Saturday, September 29

The hidden 'Lady' for whom they struggle

No one knows what she is thinking about the upheaval in her country.

No one even knows for certain where she is.

The elegant wisp of a woman who the Myanmarese call ''the Lady'' is at the centre of her people's struggle for freedom. Aung San Suu Kyi is revered by her people and renowned all over the world for her selfless two-decade struggle against tyranny in Myanmar.

Friday, September 28

Tax Cuts Come With a High Price

In a week that saw the National Association of Women and the Law forced to close its doors because of funding cuts and the announcement of drastic funding cuts at Environment Canada that threaten environmental monitoring programs and the Canadian Wildlife Service,

Canadians should question the Harper Government's constant refrain that budgetary surpluses should be directed towards tax cuts. The government announced on Thursday that it will use part of its nearly $14 billion budget surplus to fund $725 million in tax cuts - an amount that adds up to about $35 for every taxpayer.

"Thursday's announcement is one more example that shows the Harper government's budgetary policy is out of touch with the views of Canadians, including the members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. We all want more services not less," says John Gordon, National President of the PSAC. In the face of such a huge surplus it seems only fair to question this government's history of program cuts, including:

  • eliminating the court challenges program
  • closing regional offices and cutting funding for advocacy and research programs sponsored by the Status of Women Canada
  • eliminating funding for the Canadian Policy Research Networks
  • backing out of federal-provincial childcare agreements

Increased spending is part of the solution not part of the problem. This fact becomes clearer with each passing day as government neglect of its infrastructure puts the health and safety of citizens at risk.

The situation is no better when it comes to Canada's social infrastructure. Here too, the federal government can and should do more to meet the legitimate needs of its citizens. Rather than offering piece-meal tax cuts, the PSAC says the government should be taking on national priorities like publicly-funded pharmacare, childcare programs, literacy and more resources - not less - directed at levelling the playing field for Aboriginal peoples.


Reasonable accommodation in Quebec - neither reasonable nor accommodating

This week, the Quebec Council on the Status of Women, seeking to strengthen the principle of sexual equality against a perceived assault by religious groups, issued its own set of "reasonable-accommodation" rules. And rules is the operative word.

The council wants the Quebec government to enact legislation requiring all public and para-public workers desist from wearing clothing, headwear or jewellery that would indicate in any obvious way the person's religious affiliation.

No One Is Illegal - Montreal reports: Listen to an interview with Nazila Bettache of No One is Illegal Montreal on"Reasonable Accommodation" in Quebec. Currently a governmental commission is commencing this week in Canada, on the growing racism faced in Quebec by immigrants. In Quebec a series of government-initiated public hearings oncultural differences and immigrant integration has commenced this week.

A series of public hearings will occur throughout the coming months in Quebec, as part of the state commission lead by two Quebec academics who are not new immigrants. These government initiated take place within the context of growing racism toward new immigrants in Quebec, a pattern of racism directly targeting the Arab / Muslim community.

"Using the term accommodation simply put really, sort of implies to me a hierarchy of identities, where by, the identity the one that has been framed in the mainstream media as the so-called Quebcoies national identity," explains Bettache within the interview.

Throne Speech must speak to child care crisis

Today's Conservative admission that their child care policy is unworkable isn't news to child care advocates - but it is an opening to press for change, says CUPE National President Paul Moist.

"There's an ever-growing need for high-quality child care, and Monte Solberg has finally acknowledged his party's so-called plan for spaces won't work," says Moist.

"I urge the opposition parties to press this minority government into a commitment to fix the problem by making early learning and child care one of the deal-breaking issues as they push for changes to next month's speech from the throne."


Home ec grows up

Forget baking cookies and sewing skirts. Today's home economists have turned their attention from caring for the family to tackling community issues such as poverty, obesity and food safety

Welcome to the new world of home economics. Baking cakes and sewing pillowcases are out; reducing childhood obesity and developing community-based solutions to poverty are in.

Ms. Rudd graduated from the University of Alberta last spring and now works for Vibrant Communities Edmonton, where she's run a variety of projects from financial literacy classes for teens to a tax-preparation program for low-income workers. "I absolutely fell in love with it," Ms. Rudd says. "It was aligning with what I believed in life."

While many university-level home economics programs have disappeared in recent decades, cast aside as relics from the 1950s, the programs that did survive are thriving under various new names. In Canada, it's called human ecology; in the United States, it's now family and consumer sciences. Both name changes happened in the 1990s.

LINK: TorStar

Early Learning And Child Care - Good News/Bad News

The Good News Is:

7.5 million dollars is going to early learning and child care in Saskatchewan by the provincial government. That includes 500 new licensed child care spaces, funding for an additional 21 prekindergarten programs and enhanced training opportunities. The expansion combined with the 550 spaces announced in May totals 1050 new spaces this year.

The Bad News Is:

The Conservatives are now saying their promise to create 125,000 new child-care spaces over five years may not be realistic. Harper sold Canadians a fraudulent bill of goods, and it is children who will lose out.

Thursday, September 27

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

As the old adage goes, you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

In Woodstock, 80 men took this literally as they donned women’s shoes to participate in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes March, an event aimed at raising awareness about men’s role in ending sexual assault and violence against women.

