudly declare that he’s a feminist every chance he gets — both internationally and at home. He’s most definitely on my nice list for following through on his promise to finally launch a long-awaited Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. The inquiry will run until Dec. 31, 2018.
MP Mauril Belanger
The long-time Liberal Member of Parliament is on my nice list for drafting and passing legislation for a gender-neutral national anthem. The bill will change the second line of the anthem from “true patriot love, in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command” and therefore include all Canadians from now on — a small, but symbolic step for gender equality.
P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan
When MacLauchlan was elected premier in 2015 he promised to facilitate access to abortion services in P.E.I. While abortion in Canada is not illegal, access to abortion in P.E.I. and other Atlantic provinces had been severely compromised in the past few decades, with no such procedure having been performed legally on the island since 1982. Premier MacLauchlan delivered on his promise and a new women's reproductive health centre that will offer a number of services, including medical and surgical abortions, will soon be in place, eliminating the need for local residents to travel off the island to meet their needs.
The female athletes of the Rio Olympics
While every single athlete — male or female — who made it to the Olympics and represented our country deserves our appreciation, I tip my hat to the whopping 87 per cent of our Canadian medal-winning athletes at the Rio Olympics who were female. They drove home the message loud and clear that not only is “playing like a girl” not an insult, it can reap some serious Olympic hardware.
The naughty list.
The Canadian Armed Forces
Our military has a serious sexual misconduct problem. Statistics Canada revealed this year that just over 10 per cent of full-time female members of the Canadian Armed Forces said they'd been assaulted in the past five years, and 27.3 per cent reported having been assaulted since they joined the army. This problem also extends to male CAF members, who are often more hesitant to report an attack due to taboos surrounding men and sexual assault.
Yup, he’s on here as well. While he’s done some things incredibly right, he and his team have also occasionally wrongly assumed that the glossy superficiality of social-media-friendly buzz words can substitute for real action. It can’t.
In October, when NDP MP Kennedy Stewart introduced The Candidate Gender Equity Act, which “would have implemented a minor amendment to the Canada Elections Act by slightly altering established financial enticements in order to incentivize parties to ensure gender parity during elections” and would have been a huge step for rectifying the long-standing problem of systemic underrepresentation of women in politics, our feminist PM voted it down. Without gender parity in political parties too many issues will continue to be ignored and dismissed.
Trudeau’s failure to include an investigation into policing as part of the overall MMIW inquiry also helped land him on my naughty list. Despite myriad requests,including from Amnesty International, the inquiry into will not look into the relationship between police and Indigenous communities, despite numerous accusations of police abuse and systemic racism and sexism suffered at the hands of police.
Provincial police in Val d’Or
Speaking of police, it takes a certain level of unaccountable arrogance to react to 37 allegations of police abuse against your force by trying to shut the whole thing down. Instead of acknowledging a systemic problem, provincial police decided to sue Radio-Canada for airing an investigative report, demanding $2.3 million in damages because they claim the report was “biased, misleading” and “created a hostile working environment for officers.” Tell me how “hostile” that environment must be for those women who now have to walk the same streets the officers they accused are still policing.
Despite no longer being prime minister I hold Harper and a decade of regressive policies by his government responsible for the fact that Canada has plummeted in the UN’s gender equality rankings.
From number one in 1995, we’ve now slid all the way to number 25. All it took was 20 years and some serious neglect of important issues, from wage gap issues, mistreatment of Indigenous women and questionable access to reproductive health care. Hopefully by next year we’ll have inched up slightly.
Quebec Status of Women Minister Lise Thériault
My final mention for this year’s naughty list goes to Quebec’s own status of women minister, Lise Thériault, who seemed unclear on the concept of feminism and insisted on calling herself a “humanist” instead, which is akin to me saying I don’t like water, I prefer H2O. She later retracted and said she was misunderstood, but it’s indicative of the general malaise and discomfort the word “feminist” still manages to evoke when even a woman who would not have the position she has in a ministry that would not even exist were it not for feminism seeks to disassociate from it.