john baird

New Passport Design Leaves out Canada’s Diversity

Image from 2013 Canadian passport redesign of "The Fathers of Confederation"

Image from 2013 Canadian passport redesign of “The Fathers of Confederation”

by Librarian Karen

In July 2013, Passport Canada introduced a re-designed passport containing new security features and watermarks, which Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird claims “tells the world who we are: a nation built on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

While I also have some concerns about the security features, I’d like to share some of my observations about the watermarks, which certainly offer a fair depiction of Canada’s history, geography and industrial growth. But they depict a historical Canada, not a modern, diverse country rich in culture. There are no pictures of modern cities (was Toronto, Canada’s largest city, intentionally omitted?).

Even more concerning, there is a lack of representation of the people of Canada. Specifically, the new passport lacks images containing indigenous people, visible minorities and women. Out of the twenty-five individual images (on sixteen pages), only one clearly contains a woman, (which is not even a photograph of a person, it’s a photograph of a statue.)

Passport Canada paid $53,290 on a focus group to collect feedback on the images and the conclusion was: “Participants routinely suggested that the set of images should be more representative of Canada, with emphasis on including more women and better reflecting Canada’s multicultural character and heritage.”

If any changes were made to the line-up of images after the focus group, I wonder what the original selection was, because the final set of images is not reflective of the Canada I know.

For example:

Pier 21, Halifax, historic gateway to Canada, “was one of the most significant ports of entry for newly arrived immigrants,” and yet there are no images anywhere in the passport representing these immigrants, many of which worked on building the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Last Spike 1885, is a photograph depicting a group of men on the train tracks, most of which appear to be Caucasian; why not include some of the workers? (To note, the contributions of Chinese workers is mentioned in the description of this image on Passport Canada’s website.)

Another image I find questionable is the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, France, a Canadian war memorial which is in a different country. I understand the significance of this particular memorial, but why not use a picture of a war memorial in Canada, of which there are plenty to choose from? (Veterans Affairs has a list of Canadian war memorials located in Canada).

Nellie McClung page in new passport

Nellie McClung page in new passport

Most disappointingly however, is that there is only one image containing a woman: Nellie McClung, from the statue of the Famous Five is a photograph of the statue of Nellie McClung, in front of a print of the Famous Five (Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby). Where’s Laura Secord? Emily Carr? Pauline Johnson? And why use a picture of a statue rather than an actual photograph?

Considering Canada has more women than men, there is no reason not to have better representation in the passport. The omission suggests that females are not valued, haven’t contributed to the growth of Canada, and have no place in Canadian society. It’s a missed opportunity to promote gender equality.

Overall, I’m disappointed in the choice of images. I’ve done a bit of travelling, and some of the people I’ve met I’ve kept in touch with, so I asked them for their feedback on the new passport. I also asked for feedback from some of my Canadian ex-pat friends who are now living elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that it doesn’t accurately reflect their image of Canada, there is a lack of connection with the images, a lack of relevancy.

When comparing passports with other travelers, there is an opportunity for us to share the story of our country. If John Baird is suggesting that the images in the new passport are a way to tell the world who we are, how do we explain the lack of diversity in the people represented?

Posted on by Librarian Karen in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

A Closer Look at REAL Women of Canada

Photo of the Canadian Parliament buildings

Photo of the Canadian Parliament buildings

by Patricia Kmiec

The self-described “pro-family conservative women’s movement” known as REAL Women of Canada has made their way into the headlines once again. This time they have publicly attacked Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird for publicly defending gay rights in Russia and Uganda. REAL women explains that Baird’s position is “offensive” and “undermine[s] other countries’ sovereignty and dignity.”

Of course, the media is attracted to the irony of this conservative group publicly calling out Baird, one of the most recognizable faces of the Conservative government, for “causing collateral damage to his party.” While I often find such public spats over ‘how conservative is too conservative?’ entertaining, there comes a point where we need to look at exactly who is perpetuating these ideas and who is listening.

REAL (Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life) Women of Canada was founded in 1983 and served as an active lobby group that countered efforts of pro-choice feminists to legalize abortion in Canada, and their anti-choice position remains at the centre of their work. They have also actively campaigned against other causes including: legalizing prostitution, expanding access to state-supported childcare, and establishing a Canadian human rights museum.

Though REAL Women claims to represent “women (and men) from all walks of life,” it is clear that their outdated ideas are shared by very few. In fact, they make no mention of their membership numbers or who their board members are on their website. Though their Facebook group has 738 members, a quick browse through the comments suggests that many of even those who “like” the group’s page are just there to oppose their regular posts.

So why should we care? It appears that this organization has very few members and is only given any attention when they release a press statement that is simply too absurd to ignore. But should we be ignoring them? I wish it were that easy.

Unfortunately, REAL Women still has sway with the Conservative government. As recently as last year, REAL Women was one of the chosen community organizations invited by the Harper government to recommend Canadians for the Queen’s Jubilee awards, while hundreds of other organizations (including EGALE Canada) were left off the list and unable to put forward nominees for the well-recognized awards.

