Ontario Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur says embattled federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay has a thing or two to learn about respecting women.
Meilleur was responding to recent remarks made by MacKay that were not exactly flattering on women’s role in society — both as judges and otherwise.
“It’s very unfortunate in 2014 you hear comments like this especially from the minister of justice, especially at a time when Ontario has elected the first woman as premier,” Meilleur said.
“It’s difficult for the female community in Ontario to accept comments like this,” she told reporters as she headed into the majority Liberal government’s first official cabinet meeting.
Responding to an audience question at a June 13 meeting of the Ontario Bar Association’s council about the lack of women and visible minorities on federally appointed courts, MacKay had said they just “aren’t applying” for the jobs.
The Toronto Star’s Tonda MacCharles reported that according to some in attendance that evening, MacKay then focused only on women, saying they fear an “old boys” network on the bench would dispatch them on circuit work to hear cases in courthouses across a region — a prospect he described as unappealing for women with children at home.
MacKay then took to Facebook to rebut “inflammatory” media report about his comments, saying his intent was to “encourage more women and minorities to apply to be judges.” The Ontario Bar Association refused to release a recording of the session.
MacKay then got in hot water for what appeared to be playing down the role of women who work in his department in the rearing of their children, compared to men.
The Canadian Press obtained emails to staff MacKay sent for Mother's Day and Father's Day — one saluting mothers for holding down two full-time jobs, at home and at work, and the other lauding dads for raising “the next generation of leaders.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his justice minister, saying MacKay's comments have been unfairly characterized as sexist.