McKenna says sexist comments shouldn't dissuade women from politics
Published Wednesday, September 20, 2017 3:27PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 20, 2017 8:54PM EDT
OTTAWA – Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said it’s “really sad” that she’s in the position of having to respond to a comment from a Conservative MP who compared her to a Barbie doll, but said sexist comments shouldn’t dissuade women from entering politics.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday from New York City, McKenna addressed the comment from Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz, who called her “climate Barbie” on Tuesday in a tweet. Ritz has since deleted the tweet and apologized.
“It’s really disappointing what happened. And, unfortunately, it’s not about me: it’s about how women, especially women in politics, face these kinds of comments -- sexist, misogynistic comments -- especially from conservatives. You know, I want to be talking about what I’m doing, but unfortunately we’re having this conversation,” she said.
“I’ve got two daughters,” McKenna added. “There’s lots of young women who want to get into politics. And I want them to feel like they can go do that and they can go talk about the great work they’re doing -- not about the colour of their hair.”
Her comments come after Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr demanded that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer denounce the longtime Conservative MP for his “sexist” language.
"All week Conservatives pretended to stand up for business women. But I can tell you members on this side were deeply disappointed by comments made by the Conservative member for Battlefords—Lloydminster about the minister of environment and climate change,” Carr said in question period on Wednesday.
"We can all agree that sexist comments should not be part of the public debate or part of any conversation anywhere, period. So I ask the leader of the opposition, will he stand here today, do the right thing, and denounce his member’s comments and ask him to issue a full apology?"
Scheer did not.
Carr then rose again to say "how disappointing" it was that he wouldn't apologize for Ritz's remarks.
In a statement to CTV News Wednesday evening, Andrew Scheer said that he is in the process of contacting McKenna, who was in New York Wednesday, to “assure the Minister that this type of behavior has no place in the Conservative caucus.”
"As a father of three daughters, I want to ensure that gender-based stereotypes have no place in Canada or Canadian politics. The demeaning words used by the Member were inappropriate and he has rightly apologized,” said Scheer.
Ritz, a former minister, wrote "Has anyone told our climate Barbie!" Tuesday in response to another tweet that quoted a U.S. economist about the Paris Agreement on climate change
The tweet was later deleted from his account, but not until after Twitter users – including McKenna -- called him out for the comment.
"Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister?" McKenna tweeted late Tuesday evening.
"We need more women in politics," she added. "Your sexist comments won't stop us."
After McKenna’s tweet, Ritz wrote on Twitter: "I apologize for the use of Barbie, it is not reflective of the role the Minister plays."
Ritz announced his intention to resign in August, and said he wouldn’t be returning to his seat in the House of Commons this fall.
On Wednesday, Ritz's Parliament Hill office confirmed that he sent a letter of resignation to the Speaker of the House of Commons shortly after announcing he would be resigning, indicating his intent to vacate his seat, effective Oct. 2.
Scheer also came under fire in question period on Tuesday over another member of the Conservative caucus. Carolyn Bennett, the government's Crown-Indigenous relations minister, called on the Conservatives to remove Sen. Lynn Beyak from caucus after she urged Indigenous people in Canada to trade in their status cards.
A number of Liberals have taken to social media to denounce Ritz, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan who called the comments “unacceptable.”
Following question period Wednesday, Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef said it was a missed opportunity by Scheer.
"The Conservative Party under new leadership would like us to believe that they’ve changed. That they’ll be more positive in their tone, but the lack of action as we saw today in the House from the leader demonstrates that actually not much has changed," Monsef said.
However, Conservative MPs saw things differently. Gerard Deltell said that while what Ritz made a "big mistake," the Liberals were wrongly using it to dodge the tax issue.
Erin O'Toole said while he thought Ritz's language was inappropriate, “"o make it a centerpiece of response to legitimate questions in the House of Commons I don’t think is appropriate either."
With files from CTVNews.ca's Graham Slaughter