Harper strikes out women’s equality

Canadian troops are in Afghanistan to, among other things, ensure equality for women. This according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, addressing…

Canadian troops are in Afghanistan to, among other things, ensure equality for women.

This according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, addressing Parliament in May.

Back in Canada, apparently the mission’s accomplished.

This month, Harper stripped “women’s equality” from Status of Women Canada’s mandate.

“So I guess we no longer have to worry about poverty, or equal pay for equal work or about violence against women,” said local status of women co-ordinator Charlotte Hrenchuk.

Though Canadian women earn 72 cents for every $1 men earn, Harper has abandoned plans for a new pay-equity law.

And, while championing burqa-clad women to bolster support for a controversial war, he is cutting support for equality at home.

Harper slashed status of women administrative funding by 38.5 per cent.

“So it will no longer be able to serve Canadian women in the way it has been serving them,” said Hrenchuk.

Although Harper left the Women’s Program Funds in place, he changed the funding requirements.

Women’s organizations are now prohibited from engaging in any advocacy or lobbying activities.

“So, the women’s program is still there,” said Hrenchuk.

“You’re just not allowed to advocate, because they’ve changed the criteria.”

Under Harper’s new approach, if a group wants to lobby it must raise its own money, said Hrenchuk.

How are groups made up of impoverished women supposed to do that? she asked.

“Where are these women supposed to get the funds to fight slum landlords? And where are they supposed to get the funds to fight for higher social services rates, when they are too busy trying to pay the rent and feed their children?”

Harper also opened Women’s Program Funding, which was only available for non-profit and ad hoc organizations, to for-profit groups.

“Why is the government giving money to groups who are making money from it, when there are groups of women who’ve been working for years to improve the conditions of women, who are barely scraping by, and barely making a living?” said Hrenchuk.

Following the government cuts and funding changes, survival and fundraising were major topics during Tuesday’s annual general meeting of Yukon Status of Women.

Harper also abolished the Court Challenges Program of Canada.

The national, non-profit organization was set up in 1994 to provide financial assistance for important court cases that advance language and equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s constitution.

“And without the court challenges program, how are lawyers who’ve been trying to help women in unequal situations, how are they supposed to fight for that?” said Hrenchuk.

This is not a poor person’s agenda, she said.