THE BLOG
03/06/2019 14:08 EST | Updated 03/07/2019 16:40 EST

Being Believed Shouldn't Be A Barrier To Women In Politics

Like many women in Canadian politics, Jody Wilson-Raybould was demoted when she showed strength and power.

Individuals from all corners of Canada stood in awe watching (or listening) to Jody Wilson-Raybould's testimony to the House of Commons justice committee on February 27.

Many were shocked to hear about the alleged political interference from our prime minister in Canada's justice system. Hashtags of #TrudeauMustGo went viral.

The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, right, on Dec. 15, 2015 in Ottawa.

In the aftermath of this past week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made limited comments on the SNC-Lavalin corruption allegations. In one instance he suggested that Wilson-Raybould's claims were untrue, stating that he was "definitely not in agreement" with the former minister's account and that his office has always acted "appropriately."

Trudeau didn't even review her full testimony before making his statement. We should never hear our prime minister say he disagrees with something he hasn't fully heard or read.

When I read that statement, the only thing that went through my head was that "this is just another example of a strong woman in politics being demoted for showing strength and power."

Our feminist prime minister?

Backtrack to a few years ago. Trudeau was newly elected and made a bold statement to the world: that he is Canada's "feminist" prime minster. He brought in the first gender-balanced cabinet and claimed that he would work towards gender equality by showcasing it in his government.

As a Canadian woman, I was proud to be living in a country with a prime minister who wanted to change things for women.

But as a researcher (and, at the time, a political science student), I was a bit sceptical of his claim.

My research focuses on the barriers female politicians face in the political sphere. After analyzing my research this past year, I have concluded that there are many aspects that need to be considered before one can claim that their government has fair and equal gender representation.

Thought needs to be put into ideas such as: merit surrounding the appointment of female cabinet ministers; conducting a gender lens on Parliament; implementing policies that help women succeed; and so forth.

Christinne Muschi / Reuters
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Feb. 28, 2019.

Last year, Trudeau said that "when women speak up, it is our duty to listen and believe them." Yet when one of his own female ministers spoke up, did Trudeau "listen and believe?"

No. He demoted her from her role as justice minister and attorney general of Canada, re-shuffled her to a new role that is considered by many to be less powerful and important. Women being appointed to "less important" or "less powerful" roles is not uncommon in Canadian politics and organizations.

We as Canadians should be championing strong women like her.

To make matters worse, very few media outlets have been highlighting Wilson-Raybould's integrity and strength — or have mentioned it without also adding in comments on her race, gender or appearance. This also is not uncommon in Canadian politics. Media organizations tend to portray men as being assertive, and report on women based on their appearance, gender or socio-economic status — another barrier for female politicians.

Wilson-Raybould has told her truth.We as Canadians should be championing strong women like her. Applauding her for telling her truth. Encouraging her. Inspiring her. Mentoring her.

Not shutting her down. Demoting her. And suggesting her words are inaccurate or untrue.

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The political arena is not going to change until we as Canadians demand change from our leaders, and demand that our future governments implement methods that help women succeed in politics and encourage them to get involved in their communities, so they too can make a difference.

But there is hope. Recent polling has indicated that 67 per cent of Canadians believe Wilson-Raybould.

Now we just need a prime minister who will, too.

Galandy is currently publishing an article she co-authored, which highlights methods that can help to improve gender representation in Canada's federal political system. This article will be available to the public Spring 2019. Galandy will be travelling to Ottawa mid-March to meet with MPs across parties to discuss a proposal she is launching, which will help to encourage young women enter the political arena.

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