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For over 100 years International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8 in recognition of the global struggles and achievements of women. Unfortunately, the prevailing political climate and concerted attacks on the public sector are putting gains in women’s equality at risk. 

The Harper government’s anti-equality agenda

The 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is currently underway in New York. Government and civil society representatives are there discussing ways to move forward on women’s equality.

Sadly, Canada’s Conservative government continues to misrepresent the situation for women in Canada. The Minister’s statement to the General Assembly ignored the reality of many women’s lives in Canada, like pay inequity, the absence of a national child care program, and the appalling rates of violence against women, particularly Aboriginal women and girls.

The upcoming federal budget’s potentially adverse impact on women

The Conservatives are expected to implement massive cuts to the public sector in the budget. These cuts would negatively affect women in terms of the services they can access and also likely eliminate thousands of jobs held by women. Worse still, these cuts would have their greatest impact on women and other marginalized groups, and come at a time when inequality in Canada is already growing quickly.

Canada needs to live up to its human rights commitment and actually invest in women’s equality, not move backwards.

The fight for a public child care program and against privatization

CUPE and our partner advocates have long opposed privatization in child care. Yet, research shows that for-profit child care is on the rise. CUPE is engaged in an ongoing campaign to promote public delivery and public funding for child care across the country. It is essential to parental employment, necessary to reduce poverty, vital in integrating newcomers to Canada, and critical to women’s equality.

In their official letter to CUPE organizations marking International Women’s Day, CUPE National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury highlighted some actions CUPE members and locals can take to mark the date:

  • Get involved in the campaigns against public sector cutbacks and privatization, at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. Concerted political action is critical to try to stop the impending attacks on our rights, which will worsen the inequality gap.
  • Work with your local to bargain women’s rights protection into your collective agreement. Everything from ensuring that part-time workers join the pension plan to negotiating pay equity, to stopping privatization and protecting full-time jobs can improve our sisters’ rights in the workplace.
  • Keep up the pressure to establish a National Child Care Plan and to improve Canada’s public pension plan by participating in CUPE and CLC campaigns on these issues which are critical to women’s equality.
  • Actively support the call by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) for the United Nations to investigate the failure of the Government of Canada to take action to deal with violence against Aboriginal women and girls. CUPE supports the UN Inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
  • Participate in your community or local’s International Women’s Day events.

Join us in the fight to ensure that our CUPE sisters and all women enjoy equal rights, freedoms and opportunities.