Trudeau was introduced by Katja Iversen, president of Women Deliver, as a "fellow feminist."
Trudeau government investing $300-million in womens equality in Canada and developing countries
"Progress can backslide. We're seeing it happen. Gender equality is under attack. I can only imagine how hard it is to be a feminist on the front-lines," Trudeau said.
Trudeau, who describes himself as a feminist, formed Canada's 1st gender balanced cabinet in 2015. He's recently had to defend those credentials after ejecting Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus amid turmoil over the government's handling of the SNC-Lavalin case.
As he addressed the crowd on Monday, Trudeau talked about the role of social media in spreading "abhorrent" views and pushing them into the public arena.
"Individuals and interest groups are trying to roll back women's rights, and politicians are giving into the pressure, shamefully campaigning to undo women's hard won victories," he said.
Trudeau spoke about the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry's report, which was delivered to the federal government today, citing the key finding that the treatment of Indigenous people amounted to "genocide."
The money would be doled out through various community groups and is meant to support a range of projects such as those tackling gender-based violence, bolstering economic security and advancing women in leadership positions.
"For too long Indigenous women and girls have experienced violence at a rate that is staggering compared to non Indigenous women," Trudeau said, to some cries of "shame" and "so do something about it" from the audience.
The conference is expected to draw 7,000 delegates from 160 countries to the Vancouver Convention Centre West.
Twenty-nine year old Sara Eftekhar of Vancouver was part of a small group of young leaders invited to sit down for a series of three-minute meetings with senior ministers from 21 countries to talk about the gender equality challenges they face.
Thousands coming to Vancouver for international conference on gender equality
"What struck me the most was how shocked the other ministers were about the issues of gender equality that we face here in Canada […] that there's racism and discrimination in our justice system for women who are marginalized," she said.
A free outdoor celebration of gender equality and womens rights is taking place in Vancouver this week.
"It was interesting to see their reaction, from Fiji or from Afghanistan, that we have similar issues in Canada."
Onyinye Edeh, 30, is from Nigeria and travelled from her home in Washington D.C. to attend the conference. On Tuesday she'll be speaking about the importance of sexual education for girls to achieve the sustainable development goals laid out by the United Nations in 2015.
"Tomorrow my message would be that we should not make assumptions about what comprehensive sex education is about, but we should really understand that it's supposed to be comprehensive in the sense that it talks about cultural values, assertiveness, negotiation and biology," she said.
On Sunday, Canada's gender equity minister, Maryam Monsef, made a pre-conference announcement of $300 million to kickstart a new platform that aims to change the way the federal government finances women's organizations in Canada and abroad.
Through Global Affairs Canada, another $300 million investment will go towards an Equity Fund to create a sustainable and predictable source of funding for international womens rights organizations and movements aimed specifically at developing countries.
The conference first started in 2007 with a focus on addressing high rates of maternal mortality worldwide.
Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. She has previously reported in Lebanon and Chile. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub.
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a panel at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver, Monday, June 3, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Telling Numbers: On new gender equality index, India is 95th in 129 countries
VANCOUVER — Gender equality is under attack and, in the age of social media, its never been easier to taunt and spread abhorrent views, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a global conference on the issue Monday.
“For way too long, the global discussions on gender equality came from affluent corners of the world, and from affluent people and groups, without the voices and the contributions and the leadership of the women who have, traditionally, had the least access to the institutions of power, but who are often the most affected,” said Katja Iversen, president and CEO of Women Deliver.
Trudeau, who was in Vancouver for the opening address of Women Deliver 2019, said that hatred is creeping in the public debate, with interest groups trying to roll back womens rights, while politicians are giving into the public pressure.
"The rights we enjoy in Canada, and the rights so many have enjoyed around the world, are not guaranteed. Progress can backslide," Trudeau said.
"Were seeing it happen. Gender equality is under attack, and I can only imagine how hard it is to be a feminist on the front lines."
The prime minister didnt say what he was referring to, although last week he said he planned to talk to U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence about the growing number of American laws that restrict abortion.
The Trump administration has also reinstated a policy known as the "global gag rule," which bans U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organizations abroad that provide abortion services. Shortly after the U.S. adopted the rule in 2017, the Trudeau government committed $650 million for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.
Trudeau said the history of womens rights shows that every step forward is met by another push back, and women are still routinely facing misogyny, racism and hatred.
"Thats a daunting reality to face. My friends, we are not powerless. Its up to us to fight back," he said.
He also spoke to the crowd about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, saying Canada can and must do better to end violence against all women.
Despite the brief outburst, the crowd loudly applauded when he acknowledged that the report concluded that violence against Indigenous women amounted to nothing less than a genocide.
"Let me be clear, our government will always be your partner, willing to admit when mistakes are made and working very hard to build a better future for all our children," Trudeau said.
"My friends, I know and you know that we cant take our foot off the pedal, not even for a moment. Theres simply too much at stake. Canadas leadership isnt going anywhere."
Women Deliver is a global advocate for gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. The four-day conference is billed as the worlds largest event advocating for those rights.
The conference was attended by world leaders, including the presidents of Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia, who joined Trudeau for a panel discussion following his speech.
Panel moderator Lyse Doucet, a BBC journalist, commended Trudeau for being one of the first world leaders to describe himself as a "feminist" and bring in a gender-equal cabinet.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who describes himself as a feminist, opens the event on Monday, launching four days of debates on everything from climate change and gender to womens political empowerment.
But she noted he had a "tough year," given that he brought "tough women" into his cabinet, and asked how it had affected his feminism.
Former cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott were kicked out of the Liberal caucus this year after they alleged the Prime Ministers Office had pushed for Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid a criminal trial.
Senegal has a greater proportion of women in parliament (42 percent) than Denmark (37 percent), while three in four Kenyan women use digital banking – higher than many wealthier countries.
"Feminism and diversity and inclusion is not about making things easier. It often makes things a little more difficult," he said. "To have strong voices sticking up for different perspectives means youre going to get challenged, means you get to challenge back, and you get to try and figure out what the right path is forward.
"No one person has the monopoly on all the right answers, regardless of their gender, regardless of their background, regardless of their position as prime minister."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped short of calling the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls a genocide on Monday — despite being called upon to do so — when he spoke after accepting the report of the national public inquiry he called on the issue.