Harper Government Working to Silence Women

OTTAWA – Effective today, the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) is being forced to close its office, lay off its staff, and cease major consultations and advocacy on women's legal issues as an outcome of the Harper government's devastating changes to the mandate of Status of Women Canada. This closure is a grave blow to the continuing struggle for women's equality.

“The Harper government is trying to silence women’s groups who speak out against its right-wing agenda,” according to lawyer and NAWL Board member Pamela Cross. “These are ideologically driven cuts that demonstrate a defective concept of women’s equality and democracy.”

NAWL is closing its office because the new funding guidelines implemented by the Harper government for the Women’s Program specifically exclude law reform, advocacy and research from its funding criteria. These are the core functions of NAWL which have yielded many landmark decisions on women's equality over the past three decades. NAWL will now have to rely solely on volunteers, with greatly reduced capacity as a result.

NAWL has identified many issues on its law reform agenda that need to be addressed in order to ensure real equality for women. These include working to achieve proactive pay equity legislation, improved maternity and parental benefits, funding for universally accessible child care and early learning initiatives, funding for civil legal aid, reform of the Divorce Act, family reunification for domestic workers, equality rights for lesbian mothers, improved living conditions and respect for the matrimonial property rights of Aboriginal women living on reserves, improvements to the Canadian Human Rights Act and equality in the workplace and in the family.

Many of these issues have also been identified by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Committee as areas where the federal government needs to take action in order to fully respect the Convention.

“Minister Oda, who was responsible for these changes to Status of Women Canada’s funding priorities on behalf of the Harper government, has repeatedly stated that she considers that women in Canada are already equal,” says Louise Riendeau of the NAWL Board. “This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the challenges that continue to confront women, particularly women who are most vulnerable, such as Aboriginal women, immigrant women, poor women, and others from historically disadvantaged groups.”

NAWL has written to the new Minister responsible for Status of Women Canada, Josée Verner, asking her to provide emergency funding for NAWL and to reinstitute the previous funding criteria which acknowledged the need to fund advocacy work on behalf of women.

NAWL is a feminist non-profit organization that has worked to promote the equality rights of all women in Canada since 1974. It is governed by a regionally representative Steering Committee elected by its membership.

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September 20th: About the Press Conference

Related pages:
Mot de la direction - L'ANFD et l'égalité des femmes au Canada, Katherine McDonald, Action Canada for Population and Development, September 27, 2007
NAWL vs. REAL Women (includes a link to The Current, September 20), Empowerment4Women, September 21, 2007
Women's group closes after losing its funding, The Star, September 21, 2007
Harper zaps feminists, The Ottawa Citizen, September 21, 2007
La médecine conservatrice fait ses premières victimes, Hélène Buzzetti, Le Devoir, September 21, 2007
Harper called 'Neanderthal' for cuts to women's groups, Canadian Press, September 20, 2007
Une association féministe ferme ses portes; Ottawa nie être responsable, Presse Canadienne, La Presse, September 20, 2007
La fermeture de l'ANFD (from 8 min. 10 to 14 min. 20), Désautels, Radio-Canada, September 20, 2007
FAFIA Dismayed by the Closing of Key Women’s Group/L'AFAI consternée par la fermeture d'une importante organisation de femmes, Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, September 20, 2007
Statement on the Closure of the Offices of the NAWL, Canadian Federation of University Women, September 20, 2007
Statement in support of the NAWL and all equality-seeking organizations, National Council of Women of Canada, September 20, 2007
The need for justice and equality survives the shutting down of the NAWL/ Le besoin de justice et d’égalité survit à la fermeture de l’ANFD, Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne, September 20, 2007
Amnesty International Canada expresses concern about the closure of the NAWL in the face of government funding restrictions, Amnesty International Canada, September 20, 2007
Women lose as advocacy organizations close/Les organisations de femmes sont les grandes perdantes, Public Service Alliance of Canada, September 20, 2007
Women’s Equality moves to the back of the shop/L’égalité des femmes reléguée à l’arrière-plan, Canadian Labour Congress, September 20, 2007
NDP stands with women’s groups/Le NPD du côté des groupes de femmes, NDP, September 20, 2007
Les femmes sont bâillonnées par Stephen Harper & Un jeudi noir pour la défense des droits des femmes, Bloc québécois, September 20, 2007
Respected Women's Group Forced to Close after Being Refused Funding from Conservatives/Refus de financement des conservateurs : un groupe de défense des femmes respecté doit fermer ses portes, Liberal Party of Canada, September 20, 2007
Yet another women’s org closes its doors…, Empowerment4Women, September 20, 2007
NAWL Closure a Tremendous Setback for Women’s Advocacy, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, September 19, 2007
Federal Funding Changes Hobble Advocacy Efforts/La modification du financement fédéral entrave les efforts de défense des intérêts des femmes, New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women, September 13, 2007
Mises à pied et fermeture du bureau de l'ANFD, ORÉGAND, September 12, 2007

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