CSPG Seminar: The #MeToo Movement and Parliament.

AuthorFeldman, Charlie
PositionCanadian Study or Parliament Group

The #MeToo movement has been a watershed moment for changes to workplace culture, particularly for women in fields traditionally dominated by men. On March 29, 2019, the Canadian Study of Parliament Group held a seminar to explore the impact of the #MeToo on parties, politics, and Parliament Hill.

Panel One: The Experiences of Women

University of Waterloo Political Science Professor Anna Esselment chaired the first panel, which brought together Brenda O'Neill from the University of Calgary, Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star, and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, former MP and member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

Brenda O'Neill began with an overview of the #MeToo movement, noting that while #MeToo is new, movements for equality in the workplace are not. She recounted how labour and feminist movements of the 1970s brought about reforms and progress, but highlighted that these movements were largely working-class focused. Indeed, those pushing for equality in the workplace did not have women parliamentarians top of mind because these women were not perceived as being those in need because they were viewed to be in power. However, we now better recognize structural and systemic barriers to women's full and equal participation in all workplaces, including in the political sphere.

O'Neill noted that #MeToo is not only an issue of equality in the workplace but one of sexual violence. Rather than turn a blind eye to inappropriate sexual advances, comments, or assaults, as had been commonplace in the past, there are now repercussions --with premiers and MPs alike losing spots in cabinet or their positions entirely owing to allegations (or proof) of inappropriate behavior. She concluded with an overview of the social-networking peril and promise of #MeToo. While social media has allowed for the #MeToo movement to have global reach in a short amount of time, it has also created a risk of "slacktivism," whereby those supportive of a cause merely express support online but are unprepared to take concrete steps to remedy a situation. She concluded with her hope that those concerned with these issues today continue to press for progress as did women in earlier feminist waves and not relent simply because an issue, while acknowledged, is not also actively addressed.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis began by describing the challenges women in the legislature face today, pointing to a recent incident in the British Columbia legislature in which certain female staff were...

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