Canada’s Justice Minister is Yesterday’s Man

June 27, 2014

Peter MacKay. Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo, Creative Commons

Peter MacKay is yesterday’s man. 

According to Canada’s Justice Minister, women are dedicated moms and caregivers around the clock who are busy changing diapers, packing lunches and dropping the kids off at daycare. In contrast, men are dedicated fathers who are shaping the minds of the next generation.

This old-fashioned, blatantly sexist attitude recently surfaced in a pair of emails MacKay sent to his staff on the occasions of Mother’s and Father’s Days. Justice department employees apparently sent the emails to Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC.

The Mother’s Day email lauded women for having “two full-time jobs: as hard-working department of justice employees during business hours, and as dedicated moms and caregivers around the clock,” the CBC reported.

The Father’s Day message talked about the “immense and lifelong influence we have over our children” and spoke about how men’s words, actions and examples “greatly mould them into who they become.”

Apparently, the minister didn’t see anything wrong with the wording of the messages. A spokesperson for the minster emailed the CBC with this tepid response: “The minister takes every opportunity to thank staff for their contribution to the department and advancing justice issues on behalf of all Canadians.”

MacKay seems stuck in the 1950s, an era when advertising included such gems as Drummond Sweaters’ assertion that “Men are better than women! Indoors, women are useful – even pleasant. On a mountain they are something of a drag.”

How MacKay could have missed the entire feminist revolution is something of a mystery, but he appears to be walking about in his own personal cloud oblivious to the fact that women and men both defy traditional roles these days.

But then we are talking about a minister who allegedly called former Liberal MP Belinda Stronach, whom he once dated, “a dog” in the House of Commons in 2006. The incident, widely reported, led Stronach to demand an apology from MacKay and prompted her to say that the comment allegedly made during question period represented the “attitude of this government toward women.” 

MacKay denied making the comment.

If MacKay believes that women should be changing diapers and packing lunches, it’s hard to reconcile what the former Defence Minister’s attitude must be toward women in the military. If they’re posted to foreign destinations on missions, it’s obvious they’re not able to change diapers. Is MacKay okay with military spouse fathers doing that in that instance?

Whether or not he is, is irrelevant because the latter happens regardless of MacKay’s outdated attitude. What is concerning is how someone can climb so high within Canada’s government and have so much influence and yet be so hide-bound. It suggests a systemic viewpoint within the federal government itself that they’re able to ignore such ridiculous statements and even condone them. 

To have the justice minister wield such stale ideas is troubling. A related story from the Toronto Star questioned MacKay over a lack of women and visible minority judges on Canada’s courts. MacKay reportedly told the Ontario Bar Association that women weren’t applying and were worried they’d be dispatched on circuit work to hear cases across a region, “a prospect he described as unappealing for women with children at home,” the Star reported. MacKay denied this via a statement on his Facebook page  in which he called the stories “inaccurate and inflammatory rhetoric in the media based on false comments attributed to me.”

 Liberal Members of Parliament called his remarks — which MacKay responded were mischaracterized and misrepesented– sexist and demanded an apology. Hansard recorded the exchanges in the House of Commons, including a comment by MP Chrystia Freeland, “the Minister of Justice recently made remarks to the Ontario Bar Association that were so strikingly sexist that lawyers there described them as offensive.”

In his attitudes, MacKay shows he is yesterday’s man – but those same attitudes are certain to catch up with him at the polls, when more than 50 per cent of the population – upset with his remarks and tired of his patronizing positions – will make him yesterday’s man in more ways than one.

Copyright Charles Mandel 2014

HANSARD, Parliament of Canada, transcript June 19, 2014:
CBC story, including the original emails:
Toronto Star story: Peter MacKay tries to explain lack of diversity on federal courts: 
Peter MacKay’s Facebook page:
CBC story, MacKay denies referring to Stronach as a dog:


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