The National Council of Women of Canada
For Immediate Release
October 6, 2006
National Council of Women of Canada
Is this how Stephen Harper honors his signature on the CEDAW Pledge?
Cutting 5 million dollars from Status of Women Canada’s operating budget of 13 million gives women cause for grave concern about the Canadian government’s commitment to their equality. Does the government intend to dismantle the one department dedicated to the advancement of women’s equality in Canada? This decision was made without consultation or debate.
Abolishing the national childcare program, and failing to support the adoption of pay equity legislation are further examples of arbitrary decisions taken without consultation with those most affected by these actions.
CEDAW, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, is the Human Rights Treaty for Women. Does this government not understand that it is bound by treaty obligations and that it must use properly debated legislation, passed by a majority of the elected members in order to rescind Canada’s ratification?
The elimination of the Court Challenges Program effectively silences marginalized Canadians. Treasury Board president John Baird stated recently that it “did not make sense for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government’s own laws in court”. Women continue to make up a disproportionate number of those marginalized Canadians.
The Court Challenges Program enabled those citizens without resources, who believed that their rights had been legally infringed to challenge the law both federally and provincially. In 2004 – 2005, the program handled 56 equality rights applications and 26 language-related cases that otherwise would never have been presented.
How will the government ensure that these citizens’ rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are protected, if the only viable recourse open to them has been eliminated?
The elimination of the Volunteer Canada Initiative will directly affect volunteer organizations. More than 12 million Canadians, the majority of whom are women, provide 2 billion hours of volunteer work annually.
The administrative advice, expert information and training courses available to small but important volunteer-staffed community initiatives has enabled many first-response services for the disadvantaged and desperate to be established. This agency was a key resource for all volunteer-dependant service organizations, like shelters. More to the
point, Volunteer Canada made it possible for these organizations to purchase necessary insurance without which it is almost impossible to attract the key volunteer officers they need. All charities must comply with government regulations and insurance is just one part of that responsibility.
This decision is an attack on the public spirit which built Canada, including Canada’s political parties. This was considered a non-core program that “does not meet the priorities of the federal government or Canadians”.
How can the work of 12 million Canadians not be necessary or worthy of support? Will this government now fund first response services?
Cutting services to immigrants and adult literacy programs in the department of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSDC) will hurt new citizens, in particular women who often have difficulty accessing the support systems that will enable them to become part of the paid work force.
This was another arbitrary decision taken in spite of requests from organizations to discuss the programs that immigrant and visible minority women, including Aboriginal women, need. It is shameful that a government with a huge surplus in revenues would act, ostensibly to “cut the fat” to deny these women the assistance they need.
Does the Harper Government see any such expense, which would in the end enable these women to become tax-paying citizens, as just waste?
These cuts were done with out consultation or debate. The long-term effects of will prove to be detrimental for the advancement of equality for women as well as other marginalized citizens. We ask for a moratorium on any further budget cuts. These programs should have their funding reinstated.
Consultation with stakeholders such as women’s equality-seeking groups has traditionally preceded major policy changes. This departure from a democratic and transparent process is not only deplorable; it is unconscionable.
For more information contact:
National Council of Women of Canada