by Julie Demers
Chantal Maillé has been interested in the role of women in politics
for as long as she can remember, at least 25 years. Cherchez la femme,
Trente ans de débats constitutionnels au Québec is her
eighth book, her sixth concerning women and politics. Shes out to
prove that politics need not be a mans game.
Her background is mainly in political science, and when she was attending
Université de Montréal, there werent many women politicians
or even womens concerns on the curriculum. She remembers the first
course offered on women and politics. For the first time, I could
learn about things that really interested me, she said.
This triggered curiosity on her part about womens attitudes to politics,
and what they could bring to the table.
Ever since then, she has been watching womens evolution in that
sphere like a hawk. I havent been looking at this only as
an expert, but also as a woman, she said.
Her observations have led to books on women and politics. Cherchez
la femme brings together three years of research and interviews on
the last three decades of womens participation in the Canada-Quebec
constitutional debate. She undertook the project on a grant from the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), one of many she has
She interviewed 30 women from all walks of life. I wanted to find
women who could act as witnesses of Quebecs cultural and social
diversity, Maillé said. As vice-president of the Conseil
du statut de la femme, she was well placed to use the network of contacts
available. She also analyzed most of the documents written by women about
the constitutional question in the past 30 years.
Maillé feels that womens participation in the constitutional
debate has not been recognized as it should. The media has erased
womens contribution almost completely from most debates, Maillé
said in some disappointment. She is actually glad, because it allowed
her to find out that women were more active behind the scenes that she
could ever have suspected.
In that sense, women arent the only ones who arent involved
in the traditional political structures but are quite active in the wings;
the younger generation doesnt identify much with the traditional
political parties, either. They often choose other ways to participate
in politics, such as through interest groups, rather than going
it alone as individuals.
However, Maillé doesnt think that this contribution is sufficient;
she believes that women should be part of the decision-making process.
She may be able to advance this view as a member of the scientific committee
for the Estates-General on Democratic Governance in Québec in the
21st Century that will be held at the end of February.
She is part of a team of experts who will advise Jean-Pierre Charbonneau,
the minister in charge of the reform of democratic institutions.
One of the themes to be discussed by the Charbonneau Commission is likely
to be parity between women and men in Quebecs political structures.
While womens participation in Quebec politics has been increasing,
Maillé would like to see still more women in decision-making roles
to better reflect the needs of society. She feels the work of the commission
could help to increase the number of elected women in the Quebec government.