Fed Budget: Not a budget for women

FAFIA’s 2007 federal budget overview: Not a Budget for Women can be found on their website at http://www.fafia-afai.org.  This, from the report:

The report has been organized into four categories:

§ Poverty Measures

§ Tax Breaks

§ Social Programs

§ Values

Our starting point is that women in Canada are affected differently than men by tax and spending policies of governments as a result of their varying labour market opportunities, family and community responsibilities, as well as levels of economic security.

According to the Beverley Jacobs, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s, this
federal budget was « extremely disappointing ». There were absolutely no funding announced for
Aboriginal specific initiatives and organizations that provide vital support programs for Aboriginal
women and children. « What about those who are struggling to find jobs and who are living
below the poverty level? There’s no help for them. There’s no specific focus on Aboriginal women
and children. There’s no support for those who continue to struggle, » said Jacobs. 

While this year’s federal budget invests an additional $342 million per year for language
instruction and employment-related support, the federal government has backed away from its
commitment to establish a federal agency to assess and to recognize credentials at the federal
level. It has instead directed resources to providing immigrants with path-finding and referral
services to identify and connect with the appropriate assessment bodies. However, the difficult
question of how foreign credentials will be assessed has yet to be resolved.

Women in Canada have high levels of poverty, and their poverty causes their children to be poor.
But the only anti-poverty strategy in this budget is the working income tax benefit, a refundable
tax credit intended to help low income women and men move from social assistance to work by
lessening the “welfare wall.” It provides a maximum of $500 to singles and $1,000 to families.
This is a tiny amount, not sufficient or effective enough to move a woman by herself or a woman
and her children from the entirely inadequate rates of social assistance currently being provided
to affording a safe, decent place to live and to enough to eat. 

This budget proposes to eliminate all tax on scholarships for children who attend private
elementary and secondary schools. It offers as an example a young man who receives a
$30,000 scholarship to attend a private high school in Ontario, stating that the exemption will
save his family over $3,000 in federal income tax. We note that the exemption applies regardless
of the family’s income level. This is a tax subsidy for private education at a time when
governments claim they cannot find the resources to ensure that public education is properly
funded, a critical need to ensure equal opportunities for children from all socio-economic
backgrounds. It is also important to note that by the government’s own example, this tax subsidy
is worth more than three times what a low-income single parent or couple could receive from the
Working Income Tax Benefit.

But that’s what the Harperites are about, eh Canada?  Helping the rich get richer and to hell with the rest?  Democracy for whom?

SK women take action

The Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition would like to invite all individuals concerned with the recent federal cuts that affect women to an organizing meeting to discuss a fight back strategy. The meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the recent cuts announced by the Federal Government as well as strategize on ways to have our voices heard here at home and in Ottawa .

The cuts include:

…and many more

Thursday, October 26,
7:00 pm
Mamawopiwin Room, #206
Community Service Village
510 25th Street East, Saskatoon

I understand that there are a number of events taking place that evening and would like to emphasize that this is an initial meeting so if you are not able to make it and would like to be involved or receive the minutes please contact Deanna Ogle at 242-4097 or by email (deannao@oxfam.ca).

For-profits at SWC trough?

Three days away from my computer and the news on Status of Women Canada (SWC) funding changes gets even worse.  Two fine feminist activists, Judy Rebick and Linda McQuaig, offer their thoughts on the drastic changes and cuts at SWC.  From Rebick, founding publisher of rabble.ca and a former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women:

…Another potentially even more significant change is that for-profit groups are now eligible for funding. In other words, the Royal Bank of Canada could apply for funding to Status of Women Canada to increase the number of women managers at the bank.

This should have the corporate sector salivating — yet another trough from which to feed.  Rebick continues:

…Politically motivated cuts to the program began in the ’80s under Brian Mulroney, at a time when the women’s movement was one of the most important opponents of free trade. The Liberals continued the cuts and quietly changed the program so that it was no longer funding operations but mostly research. This had an even a more devastating impact on women’s groups.

