6 Ways Women In Canada Have It So Much Better Than They Do In The U.S.
Where the meteoric rise of Donald Trump was once a source of ironic humor, it has since become one of pure and sincere terror, as the bigoted business mogul now stands the presumptive nominee of his party, and some polls even have him dangerously close to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. To many, including Lena Dunham herself, the solution to a Trump presidency is to move to Canada. No, really. Small Canadian islands are offering fleeing Americans asylum, there’s a dating site for women looking for someone in Canada they can marry to escape — it’s a whole thing. But ladies, FYI, our neighbors across the northern border should hardly be your second choice. In terms of women’s rights, Canada is, in numerous ways, superior to America.
Its commitment to women’s rights was further exemplified by Prime Minister and progressive darling Justin Trudeau’s latest decision to lift the ban on abortion funding in international aid, which he announced just last week. Feminist activists have been urging this decision for more than thirty years, according to Vox. Meanwhile, in America, even our most liberal candidates in the race for the presidency still don’t suggest fixing the Helm/Hyde amendments prohibiting international funding of abortions too much beyond lifting the ban in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.
The takeaway from this latest chapter in the saga of western nations walking the uneasy tightrope to empower global women with reproductive rights is that Canada’s leaders are genuinely dedicated to supporting women everywhere. Here’s just a few more examples of how much better your life would potentially be if you do end up forced to flee a Trump presidency.
1. Its Prime Minister is an unapologetic feminist who brings up feminism, like, every other day.
I kid you not: if I had a dollar for every time Trudeau talked about being a feminist, raising his two sons and daughter to be feminists, and just spreading feminism in general, I’d be rich enough to cover all the expenses involved in moving to Canada and starting a new life.
Some brilliant examples:
At the World Economic Forum in January:
“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word feminist. Men and women should use it to describe themselves any time they want. … Men have to be a part of this conversation.”
“I talk about the fact that I’m a feminist as often as I can, and every time I do it gets huge reaction and media reacts and the Twitterverse explodes and things like that, because here I am saying I’m a feminist. I will keep saying that until there is no more reaction to that when I say it, because that’s where we want to get to.”
2. Women are better represented in politics.
Trudeau made headlines back in December when he unveiled a cabinet evenly split between men and women, and justified his appointments with the iconic line, “because it’s 2015.” Women are more than just symbols, and actually allowing women to represent themselves could make a huge difference in terms of the policies that get rolled out. I’m reminded of a recent segment on the Inside Amy Schumer show called Dr. Congress, which brilliantly satirized how ignorant the men in Congress making decisions about reproductive rights are about women’s health.
This, of course, is coming from a Bernie supporter who still prioritizes platform and track record above all else, but even I can enthusiastically acknowledge how great it would be if we had more women in office making decisions based on the unique experience that is being a woman. Currently, men form 80 percent of the U.S. Congress, which is also 80 percent white and 92 percent Christian.
3. Conditions for maternity/family leave are way better.
Canadian publication The Globe and Mail compared maternity and family leave in Canada with the equivalent in America. Some excerpts for an idea:
“Depending on the length of employment history and the hours worked, new mothers can take between 17 and 52 weeks of leave from their jobs. Their employers are required to accept the employees back into their jobs, or the equivalent, at the end of the mandated leave at the same rate of pay with the same employment benefits. …
The government offers paid leave for one or both parents through Canada’s employment insurance plan. A pregnant employee or new mother can take a paid maternity leave of up to 15 weeks.”
“The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) signed into law in 1993 requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for several medical conditions, as well as the birth of a baby. …
It exempts small employers, defined as those having fewer than 50 employees. Some states have their own version of the FMLA and have an even lower threshold for employer exemption.”
4. Women have better access to healthcare, in general.
This is how The Atlantic summarized healthcare in Canada in 2014:
Canadian healthcare basically works like Medicare, but for everyone. Medical care is free, and it covers almost everything other than prescription drugs, glasses, and dental care. (Most people have supplementary insurance to cover those things). It keeps its drugs cheap by negotiating at a federal level with pharmaceutical companies.
In context, 33 million Americans still don’t have health insurance even with Obamacare, and while more of America’s uninsured are men, there’s plenty of women in that 33 million who would arguably benefit a lot from moving across the border.
5. While abortion clinics are closing left and right in the US, we’re about to see more in Canada.
Canada’s federal health minister, who, by the way, is a pro-choice woman, told CBC News in November: “Our government will examine ways to better equalize access for all Canadian women.” In other words, while abortion clinics in the US are closing at alarming rates and anti-choice regulations disguised as protective measures are restricting access in conservative states, Canada’s health minister is potentially working on seeing to the availability of even more clinics.
Granted, Philpott acknowledged how “abortion services remain patchy in parts of the country, and that rural women in particular face barriers to access,” at the present.
Trudeau appointed then-family physician Dr. Jane Philpott his health minister upon winning the election in October.
6. Canadian women get to live in a nation that’s altogether more supportive of women around the world.
There’s no denying President Obama has said and done some pretty damn feminist things, from spitting the truth on body positivity to actively calling out and fighting prevalent women’s rights issues like the gender wage gap and campus sexual assault. But arguably, in terms of helping women around the world who live in anti-choice nations with heavily restricted access to family planning, Vox points out that by not touching the Helm amendment, which is well within the executive branch’s rights, he hasn’t quite done as much as he could.
This last one might sound like a reach, but I’m inclined to think an environment that proactively fights for the rights of women of all socioeconomic statuses, races, and nationalities, where women near and far are supported and empowered, is a good environment for women.
If all of this seems too good to be true, and whether it’s Hillary or the Donald you’re just about ready to move, that’s because all of this does come with a slight…ly huge hitch. The gender wage gap in Canada is even bigger than it is in the United States at around 72 cents on the dollar, and according to a new report, it’s only getting bigger. In the United States, the prevalent statistic is 77-79 cents on the dollar, and before you start with me, yes, I’m aware this statistic is skewed by the varying proportions of men and women working in high-paying fields.
But these wage gaps indicate the existence of cultural attitudes that steer women away from certain fields, influence employers’ perceptions of who is more deserving of a higher wage, and devalue feminized professions, so, it looks like the feminism of its Prime Minister doesn’t pervade in every sphere in Canada. For his own part, Trudeau has spoken about the Canadian wage gap, acknowledging that the role men need to play is the first step, and set an excellent example about promoting diversity in the workplace through his own cabinet. Beyond that, however, he hasn’t talked too much about policy ideas to decisively address this disparity.
So, just something to think about before you pack your bags. And one more con: It’s really cold there. Like, really cold.