French President Emmanuel Macron greets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he arrives in Paris, France Sunday November 11, 2018. Canada’s focus on gender at the G7 summit last year has translated into a successful legacy for the annual meeting of world leaders. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

France takes torch passed by Canada, will focus on gender equality at G7 summit

Trudeau created a gender-equality advisory council

Canada’s work to make gender equality a centrepiece of its G7 presidency last year has been adopted by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has pledged that combating inequality — particularly gender inequity — will be a priority as France takes the lead in the international body this year.

But France plans a much narrower focus than Canada’s, in the hope of making clear and concrete improvements in women’s lives.

READ MORE: Don’t forget about women left to sweep up shards of glass ceiling, W7 urges G7

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put a new emphasis on women and girls in G7 deliberations to showcase Canada’s commitment to feminist policy on the world stage.

Trudeau created a gender-equality advisory council to ensure that gender equity and empowering women and girls were included in all discussions and activities of the G7, including in non-traditional areas like security and economic policy.

France has taken up the torch passed by Canada with a new gender-equality advisory council and a new focus on feminist foreign policy.

France’s ambassador to Canada Kareen Rispal is among a group of high-profile feminist leaders on this year’s advisory council, which includes actor and UN women goodwill ambassador Emma Watson, Femen representative Inna Shevchenko (a Ukrainian activist granted asylum in France in 2013) and Nobel peace laureates Denis Mukwege (from Congo) and Nadia Murad (a Yazidi from Iraq).

Rispal, a passionate advocate for gender equality, says the council is focusing its work this year on three themes: ending sexual violence against women, supporting access to education for women and girls and fostering women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, particularly in the Sahel region of Africa.

The council has decided to narrow its focus to three areas this year after reviewing the 2018 Canadian advisory council’s final report, which included a list of 60 recommendations for the G7 across a wide spectrum of subjects.

“It’s incredible when you reread it. There’s everything in it,” Rispal said of the Charlevoix report, entitled Make Gender Inequality History. “The only thing, in my opinion, is that maybe there were too many recommendations. So, it’s very difficult to keep track of all of those many recommendations. But it was a huge amount of work.”

Despite Canada’s best intentions to shine a spotlight on feminist policy at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Que. last June, the event became best known for the fireworks between Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The summit ended with Trump rescinding his support for a closing communique signed by all seven world leaders that he had previously endorsed. On his plane home, he used Twitter to blast Trudeau for his condemnation of U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, accusing Trudeau of being dishonest and weak.

The spat was the first act in a trade dispute between Canada and the U.S. that has yet to be fully resolved.

Canada’s envoy to France, Isabelle Hudon, who co-chaired the gender advisory council last year with billionaire American philanthropist Melinda Gates, says she does not believe the work of the council was overshadowed by the political theatrics caused by Trump’s upending of the final day of meetings last year.

She believes Canada’s efforts to embed gender equality in every discussion at the G7 last year brought new value to those conversations and is pleased the “respectful pressure” that she and others placed on Macron to continue those efforts was successful.

“It was an opportunity to realize that work is quite important and still there is a lot that needs to be done, and one G7 with that topic would not be enough,” Hudon said.

Gender equality will once again be included as part of all G7 deliberations this year, which will include two seats members from the advisory council at every ministerial meeting leading up to the summit in August.

In addition, the work of the 2019 advisory council will not only mean a more targeted focus, but its recommendations will also centre on legislation. They will create a list of existing laws that are most favourable to women worldwide and will recommend new laws for G7 members that could be adopted to improve gender equity.

The initiative, called the Biarritz Partnership after the French city on the Bay of Biscay that will host the August G7 summit, aims to create a coalition of states ready to change their laws in favour of women’s rights.

But the advisory council might also choose to include other recommendations that do not necessarily focus on legislative changes, Hudon added. Macron told the experts on the council during their first meeting in February they have full license to be bold and to say whatever they feel they must, Rispal said.

While there may be fears Trump will once again pull focus from the agenda (also, the United States is due to take over the presidency of the G7 in 2020), Hudon says she is confident the strong voices of those around the council table this year will ensure their work and final report will not go unnoticed.

“One thing is sure, it will be ambitious,” Hudon said.

Eleanore Catenaro, a spokeswoman for Trudeau, said Canada is “thrilled” to see that France has followed suit and created its own gender equality advisory council ahead of its presidency this year.

“Our government will continue to work with France — and all of our partners — to ensure that the G7 remains committed promote the rights of women and girls and work to achieve gender equality,” she said.

G7 gender-equality ministers are to meet in Paris in May, to be presented with a report from the 2019 advisory council.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In-class instruction for Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows schools to resume June 1

Classes will be part-time, remote/at-home learning to continue

Maple Ridge Climate Hub urges city council to take action

Many neighbouring cities have declared climate emergencies

LETTER: Fearful guard dog training will bring undue noise and fear to Pitt Meadows

As a neighbour to another local dog-training facility, this resident pleads with council to vote ‘no’

LETTER: Friend claims dog training disruptive to ailing Pitt Meadows neighbour

Concern expressed with only 30 metres distance between a home and a proposed training facility

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping The News to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

BREAKING: Langley Gabby’s Country Cabaret announces ‘heartbreaking’ permanent closure

Owner Steve Gallagher ‘holds out hope’ of a new future for the 35-year-old nightlife hotspot

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Officials looking for answers after Abbotsford football star found dead in Sask. lake

Saskatchewan Health Authority looking into circumstances surrounding Samwel Uko’s hospital visit

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

Most Read