Chipping Away at Gender Equality: Harper’s 5-year Round Up

This month marks the 5 year anniversary of the ascent to power of Canada’s exceptionally charismatic (cough*cough) and calculating Conservative PM Stephen Harper.  It’s surprising that Stephen Harper has lasted so long in a minority government, but for a minority PM, he sure has accomplished a lot- if by accomplishments, one is referring to the insidious erosion of women’s rights that has occurred in the last 5 years.  Let’s take a look back at what Harper has done to increase gender inequality, shall we?

1) Scrap Universal Day-Care

One of the first moves made by the Harper government was to cancel a national child care program, which most Canadians supported.   In its place was offered the Canada Child Tax Benefit, which provides parents the paltry sum of a taxable $100/month per child- you can’t pay a 12 year old to baby-sit more than a couple times for that amount, let alone access quality day-care

According to Sharon Gregson of the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of B.C, as reported by the Tyee

“Other countries are able to provide childcare for up to 100 percent of children between the age of three and six. Other countries, like Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, England and the United States invest more per capita in early childhood development services than Canada does.”

This move was supported, however, by right-wing group REAL Women- a truly terrifying conservative, anti-feminist, anti-choice, homophobic, judeo-christian group hell-bent on turning back the clock on women’s rights.

2)    Drastically Cut Status of Women Canada

Next up, Harper dramatically cut the funding of what was Canada’s most important body for promoting gender equity, Status of Women Canada.  Status of Women Canada provided advocacy, research and lobbying on behalf of women’s groups.  The government closed 12 out of 16 regional offices of SWC and their operating budget was cut by 38%. Changes were imposed to the criteria for funding for the Status of Women Canada’s Women’s Program that essentially barred advocacy and lobbying groups from receiving funding.   Many women-run NGOs no longer receive funding because they combine advocacy with other services — like women’s rape crisis centres advocating for an end to violence against women.  The icing on the cake?  The word equality was removed from the Status of Women Canada mandate.

With Status of Women gutted and many women’s advocacy groups silenced, who do you think the government takes its cues from when it wants ‘women’s opinions’?  That’s right.  REAL Women, who had this to say about the $5- million budget cut handed to SWC.

“This is a good start, and we hope that the Status of Women will eventually be eliminated entirely since it does not represent ‘women’, but only represents the ideology of feminists.”  (emphasis theirs)

3)    Cancel the Court Challenges Program

Up next on the docket- the court program that provided funding to women’s and minority groups to challenge court rulings that violated equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Sounds like a good program, doesn’t it?  And it was- it changed the way sexual assault complaints were reported in the media, when in 1988 the Supreme Court ruled that publishing victim’s names discourages reporting of sexual assault and does not allow privacy for victims.  And, in 1995, when a gay couple from BC challenged the definition of spouse in the Old Age Security Act, during which the the Supreme Court of Canada for the first time ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited, leading the way for future cases against discrimination.

There have been many, many other important cases brought forth with the court challenges program to further equality and human rights.  It seems only fitting that a government that seeks to reduce women’s rights would want to stifle it.

4)    Axe Women’s Right to Pay Equity

It’s well known that across the board, women do not earn as much money as men.  Harper has taken steps to make sure it stays that way.

5)    Leave Abortion out of Canada’s G8 Maternal Health funding

Let’s start with this fact:

“Complications due to unsafe abortion procedures account for an estimated 13% of maternal deaths worldwide, or 67,000 per year. Almost all abortion-related deaths occur in developing countries.” (WHO)

How can a government that in 2009 stated it would champion maternal and child health in developing countries now declare its funding will not be used for abortion? When it is clear women in developing countries will die as a result?

Lack of access to safe abortion services is a serious health concern, and excluding it from Canada’s G8 funding is shamefully ignorant of good public health policy and does not support the rights and equality of women. Moreover, it speaks to a government that is socially conservative in its roots, and given the opportunity, might remove women’s ability to choose abortion in Canada, too.

