Thursday, May 31

The rape resistance 'backpack'

Krista Warnke is the public education co-ordinator at SACHA (Sexual Assault Centre, Hamilton & Area), and she spends much of her time in local high schools talking to teens about dating violence and date rape.

May has been Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

One in four women will be raped at some point in their lives. In Canada, a woman is raped every 17 minutes. Most perpetrators are known to the victim and date rape accounts for the majority of reported sexual assaults.

What is rape resistance?
It is more accurate to talk about rape resistance. The term rape "prevention" misleads women.

First, it gives women the false message that there is a way to "prevent" sexual assault from happening. There is no such guarantee.

Secondly, traditional "rape prevention" information leads women to believe that they are responsible for preventing sexual assault. Our culture encourages women to be careful about what they wear or what they do in order to stop it from happening. The focus is on women and, as a result, many survivors of sexual assault end up blaming themselves. Offenders, however, are always 100 per cent responsible.

What is the backpack?
All women wear a rape resistance "backpack." They have learned the do's and don'ts of rape resistance since childhood and have been collecting them in their backpacks.

"Don't go out alone at night" or "walk with your keys in your hand" or "wear shoes you can run in" are some of the many examples women are familiar with.

Many of these so-called "safety tips," however, focus on assault by a stranger in an outdoor location. And yet, most women are sexually assaulted by someone they know in their own home. The information is incomplete.

Many of the strategies cost money. Deadbolt locks, bars on the windows, personal alarms or security systems can be expensive. Some women who work shifts, have no choice but to be out by themselves at night. Many cannot afford cars or taxis. Women with less money have fewer options and, therefore, less access to safety.

On the one hand, the backpack is necessary. When women sense danger, they have some strategies to choose from.

On the other hand, the backpack weighs women down and restricts their freedom. All women, to some degree, carry this burden.

So, women make decisions. There are no right or wrong answers. Whether women use all of their backpacks or none, it is never their fault.

Rather than blaming the victim, we should help women to recognize the warning signs of a potentially abusive dating partner.

  • Using threats: making threats to harm someone; threatening to leave, to commit suicide.
  • Using intimidation: making someone afraid by using looks, actions, gestures; smashing things; abusing pets.
  • Using emotional abuse or anger: putting someone down; name calling; playing mind games.
  • Using isolation or exclusion: controlling what someone does, who they see and talk to, what they read, where they go; using jealousy to justify actions.
  • Minimizing, denying and blaming: making light of the abuse and not taking someone's concerns about it seriously; saying the abuse didn't happen; saying the other person caused it.
  • Using peer pressure: threatening to expose someone's weakness or to spread rumours; telling lies about them to their friends.
  • Using male privilege: treating her like a servant; acting like the "master of the castle"; being the one to define male and female roles.
  • Using sexual coercion: manipulating or pressuring her to have sex; getting her drunk or drugging her to have sex; refusing to use birth control or safe sex precautions.

Unfortunately, most of these behaviours are supported by traditional gender roles. Some women, therefore, are unable to recognize them as warning signs and accept them as a "normal" part of an intimate relationship. With accurate information, however, this pattern can change.

Education works. Support Sexual Violence Awareness Month by sharing this information and educating others. It will make a difference.

Krista Warnke writes on behalf of the education and events committee of the Woman Abuse Working Group.

The Strategies

  • In general
  • Use your backpack when and if you can. Remember, though, that if an assault happens it doesn't mean that you did something wrong.
  • Fighting back is an individual choice.
  • On the street
  • Wear clothes & shoes you can run in.
  • Walk in well-lit & heavily trafficked areas.
  • If a threatening car approaches, turn and walk the other way.
  • In Your Home
  • Change locks from the previous resident.
  • Stand near the emergency button on an elevator.
  • Ask for I.D. from an unexpected caller.
  • On A Date
  • Listen to that "icky" feeling in your gut.
  • Be assertive: cross your arms, square your shoulders, look them in the eye.
  • If force is used, say the word "rape."
  • In An Intimate Relationship
  • Have spare money ready to use.
  • If you leave, take your children with you; try to bring I.D., medication, house keys, emergency clothing, special toys, or ...
  • Leave a packed bag with someone you trust.
  • In A Bar
  • Get your own drinks from servers you trust.
  • Try to keep an eye on your drink.
  • Plan ahead: talk to your friends and figure out what you will do if you think someone has been drugged.
  • In Your Car
  • Check the back seat before entering.
  • Lock the doors & keep windows rolled 3/4 up.
  • Keep the gas tank at least 1/2 full so you can drive to safety if you're being followed.
  • If You Are Sexually Assaulted
  • Go to a safe place.
  • Call a Sexual Assault Centre's 24-hour, confidential crisis/support line .
  • Get the medical attention you need.
  • Decide if you want to report to the police.
  • For more information, contact SACHA at or

Feminism and the sex-workers’ rights movement

The criminalization of sex workers prevents them from accessing social protection and contributes to grave human-rights abuses of sex workers. This criminalization explains why sex workers are too often exploited, beaten, raped and killed.

Lobbies to amend, repeal, or reform prostitution law have had a vibrant presence since the 1970s. When sex workers began organizing for decriminalization in the 1970s, the term ‘sex worker’ rather than ‘prostitute’ was used to define their movement.

The sex-workers’ rights movement is not without its opponents. Among the most vocal sources of opposition are feminist abolitionists who view sex work as an inherent exploitation of the body and sex workers as victims with little agency. These feminists typically oppose decriminalization and concentrate on the eradication of sex work entirely. This perspective has posed grave difficulty for sex workers attempting to seek their rights. Many of the policy reforms that feminist abolitionists propose also criminalize sex workers and their clients, and perpetuate a cycle of abuse and exploitation. This perspective, at best, excludes sex workers, and, at worst, results in policies that impact negatively on sex workers’ lives and work. Whereas the majority of the mainstream feminist movement (including abolitionists and other liberal women’s groups) is seeking to end the exploitation they see as sex work, sex workers and other feminists are seeking to end exploitative conditions in sex work caused by dangerous working conditions and oppressive legislative contexts.

LINK: Complete article at the Dominion

What is the Women’s Poverty Collective Women’s Housing Takeover?

The Women Against Poverty Collective (WAPC) is a group of women and trans people who have been meeting regularly since March 2006. We are working together to advocate for safe, affordable, and accessible housing for women experiencing violence. Poverty is one of the biggest concerns identified by women living with violence, and coupled with a lack of access to housing, it keeps women stuck in abusive situations.

Women living in poverty have repeatedly identified the important, but often unrecognized, links between poverty and women’s experiences of violence, asking for policy changes such as those that are being advocated for by the current Raise the Rates and the Ontario Needs a Raise Campaigns. The Women Against Poverty Collective is organizing in solidarity with the Step It Up! Campaign, a broadly based effort that aims to address the link between poverty and gendered violence, organized by Ontario’s women’s equality-seeking groups, shelters, rape crisis centres, unions, anti-poverty groups, and community groups.

Our Demands

The right to adequate housing means that EVERYONE should have access to a safe, habitable, and affordable home. This housing requires that the space must fulfill the needs for: personal space, security, and protection from the weather. Women and trans folk and their children who are/have been survivors of violence should have priority to housing that allows them: to have security of tenure; housing which is affordable, is habitable, and is accessible.