National Employment Equity Co-ordinator for General Motors Sue Houston and Women's Advocate at CAW Local 88 at CAMI Automotive Anne MacMeekin organized the September 22 event.

"We raised consciousness in our community as well as $7,800 to go towards financially supporting the sexual assault services of the Women's Emergency Centre Oxford," said Houston. The centre offers sexual assault counseling and support, 24-hour help hotline, short-term housing and a women’s support group.

Participating men walked for several kilometres and were later met by family members and friends at a barbeque featuring live entertainment. Here men and women had the chance to discuss the many things men can do to prevent and bring a permanent end to violence against women in all forms.

"The March had as its participants, union leadership, city councilors, dads, brothers, grandpas all sorts of men concerned about the impact of this issue on the community,” said MacMeekin. “We heard repeatedly throughout the day that men were there for their daughters, moms and sisters.”


Monday, September 24

Blog Roundup

Women lose as advocacy organizations close

NDP stands with women’s groups and so do the Liberals

Families gather in Edmonton against violence directed at aboriginal females

Young Canadian Aboriginal women are five times more likely than other women to die as a result of violence, according to government statistics

Despite what backlash has claimed, feminism is nothing more than the powerful notion that women and men deserve to be treated equally.

The view of polygamy as just another lifestyle choice has been countered by the growing evidence of communities rife with abuse.

Study finds that wives who don't express themselves increase risk of illness.

Mainstream porn has come up with more ways than ever to humiliate and degrade women. Why then, is porn more popular? Includes an excerpt from Robert Jensen's new book, Getting Off.

Girls Gone Mild: Are Feminists and Prudes Rebelling Against Slut Chic? Wendy Shalit's new book suggests there's anti-slut rebellion in the making.

Apparently, women who get tattoos are tramps, and tattoos on the lower back are "tramp stamps." Jesica Valenti at Feministing writes: It's so charming when a wannabe conservative pundit uses frat boy misogyny to get male approval.

A profile of the women who are Mexico's top environment-defenders. They've been at this since long before climate change became a prominent issue.

Rebecca Traister on TV's new gender order.

Women say they feel patronized when pink gadgets are marketed exclusively toward them? I'm shocked!

Extreme rich/poor divides - photos of poverty next to wealthy neighborhoods.

Universities beef up security following sex assaults

Following a pair of recent, vicious sexual assaults on campuses, and as a new threat appeared at a third school, Canadian universities are beefing up their security measures.

Halifax's Dalhousie University just launched a new initiative to make students more cautious about letting strangers without keys enter buildings, while the University of Calgary has introduced an emergency text messaging network.

The changes come as predators on campus continue to concern scholastic communities across Canada.

Saturday, September 22

Draft Policy and Implementation Actions for the Equality of Women and Men: Montréal Consults the Public

Ms. Helen Fotopulos, member of theExecutive Committee responsible for the Status of Women, is pleased to announce the city will hold public consultations in September and October on the draft policy Pour une participation égalitaire des femmes et des hommes à la vie de Montréal (For Equal Participation of Women and Men in the Life of Montréal).

"The equality of women and of men is a matter of basic rights. True democratic practices require an equal contribution from women and men in all spheres of political, social, economic and cultural life. Such a contribution includes the participation of women in decision-making, power sharing and accountability," said Ms. Fotopulos.

The public consultations will be chaired by Ms. Marie Cinq-Mars, of the Commission du conseil sur le développement culturel et la qualité du milieu de vie. They will take place on two occasions. On September 25, the Commissionwill hold an information session that will allow residents, representatives of interest groups and women's groups to become acquainted with the draft policy and obtain more information on the subject.

On October 9 and 10, the Commission will hold a session for the filing of submissions, thereby providing a forum for participants to express their concerns on the topic of equality for men and women, either verbally or through the filing of written submissions. Following these meetings, the Commission will table its report during a public session at City Hall onOctober 29.

The draft policy and implementation includes five areas: governance, the city as an employer, services to residents, economic development and international influence. The policy outlines the progress achieved in Montréal over a period of more than 20 years with respect to the status of women and implementation actions that could be adopted by borough officials and by the central city administration. Such actions would be introduced over the mean term, in compliance with the city's financial framework.

Friday, September 21

Amnesty International Canada expresses concern about the closure of the National Association of Women and the Law

Canada has been a leader in creating critical international standards and institutions for the protection of women’s human rights. However, Canada has failed fully to implement those standards at home. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has cited Canada for not implementing its obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The sad consequence is that Canada is failing adequately to protect the human rights of women in this country. Government programs and policies for the protection of women’s human rights have been fragmented and shortsighted. Last year’s significant decrease in the budget of Status of Women Canada and the imposition of restrictions on the activities of organizations that receive funding from Status of Women combined to drastically curtail the work of a range of local and national organizations dedicated to defending the human rights of women and challenging existing barriers to the full realization of those rights. When it becomes more difficult to defend rights and challenge barriers, the risk of violence and discrimination inevitably increases.

The fact that the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) has been made to close in the face of funding cuts is a stark illustration of what is at stake. NAWL has played a critical role in demanding domestic compliance with the international human rights standards that Canada helped to create. NAWL has provided important support to women and women human rights groups, to address and change the systemic causes of violence and discrimination.

NAWL and other women’s human rights advocacy groups play an essential role in challenging the gaps and failings of government policies, both federally and provincially, and proposing recommendations for reform. NAWL will be missed. Without that expertise and attention, Canada fails women in this country.

Tories slammed over demise of women's groups

Opposition parties decried the demise of a leading women's group today, calling the Conservative government ``Neanderthal" and "misogynist" for cutting off federal support for advocacy and research on women's issues.

The latest organization to close its doors is the 33-year-old National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), which lost a critical $300,000 a year after Status of Women Canada changed its funding rules last fall.

The government announced last fall that groups that do advocacy and research work would no longer qualify, in favour of groups – including for-profit ones – that provide direct services.

  • "I didn't get into politics, I didn't spend 30 years in volunteer work because Harper, a Neanderthal, would come and take that away from us," said Liberal MP Maria Minna.
    "Canada has to move forward and Neanderthal is yesterday's man and this man has got to go!"
  • Nicole Demers of the Bloc Quebecois was equally harsh: "It's high time to expose this crass misogynism and send these retrogrades to the backbenches."
  • New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen said the loss of NAWL will "turn back the clock" on women's equality. She accused the Tories of ``abandoning" women.
  • But the minister in charge of Status of Women Canada suggested the organization itself is to blame for its current situation. Josee Verner encouraged NAWL to submit an application for funding this year, despite the change in criteria. "The association has been self-financed since 1998, the government is not responsible for the closure of its office," Verner insisted. "The closure is a result of its inability to receive adequate financing for its operations through fundraising."

Not true, said board member Louise Riendeau. She said NAWL relied almost entirely on government money, and fundraising amounted to a few thousand dollars a year.
Riendeau added that the group has exclusively done research and advocacy on law reform, making it a pointless exercise to try and get cash unless its entire mission is changed.

However, Vernor spokesman Andrew House said the group has applied for non-advocacy funding in the past and could do so again. He said NAWL got $290,000 in 2006 for a non-advocacy project called Strengthening Canada Through Poverty Reduction and Enhanced Security for Women.

Several women's groups have also been reduced to a few volunteers on cellphones, such as the New Brunswick Coalition of Transition Houses and the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women. Some expect to grind to a halt within the year, including the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action.

The Conservative government also shut down the Court Challenges Program, which helped fund minority groups who wanted to mount constitutional challenges.

It's position has been that there is a large enough body of research and statistics out there about obstacles to women's participation in society – now is the time to put money into direct services such as job training assistance for new immigrants. It beefed up the funding envelope for such projects by $5 million in the last budget, bringing it to $15.3 million.

"The way our government decided to work is to make sure that concrete results will be achieved for women in difficulty," Verner said.

LINK: Toronto Star

Susan Riley, The Ottawa CitizenPublished: Friday, September 21, 2007

Yesterday, the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) became the latest victim -- on the heels of the Law Reform Commission, the Court Challenges program and other advocacy groups for minorities -- of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ideologically-driven funding cuts.
And nothing, especially not the vintage feminist epithets directed his way at a NAWL press conference -- "paternalistic," "misogynist," "totalitarian" -- is going to change his mind. As to the charge that Harper is "silencing women"-- if only it were that simple.

If women, feminist women, have fallen silent, it is not because a handful of worthy organizations fighting for their rights is now being denied federal funding. It is because of widespread complacency, a sense that the battles have been won, that women no longer need special advocacy. It is because feminist ideas -- if not the still-radioactive label -- have become mainstream. The prime minister may be exploiting that complacency, but he didn't, alone, create it.

In the 34 years since NAWL was formed, it has made noticeable progress -- reforms to laws concerning custody, rape, workplace harassment and access to abortion. Most political parties today ardently court women candidates. Any politician who utters a sexist remark faces career suicide. (Even well-known political consultant Warren Kinsella got into trouble recently for joking that a woman MPP would "rather be home baking cookies.")

Beneath this reassuring surface, however, there are contradictory statistics and important nuances -- in short, the kind of research findings that were NAWL's specialty. Women still make 73 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Women are still routinely killed, raped and assaulted -- there were reports of two more incidents yesterday, for a total of 300 sexual assaults in this region this year. Only 20 per cent of federal politicians are women; corporate boardrooms remain as male-dominated as ever. The list is too familiar: the acute poverty of many aboriginal women, the shortage of child care despite the Harper government's token $100-a-month baby bonus, subtle but real obstacles to ambitious young women intent on non-traditional careers, continued resistance to pay equity.

Conservatives say there is nothing stopping aggrieved groups from raising money privately -- and they have a point. Most environmental groups operate as private charities; in fact, some believe that to take money from government would compromise their work. Fifty per cent of the population is female and not all women are poor. Indeed, NAWL counts many lawyers among its ranks. It might be liberating to be free of this strained dependency on a government that loathes everything it stands for.

It isn't that easy, says NAWL board member Pamela Cross. "Women of this country are the poor people of this country," she says. Many are already over-committed and exhausted. It isn't realistic to imagine replacing NAWL's $300,000 annual funding (and four staff) through bake sales and quilt raffles. As for the success of green fund-raisers: "Environmentalists have more favour with the public than we do."

