Rempel's account of sexism on Parliament Hill sparks reaction from MPs
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, April 19, 2016 2:25PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 19, 2016 11:00PM EDT
"(Be) nicer in the future."
"It turns me on when you're direct."
These are some of the sexist comments that Conservative MP Michelle Rempel says she has received in conversations with other members of the House of Commons.
An op-ed written by the representative for Calgary Nose Hill in the National Post is sparking conversations about the day-to-day sexism faced by women on Parliament Hill.
In the article, Rempel recounts several occasions where she was forced to explain to one of her female staffers about confronting sexism.
The staffer had witnessed a male MP tell Rempel they should discuss an issue when they were "less emotional." After confronting him about the phrasing, Rempel said the MP ended the conversation by saying she should be “nicer in the future."
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said women face "dramatically different" forms of heckling than their male counterparts.
"The personal attacks -- 'You're only the one who is confused,' or, 'Lay off the coffee,' or, ‘Take a valium' -- are things that I have received that I don't recognize that my male colleagues have the same," she said.
"I think the heckling that takes place (between men) is often on the topic, or that 'that's not important,' or it's a more partisan, general kind of heckling, as opposed to the kinds of personal attacks that women parliamentarians are still (receiving)."
Bennett said female MPs have to "engage directly" with the perpetrators and say "that's unacceptable."
"There are people in the gallery. There are women watching all over this country. We want this to be a safe place for women to want to come to Parliament, and we have to deal with one another -- whether it is men or women -- treating women in this place in what I can only interpret as sexism," she said.
Minister of the Status of Women Patty Hajdu was also supportive of Rempel's comments, and commended her "courage" in speaking out.
"What I really liked about that article was the call to men to step up and to acknowledge their responsibility in addressing this issue," Hajdu told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.
Hajdu said she too has faced sexist criticism.
"I was often told that I was too loud, that I was too aggressive, too pushy … too determined," said Hajdu.
"And, in fact, when we see men that are determined, aggressive and pushy, we often compliment them – turns out these are perfect traits for being a politician."
International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said she's been on the receiving end of sexist comments about her voice, which some have called "too shrill."
She said one Twitter user went as far as to say that she need to put her "big-girl voice on."
However, Freeland added that the Liberals’ decision to have gender parity in their cabinet has made a "huge difference" on Parliament Hill.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is talking to his team about Rempel's complaints, and told reporters in French that there's been some progress on the issue of sexism, but there is still an enormous amount of work to do.
Last year, Trudeau expelled two MPs from the Liberal Party after they were accused of sexual misconduct by two of their female colleagues.
Immigration Minister John McCallum echoed Trudeau's comments.
"It's 2016 and it's an issue because the world is not a perfect place," he said.
"Sexism remains a challenge in Ottawa, in Canada and around the world."
Rempel ends her op-ed with a call to action, not just for women who are on the receiving end, but for the perpetrators.
"While I applaud the efforts many women have made to empower other women to address sexism in the moment it happens, we should upend the table," wrote Rempel.
"The responsibility for combatting everyday sexism doesn’t lie with those who live with it; it lies with you."
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV News' Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier