Some call him the World’s last major progressive leader, others the Messiah but, lately, it seems the halo is beginning to slip from above Justin Trudeau’s head.
Trudeau was widely applauded when, on his election, he famously appointed women to fill half of his cabinet positions. He did it, he said, because it was 2015. It felt like a mini-revolution, a challenge to less-progressive nations to follow suit. Trudeau’s bold move elevated Canada’s international and progressive status in an instant.
When Fascism forced its way into the White House last fall, our film stars, rock singers, and pretty much everyone with their moral compass set to ‘left’, promised to move to Canada overnight. The fact that they are still here only means they intend to bravely fight The New Hitler by our sides.
Two years on from Trudeau’s election, however, we are now in the Current Year, and dissent is growing.
The first to throw stones, as the Guardian reports, is Pamela Palmater of the centre for indigenous governance at Toronto’s Ryerson University. She complains, “Justin is practicing token feminism…He made his cabinet half women, but these are women who are already privileged and in power. So, essentially, he shared some power around a small group of elites.”
We enthusiastically greeted Trudeau’s move at the time, like all progressive publications, including the Guardian. However, like them, we have since changed our minds. We are now surprised and disappointed that Trudeau filled his cabinet with women who only got to their station in life through ‘education’, ‘hard work’, ‘professional backgrounds’ and other elitist credentials. When you look at the profiles of these women, we find variously a former family physician, a medical geographer and former professor at the University of Windsor and University of Toronto, a former deputy editor of The Globe and Mail, a lawyer and former managing partner at the public-relations firm Cohn & Wolfe, and an international trade and competition lawyer. Elitists one and all.
What you do NOT find are the right kind of feminists like the ones pictured below. Nor do we find any transgendered women, aesthetically-challenged women of weight, or any uneducated women from Canada’s indigenous population.
Another glaring failure involved Trudeau’s behaviour when meeting Trump recently. He shamelessly shook Trump’s hand, exchanged some niceties about the weather and his Bryan Adams collection, poured him a coffee, before getting down to business. “How could the prime minister possibly sit down and discuss women in the workforce with President Trump without first denouncing his misogynist comments?” cried Sheila Malcolmson, an MP with Canada’s New Democratic party, in parliament. Quite.
The Guardian quotes Kathryn Trevenen, another progressive academic from somewhere in Canada: “Trudeau’s feminism is a version that is much more palatable to the mainstream …focusing on women who are mostly straight, white, middle to upper class and cisgender. I think that Justin Trudeau’s commitment to feminism comes out of a historically liberal type of feminism, one that often gets called white feminism these days, that focuses on giving rights and privileges to only a very narrow group of women. If someone is going to claim the mantle of feminism, I want them to claim the mantle of that feminist – the intersectional feminism that looks for profound structural change – not the sort of white liberal feminism that involves the assimilation of a few privileged women into institutions of power.”
Powerful words which may come back to haunt Trudeau. Whilst we have not given up all hope yet, Trudeau is officially on notice.