Liberals considering new ambassador to promote feminism around the world: Global Affairs memos

Documents released under access to information laws show the government is considering creating an ambassador for gender equality to promote feminism abroad. Getty Images

Does Canada need an ambassador for gender equality?

According to emails, memos and various drafts of option papers obtained by Global News under access to information laws, the federal government is considering creating a new position of ambassador or special envoy to promote feminism around the world.

READ MORE: Gender equality in Canada: Where do we stand today?

“The purpose of this memorandum is to present options for the possible appointment of a special envoy or ambassador for gender equality to advance our feminist approach to international policy,” reads one of several included memos prepared by officials at Global Affairs Canada last year for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The term “ambassador for gender equality” is used in the document, but it also states officials could consider the titles “special envoy” or “special representative.”

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Since coming into office, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made feminism and efforts to advance gender equality prominent parts of his brand and that of his party.

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The memo notes that since then, Canadian missions abroad have increasingly received requests to get involved in equality-related events and initiatives.

Creating an ambassadorship to promote feminism, the memos read, could capitalize on that interest.

“The appointment of a special representative could serve as a catalyst to drive horizontal policy change within Global Affairs and the Government of Canada, and to promote our international priorities abroad.”

There is precedent for such an appointment, officials wrote in the documents, and the examples cited could provide insight into how the role is envisioned.

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READ MORE: G7 gender equality council calls for pay equity, better access to reproductive health

“In most cases, these positions were time-bound and linked to an international forum where that person had a specific role.”

For example, the memos make note of Canada’s four Ambassadors for Climate Change, the Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Special Envoy to the European Union, and the Ambassador for Religious Freedom.

The documents show extensive consultations from the summer of 2017 into the fall.

It appears discussions began in June 2017, shortly after the government delivered a trio of major foreign policy announcements.

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“In light of MINA’s recent foreign policy speech, the release of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and the new Defence Policy, and policy development being conducted at GAC, we have received an urgent request from o/MINA to provide advice regarding the possible creation of a “Feminist Foreign/International Policy Ambassador” or “Special Envoy,” wrote one policy analyst in an email dated June 23 to colleagues at missions in countries that have created similar positions.

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“The purpose of this message is to seek your assistance in obtaining further information on their mandates, resources, and lessons learned.”

READ MORE: Redefining the f-word: What does feminism look like today?

It appears officials from the missions in the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden and Finland responded with information, largely redacted, on how the roles functioned in the countries they were based.

Several noted that because the roles were so new, it was difficult to assess the effectiveness of them.

Sweden appointed its second ambassador for gender equality in 2015.

The United Kingdom named its first special envoy for gender equality in 2017.

In Australia, the Office of the Ambassador of Women and Girls was created in 2011.

Finland, Norway and the Netherlands also have similar offices.

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Global Affairs Canada seems to have prepared multiple drafts of recommendations going to Freeland during the autumn of 2017.

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The final recommendation of whether to appoint an ambassador, as well as dozens of pages of assessments on the resources that might be needed for such as role and the challenges it might face, are redacted.

In October, the officials from Global Affairs Canada then appeared to have held a high-level meeting with staff from Freeland’s office to discuss their recommendations.

Present in those meetings were Jeremy Broadhurst, the minister’s chief of staff; Dahlia Stein, her director of operations; and Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, her director of policy.

The outcome of those meetings, as well as the recommendation presented in them, is not included in the notes.

“Our government is proud to have an unabashedly feminist foreign policy and is committed to integrating a feminist approach into our decision-making,” said Adam Austen, press secretary for Freeland, in an email.

“We are always examining new options and ideas to further this commitment.”

Austen did not say whether a decision has been made on the matter.

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