Canada’s recent elections marked a turning point for our northern neighbors, ending nine years of Conservative and elevated a staunch progressive to the office of Prime Minister. Hours after being sworn in as Canada’s newest leader, Justin Trudeau began making waves and immediately made good on one of his campaign promises – to appoint a cabinet that was staffed at least half by women. Fifteen out of thirty seats were appointed to up-and-coming female politicians, including “Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, an Ottawa human-rights lawyer; Carla Qualtrough, a para-Olympic swimmer from Vancouver in the sports ministry; and Maryam Monsef, a native of Afghanistan, as minister of democratic institutions,” as reported by Bloomberg. The appointments boost Canada into a tie with France and Lichenstien for the third-most female cabinet members in the world, beaten out by the democratic socialist nations of Sweden and Finland.
The immediate responses have been very positive. “Canada has never really had a gender-parity moment before so it’s a big leap for us. Canadian politicians often talk about parity while running campaigns but it’s a big deal to actually do it” said Carleton University professor Jonathan Malloy. The former premier of Quebec, Jean Charest was jubliant about the news: “It’s a message to Canadian women — and young women in particular — that this world is about you. You have to move beyond the old boy’s network.”
Right off the bat, Trudeau has established himself as a true liberal icon, best illustrated in his decision to elevate Maryam Monsef, 30, to the Privy Council. The youngest minister in the cabinet, her family fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and escaped to Canada after years on the run. Grateful for the support she recieved as a child and full of love for her adoptive home, she gushed in an interview that “the volunteers and the neighbours … came into our lives and made us feel like we weren’t alone … that we had a community … that it was going to be OK, [and] that we belonged there. Twenty years later … that kindness stays with me, and I hope that as a member of Parliament, I can repay some of that through my service.”
It is a beautiful story that highlights a huge day for gender equality and progressive ideals, but unfortunately one that is only a pipe dream when placed in the American context, and really highlights how poisonous American politics are. Instead of having her loyalty questioned and shamed for her heritage, Monsef is rewarded for embracing her new nation. We have so much to learn from our northern neighbors, who continuously embody the ideals that we cherish but somehow never get around to putting into action. We applaud Mr. Trudeau, a self-declared feminist, for his quick action, and are excited to see what he will do next. American politicians could use an example of responsible and inclusive governance to look up to.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.