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Is Justin Trudeau a fake feminist?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is fond of using the term feminism. But does it translate into action?


 
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) poses with airport staff as they await Syrian refugees to arrive at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, December 10, 2015. After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first planeload of Syrian refugees was headed to Canada on Thursday, aboard a military plane to be met at Toronto's airport by Trudeau. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Justin Trudeau poses with airport staff as they await Syrian refugees to arrive at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, December 10, 2015. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Next month, Pamela Palmater will speak at the United Nations in Geneva. The message the Mi’kmaq lawyer and professor plans to deliver to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is grim: “I will address Canada’s failure to abide by equality rights for Indigenous women and children,” the professor and chair in Indigenous governance at Ryerson University, tells Maclean’s. There’s much to discuss—the Liberal government’s failure to comply with a legal order to reform the child welfare system on First Nations reserves, legislation that perpetuates racism and sexism against Indigenous women and girls, discriminatory funding levels leading to poverty and lack of access to education, as well as violence toward Indigenous women and girls by police. “I’m going to say Justin Trudeau hasn’t put action behind his words,” Palmater says.

Only six months ago, the Prime Minister was hailed at the UN for championing gender equality: “I’m going to keep saying, loud and clearly, that I am a feminist,” he told a rapturous, almost all-female audience at a UN conference in New York City during which he identified violence against Aboriginal women as an egregious problem. By then, Trudeau’s feminist identity was an integral part of his “sunny ways” edict. His “Because it’s 2015!” retort to why he appointed Canada’s first gender-equal cabinet became the year’s catch-phrase. He named Katie Telford his chief of staff*, and blazed trails by naming rookie MP Bardish Chagger the first female Government House leader in the Commons.* And on International Women’s Day, he announced a (non-royal) female face would finally grace a bank note.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word ‘feminist,’ ” Trudeau told the World Economic Forum in Davos in January with the enthusiasm of someone who’d just coined the word. “Men and women should use it to describe themselves anytime they want.” By March, Trudeau was officially a feminist meme after co-operating with Vox on images mimicking the “Hey girl” Ryan Gosling-inspired viral sensation: “Hey girl, I might control the Mounties but I’ll never control your uterus,” one read; “Hey girl, I may be dreamy, but Canada has a long way to go in eliminating the wage gap,” said another.

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That Trudeau was embraced as an enlightened white knight isn’t surprising after nearly 10 years of a government whose position on women and gender vacillated between avoidance and attack. Under the Harper government, women’s programs were decimated, violence against Aboriginal woman and girls ignored, and Conservative election rhetoric linked to actual violence against Canadian women, when women in hijabs and niqabs were assaulted in Toronto and Montreal during the election. The Liberals swept in, reversing policies, among them returning advocacy funding to groups representing women and girls and lifting a restriction on foreign aid dollars funding abortion services offshore. Committees to address murdered and missing Indigenous women (MMIW), pay inequity, electoral reform and gender-based analysis were formed.

Ten months in, however, the objectification of Trudeau as Canada’s “dreamy” feminist PM is facing a harsh reality check. Political and economic realities (prioritizing Canadian jobs in a $15-billion sale of light armoured vehicles to a decidedly unegalitarian Saudi Arabia, for instance) have had to trump feminist principles. The March budget failed to back up the rhetoric with funding. “ ‘Feminist’ Justin Trudeau delivers a deeply unfeminist first budget,” Rabble proclaimed. Kate McInturff, a senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives who specializes in gender inequity and public policy, delivered a scathing critique in “Budget 2016: Not enough Real Change™ for women.” She found a gender divide in the 43,000 new jobs promised in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017-18, many from infrastructure spending. This is great for creating jobs in construction, which is 88.5 per cent male, she writes. Yet no equivalent investment was evident in predominantly female sectors such as health care. The result: women comprise 36 per cent of beneficiaries of new budget measures intended to create jobs. Trudeau’s propensity for progressive public gestures—his gender-parity cabinet, turfing two Liberal MPs after two female NDP MPs reported being sexually assaulted and harassed, his Snapchat advising men on how to be better feminists (“don’t interrupt women, and notice every time women get interrupted in conversation”)—is not in question. Where doubts are growing is over a prime minister who vocally identifies as feminist without calling out and drilling down into the hard intersections and injustices that underlie gender inequality, particularly those faced by women on the margins.

