Male Military Vets Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

This is US data, but it makes one wonder how Canadian veterans fare in this regard.  Surely we are better placed to prevent such horrific statistics, by simply being a less militaristic culture than our southern neighbours. Mind you, with Harper and Hillier at the helm, we may be doomed to echo the patterns of the USians.  From AlterNet: War on Iraq:

Why Male Military Veterans Are Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

By Lucinda Marshall, AlterNet. Posted May 25, 2007.

A recent DOJ report found that vets are twice as likely to be jailed for sexual assault than non-veterans.

A recent study by the Department of Justice found that military veterans are twice as likely to be incarcerated for sexual assault than nonveterans. When asked about the finding, Margaret E. Noonan, one of the authors of the study, told the Associated Press, “We couldn’t come to any definite conclusion as to why.” The intrinsic and systemic connection between militarism and violence against women, however, makes this finding far from surprising.

Sexual violence has been a de facto weapon of war since the beginning of the patriarchal age. Raping and assaulting women is seen as a way to attack the honor of the enemy, and women have always been the spoils of war. The result is that many types of violence against women are exacerbated by militarism, including the indirect effects on civilian populations both during hostilities and after the conflict ends and soldiers go home. These include:

  • Rape/sexual assault and harassment both within the military and perpetrated on civilian populations
  • Domestic violence
  • Prostitution, pornography and trafficking
  • Honor killing

Read the rest of the article


Rape of Student Activist Spoofed at UWO paper

This makes me sick.  It’s probably old news, but it’s news that shouldn’t slip by anyone.  Our culture is teaching potential journalists to belittle a serious crime.  May the young woman and her friends be safe and strong and may the young men learn to show more respect to women.

Here are some press releases to get you up to speed on some of the

scary stuff that’s going down right now on the UWO campus — and the

Miss G__ Project is at the front lines of the battle (which, by the

way, we’re totally winning 😉 , as one of our most prominent members,

Jenna Owsianik, was directly targeted in this attack.You can take immediate action by writing letters to the Editor-in-Chief of the Gazette Ian Van Den Hurk at, the UWO Students’ Council President Fab Dolan at, theUWO President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport, at,and UWO Equity Services at

Thank you for your time and support, and we appreciate your help in

passing this information on to your contacts and networks!

In solidarity,

Laurel Mitchell

Miss G__ Project Co-Coordinator

PS More information and recent updates can be found at

Western Students Up in Arms After Campus Newspaper “Spoofs” the Rape of Student Activist

LONDON, ON – April 8, 2007 – Many students at the University of

Western Ontario are up in arms about an article published on March

30th by the daily campus newspaper, The Gazette, as part of its annual

Spoof Issue. The article depicts the London police chief (who is

explicitly named) dragging a prominent member of the UWO Women’s

Issues Network (WIN), depicted under the pseudonym “Jennifer Ostrich,”

into an alley to rape her to “teach [her] a lesson.”

The article, titled “Labia Majora Carnage,” was published

anonymously under the pseudonym, “Xavier.”

Students angry and offended by the article have been mobilizing

through letter writing campaigns to The Gazette Editor-in-Chief Ian

Van Den Hurk, the university, and the media, and through a protest

held on campus last Thursday.

Some students have also written to Police Chief Murray Faulkner to

ask him to make a public statement about his portrayal in the article

and his stance on violence against women. Faulkner couldn’t be reached

for comment.

Most students believe “Jennifer Ostrich” to be a caricature of

Jenna Owsianik, chair of the Western chapter of the feminist group The

Miss G__ Project and an active member of WIN. She has also been vocal

about criticizing The Gazette, and in the October issue of the

Grapevine (another campus publication at Western), Owsianik wrote

about what she sees as The Gazette’s tradition of “negative sexual

stereotypes and sexist attitudes” — and cataloged the offenses.

In addition to being angry and upset, Owsianik is disappointed that

this is the response to her criticisms and to the challenge she issued

to The Gazette and all student journalists in the Grapevine article

“to be more responsible.” Though she’s not terribly surprised – The

Gazette has been brushing off her criticisms and making fun of her and

other WIN members all year – the severity and violence of this article

still shocked and terrified her.

“I feel like I was raped by that article,” Owsianik said candidly.

The article also satirizes “Katie Conservative,” a pretty clear

allusion to WIN Internal Relations Manager and active UWO Conservative

Association member Kathryn Mitrow, who says that she is “appalled and

ashamed” by The Gazette’s actions.

