Catching up to Canada

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Canada’s new International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is congratulated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Chris Wattie, AFP/Getty Images

Recently Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed 30 ministers in the most diverse cabinet the country has ever seen. Of the 30 nominated were 15 women, an act that made headlines for having created a gender-equal cabinet. When asked why he made a particular effort to ensure the cabinet would have an equal number of men and women, Trudeau replied, “It’s 2015.”

In addition to having an equal number of men and women in the cabinet, Trudeau also boasts the most diverse cabinet Canada has seen in a long term, if not ever. I mean this in multiple senses of the word, as the cabinet members are not only ethnically diverse, with two indigenous and three Sikh ministers, but also diverse in terms of age, political experience, and previous occupations. Marc Garneau for example, Canada’s new transport minister, is also an ex-astronaut, having served as the first Canadian in space. Lawrence MacAulay, agriculture minister, used to be a potato and dairy farmer, although to be fair he has also served as minister of labor in the past. The differences continue; there is a minister who is legally blind, one who is a quadriplegic, one who is a former Afghan refugee.

Trudeau discussed the diversity in his cabinet, saying he would presenting, “to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada” and it’s true– despite what some may tell you, white males are not representative of an entire country, and it’s important to acknowledge the ever changing topography of the world’s populations.

I am all for highlighting acts of equality, particular in areas such as politics where this has, unfortunately, rarely or never been seen to this level. While I am in support of Trudeau’s equal cabinet, one still has to ask why the news of something as simple as a gender-equal or diverse cabinet would be extraordinary enough to make headlines. Why are we not seeing more equal representation in the political world, and why just in Canada? As Neera Tanden writes in her article for Politico Magazine, “Last I looked, it was 2015 in the United States, too. And yet, only seven of America’s 22 Cabinet-rank positions, excluding the office of the vice president, are held by women.”

Indeed, filling half the American Cabinet with females would only require 11 women, which is even less than what Trudeau had found. Why then, when the bar is so low, do we not also have an equal cabinet by now? Although Tanden goes on to discuss the improvements Obama has made to the cabinet statistics compared to those during Bush’s term, there is still a long way to go before the gender ratio in the American cabinet can even begin to compare to 50%. And why is it, with America proudly proclaimed as a “melting pot,” are we not seeing a wider range in the representation on the cabinet? I don’t mean to understate the progress that has already been made, I only hope that we can continue to make progress in the same direction as Canada, and preferably in the near future.

I mean really, it’s 2015.

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