The doors fo the 33 year-old Victoria Status of Women Action Group Society (SWAG) will close in December, thanks to the new regulations for funding at Status of Women Canada. From Esquimalt News
Women’s group decry cuts
Oct 18 2006
Tory budget axe will impact women on low incomes, argues women’s advocate
One week after the federal government announced changes to Status of Women
Canada’s mandate, an agency that promotes gender equality, women’s groups
in Victoria started packing boxes.
“It looks like after this project is over in December we’ll be forced to
close our office,” said Cindy L’Hirondelle, project co-ordinator for the
Victoria Status of Women Action Group Society (SWAG).
The 33-year-old organization suffered a death blow two weeks ago when the
federal government announced it would no longer fund women’s groups that
do advocacy, lobbying or general research.
“You can’t advocate for anything anymore,” L’Hirondelle said. “A lot of
the work we were doing was systemic advocacy. I mean, that’s how women got
to vote, was through systemic advocacy.”
Anti-Dote, another Victoria-based non-profit organization, networks with
racialized indigineous girls and women to increases the social and
psychological well-being of racialized minorities.
Executive director Winnie Chow says the mandate changes were shocking.
“How do you create change when you can’t advocate for change?”
The funding previously allowed Anti-Dote to employ a couple full-time
workers, who may now have to be laid off.
Status of Women Canada was established in the Trudeau-era to help women
participate in the public policy process and bring gender equality issues
“The terms and conditions went through a renewal process at the end of
September,” said Claire Rochon, communications for Status of Women Canada.
“The objective of the women’s program has now been changed and now
activities related to advocacy and lobbying are indeed not funded.”
SWAG barely survived provincial cuts to their core operational funding in
2004 – cuts that left them scrambling to pay for rent and telephone bills
for the research centre with private donations.
But in July 2005, Status of Women Canada funded the Victoria group to
study women’s economic justice and allowed them to continue – albeit
Since the Victoria SWAG society’s inception they’ve fought for daycare,
abortion rights, aboriginal women’s issues and pay equity.
But the controversial nature of certain lobbying efforts has led to
friction with other pro-conservative groups. REAL Women Canada, a pro-life
agency that supports traditional family values, lobbied the federal
government to scrap the Status of Women agency for 23 years.
“We believe that lobby groups should not be funded by the taxpayer,” said
Laurie Geschke, national president of REAL Women (which no longer has an
office in Victoria). Despite that REAL Women received Status of Women
funding in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Geschke says funding should come
from private donations.
“Lobby groups should be funded by their supporters and if they don’t have
enough supporters to actually fund their work then they probably shouldn’t
be lobbying for whatever the change is they’re lobbying for,” she said.
But L’Hirondelle says that’s impossible.
“How do you fund a group when most of the membership is low income women?”
In addition, rules against using funding for systemic advocacy make it
impossible for SWAG to apply for registered charity status.
Even so, REAL Women argues that gender equality has been achieved,
“That’s such a nice idea, but it’s not at all true in practice,” argues
Cheryl Suzack, a member of the external advisory committee for the Status
of Women Canada’s Policy Research Fund.
SWAG’s own 2006 report ***Women’s Economic Justice Project*** finds there
are 67 per cent more women in Canada’s lowest income bracket than men.
Conversely, in the highest income bracket ($100,000 and up) there are 337
per cent more men than women – approximately three times more.
Suzack says the recent federal cuts are devastating to important research
on economically disadvantaged women and minority women.
“It’s a hugely significant and disappointing decision that’s been made,
especially since one of our objectives this year was to focus in on
aboriginal women’s issues, which are part of the government’s current
concerns,” she said.
The cuts have even bigger implications to Canada’s image as progressive
and equal society, says L’Hirondelle.
“The federal government has made international obligations under various
UN declarations,” she said. “How can they advocate that internationally
when they’re cutting funding for their own domestic women’s equality
I guess this is what PMS and his New Government of Canada were banking on, eh? No pesky feminists hounding him to make the country a better place for women.