Wednesday, October 31

Study: Women and the Canada Social Transfer

Shelagh Day and Gwen Brodsky have authored a study entitled:
Canada Social Transfer:Securing the Social Union Women

The report explains how social assistance and legal aid have been in decline in Canada for the past decade and how this has had devastating effects on poor women. The report calls for national standards, federal legislation, and new mechanisms to rescue the social union and to meet Canada's human rights obligations.

The Conservatives' $100-a-month plan just isn't working for Canadian families

A national system of daycare would come as a relief to Canada's working parents and a boon to the economy. But it is still something the Conservative government cannot bring itself even to contemplate.

Instead, the Conservatives are clinging to the wreck of their 2006 campaign promise of using tax credits to persuade employers and not-for-profit organizations to set up child-care centres across the country. For months after its 2006 electoral victory, the Conservatives continued to say that tax credits would create 125,000 child-care spaces over the next five years.

But thanks to a report by the Globe and Mail based on documents obtained through the Access to Information Act, we now know that in fact companies and other groups did not believe that the tax credit would "create an adequate incentive" for them to create new child-care spaces.
Responding to a government survey, companies said child care was not "their line of business" and they felt that daycare was too expensive and complicated for smaller companies to organize and operate.

Private industry and the not-for-profit sector are showing far more common sense in this regard than the federal government. They recognize that caring for children is a complex task requiring long-term planning and investment and expertise. They also acknowledge that child care - delivered by professionals in healthy, stimulating environments - is not cheap.

The child-care benefit of $100 a month per preschool child introduced by the Conservatives in lieu of a national day-care network covers barely a fraction of the real cost of providing care.
Covering the real cost did not in any case seem to be the point of the benefit. Its message was more ideological: Taxed within a two-earner family, albeit for the lower earner, the benefit really is designed for families with a stay-at-home spouse.

Whatever the Conservatives' thinking on the proper role of mothers, a national network of child care would benefit Canadian women. Kevin Daly, the Goldman Sachs economist whose research, published this spring, determined that gender equality can substantially boost a country's GDP, says that most women want both an independent income and children.

In countries where women find it difficult to have both, they will choose - and not always the way governments want. In Japan, for instance, because women have been expected to leave work once they marry and have children, women have postponed childbearing. The result is that Japan's birth rate has plunged.

Speaking this fall in Britain, Daly said that in Scandinavian countries women are supported by the state through job protection, paid leaves, state-paid childcare and child allowances and as result, they have more children and at a younger age.

It is an oddly fortuitous result, given that Sweden's child-care policy was never geared to encouraging a higher birth rate. From the beginning, it has had two goals: to allow parents to combine family life with work or study and to support and encourage children's development and learning.........................

LINK to entire story at the Montreal Gazette

Day-care advocates renew calls for public system

The case of a private Ottawa day-care provider accused of confining children to a playpen in a furnace room demonstrates anew the need for a quality, affordable national child-care system, Liberal and NDP MPs said Wednesday.

"There's a policy vacuum," NDP MP Olivia Chow told a news conference as she berated the federal Conservative government for "washing its hands" of the child-care file.

"Parents across the country are desperate. In Ottawa alone, there are 7,000 working families waiting for child care," the Toronto MP said. "And when there is not child care, you see what is happening - the festering of these illegally run child-care centres."

Chow said for-profit day care is a mistake because the quest to show a profit will suck up public funding, increase costs to parents and decrease the dollars available for the children and the workers who look after them.

She said some private centres in Alberta have already been sold to 123 Busy Beavers Learning Centres, a chain affiliated with ABC Learning Centres, an Australian-based day-care giant, and that feelers also have gone out to centres in British Columbia and Ontario.

Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla said Ranger's case in Ottawa provides a glimpse into the disturbing ramifications of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to scrap the former Liberal government's $5 billion agreement with the provinces and territories to start a national early-learning and child-care program that promised to deliver quality and access at affordable costs.

The Conservatives opted instead to provide a taxable allowance of $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six. It also planned to create 125,000 child care spaces over five years by offering tax breaks, worth a total of up to $250 million a year, to businesses that opened child care spaces. When the business community showed no interest in getting into the day-care business, the government decided to divvy up the $250 million this fiscal year among the provinces and territories, with no strings attached.

LINK: CanWest

Monday, October 29

Why men are getting happier (and women more miserable)

Adult females actually report lower levels of happiness now than before they streamed into the workplace in the 1970s and '80s, according to a study by two economists at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, which has been making waves in academia since it was published in September. Previous studies of rising stress among females tended to focus on the simple burden of time allocation: instead of choosing one or the other, fully 73 per cent of Canadian women raise children and go to work. And numerous studies suggest women still bear the brunt of child-rearing and household duties even if they work — hence all the anxiety.

A TD Economics report said that participation in the workforce of Canadian women aged 25 to 44 jumped from 50 per cent 30 years ago to nearly 82 per cent in 2005. In fully 28 per cent of some 4.6 million couples surveyed, women had higher salaries than their husbands, compared to 11 per cent in the late 1960s — a figure broadly reflective of similar trends across the Western world. On average, U.S. women now earn 76.9 per cent as much as men (63.6 per cent as much in Canada), marking steady growth from the 59.4 per cent they earned in 1970.

Education saw even more sweeping change. By 2004, 62 per cent of all B.A.s in Canada were granted to women. Even more impressive is the revolution at medical school. According to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, the majority of students at 13 of Canada's 17 med schools are women. At Université Laval's faculty of medicine in Quebec City, for example, female enrolment has hit 70 per cent for the past two years, after peaking at a record 80 per cent in 2005, while on five other campuses last year more than 60 per cent of first-year medical students were women. And the laundry list of advancements goes on. Reliable birth control; more freedom at work; better vacuums and washing machines — all played their part in making women's lives easier. Yet the lift in women's spirits you might think would result is nowhere to be seen, say Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, co-authors of the Wharton study, "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness." "We found that in the 35 years in which women made the greatest progress, they got less happy," Wolfers said in an interview from Philadelphia. "The big question is why."

One popular theory, to borrow a phrase from the financial world, is irrational exuberance. Through media imagery and peer pressure, goes this thinking, women have been encouraged in recent years to seek it all — be smart, accomplished, a good mother, a good lover and manage to look svelte and fashionable all at the same time — never realizing that the headlong pursuit of perfection would cause bone-numbing fatigue. Stevenson and Wolfers accept this explanation, but only to a point. "The natural thing for people to assume is, of course, women are less happy than men because they have to juggle a career and kids and they're tired," says Stevenson. "But this is not just a story about moms. It might be about women pushing themselves to excel."

Full Story at MacLean's

Quebec exodus highest since 1995: StatsCan

The Harper government yesterday introduced legislation requiring all voters - including veiled Muslim women - to show their faces before being allowed to cast ballots in federal elections.


Quebecers are leaving the province in numbers not seen for more than a decade, a trend some observers are blaming in part on a visceral public debate about immigrant accommodation.

According to Statistics Canada data, there has been a recent spike in migration to other provinces not seen since the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty.


yet another Statistics Canada study compares the earnings of young men and women born in Canada to immigrant parents. The daughters of immigrants earn more than their peers with Canadian-born parents, the study found, but young men don't enjoy the same advantage.
Young women with immigrant parents are less likely to be married or have children, the study found, further boosting their earning power.

