CALGARY—The Alberta government has quietly scrubbed the winners of an essay contest for young women interested in politics after drawing fire over a third-place entry that argued women are “not exactly equal” to men and that voiced concern about children being replaced by “foreigners.”
The incident has led to questions over who chose the winning entries and exactly what criteria were used to judge.
“The essay contest was intended to reflect a broad range of opinions from young Alberta women,” Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, the province’s associate status of women minister, said in a release sent to several media outlets Tuesday.
“While the essay in question certainly does not represent the views of all women, myself included, the essay in question should not have been chosen.”
Armstrong-Homeniuk was among those who helped the legislative assembly launch the new essay contest, called Her Vision, in February. It invited young women between the ages of 17 and 25 to write a short essay describing their “unique vision” for the province and what they would do if they were elected.
But when the three winners posted online, the vision presented by the third quickly raised eyebrows.
It’s written by S. Silver — all of the winners are listed by initials and not full names — and pitches a vision of Alberta based around healthy communities and families. It begins by lauding the unique ability of women to give birth.
“While it is sadly popular nowadays to think that the world would be better off without humans,” a cached version of the essay reads, “or that Albertan children are unnecessary as we can import foreigners to replace ourselves, this is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide.”
Women’s “biological reality” is also under attack from a “present day delusion,” the essay continues.
“Women are not exactly equal to men,” it says. “To try to promote that women break into careers that men traditionally dominate is not only misguided, but it is harmful.”
All three entries have now been taken down. The winning essay argues that there should be more female participation in politics, and argues that young women in particular struggle “with the feminine instinct to always put family before their career.” The author pushes for more programming, including mentorship, to support young women to choose a career in politics.
The second makes the cases for a more engaged electorate, and a province where people feel heard, regardless of their MLA’s political stripes. “I believe that while racial and gender quotas do achieve a certain surface-level diversity, the path to achieving a truly diverse workforce is political,” it reads.
Critics, meanwhile, have wondered how the third essay was published without any internal pushback.
“There are a number of checks and balances that go in place before something is promoted like this or put up on a website,” Rakhi Pancholi, the NDP’s children’s services critic, told media Tuesday.
“Nobody within the UCP stopped and said, ‘This is inappropriate?’”
“This is not the vision for Alberta’s future. This is not the vision for Alberta women that we want to celebrate.”
According to the website, winners of the essay contest all won credit — $500, $300 or $200, respectively — to be spent at the legislature gift shop.
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