Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the 2016 Catalyst Awards Dinner in New York City
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, John, for that kind introduction and for your leadership. I obviously also want to thank Catalyst, its directors, advisors, staff, and volunteers for putting together this tremendous event each and every year.
Thank you to each and every one of you for being here with us tonight. When I was looking over the schedule for today’s conference I was impressed by the core themes that were selected, or more specifically, by the words that were used to describe the important work that your organizations are doing and hoping and needing to do more of – those words of empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility. These are the kinds of words, the kinds of values that build better communities, whether it is a business community and all those you serve, or the political world and the citizens that we serve.
Tonight I would like to talk about those four values and the ways in which my new government is working hard to make them a reality. But first I have to recognize someone who is an inspiration to me.
Before continuing, I want to take a moment to talk to you about a woman, who, to me, embodies these values in everything she does, my extraordinary wife, Sophie.
My extraordinary wife, Sophie.
Sophie is a phenomenal mother, a fearless partner, and a committed advocate for issues facing women and girls. Tomorrow she is speaking at the “NotTheCost” event hosted by the National Democratic Institute. Sophie inspires me every day to be better, and I would not be here tonight were it not for her leadership and her example. Thank you Sophie.
And of course as she always points out to me, behind every successful man is a really astonished woman.
Thank you my love.
As you know, empowerment is one of those concepts that’s easy to talk about, but challenging to put into practice. Anything that fundamentally shifts a power balance is going to take time, a lot of hard work, and real dedication. I know this firsthand. I’m here this evening because I helped to bring about Canada’s first ever gender-balanced Cabinet.
But before we arrived at that goal, we had to do an awful lot of work in the years that preceded it. Yes, it may be 2016 now and it was 2015 then, and we do have progress to show for it, but we are where we are because of the hard work that we did, in 2015 and in 2014, in 2013, and 2012, when I first ran for the leadership of my party. You see, here’s an interesting fact that I am sure many of you are familiar with: studies have shown that women are 50% less likely than men to consider themselves potential candidates for elected office. Of course we didn’t need a study to tell us that. We saw it firsthand every time we asked women to step up and run for politics.
You see when you ask a man if he wants to run for office, his very first question is: when do I start? But we found that when we asked a woman the same question, her first reaction was different. It was, really? Why me? She’d ask if we were serious. She’d want to know why exactly we thought she was qualified for the job. I hear that from business leaders all the time. They encounter similar reactions when they are recruiting for executive and director positions. It’s not just politics where this is a challenge. What we did try is we launched a campaign called “Invite Her to Run.” We reached out through social media and other channels to ask Canadians to invite women they knew – leaders in their community, women who were already making their mark as hard workers, as connected business leaders, as people who are having an impact in the world around them – to put their name forward to run for office. And to help interested women to follow through we had a process in place to help them figure out the next steps. And that was a really important step in pulling together the pool of talent needed to be able to say so casually and blithely, “well, because it’s 2015.”
As in so many situations, the work behind the scenes, the preparation, the dedication, the getting to a place where we were able to showcase that, was really the important part of the story.
One perfect example for me, the one that encapsulates the struggles with getting women to run was our fantastic Minister of International Trade, well-known to many New Yorkers, Chrystia Freeland. She and I had many long conversations about the reality of working in politics and what the demands would be. I had to convince her to uproot her young family to move from New York to Toronto, to run in the election, and if she was successful then she would then have to move to Ottawa and further uproot her family. But the call to service was strong and after much soul searching and, I know, difficult conversations with her husband and her kids, she made the decision and, not just me, but all of Canada is delighted that she decided to run because she has been an extraordinary asset to Canada and, indeed, to the world.
But she’s just one example of the extraordinary women we gathered – two of whom are here tonight, Patty Hajdu, our Minister for the Status of Women, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is Canada’s first-ever indigenous Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
(Applause & cheers)
So the “Ask Her to Run” program was just an example of one specific program that I know has made a real difference. As I said earlier, we are all accountable to future generations for the decisions and for the steps and processes we put in place to create a better future today.
Now many of you know I am a feminist, and proud to call myself one.
(Applause & cheers)
I know and believe that women can do and be anything they want. But I also know that meaningful cultural change can’t and won’t happen when only half of the population works towards change. Men need to act to set examples and to be role models too.
