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Harper fails to grasp challenges of real women [CA]

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Sampert, Shannon
Publication Date: 
21 Oct 2006

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A number of years ago, I attended University with Canada's newest environment minister, Rona Ambrose. She and I took graduate level classes in Canadian politics as she started her masters and I my PhD at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. We were in a small class with other dedicated women working on our advanced degrees. Rona was smart, passionate and motivated and she and I often had interesting and provocative debates about rights, justice and Canada's future.

When the Harper government looks at the issue of women in Canada, it seems to study women through a rather narrow lens. It seems to speak on behalf of women like Rona Ambrose and I -- two women who are now enjoying incredible privilege.

You see, like Rona, I don't have children. I'm embarrassed to say that I'm coping with doggy day-care requirements that exacerbate my patience at the best of times. But I don't have little ones. I don't know what it's like to try and juggle a demanding job with the hunt to find accessible and affordable child care. And I have never had to deal with the nightmare of a sick four-year-old while teaching a classroom of eager university students. The issue of finding day care alone for women, particularly shift workers, is almost insurmountable.

Second, like Rona, I am not in an occupational field dominated by women. I make a pretty good living wage as a professor, unlike the service workers, secretaries and receptionists who are mostly women.

So, Rona Ambrose and I probably don't need to rely on the state for equality. But other women do. These are the real women in Canada. For these women, the Status of Women has been working tirelessly on their behalf to promote equality in Canada. That is until Stephen and Rona took over. The Harper government has to no one's real surprise, cut funding to the Status of Women while at the same time, changing the mandate for the Women's Program. Gone is the word equality. Instead, the new mandate is to facilitate women's participation in Canadian society by addressing their economic, social and cultural situation through Canadian organizations. The old mandate promoted the full and active promotion of women in economical, social political and legal aspects. Hmmm. So does this mean that the Harper government has given up ensuring that women can fully and actively participate in Canadian society?

The Status of Women will no longer fund projects that allow for advocacy activities including those that will lobby federal, provincial or municipal governments. Again, this should come as no surprise. This government doesn't like it when organizations actually start to pressure government to make changes like implementing pay equity programs that ensure women living wages. Or shame the government into providing funding for child-care programs so that women in rural parts of this country can find a spot for their kids.


No advocacy also means no sharing of information with elected officials and bureaucrats. In the case of the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba, which is undertaking economic and social impact analysis of child care in rural Parkland, northern Thompson and francophone St. Pierre-Jolys, this would mean that it cannot communicate its findings let alone recommendations to municipal, provincial or federal representatives. How inefficient is that? In Harper's mind advocacy isn't necessary, because women have all the social justice they need.

I know my life does not really represent the lives of most women and I think it's time the Harper government understood this, too. Stephen needs to recognize real women of this country work hard but still face incredible obstacles. Look those women in the eye and tell them they've got all the equality they need.

- reprinted from the Winnipeg Free Press