Harper government working to silence women

    OTTAWA, Sept. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - 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.

For further information:

For further information: Pamela Cross, (416) 522-6817

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