Media advisory - Women's organizations denounce the Harper government, call for a national leaders' debate on equality issues

    OTTAWA, Dec. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - On Human Rights Day, women's groups from
across Canada once again stand united to strongly condemn the Harper
government's track record on women's equality and human rights in Canada and
to call for a national leaders' debate prior to the next federal election.
    One year ago today, thousands of women, men and children rallied across
the country to protest the sweeping cuts and changes made by "Canada's New
Government" to Status of Women Canada and to other programs. "Abolishing the
pan-Canadian child care agreements, refusing to act on proactive pay equity
legislation and eliminating the Court Challenges Program clearly demonstrates
this government's repressive attitude towards women," said Paulette Senior of
YWCA Canada.
    Many women's groups have been forced to close their doors or scale back
crucial services and projects since they no longer qualify under the new
Status of Women Canada funding criteria. Their research and advocacy work
disqualifies them from the SWC Women's program.
    The Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights is calling for
a national leaders' debate prior to the next election on key issues of
importance to women's equality. The Coalition includes representatives from
national, provincial and grassroots equality-seeking organizations. Hundreds
of groups and individuals signed the Statement for the December 10th Campaign
for Women's Equality and Human Rights organized by the Coalition, which calls
upon Stephen Harper to respect his own election promises.
    A national leaders' debate on women's equality would also assist with the
upcoming United Nations' review of Canada's performance under the Convention
on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Before the 2006
election, all the leaders of the major political parties, including
Mr. Harper, signed a pledge to uphold Canada's CEDAW commitment to women's
    The Coalition is conducting an ongoing survey of how the changes brought
to Status of Women Canada are hurting women's groups. "Action needs to be
informed by research and analysis," said Senior. "And action on women's
equality doesn't tend to happen without advocacy from women's groups. How do
we eliminate discrimination without research to show the impact of
discriminatory policies on women and advocacy to change bad decisions?"
    Stephen Harper's recent rhetoric on the 18th anniversary of the Montreal
Massacre further angered Coalition representatives. "This is the perfect
example of how this government is out of touch with the reality for women.
Funding may have been boosted for Status of Women, but fewer groups qualify"
said Amanda Aziz of the Canadian Federation of Students in response to
Harper's claim that his government addresses violence against women. 14 Status
of Women regional offices closed in the spring of 2007, making it more
difficult for women's groups to access services in their communities.
According to the preliminary survey results, frontline women's shelters,
crisis centres and transition houses have been hit especially hard by
Conservative government policies.
    "This government's track record on policies that will ensure real
equality for women is abysmal" says Lise Martin of CRIAW. "Women in Canada
deserve more than empty and broken promises. We demand to know what will be
done by our political leaders to make equality a reality, not just a slogan."

For further information:

For further information: Pamela Cross, (416) 962-8881, ext 224; Gisele
Pageau, (613) 558-1821; Aalya Ahmad, (819) 483-2684;;

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