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Self-described feminist prime minister champions non-feminist CETA

The Trudeau government touted their budget released last month as Canada’s first “gender-based federal budget”.

CBC columnist Robyn Urback comments, “I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see a section of this year’s budget written just for me, through a gender-sensitive lens, meaning I could skip right to Chapter 5 and avoid the sections that didn’t massage my fixation with my own woman-ness. …It’s a good thing, too: I accidentally landed on a page about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU and found myself overcome by crippling dizziness!”

That said, Trudeau might argue that CETA should be seen with a gender-based lens. Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland recently stated, “CETA is the most progressive trade agreement Canada or the EU have ever negotiated.” That was just after she highlighted, “As you know, our Prime Minister is a proud feminist, and so am I!”

So, could it be argued that CETA is a progressive, feminist trade deal?

UK-based Global Justice Now says that would be hard to do. In fact, they note, “[Trade deals like CETA and the United States-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP] undo some of the hard work feminists have already done over the past 20 to 50 years [on] both sides of the Atlantic.”

They say:

1- TTIP and CETA threaten women’s employment. By increasing competition with international workers and discouraging unionization, ‘free’ trade agreements tend to lower wages, worsen working conditions and trigger job losses. People on low-income and insecure employment such as textiles, care work and food services, will be hit the hardest. Two-thirds of these low-income jobs are held by women and of women of colour in particular.

2- These trade agreements are bad for women’s health. [CETA and] TTIP will allow big drug companies to impose longer patents on pharmaceuticals and therefore further monopolize the market. This will leave a large amount of people unable to access lifesaving treatments. The people most likely to suffer are those who use our public health service the most and are most likely to be in low-paid employment: women.

3- TTIP and CETA will mean more unpaid work for women. These agreements do not only threaten paid employment. They also intensify work at home. Job losses and lowering wages in the health and care sector will mean that a lot of this work will fall back on households. As women statistically still do most of the work at home, the unpaid care-labour are more likely to fall to them. As domestic work intensifies, women will find it harder to enter and compete on the labour market.

In addition, the Feminist Caravan, which emerged out of the World March of Women and supported by the Network of Young Feminists of Europe, lists a number of other reasons including: “Because these treaties are a result of patriarchal and neoliberal policies, which safeguard the rights of transnational companies and financial institutions over individuals’, peoples’ and the planet’s rights.”

Urback notes, “[While in New York on a recent trip to see a play], Trudeau spoke with entrepreneurs during a roundtable about the struggles women face when it comes to starting new businesses. Indeed, who could speak with more authority about the difficulties facing female entrepreneurs than someone who has never been and never will be a female entrepreneur? Why send a woman to do the job when this man comes with his own photo entourage?”

She concludes, “Trudeau-brand feminism has become like that catchphrase on a family sitcom, the one that stopped being amusing two seasons ago, but the laugh track keeps rolling anyway. …Trudeau has said that he’ll continue saying he’s a feminist up until the point it is ‘met with a shrug’. That point has arguably come and gone. Indeed, now that his feminism is starting to be met with gags, perhaps it’s time to wind down the show and focus on the work backstage.”

One of those pieces of work Trudeau could do backstage is stop the ratification of CETA by withdrawing C-30. You can encourage him to do so by clicking here.