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Trudeau may tweet a good game on equal rights, but his broken promises are hurting women

Image: PMO/Adam Scotti

We are at a scary point in history -- one that I hope will end up being told through the voices of the hundreds of thousands of courageous people pouring onto the streets to stand in defiance of the hate, fear, racism and misogyny that is being propagated by the new American President and political opportunists here in Canada.

Monday, we stood together in shock, mourning the six innocent victims of this political agenda of racism and intolerance. Men shot, here in Canada, because they prayed at a mosque instead of a church.

South of the border people are demonstrating against President Trump's racist and xenophobic executive order cracking down on Muslim immigrants and refugees. Hundreds of civil rights lawyers have flooded airports to help vulnerable immigrants, citizens have taken to the streets, and political leaders around the world have spoken out strongly against the actions of the American President.

Canada's Prime Minister took to Twitter with a message of hope, but has yet to speak out against the dangerous rhetoric and actions of Donald Trump.

It's hard to believe that it was only a week ago that I marched down Laurier with my 10-year-old daughter, eight-year-old son, and thousands of Ottawa women and men who support us.

We marched to stand with our sisters south of the border, against the misogyny that was minimized and even embraced in their recent election. We marched to end violence against women. We marched for reproductive rights, racial justice, workers' rights, civil rights, and protecting our planet.  

We marched because women's rights are human rights. And because, we still have a long way to go to reach full equality here in Canada.

One Tweet for women, one Tween for The Donald

It was an uplifting and inspiring day. My daughter and her friends were charged by the power they felt around them.

But where was our prime minister?

How is it that the profound solidarity of hundreds of thousands of Canadian women across the country merited only a tweet of congratulations a day after the fact?

What does it mean that we received the same congratulations as he tweeted to Trump the day before?

Perhaps I would be less troubled if we weren't also beginning to see the Trudeau government implement policies that have a direct negative impact on Canadian women.

His government's bill to enhance the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), which is supposed to be designed to ensure financial security for an aging population, actually eliminates hard-won protections that were originally created to ensure women aren't penalized for the time they spend out of the workforce, raising children.

Trudeau has also backtracked on a key election promise to allow women to spend up to an extra six months on maternity leave -- albeit without any increase in benefits.

An ability to extend maternity leave without losing your job is an important protection for women -- especially given the lack of a federal child-care strategy. A push back from business was all it took to get him to back down.

So now women are left with no national child-care strategy, no job protections in case we need to take extra unpaid leave, and we may suffer significant financial penalties when we retire, if we can.

Less tweet, more action

Canadians need a prime minister who walks the walk. Not one who says the right thing and then backs down when push comes to shove.

Sadly, I believe Trudeau did not march with us because it would have been viewed negatively by the Trump administration. He broke his 18-month maternity promise because it would have inconvenienced big business. He excluded hundreds of thousands of Canadian women from enhancements to CPP because it saved money.

Now our Prime Minister has taken to Twitter to praise our diversity but has still done nothing to repeal bill C-51, the Harper government's so-called anti-terrorism legislation.

Standing up for all Canadians in the face of current global pressures requires more than supportive messages over social media. It involves hard choices. But we need a government that is on our side and follows its tweets with the actions required to make our country a more equal and inclusive society.

As the Kellie Leitches and Kevin O'Learys continue to raise their heads on this side of the border it is more import than ever that we stand strong and hold our Prime Minister to account. We cannot let the promise of his government be co-opted by the pull of the right.

Emilie Taman is a law professor at the University of Ottawa and a former Federal Crown Prosecutor, who was fired by the Harper government after being refused a leave of absence to run as a candidate for the NDP in the last federal election.

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Image: PMO/Adam Scotti

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