A proposal to allow Canadian women to defend themselves with pepper spray or mace is “unrealistic and offensive,” said the federal minister for the status of women.

Since 1995, Canada has prohibited the use of mace and pepper spray—a law that Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, who is a candidate for party leadership, wants to change if she becomes prime minister.

Allowing mace and pepper spray, Leitch said, would “give women a greater measure of protection against would-be attackers.”

But Leitch’s proposal met opposition from Patty Hadju, the status of women minister, who claimed that letting women carry pepper spray would actually further gender inequality.

“Her misguided approach places the onus on women to defend themselves rather than focusing on addressing and preventing gender-based violence,” Hadju said in a statement.

Criticizing the former Conservative government over its handling of violence against women, Hadju said that she was working on a ”federal gender-based violence strategy.”

Leitch has ridiculed that approach.

Announcing her proposal last week, Leitch cited federal statistics claiming that half of Canadian women would suffer some form of physical or sexual violence against women.

“Women should not be forced by law to be victims of violence when there exist non-lethal means by which they can protect themselves,” Leitch said.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.