This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a mixed one for us Canadians – in the world of global health policy and practice, we are heralded as a beacon for global health leadership on women, and for highlighting Canadian women’s leadership in global health.
The ethos of feminism espoused by the current government was demonstrated at the outset—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started out with the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canada, a national inquiry into the gender-based violence of indigenous women, and finally, a feminist ODA policy. The gender wage gap in Canada has shrunk, and the federal child care benefit scheme is believed to have led to a reduction in child poverty. All of this has been welcomed by Canadians, women and men, from all backgrounds.
On this IWD, I have a visceral reaction to the political drama surrounding the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office and its efforts to prevent the prosecution of a private sector firm. A parliamentary inquiry is in progress at the time of writing, with several key people resigning from their posts as a result of this affair.
Two highly respected Canadian cabinet ministers, both women, have resigned in the last couple of weeks, citing concern about the integrity of the justice system and their own ethical responsibilities. During a sensitive time in women’s leadership internationally, where women’s rights and empowerment are often seen as a direct attack on power structures, all this begs the question whether the current political upheaval has a gendered nuance to an issue of values and ethics. Is it possible that women are pushing back at the way politics, with its backdoor deals, is played out?