Conservative Government Trying to Silence Women’s Groups

In September 2006, NAWL was forced to shut its doors for one month because of delays in the approval of our Status of Women Canada funding application. On September 22, we were greatly relieved when the Honourable Bev Oda, Minister responsible for the Status of Women, confirmed that we would receive funding, albeit for only twelve months.

However, on September 25 the government announced a 5 million dollar cut to the budget of Status of Women Canada (SWC). This cut will not directly affect the Women’s Program, which funds NAWL and other women’s groups. But it will drastically reduce SWC’s capacity to sponsor independent research, to ensure that other ministries take into account the impact of their policies on women and to report to the United Nations on Canada’s international commitments to women.

On October 2, NAWL, FAFIA and other national and provincial groups held a press conference in Saint-John, New-Brunswick. We asked Ministers on the Status of Women from across the country to speak out against this budget cut. A joint statement was presented to the Ministers, and we trust that several ministers will engage the federal Government on this issue. On this occasion, NAWL had prepared the following press release. On October 2, women’s groups were also informed that the Women’s Program was officially renewed on September 27 for a five years term. However, the government has drastically changed its mandate. SWC will no longer be funding advocacy and lobbying. NAWL and other equality-seeking groups met with Minister Oda on October 3, to convey our profound disappointment with this new policy. A press release was issued on October 4.

A month-long campaign leading up to December 10th, International Human Rights Day and the 25th anniversary of Canada’s ratification of the UN Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), took on a new urgency following the announcement that the government was further restricting the work of women’s groups by closing 12 out of the 16 Status of Women offices across the country.

On December 1, NAWL wrote to the Prime Minister Harper to call him to actively pursue the progressive realization of women’s human rights. On December 6, NAWL did a presentation to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women regarding the regressive changes to the Women’s Programme. OnDecember 10, the Coalition for Women's Equality organized a Rally and March for women’s rights, for equality, for access to government and the courts in Ottawa. At the National Press Club, NAWL and Coalition partners released the December 10th Statement for Women's Equality and Human Rights signed by several hundreds of local, provincial and national organizations, and sent a strong message to Harper: reverse the cuts, uphold equality rights.