Which is exactly the problem. Bloc MP Nicole Demers, her party's women's critic, expressed "deep anger that defending the rights of women has become 'obsolete'." This potent myth has allowed government to cut funding to unfriendly organizations (including the respected Child Care Advocacy group) with relative impunity. The Tories have also changed the funding criteria at the Status of Women bureau to favour "concrete," short-lived projects over grants to organizations devoted to profound change.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, least of all feminists. Harper only blinks if he fears political damage -- as he has on the environment and in his overtures to Quebec. (Even then, his course corrections tend to be more rhetorical than real.) He is convinced the groups he is targeting are irrelevant, out of touch with mainstream Canada. It doesn't help that much of NAWL's work is low-profile, academic and only quietly useful to politicians and equality-seeking groups. (Nor is his the first government to attack these groups. It was the Liberals who eliminated funding for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women.)

NAWL's disappearance will hasten the erosion of feminist influence at the centre of power. It will be up to feminist politicians, academics and volunteer groups to try to fill the gap -- and find new ways to reach a large and potentially receptive audience, starting with new language. The polls suggest many women, in particular, remain cool toward Harper -- not only, or even primarily, because of his war on feminism. It could be Afghanistan, or health care, or some careless remark: something will rekindle the feminist flame.

Susan Riley's column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail:

Wednesday, September 19

De-funding advocacy

Almost a year ago, the federal government announced changes to the rules for funding women's groups in Canada. Now that the dust is settling, it's time to start assessing the damage.

Behold a sad state of affairs. The losses are mounting among local, regional and national non-profit organizations dedicated to fighting discrimination and injustice.

After twenty years of valuable efforts on behalf of women and children victims of domestic violence, the New Brunswick Coalition of Transition Houses has no money left to pay for a phone line or a staff salary. The formerly-paid Coordinator is volunteering her time and her cell phone.

Crumbling infrastructure and lost community-based expertise are part of the price we pay for the federal government's decision to weaken SWC.

Just this week, the National Association of Women and the Law, a thirty year veteran of research and advocacy on pay equity, maternity and parental leave and family law, announced that it has been forced to lay off all staff and shut down its national office. The NAWL Board will keep the organization alive on a volunteer basis, but notes its capacity to consult with women's groups and advocate for feminist law reform will be greatly diminished.

This past June, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women — a promoter and clearinghouse for research and action to advance social justice and equality for all women — laid off most of its small staff, including its dynamic and dedicated Research Coordinator.
Crumbling infrastructures and the scattering of community-based expertise are part of the price we are paying for the federal government's decision to weaken the mandate of Status of Women Canada.

For years, the SWC sought "to support action by women's organizations and other partners seeking to advance equality for women by addressing women's economic, social, political and legal situation."

Under the new mandate, the grant program aims "to facilitate women's participation in Canadian society by addressing their economic, social and cultural situation through Canadian organizations."

So actions to advance equality are out. The new funding criteria are quite explicit: organizations seeking grants can not be involved in advocacy and lobbying of municipal, provincial or federal Governments.

Are they kidding us? Inequality still plagues women in many aspects of their lives. For certain groups, notably women with disabilities and Aboriginal women, the inequalities are soul-crushing.

Women need non-governmental organizations in their corner working for bigger social change, because they are chronically under-represented at all three levels of government. How else will politicians and policy-makers be forced to take women's issues into account?

So what kind of work is now eligible for funding? Try small projects providing direct services to individual women. That includes projects run by religious and for-profit organizations.
This means, for example, "no" to funding groups that lobby for fairer salary systems for traditionally female jobs, but "yes" to programs that outfit women with clothing for their job search. Clothing programs are fine, but women's jobs must also be fairly paid so that they can afford to feed and clothe themselves and their families and put some money aside for a decent retirement.

The Harper government has tried to make advocacy a dirty word. But most of us would agree with Jackie Matthews of the New Brunswick Coalition of Transition Houses, who says, "Advocacy is part of democracy — it's a catalyst for change for the better."
Advocacy organizations work for the rights of citizens who belong to groups that experience systemic discrimination. Society as a whole is poorer when lobby groups do not have the time, resources and freedom to speak up about the needs and reality of citizens too vulnerable to be heard.

Governments that mainly deal with service delivery groups and ignore advocacy groups — as is the case in Canada to a much greater extent than in other developed countries — can be accused of maintaining problems, rather than solving them. Efforts to reduce the suffering of victims do nothing to change the conditions that create victims.

Here in New Brunswick, a handful of groups — like the Coalition of Transition Houses, the NB Child Care Coalition, the Urban Core Support Network and the NB Coalition for Pay Equity — previously shared in a modest pot of federal funding. All relied heavily on volunteers and partnerships with community, business and government organizations to stretch their meager grants.

The work of these groups has helped raise public awareness and contributed to some important policy and program improvements. Were it not for the pressure put on the provincial government by the NB Coalition of Transition Houses in recent years, for example, there would not be full funding now for the basic operational budgets of the shelters for abused women and children.

The undervaluation of women's work and the lack of quality, affordable early education and child care services have been moved up on the public reform agenda by the provincial child care and pay equity coalitions. The Urban Core Support Network, active in Saint John for more than a decade, has played a role in improving some of the social assistance benefits and increasing understanding of the impact on community development.

