We (Tentatively) Heart: Canada’s Feminist Prime Minister

While it’s still a little too early to heart him wholeheartedly (pun intended), we’re showing some tentative love for Canada’s new prime minister-elect, Justin Trudeau. In an interview that aired earlier this week, the soon-to-be PM addressed a wide range of feminist concerns, including sexual assault, victim-blaming and sexism on Parliament Hill, and declared that he’s “proud to be a feminist.” He continued:

My mom raised me to be a feminist. My father [was of a different generation], but he raised me to respect and defend everyone’s rights, and I’ve deeply grounded my own identity in that. I’m proud to say that I’m a feminist. The things we see online, whether it’s issues like Gamergate and video games and misogyny in popular culture, is something we need people to stand clearly against.


Don’t get us wrong—this is a fantastic message. But we’re withholding our full outpouring of love until we see if he puts words into action.

The first thing we’ll be looking for? An official inquiry into the more than 1,000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. During the election campaign, Trudeau said he would move “quickly” to launch an inquiry into systemic issues related to the crisis facing First Nations women, a sentiment he reiterated following his win.

Though Trudeau has not yet been sworn in, Aboriginal leaders have already called on the Liberal Party leader to keep his promise to the First Nations community.

“I think we need that commitment to get started right away. We can’t afford to spend months or even weeks trying to figure out processes, or waiting while the new government gets itself established,” said Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. “We don’t need to have more of our girls go missing, have more of our women murdered while they try to decide what the process is going to be.”

First Nations women go missing and are killed at a disproportionately high rate in Canada: While they make up just 4.3 percent of the population, they account for more than 16 percent of women murdered and over 11 percent of those missing. An inquiry could go a long way to healing this national wound.

Trudeau did score some major feminist points this week: He confirmed a promise made during his campaign to appoint a gender-balanced cabinet, with 50 percent of seats set to be awarded to women members of parliament when he takes office.

He has also affirmed his support for women’s equality in the past, tweeting about his feminism and sharing the message below about reproductive freedom:

Justin, you’re on the right track. But I have a few small feminist requests: First, please return funding to the Status of Women offices that were closed by outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and restore funding for the court challenges program, which helped finance lawsuits by women and other “othered” groups looking to challenge violations of their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Also, consider bringing back that federally funded childcare program envisioned by your Liberal predecessor, Paul Martin.

And while you’re at it, why not restore funding to the CBC and the arts, keep your promises to First Nations peoples and restore Canada’s reputation on climate change and the environment. Thanks!

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Stephanie hails from Toronto, Canada. She is a Ms. writer, a master of journalism candidate and a hip hop dancer/instructor/choreographer. She got her start in feminist journalism at the age of 16 when she was a member of the first editorial collective at Shameless magazine—and she has never looked back.