CUPE fights private daycare

Child care advocates are mobilizing across Canada to fight big-box daycare saying they fear the arrival of "Fast Eddy" Groves' company will raise fees and lower quality in this country.

"Our biggest concern is that foreign owned big-box child care is going to drive a stake through any notion of a national child-care system," said Paul Moist, the national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents some 7,000 Canadian child-care workers.

"We intend to make child care an election issue."

Moist said the union will tap into a $5 million anti-privatization war chest to fund the fight and lobby government to keep public daycare subsidies away from for-profit child care.

LINK: TorStar

Saying No To Our Fear

I walked, chanted and stood recently with girls and women of all ages to “take back the night”.

… Nighttime has historically represented potential violence for women, especially the streets at night, even though the most frequent place that women are assaulted is in their own homes. There was a time when only women had curfews at night - or at least much earlier curfews - especially in colleges and worksites - supposedly for women’s protection, and probably partly for the protection of their reputation, from being considered “ladies of the night”. As protesters to those sexist rules argued in the 1970s, one can only wish that perverts and robbers waited until after hours, and in the streets, to attack women.

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously said when she was still just a cabinet minister “Once in the Cabinet we had to deal with the fact that there had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One minister suggested a curfew. Women should stay at home after dark. I said: ‘But it's the men who are attacking the women. If there's to be a curfew, let the men stay home.' "…

- Excerpt, column by Chairperson Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, Moncton Times & Transcript, October 4, 2007.

Thursday, October 25

Pay equity not a reality in Ontario, says group

Advocates for women's rights say the provincial government is failing women on the pay equity front.

January will mark the 20th anniversary of the province's Pay Equity Act but little progress has been made, says the head of the Equal Pay Coalition.

"Regardless of their occupation or education, most Ontario women continue to be paid less than men because they do women's work. Women on average still earn only 71 per cent of what men earn, leaving a 29 per cent pay gap. This is the best evidence that pay equity in Ontario is far from being achieved nor has it been maintained as the act requires," Mary Cornish, a lawyer and chair of the Equal Pay Coalition, said in a news release.


FFFFound on the Web

October is an awareness month for breast cancer and domestic violence. Yet media coverage shows we'd rather be aware of breasts, even sick ones, than talk about abuse. In the article: "Breast Cancer Sells" Lucinda Marshall writes that of the nine publications that she recently found on a grocery store magazine rack (all of which advertised breast cancer articles on the covers of their October issues) only two also contained coverage of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (and mentioned that on their covers).* And, what's worse, of the coverage dedicated to breast cancer, much of it was offensive, superficial, misleading, or flat-out wrong.

  • Herstory is about movements, not just individuals.

  • I'll Have My Cosmetics With a Side of Infertility, Please.......AlterNet's Stacy Malkan reveals the dangerous truth about everyday products we put in our hair and on our skin.

  • With an eye toward a brighter future for the country's indigenous peoples, the Canadian Auto Workers and Assembly of First Nations announced Thursday they are teaming up to "make poverty history" for aboriginal communities through a series of joint infrastructure initiatives.

  • Strong aboriginal female role models are not in short supply.That is the conclusion local author Kelly Fournel came to in the process of writing Great Women from Our First Nations, which profiles 10 outstanding women leaders in North America.

  • Another interview with Miloon Kothari, international housing advocate who recently visited Canada on a fact-finding mission to look at homelessness, aboriginal and women's housing issues, and the impact of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. "If You Are Poor, You Are Out": In Canada, there is a hidden homelessness, there is a large crisis in housing, high-density situations, there are not enough facilities for women escaping domestic violence.

  • A study released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information contains the latest data on the composition of the country's physician workforce including how many doctors are practicing in Canada, where they are and their demographic characteristics.
    One of the most noteworthy statistics is the growth rate of female physicians over a five-year period. Women are gaining ground in what was once a male-dominated profession and by 2006, women made up more than a third of the physician workforce (33.3 per cent) CIHI

  • The Governor-General reflects on what it means to be an immigrant and a woman.

  • The long gun in question is a .22-calibre bolt-action rifle. Myriam Bedard owns a bunch of 'em, all properly registered. These are the tools of her trade, as an elite biathlete, though no longer competitive. Bedard had to divest herself of all weapons earlier this month, as ordered by a Quebec judge per stipulation of her conditional discharge sentence for charges of abducting her daughter.....................Just when you thought things couldn't possibly get more - Guns for girls and glamorous weaponry.

  • Canada's military spending exceeds Cold War peak — study.

  • Fish gender-bender (by David Suzuki) - Human hormones mess with male fish.

  • Photo ffffound at.....FFFFOUND! is a web service that not only allows the users to post and share their favorite images found on the web, but also dynamically recommends each user's tastes and interests for an inspirational image-bookmarking experience!!

Rally to Raise the Rates

On October 17th, 2007, the United Nations Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Robyn Benson, REVP Prairie Region, joined the Social Planning Council, Manitoba Leaders and community members on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building to speak out against poverty at the Rally to Raise the Rates.

The rally was held to call for a raise for the nearly 60,000 Manitobans who receive welfare - many of whom live on $6/day.

See Robyn's speech in *.pdf or *.rtf versions.

Wednesday, October 24

A Rapunzel with no prince? Fairy tales revisited

Fairy tales in which the princess gets her prince and lives happily ever after are often distortions of the original folk stories, changed to make them more palatable to a patriarchal society, according to research at a Canadian university.

Jenn Guare, a senior at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, decided to examine fairy tales through a feminist looking glass because of her interest in how children's literature affects how women come to see their place in the world.

"A lot of early fairy tales were written and told by women," Guare said.

"When you go back in time, it might seem that the fairy tale might get more sexist and patriarchal, but they actually don't."

The differences are often slight, Guare said, but the voice of women and their desires for their lives definitely comes through in older versions.

"That was all sort of erased when the Brothers Grimm and when Disney took over these tales," she said, noting that the Brothers Grimm versions of old folk tales are perhaps the most sexist versions in existence as they were written for the patriarchal society of the 19th century.

For instance, in the 1812 version of Rapunzel made famous by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm -- German academics best known for their collections of folk tales -- Rapunzel is banished to the desert by a witch until she is found by the prince.

"She never does anything to control her own life -- she's just passed around from the witch to the prince and you never get sense of what she wants," Guare said.

An old Italian version, "The Garden Witch," tells the tale differently, with the girl saving herself and returning to her mother. There is no mention of a princely rescue.

This version likely originated as an oral tale passed down from the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, said Guare, adding that the earliest version of the Rapunzel story dates back to 500 BC.

"We have an idea -- that was actually perpetuated by the Brothers Grimm themselves -- that these are the archetypal tales and these are the most 'real,' or 'genuine'," Guare said.

"But fairy tales go back generations and centuries and we need to possibly go back to those tales and accept their validity and see if there are maybe tales that are more useful in today's context."


Improving gender equity

Dr. Nahid Azad received the AFMC-May Cohen Gender Equity Award 2007 from the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) in May. An associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine, she is also director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Gender and director of the Geriatric Assessment Unit of The Ottawa Hospital.

