Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner September 30, 2021
Somebody should really write a book about the “brief, shining moment” (actually it was six years), that Maryam Monsef spent in the Parliament of Canada.
This column is not sour grapes over the result of last Monday’s federal election. I wish Michelle Ferreri well, for all our sakes.
Rather, it expresses acknowledgement and gratitude from 23,000 voters, and many others from many places, to our outgoing MP.
She brought many strengths to her work of representing us. The first is that she carried Peterborough grassroots voices to the halls of government. Early on, her talent became obvious to leaders and she was appointed to the gender-equal cabinet, where, being a quick learner, she had a strong and influential voice. Minister Bill Blair mentioned this when he visited here during the campaign. Speaking authoritatively from her knowledge of violence against women, she supported him in his anti-assault-rifle legislation.
When the pandemic hit, and local feminists told her that domestic violence was increasing by 30 percent with the strain of families cooped up, she persuaded the prime minister to lead the charge to fund 1,500 organizations across the country working against the scourge.
She shone as Minister for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE), developing a strong staff of feminists, and networking with Canadian women at all levels of society. During her time, the Status of Women office was made a full government department, unlikely in future to be eliminated by any right-wing administration.
Perhaps the greatest victory for us. is that the ideas and convictions of people here in Peterborough made their way into so much government policy. Peterborough was a big player. The witness of feminists, those such as Karen Basciano, Lynn Zimmer, Katherine Carleton, Ann Farquharson, Ariel O’Neill, Julie Cosgrove, Kim Dolan, Linda Slavin, Julia Anderson, Lisa Clarke and so on, all that large sisterhood Monsef had nurtured and celebrated from day one, had her ear. It profoundly shaped government choices across the country. And around the world.
Another large cohort of influential Peterburians whose views she listened to and passed on, has been that of environmentalists: Steven Hill, Bob Paehlke, Drew Monkman, Brianna Salmon, Guy Hanchet, Kate Grierson, Al Slavin, Cheryl Lyon, Fred Irwin, Connie McCracken, and on and on.
Their knowledge and commitment showed up in Monsef’s advocacy of the Liberal green plan. and other green achievements, which have been hailed across the spectrum.
Through her, we’ve had clout, real clout.
Active constituency services were maintained by good staff at the office right downtown on Bethune Street.
Another outstanding quality has been her graciousness in trying circumstances. I once heard a Jesuit priest, Daniel Berrigan, who was crying out against the Vietnam War and paying a heavy price, say, “I have no enemies, only adversaries.” Let that attitude sink into Canadian politics. It was one she embodied. She ignored attacks and kept to the high road.
Canadian politics can be mean. There are vestiges of racism and chauvinism, in spite of the tremendous social progress of the last 30 years. Monsef was both a symbol of that progress and a contributor to it.
An Examiner photo showed her at midnight meeting with her opponent and saluting. The peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of a democracy, was well understood by Monsef.
Finally, it was her leadership in the worldwide women’s movement. The rising of the women is the rising of the race. She spoke often at the U.N and other global meetings. I have seldom seen anyone so effectively engage an audience, listen more carefully or remember people’s names so well.
Canada, and our city were hailed everywhere. We made our overseas aid gender-sensitive. At home, we now submit every piece of legislation to a gender analysis. It asks,” How will this affect women and children?”
Unless I point to these things, Monsef’s modesty will not reveal them. We made some giant, irreversible leaps forward the last six years. We say, sincerely, thank you.
Hurray for her, and for us.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<