6)    Appoint Fewer Women to Cabinet than Previous Governments

Despite being half the population (really!) women are still under-represented in government in Canada.  Women in Harper’s cabinet come in at a woe-full 26%  down from the only-slightly –better 30% seen with the previous liberal government.  Canada lags behind a lot of the world in terms of women’s representation in government.

That’s right, Canada is a ranked a pathetic 51 out of 135 nations.  Rwanda has the highest representation of women in government, by the way.

A lot of damage has been done in the past 5 years under Harper’s conservative government, and though he has tried to silence our voices, we are still here. Still making up half of the population.  It’s pretty powerful to imagine how much impact women could have if we demanded to be heard.

Harper may try to pacify us when the next election comes around- pose with kittens, dress in sweaters, smile occasionally- but the record of the last 5-years is very clear.  Women’s equality in Canada is going backwards.  When it’s time to vote, let’s change this.

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22 Comments on “Chipping Away at Gender Equality: Harper’s 5-year Round Up”

  • I spent 14 min. writing a comment and when I finally finished Firefox crashed and my comment was not published. So now I will keep it short and straight to the point. I find something interesting to read on your blog every time I visit it. Respect!

    • Meghan Murphy

      @Jacob — so frustrating!! Thank you for this comment nonetheless. You can’t imagine how much we appreciate it.

  • Ellie

    Thanks for posting this. It’s an excellent reminder that Canada still has its Bush running the country.

  • Would be interested in possibly reprinting this. Can you contact me? Thanks.

  • crljones

    Same old tired leftist crap. WORLDWIDE there are 67,000 deaths due to complications of abortions? Are you kidding me? In the scheme of things that’s a rounding error. 7bn people ~ 1bn live on less than $1 per day. Maybe these women should just deliver the baby and not risk their lives with a medical procedure that is beyond their society’s capacity? Otherwise it’s just suicide by choice. And as to “Equality” – women are now the more favoured of all but they just don’t want to work as hard as men and THAT is what the stats prove – not the other way around. Witness why women lawyers drop out in droves to have kids and look after their families, female GP’s refuse to work the same number regular and less popular hours as those old guys they are replacing so that GP’s productivity drops 40% with a female MD. A man can barely get a job in many pink collar ghetto’s like Elementary School teacher (well unless he is gay, which is practically half way converted to a women). I could go on but… would you listen?

    • CB

      Nope. Good luck ever getting laid.

      • mark

        Im sorry, what kind of reply is “Nope. Good luck ever getting laid.” Say something to counter what the previous comment had stated.

  • Thanks for this reminder!!! We need to remind everyone of the arrogant, Bush style politics this mysoginist, chauvanist Harper is pulling off – and, getting away with. Can’t wait to see Elizabeth May up against this nare-do-well in the next set of debates. I just hope the country wakes up and makes a change.

    clrjones – what a potty mouth you have. You have a right to your uneducated opinion, but bashing isn’t cricket is it?

  • Devon

    I want to move to a pink collar neighbourhood and only give abortions to rich white ladies!

    I checked out some of your research, crljones, and it turns out that you are right: a whopping 0% of male lawyers have ‘dropped out’ in order to give birth!

    Elementary schools in most parts of Canada are desperate for male teachers, actually (source: reality).

    …although I agree with you that women are more favoured, at least by me! Yum yum, women. More women for all! I’d say more men for all (hey, I’m one myself) but with men like crl walkin’ around… makes me wonder.

  • laura busheikin

    Not quite sure why I’m deigning to respond to clr’s asinine post, but on behalf of his mother I’ve got to point out that pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding and mothering an infant and then toddler are HARD WORK. And resuming a career after taking a break to do these things, while still somehow managing parenting duties is REALLY HARD WORK.

    But I do feel for all those men desperately trying to get those coveted, highly paid and high-status pink collar jobs and elementary school teaching gigs. So many men are having their lives ruined by this systemic discrimination.

    Devon thanks for your really great response.

  • Jae

    this is radical

  • Elizabeth

    Wow…female doctors dropping out of (high) paid labour for (socially non-valued) unpaid labour…where’s the logic in that? Oh right….raising the next generation of doctors to care for people like CRL…go figger!