Therefore we demand:

  1. That the Federal government institutes and adopt Right to Housing legislation.
  2. That the different levels of government develop a coherent, well-funded Canada–wide housing policy that has timelines, clear number of units to be built, and accountability components included in it.
  3. That the building(s) that have been taken over in this action be turned immediately to safe, habitable, affordable spaces controlled by the women living in them.
  4. That Social Assistance rates be increased by 40% immediately and be indexed thereafter to inflation rates.
  5. That the criteria for inclusion on the highest priority housing list for affordable housing be amended to include all homeless women and those women who have been abused by their partners but who do not live with them.
  6. That women should have access to universal subsidized childcare. That violence against women should be understood as an equality rights issue

LINK: Women’s Poverty Collective

Wednesday, May 30

Women's advocate turns focus to new group: gays

As part of its mission to advance women and promote diversity and inclusion in business, Catalyst today released the first in its landmark Making Change series on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees and the workplace. Recognizing the challenges facing the LGBT community, Catalyst hopes to help organizations foster a work environment inclusive to all women and provide the insights, language, and solutions that will help to educate workplace professionals to more deeply understand the experiences of their LGBT coworkers.

This report, entitled Making Change: LGBT Inclusion—Understanding the Challenges, outlines specific challenges faced by LGBT employees at work and identifies key components of the business case for LGBT inclusion. Uniquely developed with Catalyst’s broader perspective of inclusion in the workplace for all, the report provides information that will help organizations build stronger, more complete LGBT-inclusion programs and discusses persistent barriers facing LGBT employees as they advance to senior leadership positions.

Organizations can make all LGBT employees feel included by:·

  • Making LGBT inclusion an organizational priority
  • Creating LGBT resource groups that are accessible to all employees
  • Maintaining membership confidentiality for all company LGBT resource groups
  • Posting materials about LGBT employee benefits, programs, and activities on a public space available to everyone, such as the intranet or company-wide emails
  • Examining social activities that reinforce heteronormative values (such as exclusive husband-wife functions and children-centered activities) and hosting more inclusive activities
  • Providing LGBT anti-discrimination policies and statements as well as domestic partner benefits

Subsequent reports in the Catalyst Making Change: LGBT series will identify in-depth programs and policies that drive LGBT inclusion and how organizations can encourage and reinforce LGBT-inclusive behaviors among employees.

You can access the full press release (in pdf format) here :You can purchase a copy of the report entitled Making Change: LGBT Inclusion: Understanding the Challenges here

LINK: Globe and Mail ROB

Barbot Looks Forward to Taking on a Trudeau

Bloc Québécois MP Vivian Barbot exudes defiance when asked whether she is worried that a candidate with a famous surname has thrown his hat into the race to represent her Montreal-area riding of Papineau in the next election.

"There's such a thing as a candidate, but it's another thing to win a constituency," she says of Justin Trudeau, who will contest the Papineau seat currently held by Ms. Barbot on a Liberal party ticket.

"We had Mr. Pettigrew, now we have a name and we will see what the name means."

Former minister of foreign affairs Pierre Pettigrew was the incumbent Liberal MP who represented Papineau for10 years, until Ms. Barbot defeated him in last year's general election. So like the kid who's just discovered that the school bully is–after all–susceptible to defeat, it seems Ms. Barbot is ready for the next challenge.

The odds seemed stacked against Ms. Barbot when the Bloc asked her to contest the Papineau seat. First, Mr. Pettigrew had held the seat for 10 years. Secondly, the riding had been a Liberal stronghold since 1953. Also, since 1949, none of Quebec's separatist parties had ever fielded a candidate in the riding to run federally. Lastly, although she says she was in the race to win, I suspect no one within her party actually thought she could win the seat. Papineau is a poor neighbourhood with a multicultural mix of new immigrants and French-Canadians. Ms. Barbot, who garnered 40 per cent of the vote compared to Mr. Pettigrew's 38 per cent, credits her victory to the fact that the Liberals had done little for the residents of the riding.

LINK: Embassy

Gender equality ends at the pew

Which door a woman uses to enter her mosque – the side door or the wide one at the front – may seem a minor thing.

But to Alia Hogben it's a major symbol of the overarching way women are dismissed in churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of prayer.

Across the spectrum of faiths in Canada, women are treated differently than men. Catholic women cannot be ordained as deacons or priests. Only priests can say mass. In some movements in Judaism, women cannot be counted among the 10 required for a prayer group. Seating for women in mosques – often inferior spaces in basements or crowded side rooms – is a continuing controversy in Islam as are inheritance rights and the troubling issue of polygamy.

The Harper Effect

People who do not like to see their money wasted are not going to like it when they find out the costs of the Afghanistan adventure are going to exceed $20 billion, before the day in 2009 the mission is supposed to end.

People who see exorbitant bills for the military action, and who are denied government funding for festivals in Quebec, Canadian studies research, cultural programs, recreation, social housing, urban transit, student bursaries, court challenges, women's shelters, and child care, are going to support someone other than the Conservatives in the next election.


Lack of Quality Non-Profit Child Care a "Disgrace" Say Elementary Teachers

Poor quality care in licensed Ontario child care facilities documented in recent media reports dramatically underlines the need for a national, non-profit child care program, says the Elementary Teachers'Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

"It is time to end this disgraceful situation," said Noble. "Low quality child care can no longer be tolerated. The federal and provincial governments must take immediate action and work together to ensure that fully-funded,regulated, non-profit quality child care is available to all Canadians.

Tuesday, May 29

Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Violence Against A Mother Shapes Children as they Grow (2007)

A new resource developed by the Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System with funding from the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence in Ottawa, a division of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Topics addressed include what children might feel, think and do during violent incidents against their mothers, roles they might adopt, strategies of coping and survival, and how violence may be experienced by children from infancy to adolescence. It is aimed at professionals, students and volunteers working with children and women helping them to support women as parents and respond to child disclosures.

This is a concise source for the latest research for anyone wanting to understand how children experience violence against their mothers and how those experiences may shape them as they grow.

So You Want Me to Breed?

In Canada, I'm the problem. Thirty-something. Childless. And a threat to Canada's future economic well being. The nation's fertility rate has plummeted to 1.53 children per woman, and Maclean's has published the latest cry of alarm...

The Maclean's story goes on to crunch the economic equation such women face -- and believe me, I've done the numbers myself.
The cost of a kid ranges from $260,000 to $1.6 million depending on whom you talk to. Women lose income when they have a child, unlike men, the "motherhood penalty," of about 20 per cent per year. Kids are the "new glass ceiling," only 74 per cent of women who leave the work force are able to return, and only 40 per cent of those return to full time, professional jobs. Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers with the same resume, experiences and qualifications. So not surprisingly, while the majority of male senior execs have kids, the majority of female execs don't. In short, women bear the costs -- financial and career -- of having children. "These days, it's not just a matter of a woman wanting children, it's a matter wanting them at the expense of everything else she's worked for."

Contradictory messages about women's fertility are breeding like rabbits this week. In largely-Catholic Brazil, the government is subsidizing birth control pills so poor women can afford the contraceptive, despite a recent visit by Pope Benedict XVI, who mainly used his time to condemn abortion, contraception and sex outside marriage. In China, officials are rounding up rural, pregnant women and conducting forced abortions to enforce the mandatory one child policy.

