Liberal backbencher apologizes for not including women in notable calendar

WINNIPEG — A Liberal member of Parliament has apologized for putting out a calendar that features a list of notable Canadians that does not include any women.

"I was attempting to highlight notable people of Winnipeg. I am very sorry," read a comment posted on Robert-Falcon Ouellette's Facebook account Wednesday.

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"I will be getting another calendar ready tomorrow."

Ouellette recently sent the fold-out calendar by mail to his constituents in Winnipeg Centre — a common gesture by politicians across the country to keep in touch with voters.

Ouellette's calendar has a theme — "Notable Canadians" and profiles 12 Canadians "who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievements or distinction in their field throughout our history".

The touted individuals include Louis Riel, Terry Fox, former governor general Ed Schreyer, former National Hockey League star Dale Hawerchuk and others.

The calendar was quickly criticized on social media by some Winnipeg residents, including members of opposing political parties.

"You've essentially rendered women invisible and single-handedly discounted every single accomplishment Canadian women have achieved thus far," Nahanni Fontaine, an NDP member of the Manitoba legislature, wrote on Ouellette's Facebook page.

Ouellette's Facebook account posted dozens of apologies in reply to the online criticism. One said a new calendar would focus on notable women.

Kelly Saunders, an associate professor of political science at Brandon University, said Ouellette's move was "bone-headed" and surprising, given that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has focused on gender issues and strived to maintain a gender-balanced cabinet.

"It really goes against so much that his own (party) leader has tried to do as prime minister," Saunders said.

Ouellette, elected in 2015 in the Winnipeg seat that had been a longtime NDP stronghold, has stirred controversy at times with his remarks.

Soon after being elected, he announced his intention to run for Speaker of the House of Commons. At a town hall meeting in Winnipeg Centre, he suggested he could use the position to persuade the prime minister to get benefits for the riding. Ouellette soon withdrew from the contest and apologized for his remarks.

Last year, he was criticized by some Indigenous leaders for saying, in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press that he felt some sympathy for the family of Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer who was found not guilty of killing an Indigenous man.

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