Women Send Strong Message to Harper: Reverse the Cuts, Uphold Equality Rights

OTTAWA – Hundreds of concerned individuals, community and women’s groups will be demonstrating in Ottawa today to call upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reverse a series of decisions that will harm women’s equality rights.

Before the demonstration, representatives from leading women’s, human rights and labour organizations, including the National Association of Women and the Law, Amnesty International, la Fédération des femmes du Québec, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Québec based CSN (Confédération des syndicats nationaux) will hold a press conference at the National Press Club to release a declaration signed by over 430 organizations. The declaration condemns Prime Minister Harper for failing to live up to his election promise to “take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations, to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women in Canada.”

The declaration has also been signed by Belinda Stronach, Chair of the Liberal Party’s Women’s Caucus, Maria Mourani, Status of Women critic for the Bloc Québécois, and all sitting Members of the federal New Democratic Party.

“Not only is the Prime Minister reneging on his election promise, but his government is taking actions that are setting back the status of women in this country,” says Andrée Côté, spokesperson for the ad hoc equality-seeking coalition.

The coalition will also release letters of support from six women Nobel Peace Laureates (Betty Williams, Maired Corrigan, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Mathai) and women’s organizations in 18 countries, including France, Chili, Denmark, and the United States, expressing concern over the federal government’s recent moves to undermine women’s equality in Canada.

“As international advocates for women’s rights, we have relied on the Canadian government’s leadership…. It is the apparent roll-back of this leadership through recent decisions by your government that we find very disturbing,” writes the Laureates in a letter to Stephen Harper.

Today, December 10th, marks the 25th anniversary of Canada’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The United Nations Committee responsible for reviewing Canada’s performance under this treaty has repeatedly recommended that Ottawa address fundamental issues regarding Aboriginal women, violence against women, the rights of immigrant women and the unacceptable level poverty of Canadian women and their children.

“Instead of taking concrete actions to show that the government is adhering to its international human rights commitments, it has taken decisions that will very negatively impact on women’s equality” states Shelagh Day of the Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).

These include closures of more than half of the Status of Women Canada regional offices, changes to the funding criteria for women’s groups and the removal of the word “equality” from its objectives, the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program, the refusal to adopt proactive pay equity legislation and the cancellation the funding for the Canada-wide child care program.

“It is critical that women’s human rights organizations are provided with sufficient resources to advocate and lobby for change regarding programs, policies and laws that can have a discriminatory impact on women. These recent funding restrictions will substantially undermine the ability of many organizations to do so,” notes Cheryl Hotchkiss, of Amnesty International Canada.

“This government is trying is to silence the groups who defend women’s equality rights. This is simply not acceptable,” underscores Paulette Senior, CEO from YWCA.

Groups and concerned individuals from Ottawa, Montréal and Toronto are gathering in front of the Supreme Court at 1:30 p.m. in Ottawa and will march to Parliament Hill to urge the federal government to reverse course, and instead provide leadership on upholding women’s equality rights.

Press Conference:
Sunday, December 10th at 12 noon
National Press Club
Nellie McClung Library – Second floor
165 Sparks Street, Ottawa

Media contact: Nancy Peckford: (613) 232-9505, ext. 222 or (613) 292-7941 (cell), or Jackie Steele at 613-261-9649

Members of the ad hoc coalition include:

  • Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes,
  • Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne,
  • Canadian Council of Muslim Women,
  • Canadian Federation of University Women,
  • Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action,
  • Canadian Labour Congress,
  • Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women,
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees,
  • Canadian Women’s Community Economic Development Council,
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation,
  • Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada,
  • Fédération des femmes du Québec,
  • National Association of Women and the Law,
  • National Council of Women of Canada,
  • New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women,
  • Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses,
  • Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women,
  • Newfoundland and Labrador,
  • Public Service Alliance of Canada,
  • Regroupement provincial des maisons d’hébergement et de transition pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale,
  • Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada,
  • Womenspace
  • YWCA Canada

Related pages:
> Tune In to the DEC. 10th RALLY / MARCH
> December demonstrations: Women Mobilizing Across Canada for Equality Rights, Dec. 7, 2006