There’s no one way to be a feminist, of course, no “feminist policy check list,” as Linda Trimble, a professor of political science at the University of Alberta, says. Feminists come in all ideological stripes, and often disagree on policy. But the criticism now facing Trudeau by some activists is that he’s a “fake feminist.” That’s the phrase used by Ellie Ade Ker, a University of Toronto Ph.D. student and co-founder of Silence is Violence, a group targeting sexual violence on campuses. “Feminism is being reduced to a political buzzword,” she says. “People are saying, ‘He’s such an incredible feminist for saying women deserve equal rights,’ while his government is failing to address things happening on university campus or broader systemic issues that impact the lives of women.”

Justin Trudeau’s feminist bona fides were cemented in November 2015 when he appointed an impressive, diverse, gender-balanced cabinet (though it was noted men sit in the “power” portfolios of Finance, Foreign Affairs, and Defence). The seismic reverberations were felt internationally. “A lot of strong feminists I know cried when they saw half the ministers were women,” says Pat Armstrong, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at York University. And this was no token collection of XX chromosomes: “The women appointed all identify as feminist themselves,” she says.

Yet delight over the cabinet also deflected attention from broader inequities in the federal realm where only 26 per cent of MPs elected in 2015 are women, a record, but up only one percentage point from 2011. Women also are underrepresented in Parliamentary standing committees. Two of the 10-member committees have no women, and three-quarters have two women or fewer. Only the committee of Status of Women Canada, predictably, has a majority of female members.

Systemic overhaul of that status quo is not yet evident. Despite his 50-50 cabinet, Trudeau has shied away from imposing legislative remedies such as quotas or incentives proven to equalize representation. Moving more women into positions of power in companies and government boards should happen “not because you have to or because there is legislation, but because you’re getting better quality of service for citizens,” he said at Davos. A Liberal document leaked in June indicated the party won’t support the Gender Equity Act, a private member’s bill introduced by NDP MP Kennedy Stewart that proposes to financially penalize parties with a 10 per cent or more split between male and female candidates. (The Conservatives ran 19 per cent women candidates, Liberals ran 31 per cent and NDP 43 percent in the 2015 election.) A slew of women’s groups and female politicians, among them Anita Vandenbeld, Liberal MP and women’s caucus chair, Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer and Green Leader Elizabeth May, support the bill, expected to be voted on this fall. In the House, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef was dismissive: “This specific initiative is not the best way forward,” she said. Making organizations report explicitly on gender balance has proven effective in achieving greater equity, Stewart tells Maclean’s, noting similar systems in France and Ireland have upped female candidates. At the current rate, he says, equal representation in the House won’t be achieved until 2075.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, left to right, Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould wait for the start of a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 regarding missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, left to right, Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould wait for the start of a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 regarding missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

The nomination process is biased to men, Stewart says, a point Trudeau himself noted in March at an awards dinner for Catalyst, an organization promoting women’s advancement: “Studies have shown that women are 50 per cent less likely than men to consider themselves potential candidates for elected office,” he said, noting men say, ‘When do I start?’ when asked to run while women want to know why we thought she was qualified for the job.” Stewart, a former political science professor, says change requires legislation. “We’ve had a lot of rhetoric and we’ve had some symbolism but we’ve had nothing enshrined in law,” he says of the Liberals.

Election reform—eliminating first-past-the past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system—a Liberal election promise, is another way to increase women’s political participation. Pippa Norris, a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, spoke before the all-party electoral reform committee overseen by Monsef last month on the specific benefits of proportional represenation and the importance of legislation: “Having it in the law, but having an incentive with it, strengthens the work that you can do,” she said. The political will to effect change has been questioned, however; the Liberals sparked protest when they initially assumed majority control of the committee. Without leadership, the issue is destined dissolve into debate and divisiveness (the Liberals support ranked balloting, the NDP, Greens and Bloc support proportional representation, the Conservatives want the status quo and a referendum).

Other initiatives clearly call for dismantling the system. A committee led by Status of Women Canada Minister Patricia Hajdu has called for mandatory adoption of gender-based analysis, a tool to decipher how policy, legislation and program decisions impact women and men differently, across all government departments and agencies by next June; it is “a really big step toward making sure we keep gender equality at the forefront and that it’s not just window dressing,” Hajdu has said. The ministry, responsible for implementing gender equality, was given new status under the Liberals with Hadju being the first minister its 40-year history to not have another portfolio attached to her duties. Still, as McInturff points out, the budget allocated an extra $3 million in 2015, which sounds impressive but comprises only 0.02 per cent of total federal spending: “A feminist prime minister needs to put his money where his mouth is; we haven’t seen that with Status of Women yet,” she says.

That there’s massive work to be done on gender equity was evident in a leaked February 2015 internal Status of Women Canada report that showed Canada far behind other developed countries, with rising poverty rates for elderly single women and single-parent families headed by women, the most vulnerable being recent immigrants and off-reserve Aboriginal women. The report noted Canada ranks at the bottom in terms of pay gap between men and women (a 2015 StatsCan survey reported women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, 87 cents if they work in a federally registered job). Pay inequity was even intially evident in Trudeau’s cabinet: five of the 15 female ministers–including Hajdu–were appointed ministers of state, junior level positions paid $20,000 less than other cabinet ministers; it was corrected retroactively. In June, the pay-equity committee delivered a report, titled “It’s time to act,” with 31 recommendations, including tabling pay equity legislation within 18 months; the NDP wants it passed before year-end.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to kids at Le Centre Culturel Franophone de Vancouver during a campaign stop in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Justin Trudeau speaks to kids at Le Centre Culturel Franophone de Vancouver during a campaign stop in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

The leaked 2015 study also reported government support for child care and parental leave in Canada is also well below average. Access to proper child care is key to countering poverty says Trimble—a young woman who is a sole parent is at 70 per cent risk of being poor. A 2016 UNICEF report pegged Canada’s rate of relative child poverty at 14 per cent, 24th of 35 industrialized countries and 23rd in terms of our child poverty gap (a measure of the depth of child poverty).

Trudeau was mum on the subject of daycare access during a panel on gender equality at Davos after it was raised by the only other male panellist, Jonas Prising, the CEO of Manpower, a global personnel company, who cited evidence that affordable, accessible care created work opportunities for women. Instead, Trudeau reiterated his promise for “flex parental leave” aimed at a two-parent family: it allows both to take leave off and on over 18 months, six months more than currently, though it means sacrificing benefits. The Liberals also introduced a Canada Child Benefit that gives eligible families with children under age 18 a monthly tax-free payment graduated to income with an average annual payout is $2,300. Whether the CCB will succeed in lifting some 300,000 children out of poverty as promised has been questioned. The party has also pledged to create a “National Early Learning and Child Care Framework,” tied to income “to ensure affordable, high-quality, fully inclusive child care is available to all families who need it.” Currently the framework is amorphous. No deadlines have been set—and critics are circling.

“We need a universal child care program and not just because the majority of women of childbearing age are in the labour force,” says professor Armstrong. “So are the men.”

Armstrong sees the political flap over the Trudeau family’s nannies, paid $15 to $20 hourly for daytime work and $11 to $13 for the night shift, as a squandered opportunity for discussion of the realities facing many families. “It was being talked of as child care for Gregoire-Trudeau alone, as opposed to for him.” Trudeau relegated it to a budgeting issue; he was reshuffling the same money allocated the Harper family to suit his young family.

Also uncertain is when the government will address the poorest of Canadian children. It has yet to respond to an order to reform the First Nations child welfare system stemming from a landmark Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision in January 2016, which found services underfunded and discriminatory on the grounds of race and national and ethnic origin. A second order in April was also ignored, says Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, one of the groups that launched the complaint. A third order is pending. (The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs did not provide a response to written questions by deadline, but we’ve published the department’s response below.)

Blackstock’s organization was not consulted on the federal budget, which provided $684 million over five years for First Nations’ child welfare, she says: “It sounds impressive, but 54 per cent of that money doesn’t get released until the year of the next federal election or the year after it, if the Liberals get back in. For 2016, they only provided $71 million, substantially less than the $108 million the Conservatives thought necessary in 2012, she says.

Related: What Sophie Grégoire Trudeau says about feminism and politics

Palmater says the government’s failure to not yet lift the two per cent cap on funding increases for on-reserve programs and services as promised affects women and children disproportionately. For example, it hinders access to those seeking post-secondary education, the vast majority of whom are women over age 25 with children. She connects the dots to the fact Indigenous women are the fastest-growing prison population in Canada: “Almost all of them lack an education.” Palmater expresses frustration with Trudeau replacing “substantive justice and equality with flashy photo ops,” noting “you don’t see him with a lot of Indigenous female leaders.” Trudeau’s is a “two-tiered feminism,” she says. “Indigenous women are last.” That Trudeau is aware of poverty’s disproportionate impact on women and girls is not in doubt. At a May press conference he announced Canada’s $785-million commitment over three years, up 20 per cent, to Bill and Melinda Gates’s Global Fund, which aims to eliminate AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; he spoke of the need to address “root causes”: “If we don’t start getting into the root causes of these inequalities, we’re not going to be able to reach that goal of eliminating these diseases by 2030,” he said. Trudeau will host the fund’s conference in Montreal this month.