The award recognizes the outstanding effort of Dr. Azad in improving the gender equity environment in academic medicine in Canada. The University’s Faculty of Medicine celebrated faculty achievement, including Dr. Azad’s award, during its annual recognition day on September 26.

Dr. Nahid Azad: Risk Factors and Gender-Specific Dementi; Congestive heart failure in older women and Gender, sex and sexuality - a web based module for medical students.

Female scientists, engineers earn less than male peers

Women holding a doctorate in science or engineering are still earning significantly less than their male counterparts, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2001 census data published Wednesday, the statistics agency found that women with such PhDs earned about 23 per cent less than their male peers. That was slightly better than women in the general workforce, who earned 29 per cent less.

The average salary of a scientist or engineer with a PhD was $70,000, nearly twice the average of $36,000 in the general workforce, Statistics Canada said.

Tuesday, October 23

'I Hate to Cook Book' took on snobs, sexism

Peg Bracken, author of the I Hate to Cook Book, which sold more than three million copies, died last Saturday. She was 89.

First published in 1960, “The I Hate to Cook Book” was the perfect accompaniment to the Rice-A-Roni era, ushered in two years earlier. (The inventor of Rice-A-Roni, Vincent M. DeDomenico Sr., died last Thursday.)

Two recipes were her favorites: "Aggression Cookies" (credited to a mental health center in Lansing, Mich.) and "Mayonnaise Lamb Stew." Another was "Stayabed Stew," which included the instruction, "Mix all ingredients in a casserole, cover tightly and place in a 275-degree oven. Now go back to bed." For "Skid Row Stroganoff": "let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink."

Satirical or social protest cookbooks were unheard of, and the manuscript was a tough sell to publishing houses — and even to Bracken's own husband, who, she said, was "totally discouraging." She later boasted that "he had to eat a huge platter of crow" and the book went on to sell a reported 3 million copies.

She co-wrote a syndicated cartoon called "Phoebe, Get Your Man" with Homer Groening, an advertising colleague and the father of "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening.

Bracken went on to create a franchise out of strategies for coping with domestic dystopia, including "The I Hate to Housekeep Book" (1962), "I Try to Behave Myself"(1964, a book of etiquette) "Appendix to the I Hate to Cook Book" (1966), "The I Hate to Cook Almanack" (1980) and "The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book" (1988)., and "A Window Over the Sink" (1981, more observations on home life).

She was close to 80 when she published her last book, "On Getting Old for the First Time" (1996), which, like her other books, bore Bracken's comical outlook. "Mom considered herself a humorist first," her daughter said.

LINK:New York Times

Stephen Harper government lacks the political will to end child poverty in Canada

As leader of the New Democratic party, Ed Broadbent — back in Ottawa as an NDP MP after a 15-year hiatus — moved the 1989 parliamentary motion to end child poverty. A generation of children has grown up seeing that vow unfulfilled.

More than 1 million children, one in six kids in Canada, live in poverty. Nearly three times more aboriginal, immigrant and visible minority children are poorer than the national average.

The solutions are well-known. The Harper government is oriented to principally serve large Billion dollar corporation associated with the U.S. Bush administration sponsored North American Competitiveness Council (NAU), and military elites who seek more Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Harper government lacks the political will to redress poverty in Canada, or child poverty in particular.

The road leading to the Qimaavik Women's Shelter renamed to combat family violence

The road leading to the Qimaavik Women's Shelter in Apex now bears the name Angel Street, in honour of those whose lives have been affected, or ended, by family violence.

Singer-songwriter Lucie Idlout gave a live performance of the song from which the street got its new moniker, with particular emphasis on its namesake lyrics: "Broken down on Angel Street, he pushed you down, made you unseen."
Idlout said she was surprised and happy when she heard the city's plans.

"It sent shivers down my spine, because I think it's a really good way to bring light to the issue in a positive way," said Idlout, who travelled from Toronto for the performance.

While the song, "Lovely Irene," was originally written for a specific friend of hers, the message is much broader.

"I don't think I know anybody who hasn't seen violence in one way or another," Idlout said.
Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik came up with the idea to rename the street during the Status of Women conference held in Iqaluit in July, after hearing Idlout perform the song at a banquet.

Sask NDP Propose 2000 More Child Care Spaces

Lorne Calvert feels his party is capable of taking care of families where the Saskatchewan Party and federal Conservatives cannot.

The premier is pledging to create 2,000 more child care spaces in Saskatchewan over the next four years, saying he wants to provide the best possible start for children.

The NDP has already worked to create 2,600 child care spaces since 2003, but Calvert says he wants to make sure every family that wants a space for their child can get one. He believes that's a vital service to provide for single parents who are looking to work or continue their education and families where both parents want to enter the workforce.

He believes that since the Conservatives slashed funding for spaces there is still a need -- and he feels the Saskatchewan Party's platform fails to provide for it, saying it only commits to maintaining the current funding levels.

Calvert made the announcement at the Steppng Stones Child Care Centre, which was created as part of the NDP's previous initiatives.

Canada failing homeless: UN official

An ambitious national housing program and a strategy to combat poverty is urgently needed to tackle the disaster-like conditions of homelessness and inadequate housing found across the country, a United Nations envoy says.

Miloon Kothari, the UN's special rapporteur on adequate housing, warned yesterday that Canadians are becoming complacent to the crisis unfolding on the streets and that public attitudes could soon mirror the indifference found in the United States.

"You have had a history of very progressive housing policies which were summarily abandoned in the mid-'90s, and the consequences of that are here tragically for all of us to see," he said.

"I hope there is a radical shift in government policy," Kothari said.

LINK: Feds urged to draft housing plan (subscription)

Monday, October 22


In the early 1900s, the Manitoba Premier, strongly opposed to giving women the right to vote, commented that nice women did not want the vote. Suffragist Nellie McClung replied:

"By nice women, you probably mean selfish women who have no more thought for the underpaid, overworked woman than a pussycat in a sunny window has for the starving kitten on the street. Now in that sense I am not a nice woman, for I do care. I care about those factory women working in ill-smelling holes and we intend to do something about it and when I say "we", I'm talking for a great many women, of whom you will hear more as the days go on."

Throne speech does little to court female voters, garnering much higher approval among men

The new Speech from the Throne, delivered Tuesday, is being described as deliberately silent on women's concerns or issues.

Nik Nanos, of SES Research, was immediately struck by how the speech failed to make any outreach to the women voters he says the Conservatives will need if they want to form a majority government. He registered his surprise on his website this week.

"Assuming the throne speech is all about forming a majority government, from a research viewpoint it is most likely to yield another Conservative minority," Nanos wrote. "The underlying structural problem for the Conservatives is that they are not competitive among women. The priorities of the throne speech align quite well with the priorities of men, thus reinforcing the core Conservative vote but not addressing a strategy for growth."

Belinda Stronach, chair of the Liberal women's caucus, says it looks like Harper has written off his chances with women voters.

"The silence on women's issues speaks volumes, especially in a throne speech that was intended to trigger an unwanted election," Stronach told the Star. "It says Mr. Harper not only doesn't care about women's issues, he doesn't even care about their votes. It's shameful, but consistent with his record of cuts to the Status of Women and the court challenges program. To add insult to injury, this on the anniversary of the Famous Five - Harper's message is clear – women's issues are not on his priority list"

That assessment appears to be shared in initial polling done by Angus Reid, which shows far more approval by men for the major themes outlined in Harper government's throne speech – sometimes by almost a two-to-one ratio.

