Tuesday, December 11

Women's organizations denounce the Harper government, call for a national leaders' debate on equality issues

On Human Rights Day, women's groups fromacross Canada once again stand united to strongly condemn the Harpergovernment's track record on women's equality and human rights in Canada andto call for a national leaders' debate prior to the next federal election.

One year ago today, thousands of women, men and children rallied acrossthe country to protest the sweeping cuts and changes made by "Canada's NewGovernment" to Status of Women Canada and to other programs. "Abolishing thepan-Canadian child care agreements, refusing to act on proactive pay equitylegislation and eliminating the Court Challenges Program clearly demonstratesthis government's repressive attitude towards women," said Paulette Senior ofYWCA Canada.

Many women's groups have been forced to close their doors or scale backcrucial services and projects since they no longer qualify under the newStatus of Women Canada funding criteria. Their research and advocacy workdisqualifies them from the SWC Women's program.

The Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights is calling fora national leaders' debate prior to the next election on key issues ofimportance to women's equality. The Coalition includes representatives fromnational, provincial and grassroots equality-seeking organizations. Hundredsof groups and individuals signed the Statement for the December 10th Campaignfor Women's Equality and Human Rights organized by the Coalition, which callsupon Stephen Harper to respect his own election promises.

A national leaders' debate on women's equality would also assist with theupcoming United Nations' review of Canada's performance under the Conventionon the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Before the 2006election, all the leaders of the major political parties, includingMr. Harper, signed a pledge to uphold Canada's CEDAW commitment to women'sequality.

The Coalition is conducting an ongoing survey of how the changes broughtto Status of Women Canada are hurting women's groups. "Action needs to beinformed by research and analysis," said Senior. "And action on women'sequality doesn't tend to happen without advocacy from women's groups. How dowe eliminate discrimination without research to show the impact ofdiscriminatory policies on women and advocacy to change bad decisions?"

Stephen Harper's recent rhetoric on the 18th anniversary of the MontrealMassacre further angered Coalition representatives. "This is the perfectexample of how this government is out of touch with the reality for women.

Funding may have been boosted for Status of Women, but fewer groups qualify"said Amanda Aziz of the Canadian Federation of Students in response toHarper's claim that his government addresses violence against women. 14 Statusof Women regional offices closed in the spring of 2007, making it moredifficult for women's groups to access services in their communities.According to the preliminary survey results, frontline women's shelters,crisis centres and transition houses have been hit especially hard byConservative government policies.

"This government's track record on policies that will ensure realequality for women is abysmal" says Lise Martin of CRIAW. "Women in Canadadeserve more than empty and broken promises. We demand to know what will bedone by our political leaders to make equality a reality, not just a slogan."


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