So what are women (you know, women who actually care about women) to do? I would say make sure that your voice is out there. Regardless of who is telling us that we no longer need feminism and that women have achieved equality in Canada – keep letting people know that you support women’s rights.

Write letters to the editors, post comments online, volunteer for local feminist organizations (or start one!), or contact your local political representative when women’s issues come up, because you can be sure that the women of REAL Women are.

It is true that women’s views span across the board. Certainly women have every right to be anti-choice or disagree with issues like gay marriage – but when an organization like REAL Women continues to lobby the government in favour of discriminatory action on various levels, it is essential that actual real women continue to stand up against them.

Posted on by Patricia Kmiec in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

Calling Myself Out

Lately I’ve been conflicted about something I posted on this blog a little less than a month ago.

Earlier this year I started posting funny YouTube clips on Fridays, including this clip from This Hour has 22 Minutes about John Baird:

We had been talking about John Baird that week and criticizing his overly aggressive style in the House of Commons, so when I saw the video I thought it was funny and apt.

The thing is, a couple months before, a commenter had let us know about this picture of Helena Guergis, and I was really offended, even though I’m not a fan of Guergis, nor the Toronto Sun.

I didn’t write it on the blog but I saw the Toronto Sun cover as comparing women to dogs in a demeaning and dehumanizing way. As much as I think Guergis’ actions were seriously sketchy, I don’t think it’s cool to put her face next to a dog’s and say they’re the same thing.

So given that, I’m feeling like it might’ve been a bit hypocritical of me to go around promoting the video comparing John Baird to a dog.

On the one hand, a satirical sketch by a group like like This Hour Has 22 Minutes is clearly not meant to be taken too seriously, whereas the front cover of a newspaper at least has the pretense of being objective media. One was intended to be a joke, and one wasn’t, so you could argue they’d also have different impacts.

You could also argue that there’s a long history of comparing women to animals in order to maintain gender hierarchy (e.g. calling women “bitch”, “chick”, comparing them to “meat”, etc.). That could mean that such comparisons about Helena Guergis would be more damaging and oppressive than against John Baird.

On the other hand, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great to go around comparing men to dogs or other animals. So I’m calling myself out on that one but I’d also be interested to hear what you think: are these types of comparisons always bad, or just in certain contexts, or just when applied to women, or should we just see them as a joke and forget about it?



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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

FFFF: 22 Minutes on John Baird

Because it’s related to E. Cain’s post from this morning, I thought I’d share this clip from This Hour Has 22 Minutes about John Baird’s temper for your Friday Feminist Funny Film.



Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, FFFF, Politics Leave a comment

Baird is Parliamentarian of the Year?: Oh Hell No!

by E. Cain

Today I want to write about the antiquated masculine culture which permeates Canadian Politics. If you’ve ever watched Question Period, then you know what I’m talking about.  Politics is one of the few professions in this country where is considered acceptable (even encouraged) to point fingers, scream, yell, bang on desks and berate your colleagues.

One politician who has built a reputation for himself based on this abhorrent behaviour is the Conservative Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, John Baird. The Globe and Mail writes “[Baird has] gained a reputation as an attack dog, screaming responses to opposition questions, insulting and snarling at any who have the audacity to challenge him.”

Minister John Baird

Charming right? Well, today Baird was named Parliamentarian of the Year in Macleans magazine. This honour is bestowed by the Canadian Members of Parliament. They are asked to vote in several categories (their votes are converted into a points system to ensure that larger parties don’t have an advantage). This year, 202 MPs voted (nearly 70%).

The accompanying Maclean’s article gushes about Baird, including: his leadership marshalling the Accountability Act and overseeing billions of dollars in federal stimulus money; his role as Harper’s #2; and his behind-the-scenes ability to schmooze with the best of them.

While this may all be true, when I heard that Baird was the recipient of this honour, my first reaction was: Oh Hell No!

John Baird is one of the most disrespectful politicians in the Canadian government. This is his public persona. This is what he is known for. In a previous blog article on gendered media coverage of politicians, I wrote about Baird’s ‘emotional outburst’ last summer which resulted in him telling the city of Toronto to ‘f- off.’  Sadly, this is not unusual behaviour for Baird. In fact, on the very same day he was named Parliamentarian of the Year, he showed up uninvited to a committee hearing. He then berated the Chair, Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi, implying she was unintelligent and referring to her by her first name, and lashed out at another committee member Liberal MP Siobhan Coady.

To hammer home my point – the confrontational, adversarial nature of Canadian politics is identified as one of the main reasons why women don’t run for political office. This does not mean that women are weak. It means that many women don’t want to go to work every day and have to deal with disrespectful men. It makes for a hostile working environment, it’s demoralizing and downright counter-productive.

Over the years, countless politicians – of both genders and of all political stripes – have called for a change in this ‘blood sport’ mentality present in Canadian Politics. For this reason, I have to say that I was shocked John Baird was named Parliamentarian of the Year! He represents the epitome of what needs to change in Canadian politics. He should not be rewarded; a better course of action would be to reprimand him for his unacceptable behaviour and recommend anger management.


Posted on by E. Cain in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments