April 18, 1997 Halifax Herald

Papa Jean's paternalism hurts women's movement

Speaking from the experience of having endured the negative baggage and degradation that white male-dominated government paternalism has burdened Natives with I'll state unreservedly that the trend by the State to patronize women, is not for them, a positive thing. Let’s hope, before this trend causes their movement serious harm, that women wake up to the fact that in the long term, paternalism hinders, not helps, a human rights cause.

As proof of my assertion, review our case. First Nations' People have been patronized by the establishment to an extent where it is assumed by many that we are incapable of doing anything without the establishment's "fatherly supervision." Because of this degrading judgment, we've been branded as lazy and contented to live eternally on government assistance. This widely held perception has fuelled a negative public backlash against Natives which severely retards our efforts to achieve equality and justice.

Is this the fate women desire? If not, those among their movement who embrace such things as Chrétien's paternalistic female Liberal candidate appointments should think again. Use our situation to evaluate yours.

Before continuing let's review the reason why women organized a lobby group. Unquestionably, second-class citizenship, which permitted the white male establishment to discriminate against them at will, was the cause. With laudable resolve, women managed to change this by winning hard fought battles for such basic human rights as the right to be recognized as persons capable of holding property and the right to vote.

Resulting from these efforts, women are now represented in politics, the justice system and so on. They have proven to be formidable lobbyists!

So, then, why do we have the present spectacle of a Prime Minister using the clout of his office to try to win more Commons seats for them? It’s impossible for me to believe that women, who constitute a slight majority of Canada's population and can if they wish, by this fact alone, become a deciding force in politics, need his help. In this instance, the interference of papa Jean is nothing more than a crass political manoeuvre. To believe otherwise insults the worth and intelligence of women and goes against the equality principle they've fought for.

It’s interesting to note that when trying to defend Chrétien's dictatorial actions, his supporters have cited everything from money to male chauvinism as reasons why women are not coming forward in droves to run for office. They have studiously ignored the most obvious reason: lack of interest.

One does not need a crystal ball to conclude that most women may have joined with the growing legions of men who don't want their names tarnished by being affiliated with a party system they view as inherently corrupt. Clean up party politics and revise the process to reflect democratic principles - then, perhaps, a lot more worthy, turned-off citizens from both sexes will get involved.

Other thoughts: The women's movement has gained for women a large measure of equality and justice - a state which still eludes First Nations and many other groups that are discriminated against. In view of the progress made, when striving to end residual gender inequality, the movement's radicals should shelve their confrontational tactics and try conciliation.

As matters now stand, a fondness for bashing men and any women who dare to question their methods of operation seems to be the norm for these people. Some are even demanding that laws be enacted which blatantly discriminate against men. To hear some of their rhetoric, one would think that there isn't a decent male left alive. They also scorn and try to intimidate any females who are not as militant as they.

Its not hard to conclude from this that these people are way out of line with the will of the majority, whose desire for gender equality is not viewed as a switch of dominance from male to female.

There is something amiss when a civil and human rights group, such as the women's movement, gears its rhetoric more towards causing dissension among people, rather than reconciliation. To start the process of fixing the problem, the radical members of the movement should make an effort to appreciate that many men, including yours truly, have fought long and hard to see justice done for persecuted peoples.

They might also consider, before lambasting all males and thus causing more ill-will towards their movement from both sexes, that most women love their male relatives and friends and don't consider them to be beastly and heartless monsters!

In closing, let’s briefly examining gender. It can be safely concluded that the vast majority of men and women are satisfied with the sex nature bequeathed them. Also, most of us accept that there are biological differences between the sexes which are nature's endowment: i.e., women have maternal instincts that very few, if any, males can emulate. And certainly, without un-natural intervention, no male will ever carry within him a baby or breast-feed the child when born. Many other functions are also restricted by nature to one sex or the other.

Further, when examining the relationship, we have to accept that there are instinctive differences in the way the female and male see things. This diversity makes life interesting and enjoyable. Why exchange it for the boredom of similarity? Unthinkable!

Daniel N. Paul


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