Peter MacKay takes more heat over Mother’s Day comments

Ontario, Quebec justice ministers take swipe at federal counterpart


OTTAWA — Two provincial justice ministers took a swipe at their federal counterpart Wednesday, denouncing Peter MacKay’s recent comments about female judges as outdated and inaccurate.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, meanwhile, came to the defence of his embattled attorney general, as well as the Conservative government’s record in promoting the advancement of women.

MacKay’s views on professional men and women have faced scrutiny over the past week — most recently a pair of messages sent on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day that some felt stereotyped parental roles.

But the controversy began with a private meeting with members of the Ontario Bar Association earlier this month. The Toronto Star reported last week that MacKay attributed the dearth of women on the federal bench to the fact female candidates weren’t applying.

He went on to explain that reticence by saying women feared being sent to work as judges on the circuit courts, the Star reported, quoting lawyers who were at the meeting.

MacKay has not denied the Star’s characterization of the comments. In a Facebook post, he emphasized he has been trying to encourage the appointment of more women.

A pair of women who have risen to two of the most important legal positions in the country took issue with MacKay’s comments.

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee called MacKay’s comments “deplorable.”

“It’s now 2014 in Canada,” Vallee said.

“We can be professional and have our families and have aspirations to access the bench… For my part, I have two teenagers and I travel back and forth between Maniwaki and Quebec each week.

“I think I’m a good mother and I think I’m a good professional.”

At the Ontario legislature, Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur also took issue with the suggestion women weren’t applying.

“It’s very unfortunate that in 2014 you hear comments like this, especially from the minister of justice, especially at a time when Ontario has elected the first woman as premier in Ontario,” Meilleur said.

“It’s difficult for the female community in Ontario to accept a comment like this.”

Meilleur went on to suggest that MacKay should take note of Ontario’s transparent process for appointing judges, which deliberately seeks out more diversity on the bench.

MacKay’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day emails, obtained by The Canadian Press, have added to the discussion about the minister’s view of gender roles.

In one, MacKay salutes moms for juggling two full-time jobs — home and work.

“By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you’ve already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at the daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner,” he wrote.

The Father’s Day message was quite different, making no mention of any household duties, but saying the men were “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.”

MacKay’s office would not comment on the substance of the emails. A government source who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was bureaucrats who penned most of the Mother’s Day message, with minor tweaks by MacKay.

One of his staff members currently on maternity leave, Jenn Gearey, called the email issue “ridiculous” and pointed out that some of MacKay’s most senior staff are women.

The messages both made a personal reference to MacKay being a father — something he also did in front of the Ontario lawyers when he said women had a special bond with their children.

When asked about the messages during an event in Quebec, Harper said he didn’t agree with the interpretation they were sexist.

“The clear objective of my government since our arrival in power has been to increase the participation of women in leadership positions, not only in the public sector but also in the private sector,” Harper told a joint news conference with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

Still, women in Harper’s cabinet have not been able to penetrate the top posts.

The Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Justice portfolios have remained in the hands of men for eight years. In the House of Commons, male ministers such as Jason Kenney and John Baird are most commonly called upon to speak on Harper’s behalf in his absence.

— With files from Maria Babbage in Toronto

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Peter MacKay takes more heat over Mother’s Day comments

  1. I hope Mackay’s wife gave him hell when he got home.

  2. This is the mentality of most of these MPs in the Harper Dinosaur Government.

  3. Hey Wells…

    A month from now, when you’re bitching again about how the Conservatives ban reporters from one of their events…

    Remember the crap you’re writing about today.

    • Hey John…

      Maybe you’re unaware that women do have the right to vote in Canada so MacKay’s attitude towards them is worthy of press note. It’s just a little late for you to be making excuses for Harper limiting press access given he’s been doing it since 2006. There’s no doubt that every negative report adds to his paranoia and drives him deeper into his bunker which only illustrates his unfitness to the PM of Canada.

    • Interesting that you endorse government censorship of the media.

      Thanks for confirming my suspicions about Harper’s little minions.

      • Gayle,

        Anyone who has ever read ANYTHING you wrote already understands you spend most of your time looking over your shoulder at the next perceived “boogeyman” that gives you an excuse for your paranoid tendencies. You are filled with suspicions, but unfortunately they don’t leave any room in your brain for rational thought.

  4. Knee-jerk responses don’t help. What are the facts, Ma’am? ARE fewer women applying, and if so why?

  5. If anyone actually thinks MacKay writes this kind of missive himself…they’re deluded. Some hack in his office writes the stuff on his behalf….and he signs off on it. I doubt he even reads most of it, but perhaps this will smarten him up.

    • You know something my friend, its not so much about the massive, its about the ignorance of Petes own life knowledge. Women in the con party are nothing but window dressing in a façade of the good old boys party(harper gov.). Can you tell me of one really high profile women this government appointed since the cons were elected, if there is, I’ll bet you could count them on one finger, yes, one finger not hand. Actually, I don’t recall any high profile women in the con party, period, unless they are reading from a script prepared by the PMO.

    • You know how I know there is substance to the media’s critique of MacKay on this? Diehard, blindly devoted minions like James here can only cobble together a pathetic defence like this one.

      • Tell me, Gayle,

        Do you honestly think a Minister of the Crown has the time to write the regular “Pap” that leaves his office?

        by the way….what did you think of Justin’s “Ladies Night”…….guess your outrage is as one-sided, as it is selective.

  6. Oh…..

    It’s a story by Jennifer Ditchburn.

    Nothing new to see here.

  7. Apparently,

    Pete’s wife has responded, and basically laid waste to what has been written in the media. The Lawyers Group MacKay was speaking to refuses to release the transcripts or tapes of what he actually said.

    wonder why that is? (they’re afraid of being sued for slander is his wife’s guess)

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