Canadian paradox: Women get worst, but there are more in the Parliament

Photo: Deb Ransom, Canada government

A recent report coordinated by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) highlights the sharp decrease in support for women’s issues under the Stephen Harper government, whose Conservative Party's won its first legislative majority since 1988 on Monday, assuring his re-election.

Under the Harper government, which began in 2006, there has been a sharp decrease in institutional and political support in the area of human rights, according to FAFIA and CLC experts. In particular, protections in place for women and girls have been eroded, as remembered before the polls the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

However, more women than ever will be joining the Canadian Parliament: 76, or one in four MPs, and 40 of them are from the New Democratic Party, witch will form the opposition. Green leader Elizabeth May became the first member of her party to be elected to parliament. 

But Harper, whose Conservative Party will count on 167 of the 308 seats of the House of Commons, has run so far a government which policy shifts have had a very negative impact on women, according to the report coordinated by the CLC and FAFIA, one of the focal points of Social Watch in this country.

Examples of the policy shifts include:

• The elimination of the phrase "gender equality" from the mandate of Canada’s primary institution responsible for gender equality in Canada: Status of Women;

• The closing of twelve of the sixteen Status of Women offices, on the principles that women’s and men’s issues do not need to be separated;

• The reallocation of funding from organizations that support advocacy for women’s human rights to organizations that provide front-line services only;

• The elimination of funding to the court challenges program, a program created to provide assistance to court cases related to equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s constitution;

• The elimination in 2006 of the funding agreements that had been negotiated with provinces and territories to provide five billion dollars for childcare and early learning programs; and

• The decrease in levels of financial and human resources specifically committed to gender-equality projects in the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The findings of this report show that Canada is falling behind. It says: “Canada no longer compares favourably against other nations in assessments of gender equality and the gender gap. For example, in 2004 the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, Canada was ranked 7th. In the 2009 Gender Gap Index, Canada ranked 25th. In 2009, Canada was ranked 73rd in the UN Gender Disparity Index. Canada has been strongly criticised by several UN human rights bodies on the issues of women’s poverty and the endemic violence against Aboriginal women and girls”.

According to the Social Watch Gender Equity Index 2009, Canada has a score of 75 and is getting worse compared with the previous years, while the rest of the territories with the same score — Australia, Colombia, Hong Kong, Latvia and South Africa — are getting better. 

Social Watch Gender Equity Index:
NUPGE article:
FAFIA article:
Canadian CBC News report :
Woman bits pig: