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Canadian government finally lets its youth speak

When I was in university, my biggest pet peeve was how politicians completely ignored youth. I was a political science major, and more than anything I wanted the people sitting in Parliament to ask for my opinion — what did I think about the cost of tuition; what did I think about the latest tax increase; what did I think about the democratic process?

But no one ever asked me. This is why young people are so apathetic. They want to speak — if only someone would listen.

Well, it looks like someone finally has. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was spearheading a Youth Council, consisting of 30 people between the ages of 16 and 24. These youth will meet a number of times a year, both in person and online, to discuss important issues and then propose recommendations to the Prime Minister’s office.

According to the government website, the council “will advise the Prime Minister on national issues such as employment, access to education, building stronger communities, climate change and clean growth.”

The council is supposed to be non-partisan.

I would like to give Justin Trudeau a hug — a very big bear hug — for not only coming up with this idea, but for ensuring it is actually put into practice.

During the 2015 federal elections, I went to a debate held in my riding. It was a town-hall style debate, where constituents could ask questions of the candidates. To my surprise, a large number of young people showed up.  They asked about what the candidates could do for them and most could not give them answers. They had all prepared stump speeches that were relevant to working moms, single parents, and old people with a pension. They didn’t know what to do when a 16- or 17-year-old asks about transit or funding for education — despite the fact that most of these young people pay taxes and deserve to be part of the conservation. This type of question-shock shouldn’t be possible in 21st century democracy.

The average young person is informed. They read the news online and they talk about it with their parents and friends. They are involved in school clubs and university groups, and they advocate for freedoms and rights others may not have. They WANT to be active in politics, but they also want to feel as if what they say (or ask) matters.

This Youth Council should, hopefully, provide these young people with a national platform to voice their opinions. They can finally contribute to national policy in a meaningful way. Who knows what kind of results will arise from these council meetings, but if anything it is the first step to altering political stereotypes of apathetic youth. And that is an amazing thing.

Pride Parade through the eyes of a five-year-old

I decided to bring my daughter to the Pride Parade last Sunday to teach her the importance of inclusivity and LGBTQ rights in Toronto. We created a rainbow flag at home prior to leaving for the event and I explained to her the meaning behind each of the colours on the flag and we talked about what those words meant to us. Red represents life, orange is for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic and art, indigo for serenity, violet for spirit, and hot pink for sexuality. We also discussed the term sexuality and how it meant that you were allowed to like anyone you want, boys or girls, or anywhere in between.

My daughter took all of this in easily and was excited to celebrate people who loved rainbows as much as her. When we discussed trans-people, she told me that two kids in her class dressed as boys and everyone in the class accepted their chosen identities with ease. I was thrilled to see how accepting and open my little lady was and thanked my lucky stars that I decided to raise her in Toronto, one of the most progressive cities in the country.

We headed to the parade, rainbow flag and bubbles in tow, only to be overwhelmed by the thousands of people that crowded Yonge St. To say that the pride parade was a mildly popular affair would be an understatement. Luckily, we brought lots of water and snacks, and once we found a spot where we could see, the crowd bothered us less. I definitely recommend that parents bring hats, water guns, sunblock, and a lot of refreshing snacks. The parade is long and can be very hot due to the crowds and summer weather.

BlackLivesMatter at the Pride Parade 2016. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
BlackLivesMatter at the Pride Parade 2016. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

We were waiting for the parade to start for awhile until twitter alerted us that BlackLivesMatter was protesting and preventing the rest of the parade from continuing. They were conducting a sit-in protest and demanding the organizer of Pride, Mathieu Chantelois, sign a list of demands before they would let the parade continue. Chantelois signed the list and the parade resumed. The incident has incited a hot debate as to whether this delay caused BlackLivesMatter to alienate the LGBTQ community or incite positive activism in the parade. From my standpoint as a parent, it was difficult waiting in the extremely hot crowd with my five year old for the parade to start.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

Once the parade started again, she was clapping and singing along with the music. She described the elaborate and beautiful outfits as “magical” and we bogeyed and cheered the day away. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked by, my daughter wanted to be picked up to see “the ruler of the land”, and cried when she only saw his back. The colourful signs of Pflag, an organization of parents, families, friends, and allies of Toronto’s LGBTQ community, cheered her up though. She loved the positive messages of love and family, and really took the best from the parade.

