CALGARY — Alberta’s Associate Minister for the Status of Women has apologized for her role in awarding third prize in an essay contest to an entry that argued women are “not exactly equal” to men and who worried about the children being replaced by “outsiders”.

The competition, which was aimed at young women interested in politics, drew fire from both sides of the ideological aisle and sparked questions about who picked the winning entries and what criteria were used.

A political communications expert, meanwhile, wondered why participants hadn’t received more advice before their words were published online and became a source of national debate.

“Clearly the process has failed, and I apologize for my role in this,” Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, who is also an MP representing a large rural riding east of Edmonton, said in a message. Facebook published on Tuesday.

She added that she had been the head of the jury.

“I want to emphasize that I do not support rhetoric that in any way diminishes the importance and contributions of more than half the people of Alberta.”

The message came hours after the government quietly deleted the competition results from its website, and about six months after the competition was launched in February. According to a statement sent to the media, the new Her Vision competition was a partnership between the Legislative Assembly and the Canadian Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Region, of which Armstrong-Homeniuk was the Alberta representative. 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 elected.

The judgment took place in March, according to an archived version of the website, and was carried out by Armstrong-Homeniuk and a “group of women members of the Legislature.”

But when the three winners came online, the vision presented by the third drew fire from both ends of the political spectrum.

The 498-word essay in question presents an Alberta based on healthy communities and families. He begins by praising the ability of women to give birth.

“Although it is sadly popular these days to think that the world would be better off without humans,” reads a hidden version of the essay, “or that Alberta children are not needed because we can import foreigners to replace us, it is an unhealthy mentality which amounts to an impulse of cultural suicide.

The “biological reality” of women is also attacked by a “present-day illusion”, the essay continues.

“Women are not exactly equal to men,” he says. “Trying to promote women entering careers traditionally dominated by men is not only wrong, it is harmful.”

The winning essay, meanwhile, argued that there should be more female participation in politics and claimed that young women in particular struggle “with the female instinct to always put family before career”. This author pushed for more programs, including mentoring, to help young women choose a career in politics.

Second place advocated for a more engaged electorate and a province where people feel heard, regardless of their MP’s political affiliation. “I believe that while racial and gender quotas achieve some surface-level diversity, the path to achieving a truly diverse workforce is political,” it reads.

All three entries have been removed. Due to the potential age of the participants, the Star does not name the perpetrators.

Rakhi Pancholi, from the opposition NDP, told the media that the third place celebrated “hate and misogyny”, while Rebecca Schulz, a UCP MP who is running for party leadership, tweeted that it was “a disgrace”.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nathan Cooper called the content of the essay “odious” and appeared to steer the government away from the contest, saying in a statement that neither his office nor the Legislative Assembly office had been involved in any capacity.

Critics wondered how the third essay was released without any internal reaction.

“There are a number of checks and balances that need to be in place before anything is promoted like this or posted on a website,” NDP spokesperson Pancholi told media on Tuesday. of child services.

“No one within the UCP stopped and said, ‘Is this inappropriate? “”

“That’s not Alberta’s vision for the future. It is not the vision of Alberta women that we want to celebrate.

Melanie Paradis, the former director of communications for Erin O’Toole who is now president of Texture Communications, pointed out that the article was written by someone potentially as young as 17.

Whether speaking about young candidates running for office or writing political essays to be published on a government site, she said, it is their duty to mentor them to ensure they do the statement they want to make – and she asked if anyone had reached out to the writer in this case.

“I think some of the things in this room are valid considerations. It’s possible that this young writer meant, “Hey, we should celebrate mothers, we should celebrate women who have children,” she said.

“If that’s where this person is from, then they probably just need a bit of coaching and mentoring to pick the right words,” she said.

The essay contest was designed to inspire more young women to consider a career in politics, and Paradis pointed out that it could end up being an unintended cautionary tale about what that life can look like – a woman interested enough in life public to write a flamed essay online.

According to the website, the winners of the essay contest all won a credit — $500, $300 or $200, respectively — to spend at the Legislature gift shop.

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