Do you want a more sustainable economy and a healthy social environment? Want Canada to be a leading nation according to its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms again? Then I urge you, as a Canadian, to not downplay the reality that women face simply because they are not men.
Women make up 50.4 per cent of Canada’s population according to Stats Canada — they hold the majority of potential voters in this federal election. Although more men participate in Canada’s workforce with 70 per cent male participation, women are still following close behind with a 61 per cent participation rate. In most cases, young, single-family homes led by women are living below the poverty line, trying to make ends meet by working multiple jobs. Living in an unstable, stressful economic environment as a woman can lead to significant increases in substance abuse and domestic violence.
One hundred and seventy five organizations from all across Canada have created an Alliance for Women’s Rights to raise awareness and engage in a public discussion with Canada’s political leaders about the needs and experiences of women in our society. In light of the federal election, an #UpForDebate campaign has been growing to encourage political candidates to hold a televised debate pertaining to women’s rights.
Despite the willingness and enthusiasm of Elizabeth May and Justin Trudeau for taking part in this proposed televised debate, both Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair decided against participating, therefore canceling a nationally-engaged debate on women’s rights that could have encouraged local constituencies to partake in further debate.
Recently, a Conservative party source told the Toronto Star that they have “been told no debates and no media.” The announcement continues to affect all Conservative candidates in this election, hindering them from engaging with public media and public forums. In the same article, the Star reported that, according to Andrew MacDougall (Harper’s director of communications from 2012 to 2013), “it’s much more effective to get your message to a voter on their doorstep than through a filter.”
Originally, Mulcair had shown a keen interest and commitment to participate in the #UpForDebate broadcast, only to decide at the last minute that it would not be effective for his campaign if not all of the leaders were present. In an earlier interview with the CBC, Mulcair stated, “Since Stephen Harper is the person I want to defeat and replace, I’ll take part in debates where he’s present. Otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense, would it?”
But to disregard prevalent, systemic, gender-based issues such as violence against women, the mirage of upward mobility in our workplaces, and gender-based prejudice as less important than a federal politician’s campaign strategy is utterly demoralizing, and an ineffective and embarrassing example of national leadership. We must create an open discussion with the political leaders of our communities and our nation about these issues which lie at the core of our diverse Canadian society, because ignoring issues of women’s rights will only reinforce the systemic cycle of violence and prejudice. You simply cannot resolve the world’s political catastrophes while ignoring issues that affect half of Canada’s population.