International Women's Day: Stop the 'Harpocracy' on women's progress

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The Alternative Report issued in response to the federal government's report on women's progress in Canada 15 years after the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is a refreshing counterpoint to the Harper government's manipulation of the facts.

The Alternative Report will be submitted by women's groups at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March. The commission will discuss progress on women's rights made by world governments including Canada since 1995.

The Government of Canada should hang its head in shame. In 2006, Canada was ranked number 14 out of 150 countries (90 per cent of the world's population) by the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index. It now ranks number 31.

Women have been bound and gagged for the past four years. Held at knife point are pay equity, advocacy, universal child care, Aboriginal women and women in poverty -- the Conservatives scrapped 134 women's programs in 2006. Twelve of 16 Status of Women's offices were shut, Canada's universal day care plan abandoned and the Courts Challenges Program defunded as was Federal funding to women's equality groups. The Alternative Report cites "senior policy advisors within the office of the prime minister with strong links to anti-feminist organizations," as one explanation for the attack on pro-women groups.

The official government report is nauseating reading. Take this gem: "Canada remains firmly committed to working with Aboriginal women to bring real improvements... to ensure Aboriginal women... feel safe and empowered." The government isn't firmly committed enough to investigate the 520 murdered and disappeared Aboriginal women in Canada - the Conservatives continue to stall discussion on the issue.

Or this one: "Canada recognizes that families are the building blocks of a society and that child care is a priority for Canadian families." The Conservative's scrapping of a universal child care program for a $100 a month beer and popcorn allowance to parents with children under six would indicate otherwise.

Refreshingly, the Alternative Report entitled "Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) On the Occasion of the 15th Anniversary of its Adoption (2010): A Canadian Non-Governmental Response says what is really going on: "there has been a sharp decrease in institutional and political support by the Government of Canada for the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls during the period 2004-2009."

Fifteen years after Beijing, being born female in Canada is to be born a second class citizen. You earn $0.72 to a man's dollar and live in a country that ranks behind Somalia in its representation of women in parliament. If you are female and aboriginal, elderly, disabled or from a visible minority, you are really out of luck. The poverty rate for
Aboriginal women is 36 per cent; for women of colour 29 per cent for women with disabilities 23 per cent for single women over 65 it is 17 per cent.

This has to stop. This International Women's Day on March 8, 2010 -- make your voice be heard -- help end the Harpocracy.

Claire Tremblay, on behalf of the Ad Hoc Coalition of Women's Equality and Human Rights.

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