Only last month, Trudeau was feted for supporting a splashy social media effort organized by One, a campaign co-founded by Bono to promote maternal and child health projects in developing countries. “On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am writing you back to know that I wholeheartedly agree: poverty is sexist,” Trudeau wrote in a public letter, repeating One’s motto. “Women and girls are less likely to get an education, more likely to be impoverished, and face greater risk of disease and poor health,” he wrote.

Critics charge that Trudeau’s profile among the global philanthropic elite is not matched by similar attention to poverty and violence against women at home. Palmater describes the $40 million allocated in the budget for the MMIW inquiry, which involves as many as 6,000 women as well as such systemic issues as abuses in policing and discrimination in programs and services, as “paltry.” The Ipperwash inquiry, an investigation into the murder of one Indigenous man, Dudley George, cost $29.5 million. (The government later pledged an additional $13.8 million for the MMIW inquiry; with additional funds going to provinces to liaise with survivors and families.)

Blackstock would have liked to have seen money also allocated to protect women in the form of police training and appropriate help lines while the inquiry is under way. “It would demonstrate being serious about changing this,” she says. She is skeptical the inquiry will change anything, and not only because a lot of the information is out there from dozens of similar inquiries: “If we can’t get the government to comply with a legal order to end racial discrimination against little children then what does that mean for the MMIW recommendations?” The two are interconnected, she says: “Trying to get equity and raise a generation of healthy kids is critical to the prevention strategy of MMIW. If we are successful getting adequate, targeted resources out to this generation of boys and girls then we’re going to raise a generation far less predisposed to violence.”

Related: Canada’s MMIW inquiry begins with a glimmer of hope

McInturff expresses similar frustration with lack of spending on prevention against sexual violence in the budget, which directed $89.9 million over two years to increasing the number of shelters for women experiencing domestic violence. Money for shelters, is essential she says, in that overcrowding sees hundreds turned away on a typical day. But sexual violence costs the economy more than $12 billion a year in missed work, medical services, policing and justice, according to Justice Department estimates.

Trudeau, praised for acting swiftly to deal with sexual violence reports affecting his caucus, has proven inconsistent on the topic. At an “Up For Debate” forum in 2015, the Liberal leader blamed sexual violence on “certain types of music,” “shifting parental roles” and “a lot of communities in which fathers are less present,” a statement Toronto journalist Desmond Cole blasted as a “careless nod to anti-black stereotypes.” Trudeau also voted for the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, a bill the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund warned “will deepen institutional barriers to immigrant and racialized women reporting violence and will prevent them from accessing support and services.” It became law in 2015.

At the UN, Trudeau said he looked to the day calling himself “feminist” would be met with a shrug. That has yet to happen: “I talk about the fact that I’m a feminist as often as I can, and every time I do, it gets a huge reaction, and the media reacts, and the Twitterverse explodes,” Trudeau told Vox. Part of the response can be chalked up to the power of progressive mansplaining—that men are lionized for saying what women have been saying for centuries, seen too when director Joss Whedon or actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt or even Barack Obama came out as feminists. It’s a response that also reflects pent-up recognition that gender equality is not a “women’s problem” for women to solve alone.

Trudeau serving as a feminist role model, saying he’s taking as much effort to discuss equality with his sons as his daughter, is potentially beneficial, says Trimble. “It makes it clear that men can and should be feminists.” Yet Trudeau has yet to expound at length on feminism. Whether he has read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman or been informed by the work of Simone de Beauvoir or Kimberlé Crenshaw is unknown. (Maclean’s request to interview Trudeau was declined by the PMO.) At the UN, Trudeau reported his mother was a feminist while his father, the architect of the Charter and Rights and Freedoms, “was a great guy—but I don’t think he’d ever be able to be qualified as a feminist,” without elaboration. His endorsement of being a feminist was similarly vague: “It’s just—if you’re a progressive, you really should be a feminist, because it’s about equality, it’s about respect, it’s about making the best of the world that we have.” The message can seem canned as it did mid-Olympics: “It is 2016 so it means that our girls are doing extraordinarily well.”