When Angus Reid asked 1,018 respondents online to say whether they were satisfied with key themes in the speech, men were far more likely than women respondents to say they were. A full 50 per cent of men liked what the speech had to say on Arctic sovereignty, while only 26 per cent of women did. On crime legislation, 46 per cent of men were satisfied, but only 29 per cent of women; on Afghanistan, 37 per cent of men, 22 per cent of women.

The poll, conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Heritage Minister Josée Verner, also responsible for the Status of Women, was questioned in the Commons this week about the Conservatives' alleged abandonment of women by Bloc Québécois MPs who referred to the throne speech as "a slap in the face" to more than half the population.

Verner countered that the government wants to do more than pay lip service to women's concerns – that what women really need are practical solutions.

"The reality is that our government increased the grants to women's programs by 42 per cent, making it the largest budget ever for the program that provides direct assistance to women, thus much less bureaucracy and more tangible results for women," Verner said.

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton says that women aren't buying that message. He notes that women make up around 40 per cent of the NDP caucus and, no surprise, the NDP immediately turned thumbs down to the throne speech.

"Women are very concerned about people being left behind and issues of concern to future generations," Layton said. "Mr. Harper doesn't seem to understand that at all."

Beyond just the issues in the throne speech, there's also some suggestion that the Harper government is turning off women voters simply with its style.

On Nanos' website this week, there was some conversation about why the Conservatives aren't making any inroads in building support among women.

One of the commenters was Angelle DesRochers, a 34-year-old entrepreneur and small-business owner who should be within the Tories' sights as a potential supporter. But she said the Conservatives wouldn't get her vote because of the highly partisan attitude of the government. "Labelling , cajoling or bullying people to get their vote is not working for this woman and many others," she wrote.

LINK: Women still cool on Harper

Feminism is here to stay

Feminism, is it a term of the past or an integral part of our future? How do young adults regard feminism and do they identify with it?

Lisa LeShane a fourth-year student at Memorial University of Newfoundland believes that "everyone is equal, despite their gender." But she also feels that feminism was more relevant in the past. "I do not feel like I have to fight for women's rights. I get the respect that I deserve from males and females."

Kathleen Khoury, a third-year accounting student at Memorial University, says "women now have more confidence in themselves. They have more opportunities then they ever have had before.

"There seems to be less emphasis on the word `feminism' itself. It still has meaning, but now that we're in the 21st century, the populace is starting to realize that men and women are in fact equals, and can work together in a respectful environment."

Jessica Ramsay, also a 3rd year student at Memorial University, says although she doesn't consider herself a "hardcore" feminist, she believes in equality and would not hesitate to fight back if she was treated badly because she is a woman.

"Feminism isn't a word of the past; it's just dormant now. It doesn't seem to come up until women start to get publicly abused, then it seems to get dredged back up."

Although society and gender equality are clearly advancing, feminism is, and will always be, an integral part of everyday life. Gender constructions will continue be an issue, even if they are not discussed by mainstream society.

We can only hope that the next generation will be wise enough to put differences in anatomy behind them, and look for the strengths in each other as unique human beings.

LINK: TorStar

Sunday, October 21

'Big-box' daycare coming to Canada

Industry worried as Aussie 'Fast Eddy' looking to expand his $2.2 billion empire

The largest daycare corporation in the world – often criticized for cutting care to raise profits – is bringing its controversial form of big-box privatized child care to Canada.

Nicknamed "Fast Eddy," Australian-based entrepreneur Edmund Groves, who holds Canadian citizenship, is behind a move to purchase daycares in Ontario , Alberta and B.C.

Form letters, written by Texas businessmen fronting the Canadian expansion, have been arriving in the mailboxes of dozens of private daycare operators asking if they want to be evaluated with a view to selling.

It's all part of a rapid global expansion by Groves ' ABC Learning Centres, which last year added about 1,000 U.S. centres to its empire.

"We represent a large financial/child care group purchasing child care centres across Ontario ," the letter reads. "Are you ready to see what your business is worth in today's market? The process is simple and all information is confidential ... If the centre meets our criteria we will make you an offer."

Groves, a former milkman, has seen his company grow from a single centre in 1988 to a $2.2 billion (all figures in Canadian dollars) kiddie care kingdom operating 2,400 daycares on three continents. The 41-year-old Groves has a penchant for alligator skin boots, owns a professional basketball team called the Brisbane Bullets and has been known to arrive at work by helicopter, according to press reports.

The Ontario day care market is a big target. There are 4,400 licensed daycares, with about one-quarter of them for-profit centres. The letters from the Texans say only for-profit daycares are of interest.

Groves' meteoric rise has drawn criticism from numerous corners.
The Sydney Morning Herald published a story about Groves with the headline: "Cradle Snatcher." Last year, Labour MP Michael Danby attacked Groves in federal parliament, saying the daycare king has become rich by "milking government (child care) subsidies."

In a 2006 report by the Australian Institute, a respected Australian think-tank, researchers said poor food quality and cost-cutting have compromised quality even as ABC has amassed a fortune from public child care subsidies given to parents.

The report was based on a survey of employees at daycares across Australia . The report singled out ABC, saying that despite an estimated $172 million in government subsidies, the daycare giant fell short in most areas of quality care when compared to community based, non-profit centres.

The report said the chain did not always serve nutritious food (one staffer interviewed called the food "atrocious"); did not always provide enough quality toys and equipment (toys often have to be purchased from an ABC-owned company); and hired only the minimum number of staff required by law. It notes daycare teachers "are required to do all the cleaning themselves as well as care for the children."

The Star tried to interview Groves for this story but a spokesman declined. However, Groves recently told Forbes Asia that criticism of him was unfounded. His corporate website says ABC has "made high quality early childhood education programs available to all families. It's our love for all children that has ensured our tireless commitment to providing them with the best possible start."

Daycare leaders in Ontario are worried that Groves ' approach will harm an already beleaguered daycare system. A recent Star investigation showed lax Ontario government regulation; a shortage of public money for child care spaces; and a growing illegal daycare industry.

Ontario's Ministry of Children and Youth Services isn't rolling out the red carpet for big corporate daycare.

"We're not in favour of commercialized, big box child care," said ministry spokesperson Tricia Edgar.

"We don't have a mechanism outlawing them. But no capital grants will be provided to for-profit centres. We favour accessible, affordable, quality child care."

Groves' approach has its supporters in Ontario . The Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario sees nothing wrong with more commercial daycare. "Competition leads to excellence," says CEO Kathy Graham, whose group represents 600 centres, mostly for-profit. "It raises the bar ... Parents are very happy with a mixture of choices."

On the other side of the debate, experts say ABC could lead to the "Wal-Martization" of daycare in Canada , cause more for-profit centres to be opened at the expense of non-profits, and may kill any hope for a publicly funded non-profit system.

"This puts us in another realm " says Martha Friendly , a child care researcher in Toronto . "I don't believe anyone here has ever thought of child care as a huge, money-making corporate system that removes it from the community and parent level."

