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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 2, October 2006

Creston conference on women's rights

Remembrance Day will take on an added dimension this year through the BCTF Status of Women conference in Creston, BC, on November 10–11, 2006. Conference participants will remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives so that those of us who live in Canada can enjoy our current level of security and rights. We will meet in Creston to ensure that those sacrifices were not made in vain. It is up to all of us to defend and extend the rights that cost so many so much. The Status of Women conference, Remembering Our Rights, will bring activists together from diverse backgrounds to discuss and analyze contemporary women’s rights.

The quest for women’s rights is not over. There is currently a battle being waged by conservative forces to change the laws and culture of Canada back to pre-feminist conditions. Since the election of the provincial Liberal government and the federal Conservatives, feminist organizations that work to protect and extend women’s rights have had a more difficult time getting funding, support, and recognition from government agencies. Funding for women’s centres was cut provincially under the BC Liberals. Currently, Status of Women Canada is not responding to many women’s organizations that have applied for funding. This will result in those organizations closing their doors as they won’t be able to pay the rent.

Anti-feminist organizations like REAL Women of Canada (www.realwomenca.com) are lobbying Stephen Harper’s government to try to ensure that the Conservatives live up to their commitment to change the way things are done in Ottawa and in the country. According to the REAL Women web site, they were surprised when they received a letter in early June 2006 from Bev Oda, the Minister for the Status of Women who wrote that, "This government is committed to promoting women’s human rights and eliminating barriers for women. Canada has made some progress in advancing equality for women through our constitution and laws. However, there is still work to do to make sure women can enjoy full equality in their day-to-day lives." Real Women responded by writing, "We were furious... the change in government on January 23rd has not in any way altered the policies of the Status of Women and that the policies of the Liberal party are to continue on their feminist trajectory." Interestingly, women’s organizations that expected to receive government funding from Status of Women Canada have not had any response from that agency since the meeting with REAL Women of Canada took place.

REAL Women support the government’s child payment plan, erroneously referred to as a child-care plan. They support tax breaks for two adult, one-income families by encouraging the government to approve income splitting. That is helpful if one person earns over $70,000 per year and the other partner stays at home. Given the state of single parents and child poverty in our country, surely the government could choose better ways to spend tax dollars than to put more money into the pockets of the high-income earners.

However, this is a government that slashed $1 billion from its budget on September 25, 2006, despite having a $13 billion surplus. It’s no surprise that

$5 million was cut from Status of Women Canada’s budget. At the same time, Harper’s government announced it was going to spend more money on a US-led program to build a multibillion dollar stealth aircraft. It’s clear where his priorities are.

There is a battle being waged over women’s rights and like those who fought so bravely for our rights before us, we need to stand up to ensure those rights aren’t lost. We hope that feminists and activists from all local associations, other unions, and the community will join the Status of Women Action Group in Creston on November 10–11, 2006. To find out more information and to register for the Remembering Our Rights conference, go to bctf.ca homepage, or www.sporg.com (Event 58211), or contact Jane Turner at jturner@bctf.ca.

– Jane Turner

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