Halifax International Security Forum to include women on panel discussing women's contributions to security
The 2019 Halifax International Security Forum is set to discuss women’s contributions to security on Sunday; however, the lack of a woman on the discussion panel confused and upset many people. With social media dubbing the event a ‘manel’ and one former MLA calling the event insulting, the forum made the decision to include a female perspective to the discussion as of Saturday.
Former MLA and minister for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Joanne Bernard was a huge proponent for the change. When she saw an all-male panel was scheduled to discuss women’s contributions to security at the Halifax Security Forum, she took to Twitter.
“When you don't include women, particularly in telling the fulsomeness of their work – that's insulting,” says Bernard. “There are just so many examples of women doing the work in this field. For men to think that they have the ability to speak about the contributions of women, their expertise, their work, their experiences – it's offensive.“
Bernard's tweet started a conversation about the all-male panel and their role in talking about women.
At the opening press conference for the forum on Friday morning, Defense Minister, Harjit Sajjan agreed that diversity in the discussions was needed.
“I think it's important, for our time, that we still have a more comprehensive look and discussions,” said Sajjan. “To do this, you need to make sure that you have that perspective from the very powerful women that are out there.”
However, Sajjan wouldn't comment on how organizers would be changing the panel to address the issue.
As of Friday, organizers of the forum said they heard the public’s reaction and were working to change the panel. But, they also noted the panel’s initial participants were chosen on purpose.
“It's continuing to evolve – that's the best I can do for you right now,” said Peace With Women Fellowship director, Paz Magat. “This panel was not an accident. We are hoping to have a meaningful conversation about what it's truly going to take to elevate the role of women. In order to really leverage the human capacity of all the people involved, we still need the people in positions of power to let us do that.”
However, Bernard notes the lack of a female voice would be counterintuitive.
“It just doesn’t make sense that when women are accomplished in this field that they, at the very least, don't get to tell their own stories and present their own work,” says Bernard.
At least one person involved in the panel, moderator Steve Clemons, tweeted that the panel should be changed to include women.
As of Saturday morning, the forum announced it would be adding women to the panel to discuss women’s contributions to security.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Emily Baron Cadloff