Andrea Calver, spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition For Better Child Care, agrees. "If more and more subsidies are controlled by a large, for-profit global company, it's going to be harder to reach our goal of a national program where there's a spot for every child," Calver said.

Groves, a Canadian expatriate, is one of Australia 's richest people – wealthier than Hollywood star Nicole Kidman – with a personal fortune of nearly $259 million.

The ABC chain generated operating profits of more than $70 million last year alone, up 149.9 per cent over the previous year.

In a few short years ABC has become one of the biggest child care providers in the U.S. and the U.K. in addition to Australia and New Zealand . Between 2004 and 2006, his centres have grown from about 23,000 child care spots to more than 112,000.

Canadian expansion plans are moving quickly, and quietly. Over the past four months, 123 Busy Beavers Learning Centres Inc., based in Oakville , have registered in Ontario , Alberta and B.C. The Canadian firm is a partner of 123 Global, an Australian firm that describes itself as ABC's "growth engine."
Letters asking daycare operators if they want to sell went out in September to centres in Toronto , Thunder Bay , Ottawa , Orillia and Sudbury .

The approach comes from Adroit Investments, a U.S. mergers and acquisitions firm contracted by 123 Busy Beavers. Leslie Wulf, the Texas-based Adroit manager who signed the letters, referred the Star's questions to 123 Busy Beavers executive Graeme Wilkie in Oakville . Wilkiedid not respond to a request for an interview.

On Becoming An Ally

Becoming an Ally seeks out the roots of racism, sexism, and all the other forms of oppression that divide us--in history, political/economic structures and our individual psychology. It suggests ways to change, particularly through becoming allies of oppressed peoples when we are in the role of oppressor.

Becoming an Ally is a search for the origins of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, and all the other forms of oppression that divide us. The book examines history, economic and political structures, and individual psychology looking for the roots of discrimination. It attempts to answer such questions as: Has oppression always been with us, part of "human nature"? What does individual healing have to do with social justice? What does social justice have to do with individual healing? Why do members of the same oppressed group fight one another, sometimes more viciously than they fight their oppressors? Why do some who experience oppression develop a life-long commitment to fighting oppression, while others turn around and oppress others? What can we do to change oppression? The book looks for solutions by examining the process through which we come to recognize ourselves, first as people who have experienced oppression, then as members of oppressor groups. In particular, it lays out guidelines for becoming allies of oppressed peoples when we are in the role of oppressor.

Six steps to becoming an ally
  1. Understanding oppression, how it came about, how it is held in place, and how it stamps its pattern on the individuals and institutions that continually recreate it;
  2. Understanding different oppressions, how they are similar, how they differ, how they reinforce one another;
  3. Consciousness and healing;
  4. Becoming a worker for your own liberation;
  5. Becoming an ally;
  6. Maintaining hope.

Persons Day - don't crack the champagne yet....

Canadian women have a history that needs to be acknowledged and celebrated, but don't crack the champagne quite yet.

"This is not a simple or short discussion," said Paulette Senior, chief executive officer of YWCA Canada and a keynote speaker at yesterday's Person's Day Breakfast in Kitchener.

The 7th annual event was held at the Transylvania Club by Zonta Club of Kitchener-Waterloo in recognition of the five Canadian women who challenged the legal definition of "person" under the British North America Act.

Senior applauded the bravery of the Famous Five, who had faced criticism and endless name-calling but would not be dissuaded.

Jamaican-born, Senior came to Canada at age 11, establishing herself as a social and community activist while in university. She holds an honours bachelor's degree in psychology and urban studies from York University and has a particular interest in the plight of immigrant women.
Senior noted there is an unsettling dichotomy in Canada where immigrants, regardless of skill level and education, have trouble find work.

"If we're not willing to employ them, why do we implore them to come?" she asked. "For women caught in this scenario, they're often working in menial jobs. We must make it easier for them to access meaningful employment equal to their skills."

It's difficult on offspring of immigrant parents, as well.

Senior recalls with clarity leaving behind, as a child, the comfort and security of all that she had known, whereas in Canada she was faced with racism and an education system too quick to slot her into a category.

"I had a bittersweet experience growing up in Toronto," she said. "Despite my high academic standing back home, I struggled (here). I was introduced to special education and by the time I finished high school, my self-esteem was shot."

She believes that, given these ego-deflating challenges, it's only by luck and determination that immigrants and their children succeed at all.

"(Immigrants) are not coming because they're poor and they want to get rich," she said. "I don't think that's it; it's about their families."

On the subject of politics, Senior said women must band together, offer each other support and stand for election, though it's a tough road and women need to develop a thick skin.

"I've had a couple of opportunities to run myself and there's nothing like it," she said, adding with a laugh "but it's almost as if you need to lose your mind for awhile."

When an audience member asked Senior about the funding changes to Status of Women Canada last fall, she responded by assuring everyone the YWCA will work harder to keep women's issues in the forefront -- though she cited a number of federally supported women's organizations that have either shut down or will run out of money soon.

Audience member Olga George-Cosh, of Focus on Ethnic Women in Waterloo, said that within her organization there are dozens of women helping other immigrant women, but they do so behind the scenes and without recognition.

"It doesn't just happen. . . . We have been busy," said George-Cosh. "But we have a long way to go."

Senior added, "Justice is not about just us, it's about standing up for all our sisters," she said, noting the system is the problem.

"It's our responsibility to support women," she concluded.

Busting stereotypes that peg feminists as men-haters

Busting stereotypes that peg feminists as men-haters, a new study shows that having a feminist partner is linked with healthier, more romantic heterosexual relationships.

The study, published online this week in the journal Sex Roles, relied on surveys of both college students and older adults, finding that women with egalitarian attitudes do find mates and men do find them attractive. In fact, results reveal they are having a good time, maybe a better time than the non-feminists.

Both men and women are prone to holding negative views of feminists, the authors say. Along with the sexually unattractive stereotype, some women also view feminism as a movement for victims, or for women who aren't competent enough to achieve success on their own merit, according to the Rutgers University researchers.

Psychologists Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan carried out a laboratory survey of 242 Rutgers undergraduates and conducted an online survey of 289 older adults who had an average age of 26 and typically had been in their current relationship about four years.

Older adults have more life experience "and thus may be more likely to show an incompatibility between feminism and romantic relationships," Rudman and Phelan write. While younger females likely grew up with the attitude that "women can have it all," the researchers note older women may have come of age in the era following U.S. women's suffrage (1919) or during the women's movement that emerged in the 1960s.

The researchers looked at people's perception of their own feminism, their partner's feminism and whether they had positive views of feminists and career women. Other survey measures included overall relationship quality, agreement about gender equality, relationship stability and sexual satisfaction.

For example, relationship quality was measured with questions such as: How often do you and your partner laugh together? And how often do you and your partner quarrel? For stability measures, participants answered how often they considered terminating the relationship, as well as how often they thought their romantic relationship had a good future.

Among the findings:

  • College-age women who reported having feminist male partners also reported higher quality relationships that were more stable than couples involving non-feminist male partners.

  • College guys who were themselves feminists and had feminist partners reported more equality in their relationships.

  • Older women who perceived their male partners as feminists reported greater relationship health and sexual satisfaction.

  • Older men with feminist partners said they had more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction.

Overall, feminism and romance do go hand in hand, the scientists say.
While they aren't sure how feminism works to enhance relationship health, the researchers have some ideas. Feminist men might be more supportive of their female partner's ambitions than are traditionalists. Men with feminist partners may enjoy the extra breadwinner to share the economic burden of maintaining a household.

Saturday, October 20

The mothers of Canadian equality

With wheat ready for threshing and bumblebees on the delphiniums, it was "a perfect day in harvest time," said Nellie McClung, recalling the afternoon she and four other women gathered on Emily Murphy's veranda in Edmonton to sign a petition.

The issue, destined for the Supreme Court of Canada, was whether women were "persons" under the British North America Act – then, in effect, our constitution – and eligible for appointment to the Canadian Senate.

It was the Roaring Twenties and the women were decidedly out-of-sync with Flappers and the intoxicating jazz era. Few could understand why the five, particularly Murphy, who craved a Senate seat, were so determined to win the right to serve in an institution that, even then, was considered outdated and badly in need of reform.

LINK: Toronto Star.

The mothers

Ardent prohibitionists, the five were also proponents of "maternal feminism," a progressive social movement that pressed for equality of the sexes but stressed the importance of family and believed that many of society's problems, including poverty, could be solved by applying a woman's perspective.

Three of them, McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby, were in their sixties. Murphy was in her late fifties.

The fifth, Henrietta Muir Edwards, was pushing 80. All had deep roots in suffragist campaigns that secured voting rights for women. Battling for entry to the Senate would be their last hurrah.

Emily Murphy a.k.a. “Janey Canuck”: Industrious, generous and at times outrageous, Murphy was born into a politically conservative family in Cookstown, north of Toronto. She took a therapeutic approach to her work as a criminal court judge, abolishing the prisoner’s dock in her courtroom and trying to create a more welcoming atmosphere for women and children. However, she was also a product of her times and held some ideas now considered xenophobic and repugnant, subscribing to the notion of sterilization for the mentally ill and linking the illicit drug trade to Chinese immigrants. Three children. Died 1933, age 65.

Nellie McClung: Born near Owen Sound, Ont., she was one of Canada’s best-known early feminists. Fought for birth control and minimum wage. Elected to Alberta Legislature as a Liberal in 1921. Married pharmacist. Five children. Died 1951, age 78.

Louise McKinney: Born Frankville, eastern Ontario. School teacher before winning seat as Alberta MPP in 1917, under pro-farmer Non Partisan League, becoming first female legislator in British Empire. Married fellow temperance advocate. One son. Died 1931, age 63.

Henrietta Muir Edwards: Born to prosperous Montreal family. Accomplished artist best known for miniature portraits. Helped found Victorian Order of Nurses. Moved west with doctor-husband, who worked on southern Alberta Indian reserves. Three children. Died 1931, age 82.

Irene Parlby: After genteel English upbringing, settled in Canada at 26 after meeting fellow Englishman on ranch holiday near Buffalo Lake, Alta. Loved gardening. Won seat for United Farmers of Alberta in 1921 election. Became second woman in British Empire to hold cabinet post. One son. Died 1965, age 97.

Friday, October 19

Donalda MacDonald receives Grace Hartman award

By her nominators, she is described as a great ambassador for P.E.I. and CUPE, a wonderful leader who is “constantly spreading her love of the union” to new members and locals, and a tireless mentor to young women.

Audio: Donalda MacDonald wins the Grace Hartman award

Donalda MacDonald, an activist for more than 25 years, is the recipient of this convention’s Grace Hartman award.

Created at the 1999 convention to celebrate the leadership role of CUPE national’s first woman president, the award honours activism in the struggle for workers’ rights, equality and social justice. MacDonald is CUPE P.E.I. president and on the national executive board.“There really is no power greater than the union,”

LINK: Women Make The Union Strong

Mental Health: Men, women sing blues in different keys

A new study that looks a depression in the workplace found that job stress and a lack of social support in the workplace were associated with major episodes of depression in men. For women, depression was linked to a lack of decision-making authority on the job and low levels of social support. The study used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey and provides a unique portrait of depression in the workplace because of the large sample size (over 24,000 people).

LINK: Job Factors, Work Environment Can Contribute to Depression, (1 page, HTML );

“Mental Health: Men, women sing blues in different keys; Study cites differing links to depression,” by Wallace Immen, Globe and Mail, October 10, 2007.

Thursday, October 18

Homelessness on the home front - UN investigates Canadian housing

Miloon Kothari, the United Nation's special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, arrived in Montreal last Oct. 9 to embark on an 11-day official fact-finding mission to assess how well Canada fares with regards to housing and caring for the nation's most vulnerable. Kothari has selected four specific themes for his special cross-country mission: women and housing; aboriginal people and housing; homelessness; and the social impact of the Vancouver Olympics.

Kothari's Quebec visit consisted of touring various homeless shelters, including the Old Brewery Mission, and a special trip to Kahnawake to meet with Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, along with three other chiefs representing the Atikamek, Innu and Algonquin communities.

Says Picard, the demand for housing varies from one community to the next. "Just about any community has a waiting list of people wanting to build on reserves, but the demand is far too great for councils to meet it. We probably would need to build 7,500 homes tomorrow in order to be comparable to the rates that overall Quebec residents enjoy as a province, which is a ratio of about two people per home. For the aboriginal communities, it's more like four or five per home."

According to Picard, on-reserve housing is a federal issue, and while the federal government just earmarked $300-million for aboriginal housing this past spring, the housing in question is "market housing" and geared at those who can afford to buy homes. Says Picard, "At least 75 to 80 per cent of our people depend very much on social assistance, so they can't afford those types of homes. It's strictly for market housing as opposed to social housing."

Kothari will be presenting his findings in Ottawa on Oct. 22 after touring Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and various native reserves across Canada.

LINK: The Hour

Stolen Sisters documentary

Three years ago, Amnesty International produced a report that contained a shocking finding - that aboriginal women are five times more likely to die a violent death than any other ethnic group.

The report, titled Stolen Sisters, estimated 500 aboriginal women have gone missing or were murdered over the last 20 years. The report charged that high level of violence faced by aboriginal women has been largely met with indifference because of racism within Canada.

A new documentary, Stolen Sisters, will explore the issue when it airs Saturday at 10 p.m. on Global TV as part of the Global Currents series hosted by Kevin Newman.

Directed and produced by Saskatoon-based AntonioHrynchuk, "Stolen Sisters" investigates the increasing number of missing andmurdered Aboriginal women in Canada - as many as 500 women in the last 20 years. Based on a report of the same name issued by Amnesty International, indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely to die as a result of violence than women of any other ethnicity. This documentary follows the trials and tribulations of Aboriginal families trying to find their missing loved ones, and the rising tensions that exist between law enforcement and Aboriginal communities.

Some groups are being left behind....

The House of Commons had a number of unfinished issues that were relegated to the back burner when Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided last month to short-circuit the past session of Parliament.

One of these was the review of the Employment Equity Act. It seeks to ensure that the federal government, federal Crown corporations, and federally regulated firms with 100 or more workers provide equal employment opportunities to four designated groups: women, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities. It doesn't set hiring quotas.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission administers the Employment Equity Act and conducts regular audits of how it is being implemented. Citing the latest available data in a report last spring, the commission documented that in 2005, persons with disabilities and aboriginal people "benefited the least from employment equity initiatives" in the private sector. It noted that while the share of jobs held by Natives increased from 1.3 percent in 1997 to 1.8 percent in 2005, it was "well below" the 2.6-percent availability of aboriginal people
Full Story : Georgia Straight

Gender equality: Hierarchy of rights or separating state and faith?

Annie Lessard (a Montreal human rights activist) writes in The Suburban:

The Quebec Council on the Status of Women (CSF) has called for gender equality without compromise to any demands based on freedom of religion. The Montreal Multicultural Women’s Coalition denounced this position, seeing no less than a “frontal attack” against Quebec’s ethnic minorities.

It is not the CSF that should be denounced, but the rhetoric of cultural relativism that sees in the primacy of gender equality an attack against the culture or religious beliefs of minorities.

There are some, particularly those representing the coalition, who denounced the recent advisory report of the CSF entitled “The Right to equality between women and men and freedom of religions.” The CSF recommended adding to the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms a provision clearly stating that equality between men and women can not be compromised in the name of freedom of religion. The advice of the CSF also contains the following recommendations:
  • That government officials (including teachers) cannot display ostentatious religious signs while at work;
  • That the Education Act provides that education policies should emphasize the values of equality between men and women and that these values should not be set aside based on religious or cultural considerations.

Critics of the CSF assert that this is a “hierarchy of rights”, relegating religious freedom to second-tier status, contrary to international law and the Canadian constitution. As for the “hierarchy of rights”, they create a red herring. The international law of human rights establishes an undeniable hierarchy of rights. There are many conventions whose purpose is precisely to fight against the exploitation of women and girls by religious and cultural creeds. As for the Canadian Charter of Rights, it contains a specific provision guaranteeing equality between men and women. This provision is in addition to the provision prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender. This additional provision (section 28) reflects a Canadian value that is so fundamental that it takes precedence over all other provisions of the Canadian Charter, including those guaranteeing freedom of religion and the promotion of Canadian multiculturalism. Section 28 was added to the Canadian Charter in 1982 at the insistence of women’s groups who were concerned that the new constitutional provision on the promotion of our multicultural heritage should not be used as a legal justification for the unequal treatment of women. Furthermore, section 28 is shielded from the “notwithstanding clause”. No province or the federal government may derogate from it.

Many critics of the CSF position are representative of those cultural relativists and multiculturalists who see in our conception of human rights and secularism an ideological instrument of the West promoting an ethnocentric, neo-colonialist and racist vision of society.

The reality is that a State which promotes gender equality must be consistent in its practices and representations. The veiled teacher promoting the values of equality between women and men poses, both at a symbolic and educational level, a conflict of representations. The underlying message, hidden under the Islamic headscarf, is that of women seen as vile and polluted beings taking moral responsibility for keeping men’s purity in check. We cannot, under the guise of respect for cultural differences and religious beliefs, legitimize inequality and endorse, at the symbolic level, archaic representations of women. For our institutions to accommodate, in the name of multiculturalism, the paradigm of subordination of girls and women or archetypal representations of women as seductive temptresses is tantamount to State-endorsed racism.

The Montreal Multicultural Women’s Coalition may choose to see, in the position of the CSF, a manifestation of the “tyranny of the majority”. But in fact, the ultimate challenge is the protection of our freedoms from the “triumph of the mediocre”

Wednesday, October 17

The 80th anniversary of the Persons Case

John F. Kennedy once noted that "Things do not happen. They are made to happen."

This week in Canada, we celebrate a classic example of that truth: The Persons Case.

Eight decades ago, five feminist activists from Alberta appealed a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that women were not persons under the law. On Oct. 18, 1929, England's Privy Council overturned the decision.

The Canadian government didn't easily decide to declare women persons, grant us the vote, or bring in laws to prevent employers from firing us once we got married.

Women themselves made those equality gains happen, just as they continue to today: Sacrificing time and income to make sexual assault and divorce laws fairer, to improve the matrimonial rights of aboriginal women, to secure maternity benefits and fair pay.

In the '60s, women fought to ensure we'd have legal access to birth control. In the '80s we fought to make it a criminal offense for a man to rape his wife. And, as recently as 2005, we fought to prevent the use of sharia law in this country.

Here are just a few of the changes that I and many other women believe are necessary for Canada to truly deserve its reputation:

  • We'd like the words of our national anthem to include us. We'd like daughters to be as cherished as sons, and raised as if they might one day fly to the moon or run the country
  • We'd like it to be unthinkable for a lingerie company to promote thong underwear and push-up bras to seven-year-olds.
  • And we'd like the news coverage of violence against women to challenge, not perpetuate, rape myths.
  • We dream about a time when women can "take back the night" the other 364 days a year.
  • When we have more chance of winning the lottery than being murdered by our spouse.
  • When the conviction rate for sexual assault is high enough to deter men from pretending that "no" means "knock her unconscious first."
  • We'd like the picture of Canadian power to look more like us, in all our diversity. For women to be equally represented in Parliament, not lagging behind Rwanda and Iraq with only with 21 per cent of MPs.
  • We believe that if women were actively recruited, supported, and allowed to run in ridings where they had a genuine chance of winning, then maybe our governments would get tough on the roots of social problems, not on the symptoms of crime.
  • Certainly the degree to which our collective economic future depends on women's willingness to sacrifice their physical and economic health to create future taxpayers would be clearer. The indispensability of a national child-care program would be a given, and fewer children would suffer from the constraints of poverty.

These changes would continue the tradition that the Famous Five began. And they would benefit all Canadians. Studies from around the world make it clear that economic prosperity follows social equality.
When women are educated, given genuine choice around child rearing and employment, treated with respect, paid fairly and protected from violence, the entire society benefits.
We all have a vested interest in making it happen.
Media critic and author Shari Graydon will receive a Persons Case award this week for her advocacy work as president of MediaWatch and the Women's Future Fund.
LINK: Vancouver Sun

Why abused women stay

Anyone who has ever wondered why abused women don't just leave their partners should talk to abused women in rural areas.

Deborah Doherty and Jennie Hornosty of Fredericton have done just that. Their study, funded by the Canada Firearms Centre, looked at the experiences of rural abused women.

Their research would be of great interest to New Brunswick even if it had been conducted in another part of Canada, but it was done mostly with New Brunswick women. With half of us living in non-urban areas, and with New Brunswick having such a high rate of gun-related deaths and spousal murder-suicides, we should be paying attention to their results and recommendations.

New study reports that rural abusers threaten their spouses with firearms and with threats or actual harm to animals.

Fortunately the two researchers have embarked on a short tour of the province — soon in Caraquet, Cambpellton and Woodstock — to let rural New Brunswick know about their findings.

We can imagine some of the problems particular to living in a rural area: isolation, poverty and transportation. Many abused women also mentioned police response times — one said when you see two police cars going in one direction in a rural community, you know you can do anything you want in the other direction.

Many also talked about how traditional values, strong in some rural areas, mean that women are supposed to be submissive and that reporting abuse would stigmatize them and their families.

And then there are the guns and animals, both frequently present in rural areas, and, the researchers found, both used as instruments of control, intimidation, and abuse in family violence situations.

