This story is over 5 years old.


'Because It's 2015': Why Justin Trudeau Pushed for Gender Parity in His Cabinet

“It’s an incredible pleasure for me to be before you today … to present a cabinet that looks like Canada,” Trudeau beamed at his inauguration as prime minister.
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Self-described "proud feminist" Justin Trudeau has been courting women voters for years. On Wednesday, the new prime minister made Canadian history when he unveiled Canada's first-ever cabinet that is equal parts men and women.

"It's an incredible pleasure for me to be before you today … to present a cabinet that looks like Canada," he beamed in front of the crowd outside Rideau Hall, the home of the governor general, after he was officially sworn in.


When asked by a reporter why it was important for him to have a gender-equal cabinet, 15 men and 15 women, Trudeau shrugged: "Because it's 2015." The crowd cheered.

"It sends a great message to our daughters and sons," Sheila Copps, a well-known former Liberal cabinet minister told CBC News. "It's a historic day for women."

Women were given high profile portfolios, including Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is the new minister of justice and attorney general who is an indigenous woman; Jane Philpott, the health minister; and first-time member of parliament Catherine McKenna, who was appointed environment and climate change minister.

Though his gender pledge has been criticized this week as tokenism and even "a throwback to another era," Trudeau has managed to enter his new role seen as a (staunchly pro-choice) leader who will usher in a new era for women in Canadian politics.

But he hasn't always been seen this way.

On the campaign trail, Trudeau was slammed for his remarks about misogyny and violence against women in a September interview, saying that pornography, music lyrics and absentee fathers play a role in "a lot of communities."

He was accused of racism, and women's rights activists said it showed he was out of touch with the root causes of women's inequality such as economics, child care, and law enforcement.

And before that, Trudeau was under fire for his 2013 event "Justin Unplugged," marketed as an event for women in Toronto to engage in "curiosity-inducing ideas" over cocktails with the "future prime minister."


Former Conservative ministers took to Twitter to blast the event as "crap" and patronizing.

"In asking someone to attend a political fundraiser, show some respect — $250 is a serious investment. Don't talk down to me," tweeted former transport minister Lisa Raitt.

But just after one day in office, he's already managed to catapult Canada from 20th to 3rd place in the global rankings of gender equality in government, with double the number of women in cabinet compared to the US.

"Canadian politicians often talk about parity while running campaigns," a politics professor at the University of Ottawa professor told NBC. "But it's a big deal to actually do it."

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne