06/28/2016 05:46 EDT | Updated 06/28/2016 05:59 EDT

Will Canada Take A Stand For Women's Rights In Mexico?

Flag of Mexico
Kutay Tanir via Getty Images
Flag of Mexico

by Lauren Ravon, Director of Policy and Campaigns for Oxfam Canada

The "three amigos" will have a lot to talk about on Wednesday when they meet in Ottawa for the North American Leaders' Summit. Climate change, trade, and migration are said to be on the agenda.

While these are all important issues that require discussion and action, there is an elephant in the room.

Last week, four courageous women from Mexico were in Ottawa to tell their stories of surviving violence in their country.They spoke of staggering rates of forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and sexual violence against female detainees. They came to remind Canada that it needs to stand by human rights defenders and support those who put their lives on the line every day in Mexico to fight against impunity and violence.

Just as friends should speak up when they see signs of domestic violence in families they know, so should Obama and Trudeau raise this difficult topic with President Peña Nieto.

Because isn't that what it means to be a feminist?

The North American Leaders Summit is one of the first major opportunities for Prime Minister Trudeau -- a proud feminist -- to turn words into action and put his vision of a feminist foreign policy into practice. The human rights crisis in Mexico should be top of mind as he heads into his meetings with Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto tomorrow.

With six women murdered every single day, feminicide in Mexico is now a pandemic. For the past year, Mexicans have been living with a public "gender violence alert" in effect after one state reported the murder of 840 girls (ages 10-17) and the disappearance of 1,285 more.

We have seen Prime Minister Trudeau take concrete steps to recognize and address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women that continues to plague our own country. Many of those who disappear in Mexico are also young, poor, marginalized... and women. And for them there is still no access to justice.

Wednesday's Summit is an opportunity for Prime Minister Trudeau to demonstrate that he is willing to seize diplomatic opportunities to speak up for women's rights. Holding Mexico's feet to the fire in addressing its dismal record on violence against women is a good - and necessary - first step.

But much more is needed.

Prime Minister Trudeau should begin to articulate how he intends for Canada to roll out its Feminist Foreign Policy on the global stage.

The Leaders' Summit on Refugees that Trudeau will be co-hosting with President Obama in New York City in September would be a good place to start. Canada should consult women's rights organizations ahead of time to make sure their priorities make it onto the formal agenda, and insist that the specific obstacles faced by refugee women and girls -- including sexual violence, widowhood, and forced marriage -- are at the heart of those discussions.

Going forward, Canada should also ensure that our aid dollars reach women's organizations in the Global South -- just like those working tirelessly in Mexico to ensure that massive human rights violations are not simply swept under the rug and forgotten.

Times sure have changed. Two of the three amigos say they're proud feminists. So let's hope they proudly stand up for women's rights when it counts.

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