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Canadians mourn loss of equality rights this IWD

International Women’s Day  should be a celebration.  Unfortunately this year, Canadians – and Canadian Women in particular – have much to mourn when it comes to human rights in Canada.  

Claude and I join the 560,000 CUPE members and others in calling on Stephen Harper to live up to his promise of January 2006 to “support women’s human rights..,” and to “meet [Canada’s] International obligations to women’s equality.”

CUPE members and all Canadians are only too aware of the travesty to justice that Stephen Harper and his Conservative federal government have brought about in all areas of women’s programming. The programs this government has cut had either been supported by former Canadian governments or were on the road to seeing major improvements in both programming and funding support. The election of the Conservatives brought progress to a halt.

Childcare, literacy, the Court Challenges program and the Status of Women Canada are threatened in a way  rarely seen in the last 30 years.

Bev Oda, Harper’s appointee as Minister for the Status of Women, has made it clear that she does not believe the agency should even exist. As a result, the government ordered the closure of 12 of the 16 Status of Women offices around the country.

The closures mean millions of dollars will be cut from grass roots support programs that have been helping women for years. The loss of federal funding to child care has meant devastating cuts to provincial programs in recent months. This has left families reeling and waitlists for child care even longer than before.

Of the 560,000 CUPE members, over half are women.  CUPE is proud of this, and the union works hard to secure and protect the rights of our members, challenging employers and challenging governments to practice equality.

Canadian women deserve better and our government can do better. We are calling on all political parties to put massive pressure on the Conservatives to not only rescind the cuts and reopen Status of Women’s Offices but to re establish pay equity as government policy and fund the long-promised universal child care program.

CUPE also wants to draw attention to world-wide issues of solidarity for women.  The Public Service International is highlighting the importance of clean, publicly accessible water to women’s rights on an international scale. Also, in commemoration of IWD 2007, Bolivian Indigenous Women’s leader Alejandrina Ibanez is travelling to PEI to discuss the importance of International Solidarity among Women. CUPE is also working with Oxfam Canada on a campaign to encourge the Canadian government to live up to its commitments to end poverty and promote human rights by building public services in the global south. Several websites have been set up in support of solidarity with sisters all over the world.

We encourage all CUPE members to be become informed and support women’s rights every day starting with March 2007, and to visit Women’sEquality.ca to find out about IWD actions in your area.  Email your MP and demand that they begin to stand up for the rights of women.  Finally, get together with your union sisters and share strategies and success stories.

Take action to make this International Women’s Day 2007 a day to truly celebrate.

PAUL MOIST                        CLAUDE GÉNÉREUX
National President                        National Secretary-Treasurer