Watch above: Justice Minister Peter MacKay has been at the center of a controversy following remarks he made about the role of women in society. But he’s getting public support from a key ally — his wife. Jennifer Tryon explains.
OTTAWA – Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s wife has made a spirited defence of herself and her husband’s comments on women in the workplace after a letter from a Globe and Mail columnist suggested she use her “excellent mind” to teach MacKay.
Columnist Leah McLaren recalled a past interview with Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay, complimenting her first for her radiant appearance and calling the minister’s wife smart and ambitious. She then speculated as to how motherhood has affected Afshin-Jam MacKay.
“I could be totally off the mark here, but reading between the lines it seems pretty clear whose job it is in your house to change diapers, make lunches, take care of aging parents and think about dinner. Luckily you can leave all the ‘guiding, teaching’ and ‘moulding’ of your son to your husband – which must be a relief, because who feels like building character after a long day baking cookies?”
McLaren was referring to two contrasting emails MacKay sent to staff marking Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
The Mother’s Day email salutes moms for juggling two full-time jobs – home and work, while the Father’s Day message made no mention of any household duties, but said the men were “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.”
McLaren then gave Afshin-Jam MacKay a relationship tip (“Don’t be afraid to ask your husband to do more. I know he’s busy”) and finished with more advice:
“As I recall you have an excellent mind. Now it’s your turn to guide, teach and mould your husband’s. It’s a woman’s work, my dear, but someone’s got to do it.”
In her response—also published in the Globe and Mail and repeatedly addressed to “Leah”—Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay lashed out at both the media and the group of lawyers who attended a session in which MacKay reportedly said women were leery about becoming judges.
The Toronto Star reported that MacKay said women were afraid of being sent to work as judges on the circuit courts, and the report generated widespread criticism including from the justice ministers of both Ontario and Quebec.
His wife said MacKay’s comments have been misrepresented in the media, which she likened to a “24-hour news cycle, National Enquirer-TMZ mentality.”
She wrote that organizers of the private meeting of lawyers turned down her husband’s request to release the audio recording of his comments to lay the matter to rest.
“Instead, they run to the anti-Conservative media with hearsay and, of course, he is savaged by his accusers, political opponents and press.”
Afshin-Jam MacKay explained her husband made a passing reference in the speech of the bond she has with the couple’s infant son and contends that reference was tied with the reference of fewer women applying for judicial positions and misrepresented.
“Ironically he is presumed guilty without any evidence, only hearsay,” she wrote.
MacKay didn’t deny the Toronto Star‘s portrayal of the comments regarding judges comments, but posted on Facebook that he has been trying to encourage more women to seek a career on the bench.
On the topic of the contrast between his Mother’s Day and Father’s Day messages to justice department staff, Afshin-Jam MacKay said theywere written and approved by female staffers in the Justice Department, and emphasized that most of the senior officials in her husband’s office are women.
More personally, MacKay’s wife said she couldn’t be happier with her “full-time partner in Peter,” and wished McLaren and everyone the same happiness.
“Leah, with regards to your comment on dads ‘rolling up their sleeves,’ Peter has been incredibly supportive since our marriage and the birth of our son. Even after often putting in 16-hour workdays as the main income earner in our household, he does all the sewing (his grandfather taught him), mows the lawn and takes out the garbage and recycling. He does most of the laundry and heavy cleaning in our house. We happily share housework and cooking. We both change diapers, bathe Kian, dress him, play with him and love him. Cameras are not rolling when Peter reads to Kian before bed, or does the grocery shopping, picks up medicine and attends doctor’s appointments.
“Leah, I hope you can see from all that I’ve written in this open letter that my husband and I have always, and will always, continue to work to advance the future of women in any way that we can, both in Canada and around the world.”
With files from The Canadian Press
© Shaw Media, 2014