(Applause & cheers)
My wife, Sophie, recently reminded me of this very point. I’ve always tried to make sure that my daughter feels empowered, that she understands that her gender does not and should never determine the limits of what she can accomplish. But Sophie reminded me recently that I need to spend just as much time and effort engaging with my sons, talking to them about feminism and the importance of equality.
Men have a critical role to play in demanding and supporting this societal shift. We need to speak out in support of gender equality, and, gentlemen, we need to get comfortable identifying ourselves as feminists.
Because at the end of the day that’s accountability. We are all accountable – women and men. We are all responsible for making sure that the change we want to see around the boardroom table is a topic of discussion around the dinner table. Our daughters and sons deserve nothing less.
So after empowerment, accountability, the third value, courage, is ostensibly why I am here this evening. I say ostensibly because while some might see establishing gender equality around the cabinet table as a courageous move, it’s not actually a frame that I am really comfortable with in talking about courage. Is it really courageous to want to have a government leadership that more accurately reflects the people they are elected to represent? Is it courageous to want to diminish barriers by offering our daughters and sons effective and visible role models? Is it courageous to want to offer Canadian citizens the best possible results – something we know happens when we have more inclusive representation… representative approach to leadership? See, to me, those aren’t markers of courage; rather, they are just markers of the right and smart thing to do. See…
For true courage look to when a woman decides to throw her hat in the political arena, even after witnessing that hostile environment that so often awaits her. True courage is fighting for that raise because you know you deserve pay equal or greater to that of your male colleagues.
True courage is standing up and demanding better representation, better treatment, and better opportunities, and those inspiring actions are… that so many women take upon every day are what is true courage to me.
Now the final value presented for us tonight is humility. Now it’s important to take stock of the things we have accomplished together. A gender-balanced Cabinet, for example, is a significant accomplishment and one that I am especially proud of. But in highlighting our victories, we must also remain mindful of the important work that has yet to be done. See, Canada has a proud history of strong ambitious women standing up and fighting for change, and real meaningful progress has always followed. But there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. We need to do more than address… we need to do more to address issues that negatively impact women each and every day – issues like pay equity, access to quality childcare, and achieving parity, not just in Cabinet, but in Parliament as a whole, and further, the work we need to continue to do to stamp out violence against women right across our country and, indeed, around the world means we know we still have a massive mountain to climb, but are absolutely determined to make a significant… significant steps towards that.
Because in our humility, we should always remember the extraordinary position of privilege each and every one of us, certainly in this room, are in, simply by being gathered in this beautiful room in this great city. And if we have privilege, which we must recognize, we must use that privilege to be advocates for change, both within our own communities and on the international stage. See, we need to remember always to challenge the status quo, even though it may be what got us here tonight, but it is our responsibility always to be more inclusive, to expand opportunity, and to always demand better of ourselves and of others.
These four values – empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility – are not ones that we should embrace because they win us awards or because they make us feel better about ourselves. These are values that we should all seek to embody every single day because in doing so we help build a world that delivers on the promise of greater equality. And equality, whether extended to an employee, a customer, a colleague, or a citizen, is not a threat. It is an opportunity.
So thank you for recognizing the work that my government has done, and recognizing as well that as much as I was able to do and my government was able to do, we only did it because Canadians made a choice to choose a more open, fair, positive way of doing politics, and that is certainly something that I hope resonates through political systems around the world.
(Laughter & applause)
I am not thinking of any place in particular. No.
But as wonderful as this recognition is, it is not an honour. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to create more opportunities for Canadian women and girls, and indeed women and girls around the world, to realize their full potential. Tonight I am also asking you to challenge those around you – your peers, your friends – and most importantly I want all of you here in this room to think about how you can challenge those folks who aren’t in this room. Because we are all converts and we all know people who wouldn’t be here tonight, wouldn’t think of being here tonight, who might not want to be here tonight, and those are the people that we are going to have to challenge. And if anyone you challenge to step up and do more on gender equality dares tell you we’ve come such a long way I don’t think there’s that much left to do, just tell them to ask any woman they know.
Thank you very much for tonight. Thank you very much my friends. Thank you very much.
(Applause & cheers)