LINK: Read entire story at the Tyee

Commercializing feminism and "Menaissance" has picked up on a recent N-Post piece on the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences lamenting that, "American media refuses to acknowledge that there are experts in the field that can provide research-based answers to many of our questions. Instead, we rely on "pundits" who are experts at looking good and providing the catchy soundbite."

The reporter (Bernie) goes on to defend celebrity feminism, "Yes, these women are celebrities -- not "ordinary" people. But that's the point. The celebrities that everyone knows -- either admires or hates -- also happen to be feminists."

Bernie previously took the N-Post to task for "their well-intentioned but somewhat simplistic and reductive look at the "Menaissance" -- what they claimed in a series of related articles as the return of "guys being guys."

Monday, May 28

Where's $54 billion in employment insurance premiums?

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear a labour movement complaint that the federal government is abusing the multi-million-dollar Employment Insurance (EI) program.

The country's top court has agreed to hear arguments from trade unions about how the federal government collects and uses employment insurance surpluses.

The consent by the court to look at the matter was announced on May 24. As is customary, the court gave no reasons for its decision and it is not known how long it will take before the matter is addressed.

The Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU) in Quebec is arguing that federal governments dating back years have abused EI by diverting surplus revenues from the program for purposes other than those intended by Parliament when the program was established.

Since 1996, it is estimated that Ottawa has collected $54 billion in employment insurance premiums while placing major restrictions on which workers are entitled to collect benefits.

To date, two lower courts in Quebec, the Quebec Superior Court and the Quebec Court of Appeal, have turned down arguments by the unions.


She answers to Miss and looks pretty in pink?

When 5,000 academics gather this week in Saskatoon for the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, everything from the geography of shopping to gender in governing will be on the agenda. In a week-long series, the National Post explores some of the most interesting research being showcased.
- - -
When old-school feminism is translated for this generation, it arrives in a sea of pink T-shirts modelled by movie stars and emblazoned with a bland slogan, as well as increasingly narrow definitions of who qualifies to use the title Ms., according to researchers studying what they see as the prettier, more consumer-driven and essentially watered-down feminism of today.

What has been lost in the translation, argue the researchers presenting their findings at Canada's largest annual gathering of academics this week, is much of the edge and the inclusivity envisioned in the early days of the movement.

For example:

  • The word Ms., for example, is being assigned to specific women instead of all women, as feminists had dreamt in the 1970s, according to new research by Donna Lillian, whose studies have shown the title increasingly designates only the gay, unmarried or single older woman. Prof. Lillian, who teaches English at East Carolina University and presented her findings at a meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Names yesterday, gleaned her findings from a questionnaire that asked respondents to pretend their boss requested a mailing for their female clients; do they choose Miss, Mrs. or Ms.?
  • Further evidence of the traditional view of feminism being lost in translating to the young appears in a fashion statement campaign launched, ironically, by the organization that publishes Ms. Magazine. Jennifer Crawford, a PhD student at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, sees the recent "This is what a FEMINIST looks like" fitted T-shirts, tanks and hoodies -- in black, white and "radical raspberry" -- as another attempt to co-opt and dilute what's left of the movement, by one of their own no less. ........"Is this -- this slogan on the fuchsia baby tee, or italicized in screen-print across a cute tote bag, or pinned with good intentions on to the lapel of a jacket, this shut-down of communication -- is this what feminism looks like?" asks Ms. Crawford in a session called "Who Cares What a Feminist Looks Like? Inscriptions of Gender, Sexuality and Personal Politics" that she will present as part of the Canadian Women's Studies Association meeting tomorrow.

LINK: Newspaper-NP

SWC grants more funds

Status of Women Canada has issued three new grants to the following local organizations:

  • $302,204 to the Canadian Women's Community Economic Development Council (CWCEDC) "Our project will help women-centred community economic development organizations to increase their market share and their capacity to innovate and create additional employment for grassroots women in communities across Canada," said Ms. Rosalind Lockyer, President of CWCEDC.
  • $65,000 to the Waabi-ma'iingan Traditional Teaching Lodge (Grey Wolf); "The Robinson Superior Treaty Women's Council - Waabi-ma'iingan (GreyWolf) Traditional Teaching Lodge project - Kitchen Table Tour: Phase 2 - will facilitate 21 community gatherings of Aboriginal women in the Robinson Superior Treaty Area. As well as sharing traditional teachings and wisdom,participants will be empowered to create community action plans and regional skills and resource inventories," said Corporation President Norma Fawcett.
  • $50,554 to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Northwestern Ontario (EFSNWO). Ms. Alice Marie Taylor, EFSNWO Board President, said, "Working for Changeoffers six inter-related pilot projects that test approaches to assistingwomen who come into conflict with the law, many of whom have faced majorbarriers and systemic disadvantages in their lives." The EFSNWO is one of 10 Elizabeth Fry Societies in Ontario.

LINK: Status of Women

It's war on Afghanistan's most outspoken woman: Malalai Joya kicked out of parliament

Malalai Joya, the most outspoken of the 68 women currently elected in Afghanistan, has been suspended from parliament. A relentless critic of the warlords and assorted war criminals in the Karzai government, legislators kicked her out after viewing a television interview in which she likened the parliament to a “zoo”.

Ordinary Canadians can be forgiven if they have yet to hear of Malalai Joya. After all, the main things about Afghanistan in the media of late have been the Stanley Cup’s visit (accompanied by ex-NHL tough guys Bob Probert and Dave “Tiger” Williams), assorted celebrities entertaining the troops, and the fact that Tim Horton’s has opened up shop in Kandahar.


Uneasy Partners - Women's rights and religion

The Toronto Star writes on gender rights in a multicultural society. Women want to explore, discuss, debate, uncover, educate and demystify.

True story: man kills wife, stabbing her in the neck 19 times with a steak knife, is convicted of first-degree murder and appeals on basis that she was unfaithful and, as a devout Muslim, he was protecting family honour.

Nice try, and maybe elsewhere in the world Adi Abdul Humaid might have been acquitted. But the United Arab Emirates citizen made the mistake of murdering Aysar Abbas in Ottawa in 1999 and, ultimately, the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected his appeal.

Superior Court Justice J.A. Doherty said that had Humaid killed his wife for religious beliefs, that alone would have been "a motive for murder." But it was a moot point because Doherty didn't buy Humaid's new religious devotion and, in his 2006 ruling, concluded the story lacked credibility.

Nevertheless, the judge was concerned enough about the nature of the defence argument to write: "The alleged beliefs are premised on the notion that women are inferior to men and that violence against women is in some circumstances accepted, if not encouraged. These beliefs are antithetical to fundamental Canadian values, including gender equality."

Perhaps it's not such a stretch to be thinking about such arguments. Already, there is growing controversy over women's rights in our multicultural society, whether over wearing the veil to vote in Quebec or the practice of polygamy among B.C. Mormons. Doesn't it say something about the status of women's rights when polygamy, illegal under the criminal code, is allowed to continue?