Even crisis and victim service workers who participated in the study were amazed at the responses of abused women when asked about the use of firearms and threats to animals. The workers later strongly recommended that these questions become standard on risk assessment and in-take forms.

Almost half of the abused women said that their partner had threatened to harm animals as a means of controlling her. "He would threaten to kill the dog, and describe the dog's death very violently, it was really graphic." Most said their partner had actually harmed or killed an animal. It was common for the women to delay seeking help out of fear for their animals, and because there is no safe haven for these animals.

One woman who owned horses explained that when her partner's abusive behaviour towards her became intolerable, she would end up staying or going back because she had to feed the horses. "Where can you go with a horse or chickens or sheep?" she asked rhetorically.

In homes where firearms were present, two-thirds of the women said knowing about the firearms made them more fearful for their safety. Most of the women said it affected their decision to ask for help, especially if the firearms were not licensed, registered or locked. Indeed, even some family, neighbours and service providers who witness abuse were made too scared to call the police by the knowledge that firearms were present.

Some spoke of actual assaults with a gun, including rape with a gun to their head. But threats can be subtly effective in the context, as is the fact that a gun is always loaded, or always on top of the fridge. As one focus group participant said, "All he has to do is look over at the bed and she knows there is rifle underneath and that she had better do what he says."

In a province with a "hunting" or "gun culture", there can be a cavalier attitude to firearms, to their storage and to their potential lethality even where there is family violence and other problems.

Incredibly, the study found that unless a domestic violence incident specifically involved a firearm, police don't usually search for and seize the firearms in a home where they have answered a call. Some rural abused women said they do not trust that their problem will be taken seriously if they disclose the abuse. Others said that when they do disclose firearms misuse to service providers, often there is no follow-up.

Some did not dare tell police or others about the guns in the home because they were not sure the guns would be taken away. If they were, she was in for a beating, and if they weren't, it could get even worse.

Some women were frightened of calling the police because so many rural people have scanners to listen to police calls. Given perceived police response times, it's not just the shame of their neighbours knowing their business, it's the fear that a neighbour will tell the abuser. Some imagined that if police came to take away his guns, it would end in a standoff.

Dr Doherty and Dr Hornosty heard heart-wrenching stories of women who stayed out of fear for their lives. They heard over and over that if she tried to leave, he had said he would shoot and bury her and no one would ever know or even hear the shot, given where they lived. Some women stayed because their children were so attached to the animals that were being threatened.

Women who eventually left said that some interveners told them they were stupid for having hesitated because of animals. When you are being terrorized and trying to react sanely to an insane situation, you don't need "helpers" to tell you that you are stupid. Even people who understand about women and kids can lack concern about pets, or don't believe anybody would hurt an animal.

Add mental health problems and drugs including alcohol to the situations above, and you can imagine the paralyzing fear that women live with on some farms and rural homes in the province. We have much to do to reach out to them.

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 e-mail at the eddress beloq.

Related addresses:
eMail 1:

Fighting Harper with a dose of his own medicine

Given a political foe that plays to the limit of the law, women’s advocates can adopt the same approach.

Tom Flanagan, one of Stephen Harper’s closest advisors and three-time national campaign manager, is currently doing publicity for his new “insider’s” book on Harper’s government and rise to power.

If equality-seeking groups are paying any attention to Flanagan, it is unlikely they are doing so for political advice. Yet recently Flanagan, on CBC Radio’s The House, provided such groups, including progressive women’s organizations, with some of the most useful insights on how to advance an equality agenda and a women’s agenda under the Harper government.

Flanagan calls funding cuts to Status of Women Canada and the elimination of the Court Challenges Program a “nice step,” asserting without equivocation that Conservatives will “defund” all equality-seeking groups – with feminists at the top of the list.

He goes further, clarifying that Conservatives also plan to choke-off these groups’ supposedly privileged access to government by, for example, denying “meetings with ministers.” But for strategic reasons, Flanagan notes, this will all happen incrementally. To avoid the perception of mean-spirited retribution, he says, “incrementalism is the way to go.”

Tuesday, October 16

Throne Speech slams the door on National Child Care Program

It is news to Canadian families that Stephen Harper’s government has delivered on child care, say child care advocates responding to tonight’s Throne Speech.

“Any parent knows that a $100 monthly voucher doesn’t create child care and without child care there is no choice,” says Morna Ballantyne of the advocacy group Code Blue for Child Care.

“Harper’s claim is particularly misleading given that the Tories have not delivered a single one of the 125,000 child care spaces they promised.”

The Throne Speech signals the Tories’ intention to strip Government of the legislative and financial leavers to protect and expand social programs. “Redirected to child care the proposed 1% cut to the GST would provide every child in Canada between 3 and 6 with a full time child care space,” said Ballantyne.

“Harper’s plan to legislate limits to the federal spending power demonstrates his continued hostility to social programs; a hostility he championed as head of the National Citizen’s Coalition and demonstrated when in his first act as Prime Minister he cancelled the child care plan negotiated with the provinces,” said Ballantyne. “The federal spending power is the

Constitutional mechanism that gave us Medicare. It is the only tool the Government of Canada has to launch a pan-Canadian child care program.”

The Tories are misusing Quebecers’ desire to control their own social institutions to cover their actions, says Jody Dallaire, Chairperson of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada. “But Parliament has all the practical tools it requires to both protect and expand social programs while respecting Quebec’s distinct status.”

Bill C-303, The Early Learning and Child Care Act, scheduled before Parliament this session does just that. It places conditions on provinces and territories that receive federal funding for child care but it also explicitly recognizes Quebec’s right to set its own standards. “Quebec’s needs can be addressed without imposing on all Canadians a measure that makes sense only for Quebec,” says Dallaire.

Ottawa last used its spending power for child care in 2005 when the then Liberal government signed bi-lateral agreements with the provinces on condition they report regularly and direct the money to regulated child care services. “Ottawa’s ability to set conditions on the funding it makes available for social programs ensures that Canadians from coast to coast to coast enjoy the same fundamental social rights,” said Dallaire.

For more comment contact:Morna Ballantyne, Co-ordinator, Code Blue for Child Care: 613-791-3411Sue Colley, Code Blue for Child Care: 416 538 1950/ cell: 647 224 4006Jody Dallaire, Chairperson, Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada: 506-878-8666Susan Harney, Vice-Chairperson, Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada: 604-888-8786
Click on the link below for a copy of the Media Release:
Code Blue for Child Care Throne Speech Response

Persons Day -- Thursday October 18th

The Ottawa Council of Women will hold a gathering at the Persons Monument on Parliament Hill to mark Persons Day on Thursday October 18th at 12 noon. All are welcome. Come out and show your solidarity with Equality Seeking Women's Organizations. Women's equality issues persist in Canada and the demand for sustained advocacy has never been greater. The Famous Five were determined. We must follow their example and support the aims and objectives of those who seek equality for women.

Bring your personal tea cup - tea will be served - and toast all of those Canadian women who have made history as advocates for women's equality with a cup'a.

The Famous Five or The Valiant Five were five Canadian women who, in 1927 asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question, "Are women persons?" in the case Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General). Canada's Supreme Court essentially said in a unanimous decision - no they were not "qualified persons" - but this was overturned by the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The case came to be known as the Persons Case.

The women, all of whom were from Alberta, were: