As the world prepares to mark International Women’s Day tomorrow, March 8, the Green Party is celebrating the valuable role of women in Canadian society. It also notes their worsening status and living conditions under the Harper Conservatives.
“Canadian women in a wide variety of roles, jobs, and lifestyles across the country deserve to be recognized for their courage, determination, and sacrifices,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands.
The list of changes affecting women negatively since the Harper Conservatives came into power in 2006 includes:
- In 2006, Stephen Harper’s first policy announcement as prime minister was to cut Canada’s year-old, $5-billion national child-care plan, supported by all provincial governments, despite protests from child-care advocates and the provinces.
- In 2006, Status of Women Canada (SWC) funding was temporarily cut by $5 million, forcing the closure of 12 of its 16 regional offices; changing the SWC Women’s Program mandate to exclude “gender equality and political justice;” redrafting funding criteria so that advocacy groups and women’s service providers, such as rape crisis centres, are ineligible for funding.
- In 2007, offices for the National Association of Women and the Law, a well-respected organization that had made valuable contributions to improving women’s human rights in Canada, were closed. Funding was also eliminated for other women’s organizations like the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW).
- In 2009, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act allowed public sector employers to consider “market demand” when setting compensation levels – preserving the policy of paying men more than women for equal work
- In 2010-2011, Status of Women Canada spent just over $10 million on violence against women – an inadequate response to a serious problem which directly affects an estimated one in six Canadians and costs the economy nearly $7 billion dollars a year in missed work, medical, policing, and justice expenses. Advocates have called on the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to develop a national strategy and action plan to combat violence against women.
- The challenges facing First Nations women are particularly worrying. Sisters in Spirit, supported by the Green Party and others, have demanded an open, public inquiry into the alarmingly high rates of murdered and missing aboriginal women – without success.
“Not only have key programs and organizations been cut or eliminated in recent years, but there has been little or no progress in reducing violence against women and girls across Canada,” said Rebecca Harrison, Green Party Women’s Issues Critic. “There have been few initiatives to deal with other issues facing women, including poverty, poor health, inadequate housing, and too few full-time jobs.”
In its October, 2012, gender gap ranking, the World Economic Forum revealed that Canada had slipped three spots compared to 135 other countries in terms of gender equality. In fact, we have dropped from the world’s Top 20 countries mainly because of low female representation in politics. Canada is now 21st – behind the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and Nicaragua.
“As we celebrate the women of today, we should also confront the fact that, with cuts to Old Age Security and Employment Insurance, for example, women of the future will know even greater insecurity,” said May. “Our best gift to them is to fight to protect and restore our social programs and create a more egalitarian society.”
Note: Our media advisory for Ms. May’s International Women’s Day event in Vancouver.