  • Schelley

    Thank you for posting this!

  • LProudfoot

    It is these facts – and many others like them – that make me shake my head and grind my teeth every time I hear someone say that “I am not a feminist” line… and/or that they intend to vote for SH & co. How COULD they?! Do none of them have daughters?!

    Even if they don’t care for themselves, how could they not for their children?!

  • ellen

    it’s frustrating to hear people say that women don’t want to work as hard as men, when any woman who gets any where has had to work way harder than any man as she is bucking a system and social mentality that for thousands of years has been geared towards men.

    and on the subject of abortion i think the only people allowed to judge any one planning on having, or who has had an abortion is someone in the situation, it’s an important issue on many different levels and ignoring it because it’s difficult is is what has gotten our society into the hole it’s in now.

    also please never say a gay man is half as bad as being a woman, they are every bit as human as you are and are incredibly brave because they are bucking the very same system that women are.

  • Laura

    @ellen – thank you for speaking up against those ignorant enough to assume that women are lazy, gay men are ‘half women’ and that abortion is suicide.

    Particularly in the case of abortion, ‘just delivering the baby’ is clearly not a viable option when women are undertaking risky procedures to have abortions. Cases such as illness, rape, dangerous family situation, dangerous political and economic situations, and abusive/absent partners are just a few examples of why a woman might not want to put both herself and baby at risk by going through with the pregnancy.

    Additionally, have you considered looking at figures that control for productivity when women and men are actually at work? Women can’t be blamed for the biological fact that they get pregnant, and therefore must clearly take the time off of work to have kids that their husbands can also enjoy, without incurring the lost work time. Given the choice, women would be more than willing to go to work in order to support their children and families if it were biologically possible.

  • Dave Sutcliffe

    What utter crap. The author doesn’t agree with Harper’s position on the above issues but rather than clearly articulate her views, cites a litany of erroneous information, jumps to extremist conclusions that a first year political science student would find laughable, and would rather just chalk it up to Harper “trying to silence our voices” and wondering what would happen if women “demanded to be heard”.

    Women in Canada haven’t exactly been ignored by any federal or provincial parties over the past 40 years. I guess pretending it’s 1960 helps spread a little Harper fear-mongering. It’s also very insulting to women to insinuate that they should be bound by some sort of misguided sisterhood rather than respect the fact that they simply do not all share the same political views.

    This site is to feminist literature what the National Inquirer is to news. It’s just sad.

  • Mike

    It looks like it’s a socialist’s whining.

    Why women can’t understand that sexes are not equal? Men can’t give birth, women shouldn’t work in coal mines.
    Reason why women are under-represented in Government is simple: women don’t vote for women, if it was so, we would have 50/50 split.
    I know great Women ruling countries: Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Margaret Baroness Thatcher.Why they were so good? Because they were though like men.

    In politics there’s no place for being soft. It’s considered weakness. Do you want weak people represent your country? How does it place your country internationally?

    Go and read some more history and learn which countries fell apart and why. I suggest starting with Ancient Greece and Rome.

  • Meghan Murphy

    @Mike – I suggest starting with highschool.

  • zelda

    Mike I am a women that works at a coal mine in Canada. I run truck, dozers, and graders. Thanks to the training I received I am able to work as a equal in my job. I am also treated fairly and frankly very well. Why do you say they shouldn’t work at coal mines?

  • marg

    No fan of Harper but muddled facts cause unnecessary credibility gaps. the Tories have a majority gov. which is why they can ge away with such disgraceful stuff. the other parties need to form a coalition.

  • Sophia

    Thank you for posting this article! IMHO Harper is nothing more than a sexist fascist dictator, who is willing to resort to violence to shut up political activists. The g8 summit in Toronto is a good example, and the fact hat they tried so hard to find a reason to shut it down by sending their goons to shut it down by crating a disturbance and blaming the protestors. Where have all the feminist groups gone? There’s nothing in my city and I’m just dying to join my sisters in kicking some Harper butt!

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