Tuesday, March 6

Minister Bev Oda stonewalls women’s equality organizations

VANCOUVER) - B.C./Yukon women’s groups are deeply disappointed after meeting today with Bev Oda, federal Minister Responsible for Status of Women Canada.

“The Minister’s refusal to move forward on issues of great importance to women in Canada is shocking,” says Shelagh Day, of the national group, the Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA). “That the Minister could hear today what these women’s groups had to communicate about the disturbing conditions of women in Canada, and not even pause to reconsider her government’s cut-backs to programmes critical to women’s equality, is astonishing.”

Prime Minister Harper pledged in the last federal election that, if elected, his government would respect and implement the rights of women to which Canada has obligated itself internationally. But, since the election, the Conservatives have cancelled the national child care programme, cancelled the Court Challenges Programme, refused to move forward on pay equity, cut $5 million from Status of Women Canada, closed 12 Status of Women offices, and imposed a no-lobbying, no-advocacy rule on women’s organizations receiving federal funding.

Oda agreed to meet with representatives of women’s groups from BC and the Yukon after women in Vancouver occupied the Status of Women office in January to protest its planned closure on March 31 2007. Today’s meeting took place at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre where a vocal group of protesters added their voices to those of the women’s groups representatives inside the meeting room.

“The Minister can say she listened but it is clear that she didn’t hear,” stated Sharon McIvor, Aboriginal leader and member of the BC CEDAW Group. “She had no answer to the negative impact of closure of local Status of Women offices on marginalized, low-income, aboriginal, rural, northern, and disabled women. She had no answer to the problems Canadian women will face accessing their constitutional rights because of the cancellation of the Court Challenges Programme. She had no answer to concerns about the absence of women’s voices in the democratic process,” reiterated Sharon McIver.

The Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights made five requests of the Minister in today’s meeting:

1) reverse closures of regional Status of Women offices and ensure core funding for women’s equality seeking groups and for independent research on women in Canada;

2) reinstate government funding for the Court Challenges Program;

3) establish pro-active and effective pay equity for women;

4) re-institute a national child care program; and,

5) implement the recommendations from Canada’s 2003 review under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

For more information, please contact:
Shelagh Day, FAFIA 604-872-0750
Sharon McIvor, BC CEDAW Group 250-378-7479
Shauna Paull, BC Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights 604-209-5776

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