Under the government of Justin Trudeau, Canada has embraced a feminist foreign policy — gradually at first, and with fervor over the past year.
In June 2017, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland declared: “It is important, and historic, that we have a prime minister and a government proud to proclaim ourselves feminists. Women’s rights are human rights. That includes sexual reproductive rights and the right to safe and accessible abortions. These rights are at the core of our foreign policy.”
Days later, Canada’s aid program was renamed the Feminist International Assistance Policy, with the specific mandate to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as the most effective way to “reduce extreme poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world.”
Canada has also applied gender framing to security (with the Elsie Initiative on Women in Peace Operations) and trade (with a new gender chapter within the Canada-Chile free trade agreement). And, most recently, it announced the creation of a gender equity advisory council to ensure gender equality is integrated across all themes of the G7, which Canada presides over this year.
Canada is not leading the charge, however (Sweden pioneered the first such policy in 2014), and the framing is not without its critics. So as leaders like Freeland and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström increasingly advocate for the use of foreign policy as a vehicle to better the lives of women and girls around the world, we are taking a step back to ask how a feminist foreign policy should be defined and what it looks like in practice.
In this series, Karen K. Ho looks at Canada’s first big test of the application of a gender lens — its G7 presidency this year. Nathalie Rothschild explains the Swedish model and how it has been working thus far. Alice Driver reports from Mexico City on the intersection between migration, trafficking and feminism.
Finally, in a roundup from leading voices from around the world including Jacinda Ardern, the prime minster of New Zealand, Canada’s minister of development Marie-Claude Bibeau, long-time foreign correspondent Sally Armstrong and several others, we give 10 reasons why this policy progression matters — and where it should go next.