That Trudeau endorses equality isn’t in doubt. Where critics attack him for is his desire to identify as a feminist iconoclast without breaking anything. “If Justin Trudeau in 2016 wants to claim a feminist perspective, then he needs to get down with the feminism of 2016 and that’s not a white liberal feminism,” says Kathryn Trevenen, acting director of the University of Ottawa’s institute of feminist and gender studies. She sees Trudeau cleaving to “classic Liberal feminism” which has been known to exclude the concerns and perspectives of poor women, women of colour and trans women. She says history has shown such a “trickle-down” approach—that enough women at the top will eventually benefit the marginalized—to be false.

Trudeau’s métier is the visual, so it isn’t surprising his feminist advocacy takes that form, seen recently when he tweeted a photo of Sophie Grégoire Trudeau breastfeeding to support women nursing publicly. Focus on image and symbolism frustrates some younger feminists. “I don’t need a pretty picture. I don’t need a f–king roundtable,” says Lauren Montgomery, a Ph.D. student and CUPE executive at Carleton University. “Unless he’s going to step up and provide universal affordable child care, breastfeeding spaces, call the provinces out on sexual violence, address problems faced by sex workers and say Bill C-36* shouldn’t have been passed, don’t call yourself a feminist.” She sees Trudeau deploying feminism to appeal to female voters. If it’s a tactic, it has worked: an August Abacus Data poll found Trudeau’s approval rating at a record high: 60 per cent of women and 59 per cent of men have a “positive impression” of the PM; 62 per cent of women under 45 had a positive impression.

That fact Trudeau himself has benefited from the sort of sexualized objectification feminism has protested for diminishing women presents another paradox. He’s a feminist heartthrob, more powerful as the result of his advocacy: “The sexiest thing about Justin Trudeau is his cabinet’s gender parity,” gushed a Jezebel blog.

Trudeau’s feminism contains a Catch-22, says Trevenen: There’s a joyful celebration of Justin Trudeau, so feminists are seen as killjoys if they hold him accountable, she says. “But being a feminist PM also requires addressing controversial issues, even becoming a ‘feminist killjoy,’ ” which is British feminist theorist Sara Ahmed’s term to describe how feminists kill the joy of the status quo by calling out injustice. Yet exerting such a critical gaze exists at a disconnect from partisan ends, political expediencies, and the Trudeau government’s “sunny ways” branding. Before the “Three Amigos” summit in June, human rights activists called on Trudeau to challenge Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto regarding the effect on women and children of the country’s war on drug cartels. If that did happen, it was in private. The public saw Trudeau and the president jogging, sparking an intense discussion about the brevity of their running shorts.

Trudeau was also silent amid the furor after his wife asked for more support for her work, which is essentially unpaid (the PMO sent out a statement). Unpaid work is a huge concern that affects less privileged women disproportionately, says McInturff. “With the aging population, women will be expected to take on more and more unpaid or low-paid work to help care for the ailing or aged.” StatsCan no longer tracks it. The Conservative government removed a question on unpaid work from the long-form census in 2006, Armstrong says. It has not been reinstated.

If anything, a retrograde aura, veiled as a glam throwback to the mythical Camelot of the Kennedy administration, surrounds the Trudeaus. Sophie Grégoire tacked on the Trudeau name to her own, after nine years of marriage, just as her husband neared the top political job. Last week, Katie Telford retweeted a Hufffington Post story comparing Grégoire Trudeau’s wardrobe choices to the duchess of Cambridge’s: “Sophie Grégoire Trudeau recycles outfit for China visit.”

Trudeau’s arrival as a sole marquee feminist voice concerns some. Armstrong wants to hear more from female cabinet ministers (Trudeau did hand over his Twitter account to them on International Women’s Day to outline inequalities in their ministries). “He has said it’s not the ‘Trudeau government’ like it was the ‘Harper government,’ she says: “Has it made any difference to have a cabinet that’s half women?” Carolyn Bennett has spoken of how women MPs are far more subject to “personal attacks” when heckled in the House; she has been told to “lay off the coffee or take a Valium.” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who has young children, has spoken of leaving the office at 5:30 and to spend early evenings with her family before returning to work, a flexibility most working parents don’t have.

At 10 months, it’s too soon to expect major change, says Trimble, which doesn’t make Trudeau exempt from scrutiny, she says. Trevenen is hopeful. “The Prime Minister has an amazing opportunity to learn from feminists, particularly innovative activists at the forefront of Indigenous movements and Black Lives Matter,” she says. “I’m not interested in shaming him. I’m interested in how can we help him do better and hold him accountable for claims he’s making.” That means Trudeau’s constant I-am-a-feminist boast isn’t about to be met with a dismissive shrug anytime soon.


UPDATE, Sept. 9, 2016: Maclean’s contacted Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada with a list of written questions but did not receive a written response from communications officer Shawn Jackson until after print deadline. We’re posting that exchange, and the answers, below.

We will report that the Canadian government has not yet complied with the findings of the January 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision regarding the funding/reform of child welfare services on First Nations reserves.

A: The Government of Canada has in fact addressed a number of the findings in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) decision.

Our priority first and foremost is the well-being of Indigenous children and we remain committed to working collaboratively to fully implement the tribunal’s decision. Canada has increased existing program funding to $634.8 million over five years to the First Nations Child and Family Services Program to support enhanced prevention services and increase capacity and resources for front-line service delivery on reserve. This funding includes funding for growth and cost drivers beyond 2 percent to commensurate with the costs of servicing children in care. The funding is currently being allocated to provide immediate relief to service providers.

Canada has also committed to a full scale reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services Program. We are currently engaging First Nations and other partners to start regional and national conversations about how to overhaul First Nations child and family services, including how to respond to items identified in the ruling. Meaningful First Nations Child and Family Services Program reform requires working in collaboration with all partners.

Canada also recently announced a new approach to implement Jordan’s Principle that will put the needs of children first and help to ensure that First Nations children with a disability or short-term condition living on-reserve receive the health and social services they need in a timely manner. We are providing up to $382 million over three years in new funding to support this approach.

We will report that the lifting of the 2% cap on annual funding for First Nations on-reserve programming promised in the 2016 budget has yet to take place.

A: The Government of Canada is committed to establishing a new fiscal relationship with First Nations based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

Through the historic investment in Budget 2016 of $8.4 billion for Indigenous peoples, the government has committed funding significantly beyond the previous the 2 per cent cap for Indigenous communities.

For 2016-17, this means our government is investing an additional $1.2 billion, over and above the $107 million that would have been provided under 2 per cent cap. In fact, within five years, total funding for Indigenous communities will be 22 per cent above the levels of funding that would have been provided under the previous 2 per cent funding cap.

While the 2 per cent cap has been lifted through Budget 2016’s investments, we are committed to a new, long term fiscal arrangement designed collaboratively with First Nations that ensures sufficient, predictable and sustained funding based on the needs of First Nation communities.
By signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Assembly of First Nations, we are establishing a joint process to achieve this goal and build a stronger nation-to-nation relationship.

Through these substantial investments, our government is committed to eliminate disparities and inequities in the socio-economic conditions between First Nations and other Canadians.

We will report that the additional $13.8 million earmarked for the MMIW inquiry beyond the $40 million in the budget will be allocated to the provinces to set up “liaisons” to guide families through the province, not to the inquiry itself.

A: As Minister Bennett has indicated, the $40 million figure was an estimate provided as a funding amount placeholder in the election platform document. This figure was revised following prior to completion of the 18 pre-inquiry sessions that were held across the country and where survivors, families and loved ones shared their experiences and ideas and requirements about the design of the inquiry.

The five Commissioners appointed have an incredible amount of work to do all across the country. They will be engaging regionally and locally on a wide range of issues related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and conducting research and gathering information on a very large scale.

All along we have wanted to make sure that we get it right. The additional funding will provide the Inquiry with resources it needs to do just that. For further information, please see here.

The $53.8 million is for the Commission’s operations. Parallel to the Inquiry, the Government will also provide $11.67 million over three years funding for new Family Information Liaison Units in the victims’ services offices of provinces and territories as well as an additional $4.5 million over four years in enhanced funding for culturally responsive, trauma informed services for families. For further information, please see here or contact Justice Canada.


CORRECTION, Sept. 29, 2016: An earlier version of this story referenced Bill C-37 in a quotation. That was a typographical error. In fact, the quotation referred to Bill C-36.

CORRECTION, Sept. 11, 2016: An earlier version of this story reported that Katie Telford was the first woman to serve as chief of staff in the PMO. In fact, the first woman to hold the role was Jodi White, chief of staff to Prime Minister Kim Campbell in 1993.

CORRECTION, Sept. 9, 2016:An earlier version of this story also claimed that Liberal MP Bardish Chagger was the first female House leader in the Commons. In fact, she’s the first Government House leader.


 

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