LINK: Toronto Star
LINK: Uneasy Partners

Ontario daycares cited neglect and abuse

All the more reason to hold the Conservatives accountable for cancelling a REAL universal affordable quality child care strategy and substituting it with an allowance:

A stunning report out this morning may have Toronto parents reconsidering where they leave their kids when they head off to work.

Hundreds of Ontario daycares have been cited for all kinds of neglect and abuse but those complaints are being buried by the province. It more than two years of Freedom of Information requests for the Toronto Star to get its hands on the thousands of complaints.Since 2000, nearly 500 of the province's roughly 4,400 daycares have been handed provisional licenses. Those are granted when daycares operate under substandard conditions. In that time, 13 of the daycare centres have been shut down.

The majority of the problems have surfaced in Toronto but the Star report suggests that may just be because daycare is more tightly regulated in this city.

The source of the problem appears to be funding. Canada recently ranked last among leading industrialzed countries in terms of early childcare funding.

One other important note surfacing from the report is that non-profits seem to fare better thatn the money-making centres.

LINK: Toronto Star

Thursday, May 24

Manitoba election - women win more seats than ever

NELLIE McClung would be proud.

When the Manitoba legislature reconvenes next month, almost one in every three MLAs taking their seats in the house will be female, more than in any other provincial or territorial legislature in Canada.

"Wow," said Raylene Lang-Dion, chairwoman of Equal Voice, a national organization dedicated to getting more women elected to all levels of government.

"That's where you really want to be, where you have a critical mass."

Eighteen women were elected Tuesday -- 13 NDP and five Tory -- five more than were elected in 2003 and the most ever elected in Manitoba.

LINK: Winnipeg Free Press

Wednesday, May 23

Appuis renouvelés pour une loi proactive en équité salariale au fédéral

Le 3 mai dernier, une délégation de la FTQ rencontrait le chef du Bloc québécois, M. Gilles Duceppe, ainsi que les deux députées du Bloc responsables de la condition féminine, Mmes Nicole Demers et Johanne Deschamps au sujet de l’équité salariale.

À l’issue de la rencontre d’une heure, la FTQ et le Réseau canadien pour l’équité salariale obtenaient un appui renouvelé du BQ pour l’adoption d’une loi proactive sur l’équité salariale, élaborée à partir des principales recommandations du rapport de 2004 du Groupe de travail fédéral sur l’équité salariale. Le BQ s’est aussi dit prêt à déposer lui-même un projet de loi en ce sens en temps opportun. Lire la suite

Why do men have 80% of the seats in the House? Do the math...

Raylene Lang-Dion sighs deeply, her exhalation sounding like one part regret and two parts frustration.

“Other countries seem to just get it,” she says, “while Canada is slipping further and further behind.”

What other countries “get” is the democratic importance of women. What other countries in increasing numbers are recognizing is that the number of elected women in legislatures should reasonably reflect the proportion of women in society. On the world stage, Canada fluctuates among different positions — 44th, 46th, 47th — on the list of countries with elected female representation, lagging far behind such nations as Rwanda, all the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands.

That appalls Lang-Dion, who earned her Master’s degree in the field of women and politics. Dedicated Canadian and dedicated feminist, she is also a dedicated campaigner for increased female presence in the decision-making halls of this country.

LINK:Read entire article at FAFIA

SWC funds for Women's Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre (WMRCC)

Status of Women, today announced funding of$50,000 to the Women's Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre (WMRCC) of Durham, to increase immigrant and racialized women's knowledge on issues ofviolence.

"Through its Women's Empowerment Programs, the Women's Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre of Durham is making a difference in the lives of women, especially young women, through violence prevention that enables them to more fully participate in the cultural and social life of Durham, Oda said.

Ms. Rosemary Twyman, WMRCC of Durham Board Chair, said, "This project will directly engage some 225 women through public education, workshops and media, and reach out to over 100 women and young women who face social and cultural barriers."

Based in Pickering, Ontario, WMRCC of Durham aims to reduce violenc eagainst women, among young women and families from diverse communities through public education and direct services. Founded in 1993, the organization has been working closely with various institutions and community agencies tocreate more accessible services for women and families from diverse communities.

Tuesday, May 22

Dorothy Stang: Female, Confronter of Male Power

This post is in memory of Dorothy Stang This is a photo of Dorothy Stang, a naturalized citizen of Brazil, originally from Dayton, Ohio. In 2005, at the age of 73, she was shot at point-blank range by a gunman hired to silence her voice forever. She was a nun. Her murder followed a dispute with wealthy, powerful ranchers over land they intended to clear for pasture and which she had sought to protect. The night before she was killed she had brought food and clothing to a family whose home had been burned down. The gunman shot her once as she was standing, and five more times while she was on the ground and probably already dead.

Stang had spent 30 years in Brazil, most of them in Anapu, Para, at the edge of the Trans-Amazon Highway. There she walked and worked alongside peasant people, landless and indigenous people who lived in the shadow of rich, powerful loggers and ranchers. There, she stood alongside peasants, landless and indigenous people, and small farmers in working for land reform, the rights of rural workers, and in defending the land of small farmers. There she made many enemies in high places and was hated by powerful men. Her life was repeatedly threatened, over years.

On May 15, wealthy landowner Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura was given the maximum sentence, 30 years, for being one of the masterminds of the February 2005 murder of Dorothy Stang. It is the first conviction of a member of Pará state's landed elite in a wave of killings of peasant leaders and forest defenders in recent years. There have been nearly 800 killings in land disputes, and only a few have resulted in convictions

Closing wage gap will help address N.B. labour shortage, government says

Closing the wage gap between women and men will help address New Brunswick's growing labour shortage, the province's minister of family and community services said Tuesday.

As more men seek higher-paying jobs in Western Canada, boosting immigration may not be enough to meet the need for skilled labour in New Brunswick, Carmel Robichaud told a business conference.

"We have a group of people in the province of New Brunswick who are working but are not at their full potential," she said. "We need women, who make up 52 per cent of the population, we have to train them, and change the societal attitudes towards the work of women."

The minister said that ensuring women are paid the same as their male counterparts will boost productivity and employee retention.

Canada's first war crimes trial - Victim faces alleged rapist

A woman identified in court only as "C21" came face to face Tuesday with her alleged rapist for the first time since Rwanda's 1994 genocide at Canada's first trial under a new war crimes and crimes against humanity law.

Desire Munyaneza sat in the defendant's seat directly across from the woman as she told Quebec Superior Court he raped her five times while she lived at his father's home as the majority Hutu ethnic group slaughtered the Tutsis.

Munyaneza, 40, is a failed refugee applicant and resident of Toronto who was arrested in October, 2005, after a six-year federal police investigation

He is alleged to have committed widespread rape, murder and pillaging during the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were murdered. If found guilty under a new war crimes and crimes against humanity law adopted in 2000, he faces a life sentence, which he would serve in Canada.

LINK: National Herald Tribune
LINK: Montreal Gazette
LINK:Photo credit

South Asians' sad secret uncovered

Simmering issue of violence against wives explored in new play written by social workers

Getting a divorce is worse than being hit by your husband.

So says a line of dialogue penned by two Toronto social workers. Because of their powerful new play Meri Kahani, as well as a new film Provoked that dramatizes a murder trial of an abused Punjabi wife in Britain, the sad reality of domestic violence in South Asian homes is emerging from the shadows.