But of these, only the Urban Core Support Network has received some new project funding to date. Others are getting by on what's left of their grants under the old rules, or are limping along by relying on already-overworked volunteers.

The situation is particularly dramatic for groups in our province, since the New Brunswick government, unlike some others, does not provide support to advocacy groups.

Contrast New Brunswick's situation with the Newfoundland and Labrador government, for example. Since 1998, Newfoundland has funded that province's transition house coalition and eight women's centres, which help mobilize community action around women's concerns and conduct consultation and research on issues affecting the status of women in their region.

So is this the end of women's organizing for change? Hardly. The Harper government has landed some blows, but we're not out yet. Watch this space.

Ginette Petitpas-Taylor of Moncton is Chairperson of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Her column on women's issues appears in the Times & Transcript every Thursday. She may be reached via email at the address below.
Related addresses:
eMail 1:
URL 1:

Monday, September 17

Gender and vote choice in the 2006 Canadian election

Report from the Canada Election Study examines the “modern gender gap” in voting, including finding that two-thirds of women surveyed favoured publicly funded child care over money paid directly to parents.

Inglehart and Norris (2003) have argued that a process of gender realignment is pushing men to the right and women to the left. This paper uses data from the 2006 Canadian election study to assess their argument that the "modern gender gap" is rooted in cultural differences between women and men rather than in structural and situational differences. While there is some evidence that public sector employment and higher education help to explain why women are more likely than men to vote for the NDP, their impact is offset by religiosity. Women tend to be more religious than men and this helps to explain why many women remain attracted to the Conservatives. The most important factors in explaining why men are more likely than women to vote for the right-wing party and women are more likely than men to vote for the left-wing party are clearly cultural. Women are more skeptical than men of market-based arguments, less ready to embrace closer ties with the US, and more liberal when it comes to social mores and alternative lifestyles. The paper ends with a discussion of the implications of gendered patterns of voting for electoral politics in Canada.

Questions from the post-election survey:
What should the government do: fund public daycare or give the money directly to parents? (If interviewer is asked, by government we mean the federal government.)

Almost two-thirds of the women interviewed in 2006 favored a publicly funded day care system; only 30 per cent preferred the Conservative policy of paying money directly to parents to spend as they please.
LINK: Gender and vote choice in the 2006 Canadian election

Equal Pay Coalition Election Action to Close Ont's Gender Pay Gap

It's time to end pay discrimination for all Ontario women regardless of where they work. With the gender pay gap still at 29%, many women electors continue to receive less pay for their "women's work" than men do for comparable work. That is why the Equal Pay Coalition is launching this week its province-wide Campaign. The Coalition aims to ensure that the gender pay gap is not forgotten in election debates, meetings and canvassing.

The Ontario government committed to legislate a pay equity law in 1985, stating then that "the achievement of equal opportunity and social justice for all Ontarians is a fundamental and unalterable commitment of the Ontario government." (Green Paper, 1985). In 1988, the Pay Equity Act was passed.

What about today? This coming year marks the 20th anniversary of pay equity in Ontario. It is necessary to recommit and take action to ensure the Government's promise of pay equity is kept. The work of women is critical to the economic success of Ontario's public and private sectors. Yet employers including the Government refuse to pay women fairly for that work.
Women on average still earn only 71% of what men earn - leaving a 29% pay gap.

Some gains have been made. Many women, most unionized and in the public sector, received significant pay equity adjustments back in the 1990's which closed the pay equity gap at that time. As a result of two Charter challenges started in 1996 and 2001 women in predominantly female public sector workplaces received hundreds of millions of dollars to start the pay equity adjustments which were owing to them. But many of the original pay gaps have now widened with all the changes to the Ontario economy since that time. For Aboriginal women, women of colour, older women, immigrant women and women in low-pay jobs, the discriminatory gender pay gap is even greater to start with and most work in sectors not yet affected by the law's enforcement.

CFUW working to promote social change

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) had its early beginnings back towards the turn of the century, and today it still promotes its cause of improving the life of women and children.

In 1919 a voluntary, non-profit, self-funded organization formed to procure the betterment of women. The Edmonton area had a founding hand in the organization because back in 1909, the Edmonton club along with help from the United States and Britain formed what is known today as the International Federation of University Women (IFUW).

Today, Canada is one of 78 members of the international organization and has 122 clubs, including the one here in Strathcona, in every province.

Shirley Reid, chair of issues and advocacy for CFUW’s regional Alberta council and an avid member of the Edmonton and Sherwood Park clubs, passionately attests to the positive benefits of being a part of such a group.“We promote education and social change that would improve the lives of women and children,” she said.

The local club doesn’t just listen to discussions on change, but actively participates in changing the community any little bit that they can, such as providing books to a womens’ shelter’s library, presenting Christmas presents to the women from the shelter and providing hot lunches for Habitat for Humanity.

“We expect to vote on continuing involvement with A Safe Place (womens’ shelter) and Habitat for Humanity,” Reid said, detailing some of this year’s hoped-for plans.

For more information about CFUW, visit
LINK: Sherwood Park News

Debating Gardasil in Canada

On Wednesday, September, 5, 2007, Judith Siers-Poisson was pleased to participate in a panel discussion on The Agenda with Steve Paikin on Ontario Public Television in Toronto, Canada. (You can view the debate by going to this page and selecting the tab that says "Gardasil, Morality and Medicare" and then clicking on "view video" to the right.)

