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Cash incentives for parties could help get more women in politics: MPs

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  • A House of Commons committee is making a cross-party call for the federal government to offer financial incentives to political parties that nominate more women candidates to run for election.

    The recommendation is one of 14 recommendations the status of women committee made in a new report about the ongoing under-representation of women in politics, titled “Elect her: A roadmap for improving the representation of women in Canadian politics.”

    “Despite their growing political participation, women represent just 35 per cent of all legislators in Canada and remain under-represented at all levels of government,” the report said.

    “Increasing women’s participation in electoral politics is essential for achieving greater gender equality. Having more women in elected office is about more than achieving equality in a traditionally male-dominated field — it could also have significant effects on public policy.”

    The committee zeroed in on the role that political parties play, saying they should work harder to get more women to run by eliminating sexism and biases that might be built into their recruitment efforts.

    One potential fix, the committee says, would be to offer cash incentives, such as subsidies, to encourage parties to help more women get nominated and then elected.

    Witnesses and experts who spoke to the committee cited New Brunswick’s example of changing the formula for the per-vote subsidy to favour female candidates in provincial elections. Votes received by female candidates are weighted 1.5 times greater than votes received by male candidates in the province, which encourages parties to run women in competitive ridings where they are more likely to win.

    The federal per-vote subsidy was eliminated in 2015.

    The government must now respond to the report. Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

    Studies looking at the issue have found that when party members are given the option to vote for female nominees, they often do. In addition, early and long nomination campaigns are more likely to attract female contestants, the committee heard.

    But the rules and processes associated with nomination and election campaigns can be complicated, and decision-making within parties was described by some as “opaque.”

    “Women may benefit from increased transparency and accountability in nomination and election campaign processes, as this would confirm that all candidates are subject to the same rules,” the report says.

    The committee said Ottawa should also consider encouraging parties to set voluntary quotas for how many female candidates they plan to field and publicly report on efforts to recruit female candidates after every general election.

    Other recommendations include a call for publicly funded education campaigns and training to counter the negative effects of gender-based harassment of female politicians, both in traditional and social media. The committee also said Statistic Canada should get more funding to expand its data collection on the participation and engagement of diverse groups of women in political activities.

    The MPs who worked on the report plan to ask to another Commons committee, which studies electoral issues, to consider looking into ways to eliminate gender bias in the design of voting ballots. A letter would also go to House Speaker Geoff Regan to ask him to examine ways to eliminate gender-based heckling in the House of Commons.

    Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press




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    Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

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  • TORONTO — Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year’s deadly van attack in north Toronto.

    The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. to coincide with the time of the April 23, 2018 incident that left 10 dead and 16 injured.

    In the hours before the ceremony, the city is expected to install temporary signs in the area to commemorate what it has dubbed the “Yonge Street Tragedy” until permanent memorials are created.

    The city says consultations on the memorials will begin this spring.

    Events are also planned elsewhere in the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

    The Willowdale community is hosting a moment of silence, an evening vigil and a free dinner, among other events.

    It is also bringing in trauma counsellors and therapy dogs for those who need support.

    The city was gripped with grief in the wake of the attack and more than $4 million was raised in support of the victims and their families.

    Alek Minassian, 26, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

    He is set to face trial next February. 

    The Canadian Press


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    New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country.

    The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

    It says the coin, which will be presented in Toronto today, celebrates “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

    But historians and advocates are raising concerns about the message behind the new loonie, saying it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    A group of activists and academics is holding a news conference near the mint’s event today to challenge myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, says LGTBTQ people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the legal changes.

    He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

    The mint “could have consulted people who have knowledge of this history but they didn’t,” Hooper said, adding he hopes the agency will do so in the future.

    He acknowledged no campaign can compete with roughly three million coins but said the project is at least fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ history.

    “As a historian, I’m hoping to inform as many people as I can about our history. So in some ways the coin is opening up that opportunity,” he said.

    The mint has said it is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance” when it comes to selecting commemorative themes for coins.

    The Canadian Press


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