11/04/2015 04:09 EST | Updated 11/04/2016 05:12 EDT

Trudeau's Gender-Balanced Cabinet Is A Victory For Us All


"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it," Winston Churchill stated to a delighted crowd. And then he went on to live a life that proved it.

I thought of Churchill's statement watching the swearing in of Justin Trudeau and his new cabinet this week. Working with Trudeau and many of those honoured this week during my time in Parliament had given me an insight as to their determination, intelligence, and compassion. As I watched them one by one approach the front of the room, I confess as to being overwhelmed at times in delight for them. Like anyone from any party who steps forward like that, the weight of the country shifts down on you from that moment. These were friends and they were now getting their chance to implement change and challenge the future, but the responsibility will be ominous.

Some of the other faces were new to me, but the freshness of outlook that they were bringing to government was an exciting reminder that we were witnessing a generational change in our politics.

But another emotion ran through me watching the scene and it took me some to realize that it was the flush of fulfillment. I had joined the Liberal women's caucus along with Ken Dryden and Irwin Cotler during my parliamentary tenure and I personally witnessed the longing for a more inclusive politics of gender. All the parties talked about it but the progress was so glacial that we all struggled with impatience and disillusionment. We kept being informed by others to stick at it because change takes time. I never bought it and neither did the remarkable women in that caucus.

Justin Trudeau cast aside all that prevailing wisdom and just went for it, appointing a cabinet with a 50-50 gender split. What happened to all that having to wait for the slow movement of history? The reality of course is we can never use history as a lame excuse but as an opportunity to transcend it. What people said would take decades Justin Trudeau made happen in two weeks. It was neither a miraculous feat or some crafty political calculation. It was the recognition that Canada can never be truly equal unless someone just decides to make it that way. Where there is a will, there is opportunity, not the other way around. What Trudeau accomplished this week was to claim change rather than merely engineer it.

And there is more to come. For our indigenous populations the deep sense of injustice and disillusioning lament concerning the missing and murdered aboriginal travesty held the same slim outlook as gender inequality. All the years of effort to bring the reality to the forefront of the political agenda had always been met with the reminder that such things take time in politics -- words again, with little action.

With the new government announcing that one of its first actions will be to call an official inquiry of the missing and murdered aboriginal women case, history was again transcended -- not by some massive shift of civilization, but by elected representatives determined to not only make history right but to give it a second chance. Carolyn Bennett, the new minister of Indigenous Affairs and a tireless advocate on the missing and murdered aboriginal women case for years, will at last have her opportunity to seek justice, accountability, and healing all at the same time -- a task worthy of her experience.

It remains a difficult time for those parties that didn't fare so well in this past election, and yet issues of gender equality should be one of the primary policies of every political party. Those parties won this week as well In the lifetime of every Canadian we have never had the pleasure of seeing an equal number of men and women in the federal cabinet -- until now. History has transformed because there was the will to be changed ourselves. Justin Trudeau didn't so much write history this week as he fulfilled it. It is neither a victory merely for one political party or one gender but for all Canadians. It is a victory we can all share.


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