While the problem is not new, Toronto's first generation of South Asian immigrants were focused more on finding jobs and housing, educating their children and trying to fit in than on tackling such a contentious issue openly.

Now a younger generation of women, like Umbereen Inayet and Mehreen Poonja, are leading the crusade.

Both 26 years old and of Pakistani origin, the two met as students in the Master's of Social Work program at University of Toronto. Due to graduate this fall, they want to "eradicate the pervasive culture of shame" that prevents mistreated South Asian women from seeking help.

Meri Kahani: My Story,” is an new innovative play addressing the challenges faced by South Asian survivors of abuse in the North American context. Focusing on abuse, the play will serve to educate and inspire audiences in resisting ongoing violence and overcoming the barriers that women face in seeking support services. Using theatre and dance, the stories are told through the varied perspectives of South Asian survivors of abuse—domestic violence, incest and sexual assault—to capture the diversity of experiences among South Asian women.

Domestic violence also hit the big screen last week with the local release of Provoked. Made in London, the film has Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai in the lead role, based on the true story of Kiran Ahluwalia who emigrated to Britain from India following an arranged marriage.

In 1989, after 10 years of abuse, she set her husband on fire as he lay in bed. Ahluwalia was sentenced to life in prison but appealed and was released after three years in a landmark ruling that recognized the abuse as a mitigating factor.

The adjustment process that newcomers face in Canada – underemployment and juggling several menial jobs to make ends meet – also heightens the risk of violence.

LINK: Toronto Star
LINK: Film Provoked
LINK: Play Meri Kahani: My Story

Legislation just a bump and grind

It is hard to understand why the federal Conservative government, having been in power for so little time, has decided the plight of exotic dancers needs to be pushed to the top of the national agenda.

It has the look of political opportunism, with the idea of sustaining the spectre of Liberal scandal. Finley says the new legislation was merely a response to the previous Liberal government's scandal in which former immigration minister Judy Sgro fast-tracked immigration papers of a Romanian stripper who worked on her election campaign.

Said Finley: "The good old days of Liberal Stripper-gate will be a thing of the past."

In 2005, after the rules were tightened up by the Liberals, 10 people were admitted into the country with temporary work permits for the purpose of working as exotic dancers.

Said Annie Temple, who operates an advocacy website for strippers: "Keeping foreign exotic dancers out of Canada will not address the issue of exploitation. If the Conservative government is truly concerned about exploitation of exotic dancers, then they should focus on ensuring health and safety standards exist at strip clubs." Fair enough.

If there are problems with the industry, address them. Simply barring foreign strippers, while leaving whatever problems exist to Canadian workers cannot be a pragmatic solution.

Finley will likely continue to paint this legislation as a humanitarian gesture, but she has not made a convincing argument for the need for a new law, which will take up the time of parliamentary committees.

Bill C-57 is too half-hearted to be taken seriously and it is not an effective use of a valuable government legislative agenda.

Ruth Bell - Clearing the way

Ruth Bell points to her freshly polished lapel pins, one distinguishing her as a recipient of the 2005 Governor General's Award in commemoration of the Persons case, the famous 1929 petition that helped spark the first wave of the fledgling Canadian women's rights movement.

The other pin recognizes her as a recipient of the Order of Canada.

Now, Bell has another feather for her cap, as she was recognized for her lifetime of dedication to women's rights at the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards last night.

A former educator, the wife of a cabinet minister and lifelong activist, Bell spent six decades fighting for political and economic equality for women.

She pressed governments to appoint women to the public service commission, served as president or chair of a number of women's rights organizations, and established the Forum for Young Canadians.


The title of her book, Be a Nice Girl, stems from her 1974 battle with then-Royal Bank president Earle McLaughlin, which resulted in the first women being appointed to sit on the bank's board of directors.

LINK: Ottawa Sun

It's time provinces accounted for federal funds

If anyone reading this finds $2 billion -- in your other coat pocket, say, or in your chequing account or anywhere, really -- would you let the federal government know? There's a good chance it might be the $2 billion Ottawa seems to have lost.

More precisely, it's the amount that the federal government lost track of after forwarding the money to various provinces in the last three years, money that was to have been spent on child-care services.

Monica Lysack, executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, said that Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Yukon and Nunavut have yet to file spending reports for 2004-05 to account for their share of that $2-billion wad.

The full report will be published "when it's ready," said a spokesperson for Monte Solberg, minister of human resources. We can't wait.

Monday, May 21

"I'm part of the problem, baby!"

Wearing his trademark polyester suit and mop of brown hair, the International Man of Mystery himself made an appearance at Whitehall High School on Thursday morning, dancing into the auditorium to the beat of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

But Austin Powers had a stern message to deliver to the 9th- through 12th-graders sitting before him as he told the story of his latest dating adventure.

While dancing at a night club not too long ago, he said, he met a woman who promised to date him if only he would read a book about feminism.

After reading the book and watching a movie about how women are objectified in the media, he had an epiphany.

"I'm part of the problem, baby!"

Just like that, Austin Powers -- his words spoken through actor and anti-violence educator Ben Atherton-Zeman -- became a crusader against violence towards women, joining a growing number of men fighting to change the attitudes and cultures that define masculinity.

LINK: Complete article at PostStar
LINK: Voices of Men

Sunday, May 20

Mi’kmaq poet Rita Joe 1932 - 2007

Many great women have passed in recent months: Callwood, Anderson and Wilson.

Another great, Rita Joe, died March 2007 at age 75. She was known as the poet laureate of the Mi'kmaq nation for her powerful portrayal of Canadian natives. A quiet force who took up the pen to challenge stereotypes about aboriginals, Rita Joe became an icon for a people she felt were widely misunderstood.

Rita Joe helped to spearhead aboriginal intellectual resistance to the announced plans of the federal (settler) government to assimilate First Nations peoples. She did so with her pen. In her poetry, she documented the unfulfilled — but unforgotten — dreams of empowerment, the reality of continued oppression, and the beauties of recovered history and culture.

Her first book, The Poems of Rita Joe, appeared in 1978, and established her trademark subversive subtlety, gentleness, reverence, and religious resolve — to stimulate respect for aboriginal peoples, endorse traditions and languages, and bend the English language to accept earthen philosophy and the truly native tongue.

Certainly, she was one of the harbingers of the new wave of ‘original’ Canadian voices, simultaneously enriching our culture and naming the unsettled injustices that yet require redress.

Joe heard the voice of the wind; she gave voice to fire.

I was only a housewife with a dream to bring laughter to the sad eyes of my people and trusting the anchor we live by to complete the woven tale we are still telling. Quoted from the back cover of her recent book, We Are the Dreamers.

LINK: Tribute to Dr. Rita Joe
LINK: CBC Tribute
LINK: Halifax Chronicle

Saturday, May 19

Ethiopian domestic worker - prisoner-like conditions

Human trafficking criminal charges are being pressed against a couple living in Laval, Quebec for the exploitation of a domestic worker and withholding her personal documents.

According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the domestic worker of Ethiopian descent was hired in Lebanon through an agency and brought to Canada by her employers. Neighbours found it suspicious that she was never permitted to leave home and believed that she lived in prisoner-like conditions. Concerned about her well-being, they contacted the RCMP to investigate.

