Justin Trudeau, Canada’s newly elected prime minister, named an equal number of men and women to his Cabinet on Wednesday, keeping a campaign promise to implement gender parity among the country’s top ministers.
Trudeau’s Cabinet, which consists of 30 ministers, is the most diverse in Canada’s history. He appointed not only 15 women to top positions but also members of the First Nation and Muslim communities, a Sikh immigrant from India and a quadriplegic.
"It's an incredible pleasure for me to be before you here today to present to Canada a Cabinet that looks like Canada," Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party, told reporters after he was sworn in on Wednesday as the country’s 23rd prime minister. The ceremony ended a near-decade of conservative rule under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Responding to a reporter’s question about why he felt gender parity was important, Trudeau responded: “Because it is 2015.”
Trudeau’s decision to achieve gender parity among his Cabinet was welcomed by gender advocates.
Shari Graydon, a gender activist, said his decision to appoint an equal number of men and women to his Cabinet is a “great first step” but noted that gender imbalance persists in Canada’s political system.
"Canadians are justly proud of our democracy, but the fact that women’s political representation is stalled at 26 percent at the federal level remains an embarrassment," she wrote in Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. "Today’s gender-balanced Cabinet is a great start, but let’s not stop here."
Others questioned Trudeau's decision, saying it valued politics over abilities.
"These people being chosen are going to make really important decisions for the future of the country," former Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon told CBC News in an interview before Trudeau's announcement. "I think what people should expect is that accomplishments, talents, abilities are the prime concern."
Few countries currently do better than Canada in women’s political representation. Rwanda’s parliament is 64 percent women. The parliaments of South Africa, Senegal and the Seychelles also boast a significant number of women representatives, though they have yet to achieve gender parity, according to The Guardian.
Trudeau, the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history, is the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The elder Trudeau was the first Canadian leader to appoint women to the positions of speaker of the Senate, speaker of the House of Commons and governor-general.