Mother's Day and Father's Day exist to honor the hard-working parents among us. They're also a great occasion for fucking up, if you don't watch yourself. Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay is learning that the hard way, after sending male and female staffers two vastly different messages about their roles as parents.
Background: This began with a Toronto Star story about remarks by MacKay at a private Ontario Bar Association meeting. According to women who attended the meeting, when asked about the dearth of diversity among Canadian judges, he suggested women aren't applying for the positions. According to the Star, he suggested women are afraid they'll face an "old boy's network" and they're reluctant to leave their kids, anyway, for traveling judgeships.
MacKay strenuously denies he said any of this, and he swears up and down he believes with all his heart in the importance of a diverse judiciary.
The kerfuffle might've died down (maybe), but then, CBC News says, two Justice Department employees forwarded emails that went out to MacKay's staffers on Mother's Day and Father's Day. You'd think this would call for a brief "thanks for juggling" at most. Instead, here's what went out to thank the moms:
Especially as he is now the father of an active toddler, MacKay wrote, he could understand, "By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you've already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner."
There's no denying that women still do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to housework, childcare, elder care, etc., etc. Nothing wrong with recognizing that. But then came the Father's Day email. This is where MacKay and whoever writes his emails really fucked up:
In the message, MacKay praises male staff who are "dedicated fathers" and lauds them for "shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders." The words "mould," "teach" and "guide" were employed to illustrate fathers' influence on their children.
Moms think about dinner; dads influence their kids. Moms change diapers; dads provide words of wisdom. Because fathers can't pack lunches, and mothers can't shape young minds, I guess? Read the emails for yourself at HuffPo; they don't get any better upon closer inspection. Hell, the greeting card aisle is less chock full of stereotypes.
A spokeswoman told CBC News that, "The minister takes every opportunity to thank the staff for their contribution to the department and to advancing justice issues on behalf of all Canadians." A source told the Globe and Mail that last year's message thanked moms for "shaping our lives and society."
Let this be a lesson: If a card works once, just keep sending it over and over and over again. Definitely don't get cute and start spouting positively Victorian notions about gender roles in parenting.
Photo via Getty.