Justin Trudeau led off the inaugural Women in the World Canada Summit on Monday with some candid remarks in a conversation with Tina Brown. The Canadian prime minister, an avowed feminist, talked about about a range of issues including what needs to be done to even the disparate power structure in Canadian and American society, his relationship with his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, his father’s influence on him and his approach to parenthood.
Discussing his decision to appoint a gender-balanced panel, Trudeau said his critics at the time complained that cabinet choices should be merit-based, but when the names of his cabinet appointees were released, those making that argument quickly were silenced given the caliber of the women he selected for those positions.
“Nobody made that merit-based argument because we had such exceptional, extraordinary women,” he said. The prime minister also mused on the historic imbalance of power between men and women in daily life and what it’s going to take for Canada and the U.S. to achieve true gender equality. “Unfairly, men have gotten much more power than women in business, in corporate situations, in life in general,” Trudeau said.
“If we’re going to elevate women, some men are going to lose power they unjustly have,” Trudeau told Brown and the live audience. “Men have an essential role to play in feminism, in equality, because, like it or not, we have power that is unjustly given to us,” he said, “that we need to use and put in service of leveling the playing field.”
The prime minister also talked about how he and wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau distribute duties in their household. “Yes, she does a little more at home than I do these days — actually she does a hell of a lot more than I do,” Trudeau said, prompting laughter from the audience. But he pointed to the fact that fathers these days are more involved in parenting than they’ve historically been. He said the trend is a broad one for men of his generation. “I’m friends with a whole bunch of dads in their 40s who are very, very conscious about being more engaged in raising their children. So much more focused on sharing parenting work.”
He also touched on the complex figure that his late father, Pierre Trudeau, who served as Canada’s 15th prime minister, was in his life. “What he taught me and what he taught us was all about rights … standing up for everyone’s rights,” Trudeau said. However, the prime minister added, ” My father was amazingly supportive as a father. I don’t know … that we could call him a feminist. He was very old school. He was a product of his time.”
Brown then returned the conversation to his wife, reminding him that she gave up her job as a TV journalist to take care of the couple’s children. She then asked him “the ultimate feminist question: Would you give up your job to stay home with the kids if she asked you to?”
“Probably not this job,” Trudeau countered.
Watch the full panel below and complete highlights below.