We went home exhausted, sunburnt and satisfied. My daughter will grow up being part of the LGBTQ community and seeing positive messages flow through loving events such as pride. As a young woman who grew up in a community that was often homophobic and close-minded — and was harmful to many people I loved — I am so deeply grateful to the people who fought for events that celebrate LGBTQ interests. It shows that society can progress in an inclusive manner, and it gives me hope for my daughter’s future.

Interim conservative leader calls Trudeau…a woman?

This morning I opened my computer to find a really strange news headline in my Twitter feed — “Rona Ambrose takes swipe at Justin Trudeau alludes to him as female prime minister.”

What!?!

Apparently, during a speech at last weekend’s federal conservative convention, interim leader Rose Ambrose made a speech about inclusivity within the political party. In this speech, she makes reference to a number of women who were “firsts” in their field. In this statement, she makes a very strange connection to the sitting Prime Minister of Canada.

“That’s why we’re the trailblazers. We’re the Party of the first female cabinet minister and first woman to serve as acting prime minister, the exceptional Ellen Fairclough.

That’s why we’re the Party of Canada’s first female foreign minister, the irrepressible Flora MacDonald.

That’s why we’re the Party of the first woman to lead the Official Opposition, the redoubtable Deb Grey.

And, of course, that’s why we’re the Party of Canada’s first female, you would think Justin Trudeau was this, but now, we had the first female prime minister, the Right Honourable Kim Campbell!

So I say to Justin Trudeau – who’s the feminist now?”

I’m not sure what the conservative interim leader was trying to do here. And I don’t know why I’m so offended. Was it because she was essentially calling our Prime Minister a woman? Was it because she inferred that, by being a man, Trudeau can’t be a feminist? Was it because I interpreted this statement as demeaning? Was it meant as an insult? If so, isn’t that a bit anti-feminist? If it wasn’t meant to be an insult, why was it even said? My questions continue.

The idea of political feminism has been thrown around a lot lately, by all parties in the federal, provincial, and municipal spheres. But, since when did it become a phrase to hurtle against your opponent with disdain? Since when was it used to de-masculinize someone?

Feminism is something we should all be proud of. All of the accomplishments listed above are not standings that should be overlooked. Each one of these women were amazing in their own way. But, the accomplishments happening right now are equally as important. Let’s not make fun of them by throwing gendered labels where they don’t belong. It just makes us all confused.

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Sunny ways may be clouded after Trudeau elbows female MP

Sunny ways and sunny days may be over for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after he accidentally elbowed a female MP in the House of Commons Wednesday.

That’s right. He elbowed an MP in the chest and now can’t show his face in the House because politicians and the media made it into such a frenzy that the chances of real work happening on the floor is next to zero.

Here’s what happened:

The House of Commons was about to vote on limiting debate relating to the controversial assisted suicide bill when a group of MPs decided to get up and stand on the floor, blocking Conservative Whip Gord Brown from getting to his seat to start the vote. An impatient Trudeau got up from his seat, crossed the floor, grabbed Brown’s arm, and guided him through the crowd. In doing so, he elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest.

According to media reports, Brosseau proceeded to leave the House during the vote because she felt violated and uncomfortable.

It’s pretty obvious that the elbowing of MP Brosseau was an accident, and the opposition parties are definitely milking this opportunity to shame the Liberal government. A yelling match between Mulcair and Trudeau occurred after the incident, in which Trudeau shocked the rest of the House when he dropped an F-bomb — apparently they forgot he wasn’t a schoolboy in disguise.

The opposition and NDP even went so far as to question Trudeau’s feminism. My favourite part of the whole interaction was when when NDP leader Thomas Mulcair screams, “what kind of person elbows a woman? It’s pathetic!”

