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Friday, October 22, 2021

Trudeau pressed on target for BIPOC representation in cabinet if elected

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OTTAWA — Libera lLeader Justin Trudeau won’t formally commit to a specific target for representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in cabinet, despite doing so for women in 2015.

In an interview with CTV National News on Wednesday, Trudeau said only that a Liberal government would continue to work to improve representation within ministerial offices and Parliament more broadly.

“I commit to continuing to doing more. What we have done over the past year is bring in far more diversity into the Prime Minister’s Office than ever before, into cabinet. Right now we have record numbers of Indigenous candidates, of Black candidates, of Filipino candidates, of women candidates within our party, of Asian-Canadian candidates,” he said.

He said the Liberals would seek to embody diversity “because you need to hear from everyone if you’re going to serve everyone.”

However, based on Trudeau’s comments, that doesn’t include a specific target at this time.

In 2015, Trudeau appointed 15 women to what he described as the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history. The cabinet has been at least 50 per cent female ever since.

When it comes to the Prime Minister’s Office, according to the latest available data from July, 29 out of 98 — or 30 per cent — of staffers within the PMO are self-identified as Black, Indigenous, or a person of colour. Based on the latest available Census data, 22 per cent of Canada’s population belongs to a visible minority.

Here is the full text of Trudeau’s interview with CTV News National Affairs Correspondent Omar Sachedina.

Note: This transcript has been edited for length and grammar.

Sachedina: You have now had 32 days and three debates to convince Canadians why it’s necessary for them to spend $600 million on an election during a pandemic, during an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The fact that you still have to defend your decision to call this election, what does that tell you?

Trudeau: Well, I think Canadians are seeing that there are very different ideas about how to end this pandemic, how to move forward on climate change, on child care, on housing. Canadians deserve a choice, because those decisions are going to be taken by the government now, in the coming weeks, not a year from now, not two years from now. That’s the choice Canadians get to make.

Sachedina: But your budget had passed, you had struck deals with eight provinces and territories on a signature initiative that this country has been waiting on for decades, which is child care. There are many Canadians out there who would say that by calling this election, you have put that in jeopardy.

Trudeau: The only thing putting child care in jeopardy is Erin O’Toole’s desire to turn it back, to rip up deals that give Canadians $10 a day [child care.]

Sachedina: But you decided when to call this election, Mr. Trudeau.

Trudeau: … I know, Canadians want child care not just for their families, but for jobs, for economic growth, for businesses who’ve said ‘you’re right, this pandemic has taught us affordable child care is an economic policy.’ Mr. O’Toole’s making the wrong choice, and Canadians have the opportunity to show that.

Sachedina: Canadians of course want a leader they can trust, a leader with integrity, and to be frank, you’ve broken several of your pledges even before the surge in pandemic spending. You abandoned your pledge to balance the books. Ending boil-water advisories by March 2021, didn’t happen. Electoral reform, didn’t happen. Affordable housing, still unaffordable in major cities across the country. And your plan to tackle hate, instances of hate have gone up, increased in this country under your watch rather than decreased. Why should Canadians give you yet another mandate? Why should they trust you?

Trudeau: I think Canadians have seen that over the past six years, not only did we create a million jobs, but we lifted a million people out of poverty. We’ve moved forward on ending 116 boil water advisories and have a plan to end all of them.

Sachedina:  But your pledge was March 2021. There are still people in a G7 country that can’t have access safe water.

Trudeau: Yes, and we will lift them all. The pandemic slowed some things down.

Sachedina: When? What’s the timeline?

Trudeau: In the coming months and year … We promised big things and we delivered big things. But yes, there is more to do, and that’s why the choice of whether we go stronger on fighting against racism and intolerance, when a Conservative platform didn’t even mention the word racism, the choice becomes clear …

Sachedina: I want to move on to Quebec’s ban on religious symbols. You’ve said it doesn’t foster hate, that it doesn’t foster discrimination, and yet you’re leaving the door open to a legal challenge, to intervening. Why would you consider fighting a law you don’t think is discriminatory?

Trudeau: I have been very clear from the beginning that I disagree with that law. Canadians and Quebecers know that well. What I’ve also said is that no I will not take it off the table, unlike the other leaders, including Jagmeet Singh, from challenging [it].

Sachedina: But Mr. Trudeau, what do you specifically disagree with about Bill 21?  

Trudeau: I don’t think the government should be telling a woman what she should or should not wear, that’s not something we want to see in our free society.

Sachedina: But that’s exactly what Quebec is doing, why won’t you use the term discrimination?

Trudeau: That’s why I disagree with it and that’s why we have not taken off the table challenging it at one point. I’ve been saying that for years … because a federal government always needs to stand up for peoples’ fundamental rights. Quebecers know that.

Sachedina: You could stand up for them today by calling the law discriminatory. Why are you not using that word?

Trudeau: I have said that I disagree with the law and am watching carefully as Quebecers defend their rights in court.

Sachedina: In 2015, you delivered a gender-balanced cabinet – equal number of men, equal number of women – and you said at the time it’s because it’s 2015. Now, it’s 2021. Will you commit to having 50 per cent representation from Black, Indigenous, people of colour, not only in your cabinet, but in your ministerial staff, including your chiefs of staff and also in the prime minister’s office. Right now, the numbers are only 29 out of 98 people in the prime minister’s office identify as BIPOC. So would you commit to that 50 per cent target?

Trudeau: I commit to continuing to doing more. What we have done over the past year is bring in far more diversity into the Prime Minister’s Office than ever before, into cabinet … We’re going to continue to make sure that we’re the party that not just upholds diversity in Canada but embodies it …

Sachedina: Part of being a good leader is looking back and reflecting on your decisions … what do you consider to be a political mistake or misstep and what has it taught you?

Trudeau: You know Omar, your job is very much to point out where we’ve made mistakes. Of course you will continue to do that, and I will continue to focus on how we need to be there to serve Canadians moving forward.

Sachedina:  So you don’t have an answer to that?

Trudeau: I’ve talked many times about different things that we learned during the pandemic and different things that we’ll move forward … we learned from the scramble on PPE that we had to go even more aggressively and we did on vaccinations and now we’re leading in the world even as Canadians continue to need to get vaccinated to get through this. I’ll be unequivocal on that one, that’s one of the things we learned to trust science as we move forward, and we’re doing that.

Sachedina: Mr. Trudeau I appreciate your time, thank you.

Trudeau: Thank you Omar.

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