Nanaimo’s member of Parliament had a chance not only to represent her constituents, but to represent her country.
Sheila Malcolmson, NDP MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, was part of Canada’s delegation at the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York, spending five days there last week.
Patty Hajdu, Liberal Minister for Status of Women, invited Malcolmson to be part of the contingent, along with other federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations politicians and non-governmental and labour representatives.
“It was great to be there in solidarity and not to have it be hyper-partisan,” Malcolmson said.
She said it was powerful to see and hear about women who are doing “front-line work” seeking rights in countries where there are consequences for speaking out. But there were also reality checks. The World Economic Forum ranks Canada 30th in its global gender gap index and Malcolmson said it is clear to her, coming away from the conference, that the federal government must start work on a comprehensive national action plan to end violence against women.
“That’s something that a lot of other developed countries have already. Canada is lagging behind on that one,” she said.
Malcolmson said women have to leave their jobs and homes due to gender violence, and it creates economic insecurity and disrupts families.
“When vulnerable members of our society are made more vulnerable by crime, everybody suffers,” she said. “And when women do better, everybody does better. Economy, community, all of those pieces are very much intertwined.”
As the NDP’s status of women critic, Malcolmson will push for various policies including a gender-based violence strategy, pay equity legislation, implementing recommendations of the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, increasing shelter funding and electing more women to Parliament.
“All of those things would improve our ranking, but they all take legislative action, every single one of them,” she said.
She has a positive working relationship with the minister, she said, and she’s optimistic because the Liberal government is saying the right things about gender equality.
“But it won’t make a single difference in the lives of women in Canada unless we turn these words into actions,” Malcolmson said.
According to a federal government press release, Canada will run for a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women for the 2017-21 term. Canada isn’t currently among the 45 countries with seats.
“As Canada seeks to renew its commitment to advancing gender equality globally, we intend to have an even greater role shaping promising futures for women and girls at home and around the world,” said Hajdu.