I’m sorry Mulcair, but that’s a pretty ridiculous question. I can answer it for you: almost every single man (and woman) trying to take public transportation to work. It happened to me this morning. A man was trying to get to the door and he bumped into me with force, physically knocking me over into the lap of another man. He turned around and said, “I’m so sorry” and walked away. I decided not to feel personally offended.

Now, this man wasn’t Prime Minister, but the idea is the same.

The bigger issue, in my opinion, is that Trudeau walked across the floor to guide the whip to his seat in the first place. According to media reports, Brown was not receptive of the Prime Minister’s attempt to get the vote rolling. He told Trudeau to let go of him after he grabbed his arm. I can’t say anything about the amount of force used to “guide” him to his seat, but if he said “let go of me”, then it was wrong of Trudeau to maintain his hold. Actually, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

It’s also notable that throughout this whole process the speaker did nothing about the crowd of MPs standing on the House floor and blocking the whip’s path. This may have been the reason why Trudeau felt like he had to personally do something.

Since the incident Trudeau has publicly apologized at least three times, saying that he was not paying attention to his surroundings and that he did not mean to offend or impact anyone.

“I noticed that the whip opposite was being impeded in his progress,” he said. “I took it upon myself to go and assist him forward, which I can now see was unadvisable as a course of actions that resulted in physical contact in this House that we can all accept was unacceptable.”

This incident will take over the news — and the politics — in the House of Commons for the next few days. Trudeau may even get reprimanded for actions. Yes, these actions were obviously unacceptable, but let’s not let it cloud our judgement and our ability to work on the real issues at hand. And let’s not turn it into something it’s not — a jab against liberal feminism.

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PM Justin Trudeau to attend 2016 Toronto Pride Month

Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, will be the first leader in Canada’s history to attend the Toronto pride parade on July 3, 2016.

The Prime Minister has previously attended pride parades in both Vancouver and Toronto, but this is his first pride event as the leader of Canada. He tweeted in response to Pride Toronto announcing Trudeau’s involvement, “Very looking to being there again, this time as PM.”

Trudeau will attend alongside Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory. Since 1995, Barbara Hall established the tradition for the head of city council to march in the parade. This was only broken once in the past 21 years by previous Mayor Rob Ford.

Toronto Pride has a somber history. The first registered LGBTQ pride gathering occurred on Feb. 5, 1981, after the bathhouse raids or “operation soap”, a massive police raid of bathhouses on Church and Wellesley meant to silence the LGBTQ community under the bawdy-house law. The raids were followed by a great show of support and protests throughout the streets of Toronto.

In 1984, Pride was celebrated for the first time on Canada Day and became a fixed tradition. Mayor David Crombie, the mayor at the time, wouldn’t officially recognize the event. It wasn’t until 1991 that Toronto Pride Day was approved by the city. In 1998, Pride Week became official.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s attendance will be a welcome addition to the festivities as thousands of people will gather this coming June to celebrate Toronto’s first pride month. This month-long celebration will feature specialized events and programs around the city, finishing with the 10-day Pride Toronto festival between June 24 and July 3.

Having all three levels of government attend the event is amazing —and surprising. To quote the Prime Minister himself, “It’s 2016”. Why hasn’t a Prime Minister attended Toronto’s pride parade before now? That’s a question worth answering.

Trudeaumania takes over Toronto

Photo taken by Katherine DeClerq

Trudeaumania is real.

Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to Toronto’s city hall to meet with Mayor John Tory. It was the first time in 18 years a prime minister visited the institution, but that wasn’t why people were so excited. It was because they had the opportunity to get close to the celebrity politician.

The media struggled to stay up with Trudeau and Tory as they walked from Queen St. up to city hall. People sporting bright unicorn Trudeau sweatshirts were running through the crowd, trying to get a selfie with the sexiest head of state in the world, while scores of young women stood in his path screaming his name.

One cameraman made a wrong step and slipped on the skating rink in the square. Reporters ran — and I mean sprinted — around the crowd to get better view of the prime minister, just to run face-first into a father holding his kid, trying to get a glimpse of the people at the center of the spectacle. Personally, I was elbowed in the head and shoved into a snow bank.

“Oh my god, it’s Justin Trudeau!” screamed two jumping girls as he made his way into city hall. I have to say I was impressed with the strength of the prime minister’s security force, dawning the stereotypical sunglasses and earpieces, trying to keep everyone at bay. What a job.

After the screaming died down and the swooning stopped, the prime minister got up on stage with the mayor and opened his mouth to talk. And talk he did — although he didn’t say much. In fact, he hardly said anything worthwhile.

It was obvious the prime minister didn’t want to make any promises during this visit, despite the mayor’s attempts to indicate otherwise. There was no mention of a commitment to the SmartTrack or the Yonge Relief Line, and he didn’t even touch on the $2.6 billion promised to the city for transit.

“We are in the middle of pre-budget consultations.” Trudeau said when a reporter asked when we could expect a cheque for infrastructure. “The infrastructure investments that the mayor is counting on are not a problem, they are part of the solution that Canada is facing.” What that means…no one knows.

Really, the only thing Justin Trudeau reiterated was his government’s pledge of $60 billion over the next 10 years towards green and social infrastructure, and public transit. There was no elaboration. Where will the money go? What are the government’s priorities? All are excellent questions that remained unanswered. The rest of the 10-minute question period included the Prime Minister dancing masterfully around each media inquiry, citing what seemed to be election promises and vaguely mentioning the Liberal’s commitment to job creation, economic growth, and international relations.

But, that didn’t matter to the fans. As one grown man standing behind me in the crowd said: “Wow, his hair really is great!”

And I guess that’s all that mattered.

Photo by Katherine DeClerq

To the women offended by Trudeau’s invitation: Get over yourselves

On Wednesday Liberal leader Justin Trudeau tweeted out an invitation to an event for women in Toronto.

The event, obviously a fundraiser at $250 a plate, was geared towards women who would like to get to know Trudeau and talk about issues facing women today — both in general and in politics it would seem from the sample questions scrawled on the invite.

The invitation that was tweeted out includes a checkered Andy Warhol-esque photo of Trudeau and carries the name “Justin Unplugged” in scribbly writing. The squares not occupied by Trudeau’s face ask some questions that give an impression of what the event would be like: What is the biggest issue facing women today? What’s your favourite virtue? Who are your real life heroes?

This prompted response from Huffington Post contributor Kathryn Marshall who criticised the event and called the picture “creepy, patronizing, and unbelievably ridiculous” to boot. (Scroll down to view the full invitation)

Um, what?

I’m sorry, are you upset that the leader of one of Canada’s three big political parties, a possible future Prime Minister, wants to offer his ear up to women and find out what they want out of life and government?

I’m sorry, is it not good enough for you to be invited to take part in a conversation that you can steer whichever way you please, be that policy or broader concepts?

I’m sorry, are you so gung-ho on getting offended that you need to pick apart even the photo used on the invitation?

Women have been ignored by so many people at so many levels for so long that it truly shocks me to see this opportunity for a male political leader to connect with and learn from women being thrown back in his face.

A politician is, surprisingly, inquiring about a little more of the lives of potential voters than what they think about low or high taxes. Virtues are important for leaders of all kinds, to see a leader asking what people appreciate shows that he is ready to assemble a team that reflects the values of all Canadians. The biggest issues that face women today could do with access to reproductive health, or proper natal care for native women in Canada, maybe the wage gap, or the number of female CEOs, or perhaps even government childcare and daycare services for parents who need to return to the workforce — to see a leader asking what these issues are shows that he is ready to take the right actions to protect our rights and freedoms as women and do more to help those who need it.

Would we not be offended if his campaign paid no attention to the unique issues and challenges that women in Canada face every day?

To the women who are offended by this, reserve your anger for the real creeps. Get angry about politicians like Rob Ford groping women without permission. Get angry about politicians in Saudi Arabia preventing women from driving cars. Get angry about the politicians in the US and Canada who try to restrict access to abortion.

Don’t waste your time in faux horror when someone asks you for your thoughts because the invitation doesn’t measure up to your standards and take an opportunity where an opportunity is given.

In the meantime, get over yourselves.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.