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The annual BC Federation of Labour International Women’s Day breakfast held special meaning this year as union women marked the 100th anniversary of IWD. CUPE BC had a table at the event.

Hosted by Irene Lanzinger, secretary-treasurer of the BC Fed, the morning was kicked off by interim leader of the BC NDP Dawn Black. She took a moment to thank outgoing leader Carole James for her contributions and to acknowledge her as the party’s first elected female leader in B.C.

Black reminded us that we still have far to go to achieve true equality. “Sadly here in B.C., in so many ways, we’ve turned back the clock when it comes to the government’s role. Women – and especially immigrant women - are disproportionately employed in minimum wage paying jobs with poor working conditions,” said Black.

Farm workers still don’t have the rights enjoyed by other workers under BC’s Employments Standards Act. And when it comes to addressing domestic violence, this government’s record is just shameful. Upon taking office, the BC Liberals eliminated the zero tolerance policy against domestic violence and they eradicated the ministry of women’s equality while cutting funds for crucial programs. Today in B.C., we’re seeing the tragic consequences of those missteps.”

Black’s message that it’s time to undo the damage, was strongly echoed by Shelagh Day who gave a quick tour of how the Harper federal government has both cut programs and spent money in ways that do not take women’s lives and needs into account.

Day urged us to fight for a different vision. “Spending money on corporate tax cuts, fighter jets and jail cells, while ignoring the real inequality in our country is not what women need.  A commitment to women’s human rights and women’s security provide an entirely different vision.” 

HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy came with props and told an entertaining and moving story of the cross country tour that she and a number of women activists made in the 1970s to fight for access to safe choice on abortion. The tour culminated with women chaining themselves to the chairs in the visitors’ gallery of the Canadian Parliament – the first time that this had ever happened. 

Those interested in seeing more can link to the CBC documentary “The women are coming”.

The morning ended with Agasel Lindawan a CEP activist who brought the perspective of a younger trade unionist. She acknowledged the work of those who have come before and expressed a welcome and fresh view full of hope and energy for the future.