In one way, the Harper changes are the nail in the coffin, which may be why they are receiving so little attention. But we should not underestimate their significance. On the one hand, they are a sign of the anti-feminist, social conservative direction that the Harper government will take should it win a majority. On the other hand, they are another deeper stage of a dramatic restructuring of the Canadian state that will further marginalize those who have the least political power in society.

In her Toronto Star column, McQuaig makes interesting points and addresses the irony of PMS‘ recent move:

Last May, the Prime Minister told Parliament that ensuring equality rights for women was one of the key reasons Canada is waging war in Afghanistan.

Certainly Harper’s claims of championing the rights of burqa-clad women have helped him sell that unpopular war to Canadians.But when there’s no war to peddle, Harper doesn’t give a piffle about women’s equality. Indeed, he seems downright opposed to it. In a recent move that got relatively little attention, the Harper government actually removed the word “equality” from the list of goals of Status of Women Canada, ending decades of advocacy for equality on the part of that federal agency.Such advocacy itself is now under attack. The Harper government has cut off funding for advocacy done by women’s organizations, which have fought hard to overcome discrimination that has, for instance, left women earning substantially less than men, regardless of occupation, age or education. Canadian women earn 72 cents for every dollar a man earns.

This pay gap exists despite federal and provincial pay equity laws, and would undoubtedly be bigger if it weren’t for women’s groups pressuring governments to enforce and strengthen these laws, despite opposition from business. The Conservatives have also stopped funding women’s groups that carry out research about women’s status. Evidently, the less women know about their inferior status, the better. These moves are aimed at appealing to Harper’s base of social conservatives and religious right wingers, but are wildly out of sync with the Canadian mainstream.

Many are left wondering what Harper is up to.  As both journalists point out, this hard right turn is what Canadians can look forward to should a Harper Conservative majority ever come to fruition.  Yet, this turn is alienating Harper from the support he needs in Quebec.  Women’s groups are now forced to take a lead role in the struggle against this right wing extremism.

How SWC changes women’s lives

From the WISE website:

Wellbeing through Inclusion, Socially and Economically (WISE) began in the summer of 2003 as one woman’s vision.

In exasperation with a system that had no heart, ‘Chris’ wrote her story of painful marginalization. With the urging of a friend, the story came to the attention of an understanding Programs Officer at Status of Women Canada. Together, the two women convinced Chris to write a proposal for a project on women’s poverty. As only organizations or groups can receive project funding and Chris’ poverty had kept her isolated from and distrustful of existing groups, she created her own.

WISE has since developed into a grassroots movement, led by women living in poverty and supported by other persons and groups of like-minded inclination.

Life will be different now, for the women of WISE. From an email posted to PAR-L (and reprinted, with permission, here):

Not only the recent cuts to Status of Women Canada but the “Women’s Program
Renewal” paints a bleak picture for groups like WISE.

Had the current situation been the case in 2003, WISE would never have
existed and its two Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health initiatives
(Stories from the Front and our current Scarlet Letter Campaign) would never
been done.

You see, before Harper’s “new government,” Status of Women Canada would fund
initiatives by ad hoc groups, which is what WISE is. Post-Harper, it can no
longer do so.

Because of what we are, SWC was the only source of funding WISE had. No
other government agency would fund projects by ad hoc groups; and due to
Canada’s Charity Act, no foundations can fund entities that aren’t
themselves registered charities.

WISE’s very survival has always depended on what we could generate ourselves
– we, women in poverty. Left to book sales, fees from Associate Members and,
hopefully, donations from WISE Friends, there can be no more WISE projects
because we can get no more project funding.

That, of course, is exactly what the Harpercrits want.

Chrystal Ocean, WISE Coordinator

So, it’s thanks for nothing, PMS and his NGC.

Action: Liberal Abortion Bill

I cannot believe that almost 20 years after Bertha Wilson and the Supreme Court decision, this is still going on!

The Liberal MP for Huron-Bruce, Paul Steckle, introduced the new abortion bill which would carry sentences on par with the average sentence for manslaughter, if the abortions are carried out after 20 weeks.

Now, some might think this is a good thing. But, according to Canadians For Choice, access to the medical procedure is unequal across the country. From their January 2006 Choice Update (PDF):

We have a baseline against which to measure whether a woman’s right to choose is being rolled back.

That baseline shows that eighteen years after the historic Morgentaler decision, Canadian women still face challenges with realizing choice, in particular with access to abortion services. A recent national study of access to abortion services at hospitals across Canada found that:

  • only 17.8 of all general hospitals in Canada perform abortions, with some jurisdictions, such as Prince Edward Island and Nunavut offering no hospital abortion services at al;
  • even hospitals providing abortions place obstacles in the way of women trying to obtain one, including restrictive gestational limits and long wait times (sometimes 2-3 weeks);
  • in many cases, hospital employees are not able to provide women with information about alternative resources;
  • physicians and hospital employees deny women access by refusing information and referrals, or by referring women to anti-choice angecies; and
  • many women have to travel significant distances to obtain abortion services, which is time consuming, expensive and conflicts with work and child care.

Contact Mr. Steckle and remind him of this. He can be reached in Ottawa

Email: Steckle.P@parl.gc.ca
Telephone: (613) 992-8234
Fax: (613) 995-6350
Land mail (postage free):
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

or at his Constituency Offices

30 Victoria St North,
Goderich, Ontario
N7A 2R6
Telephone: (519) 524-6938
Fax: (519) 524-9374

And remember to send a copy of your message to Jack Layton, Bill Graham, PMSH, Gilles Duceppe, and your MP.

Updated to add : Take a look at this! A Secret Anti-Choice Caucus!

Thanks to Robert at My Blahg for the lead, to Greg at Sinister Thoughts for firing up my passion, and to Trizia in the enMasse forum for the update!

Updated to adjust link. (Thanks again, Trizia!)

Updated to add this link to stories about anti-choice women who’ve had abortions. (Thanks Toedancer!)

Updated 29Jun06 to add a link to this most excellent post at The Galloping Beaver.

Giving Voice to Low-Income Women

Here's a great project:

Low Income Women Speak Out Through Photovoice Projects in Winnipeg and Saskatoon

Public policies have a big impact on the lives and health of women living in poverty. Yet low-income women
are rarely given a voice in shaping these policies. In the fall of 2005, Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence
began working on two projects to address this situation, in partnership with two community-based organizations,
the Winnipeg North End Women's Centre and the Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition. Together we initiated
photovoice projects with small groups of low-income women in Winnipeg and Saskatoon.

You can download a selection in powerpoint. Check it out.

Thanks to Joanne at Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence.

Putting safety back into the Social Safety Net

Today, in my inbox, something Minister Day should read.

Putting safety back into the social safety net
by Michelle Mann,
Law Times News
Monday, 19 June 2006


Violence against women remains endemic in Canadian society despite
law-and-order approaches, making it imperative that we consider and address
systemic inequalities that perpetuate domestic violence.

Ontario's social assistance policies facilitate violence against women in
many ways, including subsistence-level rates, the treatment of fraud, and
assumptions of spousal economic dependency.

The erosion of social assistance rates in Ontario and across Canada has made
it difficult for women to get out of violent situations. Social assistance
rates that are grossly inadequate to address women's needs create a barrier
to their ability to leave or avoid abusive relationships.

Simply put, poverty and low payments leave lower-income women with few
options for survival. Abuse of women occurs in every economic stratum, but
financial disadvantage creates a stubborn barrier to escape.

Enhancement of social assistance rates won't eradicate violence against
women, but would give a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable women in
Canadian society.

Read the full article

With thanks to Barbara at DAWN Ontario