The impetus for the panel was the start of mass vaccination of 8th grade girls in the province of Ontario at the start of the school year. In March 2007 the Canadian federal government announced CA$300million in funding to help provinces vaccinate their girls against HPV, and in August, the premier of Ontario announced a provincial investment of CA$117 million. But then, the August 27, 2007 cover story of Maclean's magazine announced, "Our Girls Aren't Guinea Pigs" and the public debate heated up significantly.

While most of us on the panel agreed that the Maclean's piece did not do the issue a service by focusing primarily on injection reactions, we differed on what we thought the real focus should be. Anne Rochon Ford laid out concerns about the speed with which this was approved, funded and implemented. In addition, she noted, as was very well addressed in the paper written by the Canadian Women's Health Network, that the objectives of this vaccination campaign is not even clear. Is it to eliminate HPV? Is it to eliminate cervical cancer? Will possible elimination of the strains covered by Gardasil increase occurence of other strains against which there is no vaccine? Without answering these questions, the start of a mass vaccination campaign seems ill-advised.

LINK: PR Watch
LINK: Judith Siers-Poisson's blog

Women face uphill battle to enter N.W.T. politics: candidates

Fewer women are running in this fall's Northwest Territories election than in 2003, and past female candidates say it's difficult to get elected.

Across the territory, 10 women are vying for seats in the Oct. 1 territorial election. There are 19 seats in the legislative assembly.

"I think the bar is set higher for women. For me, I felt that I needed to answer far more questions than the men candidates,"


Lifting the veil on a bogus issue?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minister of democratic reform, Peter Van Loan, are demanding Canada's chief electoral officer ensure that veiled or burka-clad women who come to vote expose their faces to returning officers -- even though the law, which Harper's government passed less than three months ago, has no such requirement.

Sarah Elgazzar, who speaks for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada, says most Muslim women are more than happy to lift their veils for official purposes, such as voting. So what's generating this furor?

It's hard to escape the uncomfortable feeling that all this artificial outrage has less to do with ensuring the integrity of our voting system than in courting votes in Quebec by whipping up a xenophobic fear of Canadian Muslims.

Muslim women have been voting in Canada for years. Why is this suddenly an issue now? Are we really afraid that the some veiled woman is going to sneak in to vote a dozen times? Or is it really the fundamentalist Islam symbolized by the niqabs and burkas we fear?

The fact that the debate has been timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 and the beginning of Ramadan makes it all the more distasteful and disquieting.

As a secular feminist, I find the practice of Canadian women covering themselves in niqabs or burkas medieval and misogynist, a coercive strategy to deny women equality and social recognition. But those are my beliefs. I'm entitled to hold them and state them. I'm not entitled to impose them on other Canadians.

The vast majority of Muslim-Canadian women don't even wear veils. But there are some who freely chose to don the traditional attire, as a mark of faith and cultural solidarity. Indeed, some of them see the veil as a kind of neo-feminist statement of cultural pride, a rejection of skimpy "western" fashions that sexualize and objectify women.

FULL STORY: Edmonton Journal

NAWL forced to lay off staff and close office

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that because of the Conservative government’s changes in funding policies to women’s groups, the National Association of Women and the Law is forced to lay off all staff and shut down its national office. NAWL’s Board will keep the organization alive on a volunteer basis, but our capacity to consult with women’s groups and advocate for feminist law reform will be greatly diminished.

We will be holding a press conference on September 20th on Parliament Hill to denounce the silencing of NAWL and other advocacy and research organizations by the Harper government.


Urban Sociologist William Whyte

…(One of Danny Gordon’s duties) has been, for the past 5 years, to count the number of visitors to Bryant Park (New York City). …

He counts with 2 clickers: one in his right hand for the men, one in his left for the women. …

On most weekdays, there are more women than men. This is how his boss likes it. The president of the Bryant Park Corp. was a protégé of urban sociologist William Whyte whose theories about public space included the idea that the presence of women indicates civic health.

Women pick up on cues of disorder - homeless people, crumbs on picnic tables, foul odors. “They’re your purest customers. If women don’t see other women, they tend to leave. …

LINK: The New Yorker

Women's Quiz - First Women's Studies Course?

The first Women’s Studies course was taught in Paris, France in 1902. Marguerite Souley-Darqué taught “feminology” at Collège libre des sciences sociales.

Take the quiz at -


"It's a lot of practice," says Power, a former University of Alberta Students' Union president. "We want to be pretty tight. We have a few friends who have been cheerleaders before to teach us how to do those types of things."

But Power and Co. aren't practising for the next sporting event. You're more likely to see them in front of the legislature or marching down the streets with fellow protesters.

A decade ago, "radical cheerleaders" were rallying the troops by dancing and singing in unison, often wearing red and black garb (anarchist colours) and brandishing pom-poms made from shredded garbage bags.

Radical cheerleading may have faded over time, but this high-energy form of protest is now making a comeback in Edmonton, fuelled by global warming and the affordable housing crisis.

FULL STORY: Edmonton Journal

Does B.C. have enough protection for victims of domestic violence?

Attorney General Wally Oppal says fighting domestic violence is a priority in B.C.

Oppal said Crown prosecutors might have erred when they released Victoria restaurateur Peter Kyun Joon Lee on bail on Aug. 15, two weeks after he was charged with assaulting his wife, Yong Sun Park. He allegedly intentionally drove his Land Rover into a pole, leaving Park with a broken arm and contusions.

Prosecutors agreed with Lee's lawyer that he should be allowed out on bail, with conditions that required him to stay away from his wife and the family home at 310 King George Terrace, and forbade him from possessing knives, guns and ammunition.

Only three weeks later, Lee is believed to have stabbed his estranged wife, his son, and her parents with a knife before turning it on himself. All five bodies were found early Tuesday in the Oak Bay house.


Friday, September 7

Short film from Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine

Alfonso Cuarón, director of "Children of Men", and Naomi Klein, author of "No Logo", present a short film from Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." (more)

Marc Lee: Why we need to expand early learning programs

In a Vancouver Sun feature article, UBC’s Hillel Goelman reviews evidence on early childhood education and makes the case for universal pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds. Dollar for dollar this is probably the best investment would could make as a society. But progress has been slow, as it has been framed as a family issue by both sides.

The educational component is critical, and this means talking about such programs as “early learning” and “pre-school” rather than term “child care”, which conotates babysitting. I keep trying to hammer this point with child care activists, who have by and large tried to frame this issue as enabling women’s labour market participation (which riles up the stay-at-home moms).

Women’s equality is a benefit of immense magnitude, but like K-12, it is a rider on the education component, which is where we make the pitch to the general public. And by explicitly talking about education, we raise the bar in terms of quality standards automatically. But there is such a deep attachment to framing this as “child care”, to which my response is something like “get used to losing”.

Montreal protest calls for Canadian support of UN aboriginal treaty

Members of Quebec Native Women Inc. led a protest Friday in Montreal to call on the federal government to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The solidarity walk, outside a federal building in downtown Montreal, comes less than a week before the UN is expected to ratify the declaration on rights and freedoms for Aboriginal Peoples.

The Canadian government has refused to support the declaration, reversing the decision of the previous Liberal government, saying the draft is flawed and open to broad interpretation.


Disabled women at risk - 2 to 10 times more likely to be victims of abuse

On Wednesday, the Free Press reported on allegations a provincial respite worker sexually abused her disabled client in acts that included a threesome that impregnated the Winnipeg woman, who has a mental capacity of a six-year-old. The worker is currently on trial and denies the charges.

Disabled women are two to 10 times more likely to be victims of abuse, said Prof. Nancy Hansen, director of the University of Manitoba's interdisciplinary master's program in disability studies. No one knows the precise rate, because no one has been able to study it.

Hansen was on a committee that set out to be the first in North America to find how prevalent abuse is among women with intellectual disabilities. The committee promised anonymity so the Manitoba women could speak frankly without fear of reprisal from caregivers or agencies. The provincial government put up a road block, saying that under the Vulnerable Persons Act, the study's authors had to identify the women who reported abuse and the abusers.

"It's not an accident that no studies have been published," said Marsha Dozar, one of the report's authors and a Community Living Manitoba project officer.

She said it's crucial that vulnerable people be provided with the information about their rights so they can protect themselves from abuse. They've asked Status of Women Canada, which funded the report, to start addressing some of the issues it raised.

Hansen said they didn't ditch the study but took a detour around the province's roadblock, highlighting systemic problems.

Their report, When Bad Things Happen, concluded that some agencies are so desperate for staff in the present labour shortage, they may overlook background and reference checks of prospective employees.

Wednesday, September 5

Winnipeg group wants police unit for missing aboriginal women

The killing of a young sex trade worker in Winnipeg has prompted aboriginal groups to call for the creation of a task force dedicated to the cases of murdered and missing women in Manitoba.

The Southern Chiefs' Organization and two grassroots native groups are pressing the government to create a police team like Project Evenhanded in British Columbia and Alberta's Project Kare. Those task forces are looking into the deaths and disappearances of dozens of people, many of whom were sex-trade workers.

"How many more bodies need to be stacked up before there is a comprehensive and appropriate response by both policing institutions and government?'' asked Nahanni Fontaine, director of justice for the Southern Chiefs.

One native group believes more than 40 missing aboriginal women have been the victims of violence in Manitoba. Many of the cases remain unsolved. "

The prevalence and incidence of violence that aboriginal women are experiencing in this city has made Winnipeg one of the 10 hot spots in Canada,'' said Rita Lynn Emerson, executive director of the Mother of Red Nations women's council in Manitoba.

Aboriginal women are more likely than other women to encounter violence and less likely to file a police report about it, said Emerson.

"They are met with skepticism and sarcasm, so the crime becomes normalized.''


More women than men joining unions: Labour survey

For the first time in Canada's labour history, more women than men are joining unions, according to a recent Statistics Canada Labour Force survey.

The survey, which will be released on Sept. 7, shows that the number of women joining unions has increased steadily over the past decade.

Between January and June, 2007, the survey found 2,248,000 women were represented by unions while only 2,237,200 men were represented.

"With the current attacks on equality under the Harper government, unions have become all the more relevant for women with the work we do around human rights and equality," said Julie White, CAW Director of Women's Programs, in a prepared statement.

