WHitehorse Daily Star

Premier weighs minister’s offer to quit

by JASON SMALL
Whitehorse Star
April 12, 2002

Sue Edelman is willing to quit as the women’s issues minister after calling some women’s groups “extremists” and “femi-Nazis”.

Yukon government union officials and the NDP have called on her to completely resign as a minister and MLA after the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) made an e-mail public that was written by the minister about women’s groups.

The e-mail was written on Saturday, March 16, addressed to cabinet staff and entitled “women’s movement dying”.

Edelman attacked women’s groups in her e-mail.

“I don’t know when I gave women in extremist women’s groups the right to speak for me and my daughter about women’s issues – but somehow that has happened,” it reads.

“I certainly do not agree that men are responsible for all the woes of the world. I don’t think my son should be held responsible for all the batterers in the world, and the men who use crude language.

“I don’t know when I started noticing that the mainstream women’s groups were disappearing and that the femi-nazis who have very narrow points of view about most issues – suddenly got the right to say that because I disagreed with them – then I was no longer a feminist – because I disagreed with their radical point of view – I no longer was interested in women’s equality.”

Edelman goes on to say that maybe feminism’s time has passed.

“Perhaps the feminism of my mother’s time that brought us Whitehorse Transit and Kaushee’s Place – is outdated or not needed anymore.”

The only group that Edelman directly insults is associated with the PSAC, the nation-wide union of government workers.

“What I do know is that I am not content to have the women of PSAC speak for me – they are elitist, close-minded and rude,” she wrote.

While that was the only line specifically referring to the union, a member of the local regional women’s committee of PSAC feels the entire e-mail was aimed at the union group.

“I do think she is referring to the PSAC regional women’s committee,” Maureen Stephens, committee co-chair, said this morning, about the entire e-mail.

The co-chair said comments from the union, which was concerned about the elimination of the Women’s Directorate as a government department on its own, appeared in the media on March 15. She believes the e-mail was a response to those comments.

Stephens said she was “disappointed and shocked” to read what Edelman wrote.

“I was surprised that someone who was minister of the Women’s Directorate would have such a lack of knowledge of what feminism is.”

Groups like the regional women’s committee of the union have been concerned about the government’s decision to move the Women’s Directorate from being on its own, as it has been since 1985, to become a branch of another department, the Executive Council Office – the department of the cabinet.

Stephens said the group, along with other women’s organizations, has been asking the government questions about the decision to move the directorate and requesting that cabinet changes its mind.

“That isn’t close-minded or rude or elitist,” she said of the comments and requests the union committee has made to the government.

“If they are an open and accountable (government) they would welcome such comments,” she said.

Stephens said the committee is not an extremist group. Instead, she said it appears to be the other way around.

“The way she’s behaving is exactly what she’s labelled us.”

Cabinet staff would not make Edelman available to speak about her comments. Instead, cabinet spokesman Bernie Adilman read a prepared statement.

“The minister responsible for the status of women apologizes for her choice of words and has offered her resignation for this portfolio to the premier,” Adilman said.

The spokesman added that the premier’s office will not comment on the offer and the issue, until Monday.

However, Stephens and other union officials feel that stepping aside from the women’s portfolio is not enough.

Stephens wants Edelman to resign as both a cabinet minister and an MLA.

“Someone with that kind of attitude – I don’t see them as appropriate representing Yukoners.”

Dave Hobbis, president of the Yukon Employees Union, which is part of PSAC, also called on Edelman to quit completely.

“It’s very nice that she wants to take a step halfway to the door,” said Hobbis. He said that no matter what cabinet post she held, all involve women and women’s issues at some point.

Her other ministries are Health and Social Services and the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

NDP Leader Eric Fairclough also wants a complete resignation from the minister.

“An apology from her is not good enough, I believe,” said Fairclough. “I think she has to voluntarily resign.”

The NDP leader did not like the minister – a former city councillor – labelling women’s groups.

“I think, coming from any minister, this is bad. I don’t think anyone should be labelling women’s groups,” he said.

Stephens also feels that because the e-mail has been around for almost a month, it is likely Premier Pat Duncan knew of its existence or at least, of Edelman’s opinions.

By permitting Edelman to continue to be responsible for women’s issues despite the comments, Stephens feels Duncan is condoning her minister’s words.

“I’m concerned that Premier Pat Duncan, knowing that this is Sue Edelman’s opinion ... didn’t immediately remove her,” she said.

Hobbis noted that Duncan appointed Edelman the minister responsible for the status of women, which took effect on April 1, two weeks after the e-mail was written.

He considers Duncan permitting the appointment to go ahead as an approval of the minister’s statements.

PSAC’s national president, Nycole Turmel, called for Edelman’s resignation today in a letter signed by both the president and Hobbis.

In the e-mail, Edelman also mentioned women’s conferences that had been held in the past that covered topical issues “(midwifery, body image for girls – media messages etc). She said the conference’s should be resurrected to be something positive.

“In the consultation with women’s groups about the women’s directorate – that was one thing they all had in common – we all missed the women’s conferences – timing would be good ... we need some good news,” the minister wrote.

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