OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to bring his lauded feminist credentials to hosting the G7 summit — and dozens of gender equality activists are gathering in Ottawa this week to make sure he does.
"We want to go beyond the platitudes of leaders declaring themselves as feminists and actually see that the declarations are showing up in the policies," said Paulette Senior, president and CEO of the Canadian Women's Foundation.
Those policies, Senior said, "have significant implications and can have great impact on the lives of all citizens."
The Liberal government is making gender equality a major theme of its G7 presidency this year, including by pushing for measures aimed at boosting the economic empowerment of women and increasing female participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Starting Wednesday, the W7 summit — the 'W' is for 'women' — will work to ensure the voices of grassroots feminist activists from around the world are heard when G7 leaders gather around their exclusive table at a resort in La Malbaie, Que., in June.
The group of about 70 women from 20 countries will be delivering their own set of recommendations for how Canada and other G7 nations could address gender equality, including when it comes to peace and security, climate change, violence against women and building a stronger — and more inclusive — feminist movement.
Julie Delahanty, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said G7 leaders need to recognize there is a gender gap around the world, including at home.
"We really think it is going to be a waste of time and taxpayer money unless world leaders are able to listen to the voices of people who have really been on the front lines of some of the issues that they're facing, or that they should be facing," said Delahanty.
"The W7 is an opportunity for us to be able to give voice to those people who aren't normally part of the G7 process."
The activists will also be pushing Canada to stand firm on its commitment to the more controversial issue of sexual and reproductive health rights, including access to abortion, which could pose a challenge for Trudeau when it comes to bringing U.S. President Donald Trump onside.
Soon after he arrived in the White House, Trump signed an executive order to enforce the so-called global gag rule, which forbids organizations receiving U.S. funding from providing access to the procedure — or even mentioning it.
The W7 summit coincides with the first in-person meeting of the G7 gender equality advisory council, which includes such high-profile members as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, and billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates.
It remains unclear how many of the members will be coming to Ottawa, but the event includes a panel discussion with Trudeau on Thursday.
The goal of the advisory council, which will be developing its preliminary recommendations for what they would like to see Trudeau champion around the G7 table, is to make sure gender equality — as well as gender-based analysis — is considered throughout what Canada brings to the summit.
Farrah Khan, an anti-sexual violence educator and advocate who is a member of the G7 advisory council, said the council will spend their time together hammering out their preliminary recommendations, which will go to Trudeau and Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef for review.
Khan said the timeline is tight, but she sees the endeavour as the beginning of something that will last beyond the meeting in June.
"I think no matter the time that we are given or the space that we're given, I think we are going to take up that space and more and ensure that this (has) a ripple effect," said Khan, the manager of the office of sexual violence support and education at Ryerson University in Toronto.
She also said it is important to remember that a government-organized advisory council is neither the beginning nor the end of the work that each of its members — and the feminist movement in general — has been doing to champion the rights of women and girls around the world.
"This is only one part of the push," she said. "Social movements aren't built by the state."
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Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press