Thursday, March 8

Women Across Canada Call on Harper to Put Equality Back on Track!

On International Women’s Day, women across Canada continue to call for a reversal of the federal cuts to Status of Women Canada (SWC).

These calls are renewed following Status of Women Minister Beverley Oda’s announcement that $5 million will be “reinvested” into the SWC Women's Program.

“This is a stopgap measure that will not replace the word ‘equality’ and the need for advocacy and research” says Lise Martin with the Canadian Research Institute on the Advancement of Women.

Minister Oda is visibly absent from this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the international gathering of governments devoted to women's equality where the priority issue of discussion is discrimination against the girl-child.

Most women’s groups were also excluded from a recent consultation on the budget that was held by Minister Flaherty. REAL women, an explicitly anti-feminist organization that objects to childcare, pay equity and a woman’s right to her own body, was invited to attend.

“The Harper government has consistently refused to address the concerns that have been expressed in the last few months by thousands of women, social justice organizations and trade unions from Québec and the rest of Canada, says Paulette Senior for the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights. “ But women won't go away. We're going to keep calling on Mr. Harper to put equality back on track!”

Over the past months, the Harper government has implemented decisions that undermine women’s equality, including eliminating the national childcare program, cancelling funds for the Court Challenges Program, refusing to take proactive action on pay equity, slashing the already slim budget of Status of Women Canada (SWC) and has ended all funding for advocacy and research. 12 out of 16 regional SWC offices are set to close. In addition, the government has removed the word “equality” from the SWC mandate.

Women across the country have been vocal in resisting these regressive measures. In Vancouver, and in St. John’s, women have occupied offices and buildings where the SWC is slated for closure. “The Conservative government sends police to evict us, instead of agreeing to finally listen to us and discuss our concerns” says Joyce Hancock of the Newfoundland and Labrador Feminist Coalition. “Throughout the last 31 years, the presence of the SWC office has been critical for women's equality and equity seeking organizations throughout NL”.

Beverley Oda finally did meet with the women who occupied the Vancouver SWC office but did not agree to reverse the closures.

Hundreds of events are taking place in communities across Canada to mark International Women’s Day. For more information and to take further action, visit the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights’ website at .

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