The numbers also reflect the presence of unions in typically-female industries such as retail, health care and hospitality. The CAW has fought for the funding of a woman's advocate role in many workplaces and has trained women for the position.

"Increasingly women see unions as more than just better wages and benefits," said White.

"Women see unions at the forefront of fighting for issues like child care and an end to violence against women."

Women now hold 54.1% of all core federal government jobs

A new Statistics Canada study says women now hold a majority of jobs in core federal government employment, a dramatic shift over the past decade.

In 1995, men represented 54.1% of all "core" public administration employees. By 2006, the situation had reversed with women representing 54.2% of core public administration employees, the agency reports.The study covers workers employed by the Treasury Board, which excludes the military, RCMP, Crown corporations and the Canada Revenue Agency.

Lead author Katarzyna Naczk says one of the main reasons for the change is that jobs requiring a lower level of knowledge-based skills, such as maintenance, labour, technician and correctional service jobs experienced steep cuts during the period.

Many of these jobs, traditionally dominated by males, were outsourced during cost-cutting periods in the mid-1990s. At the same time, an increase in "knowledge-based" government jobs occurred for both men and women, with women recording gains in all of these job categories.

LINK: StatsCan

Naomi - Shock Doctrine

Marc Lee picked up Naomi Klein’s new book, The Shock Doctrine:

"It is something I’d been hearing about for some time, as I work with her brother, and Naomi gave a teaser with the keynote at our annual fundraising dinner this past February (video here). I’ll leave the summary to what is on the website, and point only to an interview on CBC’s The Current from yesterday and a feature on her in the Globe from the weekend. This is a book you will be hearing a lot about this Fall, so just go to your local bookstore and get a copy. Now."

LINK: Progressive Economics

Harper delays Parliament's return until Oct. 16

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided to delay the opening of the fall session of Parliament to Oct. 16, setting up the possibility of a fall election if the opposition parties vote against the government's throne speech.

Parliament was scheduled to resume on Sept. 17.

That gives us more time to reread Canada: Fifty-two Important Reasons to Drive Out Harper's Tories

As the Harper Conservatives shuffle the deck and polish their image in preparation for a federal election (or perhaps hoping to stave off a trip to the polls), People's Voice wants to remind Canadians why it's so crucial to drive the Tories out of office. Here are 52 important reasons, in no particular order, raised by a wide range of groups, from the Canadian Islamic Congress to anti-war groups to to the Communist Party. No doubt many readers have other equally valid reasons to dump this wretched gang of ultra-right, warmongering, corporate toadies. Email your favourite reason to defeat Harper's Tories to, and we'll print more in a future issue.

NDP launches women’s “equality challenge” plan

The NDP issued an “equality challenge” to political leaders today in Ottawa. Recently, women have been losing ground in their fight for equality as the Harper Conservatives and Liberals in Ottawa have dramatically cut programs and moved backwards on women’s issues.

“After decades of progress towards equality, ordinary women in Canada are now under attack economically, socially and politically,” said Irene Mathyssen, NDP critic for the status of women.

“Many women in Canada are still not safe in their homes or on the streets. One in four women in Canada is the victim of sexual violence in her lifetime.”

Mathyssen also pointed out that in the workplace, women today only make 70% of men’s salaries, and for university graduates, the situation is only getting worse, not better. Poverty affects almost half of single, widowed or divorced women over 65, and more than 40% of unattached women under 65.

“The World Economic Forum ranks Canada in 14th position, behind Sri Lanka, the Philippines and most European countries. And it will get worse if Stéphane Dion, Gilles Duceppe and Stephen Harper don’t act on our challenge,” said Mathyssen. “Successive governments have stalled progress, and the outright opposition to women’s equality from the Harper Conservatives is threatening to turn the clock back.”

The NDP Caucus’ action plan addresses six major areas of concern for Canadians women:

  • fairness for women at work,
  • better work-family balance,
  • an end to the violence against women,
  • making sure women’s voices are heard,
  • fairness for marginalized women and
  • equality for women around the globe.

“This is a much-needed, very comprehensive action plan for equality in Canada,” added NDP caucus chair Judy Wasylycia-Leis. “The NDP is showing leadership by fighting for Canadian women to ensure they are treated fairly. This plan offers effective guidelines and steps, which if followed, can stop the destructive backlash we’ve experienced on women’s rights. We are working towards building a truly equal society.”

The NDP’s challenge is being launched coast-to-coast today with events in Halifax, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Saturday, September 1

Labour Day - CEOs v. Workers

Chief executives of American companies made an average of $10.8 million last year, more than 364 times the average pay of American workers, according to a new study by two groups advocating changes they say would lessen the disparity.

"The outrageously massive rewards now attainable at the top of our economic ladder do our society no good," the report concludes
  • According to this year's report, CEOs received an average of $1.3 million in pension benefits last year. By contrast, less than 60 percent of households led by someone aged 45 to 54 had a retirement account in 2004. Between 2001 and 2004, those retirement accounts gained only $3,775 annually, the report states.
  • The study's authors calculated that it would take a minimum-wage worker 36 years to earn the $438,342 CEOs received on average last year in club memberships, corporate jet use and other perquisites.

LINK: The Staggering Social Cost of US Business Leadership