December 10, 2006 marks the 25th anniversary of Canada’s ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). But instead of celebrating, Canadian women should be mourning the all-but-complete demise of Status of Women Canada.
First Stephen Harper announced $5 million in cuts to the government agency. Now we learn that 12 of its 16 regional offices will close by April 1, 2007.
Those offices advocate on behalf of Canadian women from all walks of life: rural and urban, Aboriginals and immigrants, working mothers and seniors. Soon, however, unless they happen to live in one of the four cities where agency offices will remain open, women’s access to critical services and programs will be severely restricted.
Heritage and Status of Women Minister Beverly Oda has been quoted as saying , “we don’t need to separate the men from the women in this country.” The sad reality is, despite our efforts and the Conservatives’ wishful thinking, most women have not achieved equality in Canada. Just look at the many pay equity battles underway at workplaces across the country. Just open the newspaper to read about yet another battered woman who the system couldn’t protect.
During his election campaign, Harper pledged to support women’s rights and equality and promised to honour Canada’s CEDAW commitments. With this latest blow to Status of Women Canada, Harper is doing exactly the opposite.