PWCQ, along with their sister organizations under the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), have been calling for the scrapping of the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP) for decades. The LCP is a federal program that recruits women from the third world to work under a temporary visa as domestic workers for 24 months within a 3 year time period before approval of permanent residency in Canada.

LINK: File photo credit from OCAP

Stanford Conference on missing women - Canada, Guatemala and Mexico

Holly's Fight To Stop Violence reports on a Stanford conference on missing women and writes:" Dresses on hangers with pink crosses were on display to symbolize the missing and murdered women, calling it "femicide".

The conference - Feminicide=Sanctioned Murder: Race, Gender and Violence in Global Context - ends today with participants drafting a letter calling on political leaders to push for thorough investigations.

Conference organizer Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, a Stanford professor and chairwoman of the Chicano/a studies department, said the only way there can be justice is to continue shining the spotlight of attention on the murders.

The conference hosted the US premiere of Canadian documentary on feminicide in Guatemala entitled "Killer's Paradise"

Friday, May 18

New book features stories from women who don't have homes

For women there are many ways of being homeless, besides living on the street: staying with a violent partner because she can't afford to leave; being bound to a pimp or a dealer; couch-surfing from one relative to another; or living in unhygienic and unsafe buildings and/or over-crowded conditions with cockroaches in the fridge and two families squeezed into a one-bedroom apartment. While all women living in these situations have a roof, none has the kind of place where most of us would feel "at home."

Canada is one of the few countries in the Western world without a social housing policy. The result is suffering for people at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

LINK: Read entire article at StraightGoods

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans Issues...well, maybe not everything

The Canadian Autoworkers have published a booklet to help make workplaces safer and fairer for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered. The booklet provides “basic answers to basic questions” about sexual minorities.

LINK: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans Issues...well, maybe not everything, 2007 (31 pages, PDF):

Code Blue's cross-country tour for universal child care

The Community Action Forum on the Vernon child care crisis kicked off on Tuesday morning with a demand for federal funding, legislation, and accountability provisions.

Speaker Lynell Anderson, accountant and project director at the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, directed a presentation entitled Child Care System Building: Addressing Our Social and Economic Priorities.

“We have hit the day care wall,” said Anderson. “Canada is at a crossroads where we can decide whether we build a system that meets family needs or we keep treading water.”

She addressed the fact that Canada spends the second lowest amount of federal money on child care with only $165 a month per child. Only Japan is lower with $103. Austria spends the most, coming in at $658.

In addition, the rate of access within Canadian day cares is the lowest of the 20 countries that Anderson has researched.

The second speaker at the forum agreed. Morna Ballantyne (pictured), coordinator of the Code Blue Campaign, pointed out that it is “time for governments to do the right thing so that the needs of families and children can be met.”

According to Ballantyne, the federal Conservative government is backing away from child care needs. She stated that they have committed only $600 million to all of the provinces for child care for this year. This figure is $1 billion less than last year. In addition, there is no guarantee that the money will be spent on child care.

The Code Blue for Child Care Campaign is a Canada-wide campaign to “think big and bold” in an attempt to build a pan-Canadian child care system with good wages, complete training, a progressive development program, expanded access and a high-quality, inclusive and universal social support program.

Members of the campaign are travelling around the country to spread the message of the importance of child care. They will request that the federal government provide $1.2 billion to the provinces because this would provide day care spaces for every three to five year old in the country within four years.

“It’s a bold but simple plan that Canadians can get excited about,” said Ballantyne. “It will take parental anger and turn it into a significant force that will make a difference for entire communities across the nation.”

LINK: Code Blue

Thursday, May 17

Members of the Conservative Party of Canada cannot

Whereas women account for the majority in jobs that: are seasonal; are part-time; are paid minimum wage; offer little security;

Whereas women are usually the ones who have to take leave or quit their job to care for a sick child or parent;

Whereas the changes that successive federal governments have made to the Employment Insurance Program since the mid-1990s have reduced coverage for women from 74% to 33%;

That the Standing Committee on the Status of Women recommend that the government make the necessary changes to the Employment Insurance Program to eliminate its discrimination against women.

Members of the Conservative Party of Canada cannot support this motion.

Impact of Changes to the Status of Women: FEWO Report

The Committee has heard from a broad perspective of women in Canada and brought forth their voices. The final words are perhaps best left to one of the witnesses who appeared:

Well, I know many women's groups have rallied in order to show their displeasure. There have been many briefs written. I guess at this point it's time for those who make the policies to have the opportunity to perhaps reconsider. Sometimes the right thing to do is to reconsider.(34 Ibid. February 14, 2007)


Based on its meetings with witnesses and the briefs received on the funding and program changes at Status of Women Canada, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women recommends:

  • That Status of Women Canada reverse its decision to close the twelve regional offices of Status of Women Canada;
  • That Status of Women Canada maintain its Policy Research Fund to fund independent policy research;
  • That Status of Women Canada reinstate the goal of equality in the mandate of the Women’s Program;
  • That Status of Women Canada remove limitations on funding for research and advocacy activities in the revised terms and conditions of the Women’s Program; and
  • That funding through the Women’s Program be made available only to non-profit organizations.

    LINK: Conservative Party of Canada Dissenting Opinion - Joy Smith
  • Veiled women can still vote: elections chief

    Muslim women wearing veils will be allowed to vote without exposing their faces in the next federal election, despite a bill proposing new requirements for photo ID at the polls, the head of elections told the Senate yesterday.

    Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand declined to speculate on whether he would use special powers to compel Muslims to raise their veils before voting - as Quebec's chief electoral officer did during the recent provincial election - but said nothing in the law requires them to show their faces.

    Liberals Continue to Fight for Childcare

    Fighting on behalf of Canadian families, the Liberal Opposition was instrumental today in getting the Early Learning and Child Care Act passed at committee, Liberal Social Development Critic Ruby Dhalla said.

    “We are committed to push this Conservative government for a national child care plan. This government is failing Canadian parents with their piecemeal approach of an insufficient, taxable handout,” said Ms. Dhalla. “The early learning and child care plan implemented by the former Liberal government would have ensured the creation of quality, affordable and accessible child care spaces.

    “Although Bill C-303 is a good start, the ideal situation would be for this government to honour the Liberal child care agreements that were made in cooperation and collaboration with the provinces and territories and child care advocacy organizations. The investments in early learning and child care under the Liberal plan were much more comprehensive in nature and provided greater opportunities for both child and parent.

    “The Conservatives need to honour the will of the committee and implement a comprehensive national child care program. Anything less is simply failing the children of Canada,” she said.

    NDP Child Care Act passes at committee

    Amid a growing crisis facing ordinary parents and working families, there is now light at the end of the tunnel for the passage of the NDP’s Early Learning and Child Care Act. Bill C-303 passed second reading last fall and has been studied for the last three weeks at the Standing Committee on Human Resources and Social Development.

    “With this landmark Child Care Act we will ensure that all children have access to high-quality and affordable early learning opportunities,” said Denise Savoie, the NDP MP (pictured), who moved the bill.

    Since 2003, $2.65 billion has been transferred to the provinces for creating child care spaces. Yet no one knows how the money has been spent or how many spaces have been created.


    NAWL takes "Mothering in Law" to Parliament

    Kudos to Irene Mathyssen and Maria Minna for meeting with NAWL and women's groups on Monday May 14 and reporting their concerns to the House of Commons. Here is the transcript:

    Hon. Maria Minna (Beaches—East York, Lib.):

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize the invaluable work of the National Association of Women and the Law.

    In celebration of Mother's Day, NAWL hosted a conference “Mothering in Law” to discuss the state of motherhood in this country. It painted a dismal picture.

    Under the current employment insurance scheme, one in every three mothers outside of Quebec does not have access to the maternity and parental benefit program. Canada ranks last of OECD countries when it comes to investment in child care.

    Now that advocacy and research will no longer be funded, the situation will be even more grim.

    Today, women's groups are on Parliament Hill to meet with members of Parliament to urge them to support women's rights and equality, to reform the discriminatory elements of our EI system and to reinstate equality into the mandate of the women's program and fund research to advance the cause of women's rights.

    Canadian mothers deserve more than scripted rhetoric and sound bites from the Conservative government. We need a government that truly supports Canadian families.

    Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, many of us took time to celebrate mothers but mothers in this country need more than flowers.

    What mothers and fathers deserve is better work-life balance. They deserve not to be penalized for taking time off to care for children or sick and aging relatives.

    New mothers deserve real maternity benefits. Currently, two-thirds of women who pay into EI cannot access maternity benefits.

    Parents need affordable, not for profit child care so that working families can make ends meet. In order to make jobs work for women, we need to ensure flexible and family friendly workplaces.

    This is the reason I introduced a motion that calls on the government to implement a multi-stakeholder task force to produce recommendations for better life-work balance choices. Women and men in this country should not need to choose either family or work. Canadians deserve the opportunity to do both.

    Today the National Association of Women and the Law are here to discuss with parliamentarians many of these equality issues. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organization for its work.

    LINK: Hansard May 14, 2007


    Wednesday, May 16

    "I dream of a day when....."

    Kudos to Ms. Johanne Deschamps (Laurentides—Labelle, BQ) who stood in the House of Commons to declare her outrage at sexist comments made by a Tory MP Jacques Gourde:

    "Mr. Speaker, Quebec members from the Conservative Party have repeatedly stated in this House that the Bloc is useless in Ottawa. Well, not only is the Bloc Québécois useful, but you will never hear one of us speak as crudely as the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière did at the May 7 meeting of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

    The member (Jacques Gourde) said:

    Often, a father will give his son advice on how to select a heating system. That is not usually something a mother discusses with her daughter; a mother is more likely to advise her daughter on what curtains to pick. That is the reality. It may be sexist, but that is the reality.

    Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is sexist. After all, your remarks simply reflect the opinion this government has of women, as evidenced by the cuts to Status of Women, the new criteria for the women's program, and the elimination of the court challenges program.

    I dream of a day when the very few women in the Conservative caucus will stand up to condemn such remarks."

    LINK: Hansard May 14, 2007

    Alberta - "Basically zero child care spaces available"

    Alberta’s childcare industry to get a boost: In response to the ongoing lack of child care spaces across the province, the Alberta government will invest an additional $16 million toward its Five-Point Child Care Investment Plan.

    The boost in funding will be put toward attracting and keeping qualified staff, creating more child care spaces and making the service more affordable for middle to lower-income parents that wish to work or attend school.

    "Basically zero (spaces are available)," Severson said. "We’re just struggling with the children that we have in care right now. If a child leaves, we’ve already got a waiting list to fill a spot.

    Unfortunately, all people can really do is come in and put their name on the waiting list if they wish to, and we’re always looking for providers."

    According to a Statistics Canada survey, each province saw significant increases in the number of non-parental child care rates between 1994-1995 and 2002-2003 except for Alberta.

    LINK: Whitecourt Star

    PQ caucus chooses Pauline Marois

    Unhappy with third party status, and fearful of relegation to irrelevance, the Parti Québécois caucus, and leading PQ officials such as President Monique Richard have rallied to the candidacy of Pauline Marois, putting her in line to replace André Boisclair as leader.

    Marois is an experienced cabinet minister, the only person to have held four major portfolios. She gets the credit for creating the important $5.00 a day child-care spaces, as Education Minister.


    More cuts to women today

    Artemis writes: "Another example tonight of how the government seems intent on destroying the progress and equality of women in Canadian society. This time it comes in the form of 100% cuts to the Women in Science and Engineering Employment program."

    "I know I shouldn't be surprised - as the government is on a warpath for women it seems - but I always am - Artemis."

    Federal Government Cuts Funding to Women in Science and Engineering

    Women in Science and Engineering, Newfoundland & Labrador (WISE NL) was dismayed to learn late yesterday that all federal funds from the St. John's and Corner Brook offices have been cancelled for their award winning Student Summer Employment Program (SSEP).

    WISE-SSEP (previous grads pictured above), a nationally recognized program, offers young women from Newfoundland and Labrador the opportunityto work in paid research positions with award winning researchers and scientists so they can experience first-hand that careers in science and engineering are exciting, rewarding and accessible. President Dr. Laura Halfyard is concerned that loss of this major source of funding less than five weeks before the start of the 2007 program may spell the end of this valuable initiative.

    LINK: One Woman Army

    Minister Oda to Face Grilling at Committee of the Whole

    Conservative Heritage and Status of Women Minister Bev Oda will be forced to explain the ethically-challenged management of her office before a special parliamentary committee tonight, Liberal Critics Tina Keeper and Maria Minna said today.

    Whether it comes to advocating for Canadian culture, the court challenges program or the rights of Canadian women, it's clear that Minister Oda is asleep at the switch," Liberal Heritage Critic Tina Keeper said. "She has let her Cabinet colleagues gut the department she runs without so much as a wimper of protest

    Minister Oda will be asked to respond to these and many other failings tonight, when she appears a House of Commons Committee of the Whole. The question and answer session gets underway at about 6:30 and is expected to last at least four hours.

    Canadians have a right to know how this minister allowed this mean spirited, ideologically-driven government to cut the funding for important programs for women, Aboriginals and cultural groups," said Status of Women Critic Maria Minna. I also wonder if Ms. Oda was a bystander in all this, or an active participant.

    Minister Oda will also be questioned about her extravagant use of limousines on official business, her lack of accountability and for receiving campaign donations from organizations with direct links to her ministry.

    Liberal Members are ready to hold this Minister to account for her abdication of responsibility, said Ms. Keeper. "Whether it's at the cabinet table or in her ministerial office, this Minister is not getting the job done for Canadians

    LINK: Liberal Party of Canada

    Tuesday, May 15

    Despite progress, discrimination remains a global challenge

    Despite major advances in fighting discrimination at work, a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report says mounting inequalities in income and opportunities, and significant and persistent forms of workplace discrimination, are causing growing concern worldwide.

    The warning is contained in the ILO's most comprehensive report on discrimination to date. Entitled Equality at work: Tackling the challenges, it assesses the ongoing global challenges posed by discrimination in traditional forms such as sex, race or religion as well as newer forms based on age, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status and disability.

    "The global picture of the struggle to overcome discrimination shows a mixture of major advances and failures", the report says.

    The first such report was issued by the ILO four years ago. It was called Time for Equality at Work.


