Harper should declare that the federal government, and all its institutions, has zero tolerance for sexist or abusive behaviour. Full stop.
Ottawa (18 June 2015) — In many ways, General Lawson’s comments, and the events that gave rise to them, came as no surprise to me. We have seen similar things said about the culture of the RCMP and even about the House of Commons.
In all these instances, we have seen the Prime Minister making statements condemning the offensive nature of the acts or comments, perhaps setting up a review of the organization and then—well—then doing very little. Pretty much a hands-off approach.
While disappointed by the federal government’s unwillingness to take strong action on these kinds of issues, the lack of action does not surprise me. What else would you expect from a federal government that cuts funding to, and closes the doors on, programs for women?
It is time that we all demand that the federal government take steps to end sexism in our military, in our police force, and in our Parliament.
The problem here is a lack of leadership
The Prime Minister, if he really cared about the treatment of women in our nation’s armed forces, or in our national police forces, or in our federal public service, should show some leadership.
Like Australia’s Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison (now retired)—whose crystal-clear statements on the unacceptability of sexism in the ranks are making the Internet rounds—Harper should declare that the federal government, and all its institutions, has zero tolerance for sexist or abusive behaviour. Full stop.
Don’t like the policy—leave! If you commit a sexist or abusive act, you will face the consequences.
These federal institutions would then be mandated with implementing the policy. If senior officers don’t like it—leave!
I don’t want to oversimplify the challenges of confronting institutional sexism. However, the first step is as simple as making a strong, unequivocal statement in defence of the women who serve in our federal public service.
NUPGE National President
James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE