Sunday, March 4

B.C. women's rights groups say Ottawa won't reverse Status of Women cuts

VANCOUVER (CP) - Women's groups asking that $5 million in cuts to the federal Status of Women program's operational budget say the minister responsible isn't budging.

Representatives from about a dozen British Columbia groups met with Heritage Minister Bev Oda on Saturday, urging the Harper government to restore the goal of equality to the women's program and to reverse its direction on pay equity, child care and the court-challenges program.

Feminist Alliance for International Action spokeswoman Shelagh Day expressed disappointment after the two-hour meeting, saying Oda told the gathering the government was firm in its decisions.

"This is a real sort of confirmation of intransigence on the government's part about things that are absolutely crucial to women. These are just such basic things in terms of rights and democracy for women .. . and she won't move on it.

"I would say it's a kind of insult," Day said.

A grim-faced Oda said little as she swept past reporters outside the meeting as about three dozen protesters awaited her outside.

"I heard some new views or situations and that's what dialogue and discussion's about," Oda said.

"I think she wants to give to us the impression that she's interested in what women want to say (but) it doesn't seem to make much difference," Day said.

A statement from the B.C. Campaign for Women's Equality and Human Rights said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has embarked on a campaign to dismantle women's rights and equality.

The group released a statement that contained a promise Harper made in last year's election campaign:

"If elected, I will take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations, to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women in Canada."

A group of women occupied the Vancouver Status of Women office in January to protest the cuts.

They had also demanded that the Conservatives retain 12 of 16 Status of Women offices scheduled to close March 31.
As similar protests took place across the country, the Status of Women office in St. John's, N.L., was occupied Feb. 22

"We got no satisfaction from the minister whatsoever. It's really hard for women here and across the country to deal with," an emotional Day said Saturday.
She said more women need to understand the effects of the cuts.


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