    Feds investigating use of government logo on anti-abortion banner

    Federal officials are investigating the use of the government of Canada's logo on a banner used at an anti-abortion rally last week.

    The Canada "word mark" - the official symbol of the federal government - appeared on the banner above the words "March for Life." Its use appeared to suggest that the rally on Parliament Hill had been sponsored by - or even subsidized by - the federal government.

    However, Jim Hughes, head of Campaign Life Coalition, said the annual protest against abortion has never received federal funding and that the government was in no way involved in this year's event.

    Hughes couldn't say how the Canada logo made its way onto the banner, likely created by a volunteer. But he said the banner has been used for the past five years without a problem.

    Not anymore.

    A photo of the banner has been circulating on the Internet since last week, with bloggers using it to suggest that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories appeared to be funding pro-life groups when they've cut funding for women's equality programs.

    The spotlight shone on the banner resulted Tuesday in the Treasury Board Secretariat launching an investigation into whether the logo was used illegally.

    "The secretariat investigates all complaints and queries related to the use of official symbols, which are protected under Canadian copyright and trademark law," said spokesman Robert Makichuk.

    "They can only be used with the government's permission."

    If, as appears to be the case, the anti-abortion activists who created and carried the banner did not have authorization to use the logo, Makichuk said they'll be asked to "cease and desist."

    If they refuse, he said the secretariat will consult legal counsel for the appropriate course of action.

    LINK:570 News

    To market a drug

    Financing a vaccine against cervical cancer may be the right thing to do, but a multinational giant's aggressive campaign has muddied the debate

    When Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced $300 million in federal money for a program to vaccinate girls and young women against the human papilloma virus, it was hailed as the most important development in women's reproductive health since the pill.
    This vaccine promises to tackle more than the warts caused by certain strains of HPV. It is billed as the first anti-cancer vaccine designed to prevent the vast majority of cervical cancer cases.

    But it's too early to tell whether this is just a victory for women's health or also the triumph of an aggressive, multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that has infiltrated our living rooms and the political backrooms. Probably it's both.

    ......Health officials and women's groups debate the merits of this vaccine on the front pages of newspapers

    Many are in favour of the vaccine, calling it a revolution in health care, while others aren't so sure it's necessary and wonder if other health care needs are more pressing, such as reducing waiting times for cancer surgery, or the doctor shortage.

    Parents have weighed in, admitting they don't know whether they want their preteens and teens vaccinated. Many people are confused. No wonder. This isn't just a health story, it's a business story, and when we look at it in that light, the urgency around the issue makes more sense.

    Monday, May 14

    Quebec groups join their voices to denounce the chronic under-funding of Aboriginal women's shelters

    The women's shelters in the Aboriginal communities receive less than one-third of the funding that the other sheltersin Quebec receive. "This situation can be described only as discriminatory,unjust and unacceptable," said Ellen Gabriel, president of Quebec Native Women(QNW), at the launch today of an awareness campaign to build support for the Aboriginal women's shelters. Also attending the launch were several of QNW's Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal partners.

    QNW and its partner organizations denounce the difficult situation facing the five shelters located in Aboriginal communities. Several studies have shown that the resources available for Aboriginal women who are victims of domestic violence and for their children come far short of meeting their needs. The shelters are also no longer able to keep up with the demand for their services. They require more adequate financial support to hire new resources, provide specialized support services and assist a greater number of victims. The funding that the shelters were granted upon their inception in 1995 has not increased since that time and no longer meets their needs.

    LINK: Quebec Native Women press release

    Feds can't say for sure where $2 billion in child-care funding went

    More than $2 billion in federal child-care funding has flowed into a virtual accountability void in the last three years.

    Officials in Ottawa have few clues as to how well the cash was spent by most provinces since 2004. Provincial reports are months or even years overdue - when they're provided at all.
    It's a blind spot that critics loudly warned about when past Liberal governments first started funding a national child-care system that was seen by many as encroaching on provincial social-policy turf.

    Tracking hundreds of millions of dollars across Canada is like "wandering through a maze blindfolded," says Monica Lysack, executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada.

    "Parents are entitled to answers."

    Lysack and NDP child-care critic Olivia Chow say legislation is needed to compel timely, detailed reporting.

    In the meantime, federal cash will keep flowing.

    New moms need better benefits

    Mother’s Day, we celebrate our moms and their valuable contribution to our lives and our communities. Yet, despite the important role mothers play in our society, some of the federal government’s policies leave us wondering if mothers – and indeed, children – really matter to the nation’s decision makers.

    Women’s Network PEI, assisted by an Advisory Committee of women from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, has recently completed extensive research on the topic of maternity and parental benefits.

    Our findings show clear inequities in the maternity and parental benefits currently available under the Employment Insurance Act (EI).

    In Atlantic Canada, women’s paid work is often part-time and in lower-paid occupations, or full-time seasonal, and insecure. These non-standard work arrangements mean that many women do not meet the EI criteria to qualify for maternity and parental benefits.

    The Women’s Network PEI Atlantic Advisory Committee recommends improvements to the current EI system so that it takes into account the unique position that women have in the paid workforce.

    To improve access to benefits for women who have had interruptions in their paid work and allow them to accumulate the required hours, a longer "reach-back" provision (similar to what is allowed in the Self-Employment Benefit Program) is necessary.

    The wage replacement level, currently at 55 per cent, is too low and must increase so that mothers can maintain a basic standard of living after having children.

    Self-employed women are not eligible for maternity benefits and this must change.

    And it is not just Women’s Network PEI that believes Canada’s maternity and parental leave ought to be improved.

    The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Child Care Spaces Initiative set up by the federal government recommended in a recent report that maternity and parental leave be extended from 52 weeks to 18 months – and eventually to 2½ years – in order to address the limited spaces available for infant child care. We are pleased that the federal committee recommended enhancements to the current maternity and parental benefit program.

    However, the report does not address the issue that many mothers are not eligible for benefits in the first place, because they are either employed in non-standard work or self-employed.
    Norway, Germany and France have the best policies and programs for mothers. Their inclusive and comprehensive maternity and parental benefits programs should serve as an example of international best practices for Canadian policy makers.

    These European countries know that maternity and parental benefits are critical for the effective caregiving of children, the economic security of families and the well-being of society. With many new mothers not able to access benefits today in Canada, more must be done.

    On this Mother’s Day, let’s take a moment to reflect on the changes that are necessary to improve maternity and parental benefits and to demand that the federal government makes those changes. It’s one sure way of telling mothers that they do matter.

    For more information about the Improving Maternity and Parental Benefits for Canadians project, please visit our web site: The general public is invited to attend our If Mothers Mattered events on Saturday, May 19 from 2-4 p.m. at the Keshen Goodman Library, 330 Lacewood Drive, and Tuesday, May 22 from 7-9 p.m. at the Rockingham Community Centre, 199 Bedford Highway with more events to be held in June. At the events, there will be a screening of the new documentary, The Motherhood Manifesto, followed by a report back on the National Association of Women in the Law 2007 conference entitled Mothering the Law: Defending Women’s Rights and a presentation by the new organization Equal Voice.
    Tamara Lorincz is a representative on the Atlantic Advisory Committee for Maternity and Parental Benefits, and Michelle Harris-Genge is co-executive director of the Women’s Network PEI.