In a letter to the editor published in the April 5 edition of The

Gazette, graduate student Corey Katz takes issue with the Spoof

Issue’s jokes about rape, violence against women and homosexuality.

“These jokes are used every day to justify violence against women and

queer people. How many jokes like these has someone read, heard,

laughed at or told before they’re able to overcome their conscience

enough to rape or assault someone?”

Recent UWO alumna and Miss G__ Project Co-Coordinator Sheetal Rawal

also thinks that the targeting of Owsianik in this article is a way to

silence activism about women’s issues on Western’s campus.

“For The Gazette to level a threat of rape at a student activist on

campus, one who has had the courage to speak out against the shocking

misogyny, homophobia, racism in the paper, as away to “teach [her] a

lesson,” is highly irresponsible of a campus newspaper and absolutely

unacceptable,” Rawal said. “This is hate speech.”

Rawal also said that she is “embarrassed” that, between this and

other events like the “Saugeen Stripper” issue last year, Western is

coming to known for its rape culture. “I refuse to allow for my degree

to read “Rapist University,”” she said.

Not all students are upset about it though, and even some of those who

are continue defend The Gazette’s right to publish articles like this

under freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental pillar of our society, even if

we don’t like it,” Western student Noah Desjardins wrote on the

discussion board of a Facebook group created around this issue. “Any

restrcitions placed on it lead to a slippery slope of censorship.”

Western student Fiona Martin thinks that freedom of speech should

have its limits though.

“The debate continues on whether jokes against feminism are funny.

Some people think they are, some don’t. What is not funny is the

verbal attack against specific people that The Gazette article made.

That is hate speech,” she wrote on the discussion board.

So far, The Gazette’s only official response to the backlash from

the Spoof Issue has been “get over yourself.” In an April 4 editorial

they defend the “satire” of the issue, writing that those offended

should “know a joke when they see one.”

However, several students have been demanding more extreme action,

including calling for Van Den Hurk’s resign and the withdrawal of

student funding (through the University Students’ Council) to The


Student Kate Barthes suggests that The Gazette’s funding be revoked

for one year, to match the USC’s actions against the Society for

Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) when it was accused of hate speech

last year.

Throughout all this, Owsianik has been told by several people to

‘take a joke.’

“That article was about me getting raped and liking it,” she said.

“When you live your life in my body and experience the violence that

my body has felt, then you can tell me if satirical intention merits a

diffused reaction,” she said.

Controversy is continuing to dog the University of Western Ontario’s

student run newspaper The Gazette

LONDON,ON. April 9,2007 – Each year the University of Western

Ontario’s student newspaper, The Gazette, publishes a spoof edition

which is released on April 1st. This years’ edition targeted women,

and in particular, groups who advocate women’s issues on campus.

The article in question, titled “Labia Majora Carnage”

depicts a supposedly satirical portrayal of the Take Back the Night

rally. The author, who refuses to be identified, laces this ‘humorous’

article with vulgar depictions of women and sexually suggestive

themes. In it, known UWO activists are alluded to in morphed


Current London Police Services Chief Murray Faulkiner

is named in the article. Chief Faulkiner is described “…greasing his

nightstick”. The author adds: “He [Chief Faulkiner] grabbed the

loudspeaker from Ostrich’s wild vagina and took it into a dark alley

to teach it a lesson.”

The Gazette Editor-in-Chief, Ian Van Den Hurk, responded

citing Freedom of Speech and re enforced that the article was intended

to be humorous and instead of apologizing he called the complaintifs

“convoluted” and told them to “get-over” themselves.

Outraged students have taken several steps to air their

frustration with the student-funded Gazette’s article that was neither

factual, newsworthy, nor relevant to the Gazette’s mandate.

“Ian Van Den Hurk must be reminded that the Gazette is

published and supported with student fees appropriated by the UWO

University Students’ Council,” said Kate Bartz, former President of

the Women’s Studies Student Council.

Kathryn Mitrow, who is a member of the Women’s Issues

Network at UWO stated:

“Such an attack and slanderous piece of writing has no place

appearing in a newspaper funded by and supported by students.”

Van Den Hurk’s personal web-blog featuring many sexualized

themes can be viewed at:

Sit-in for SWC

It’s an Action Day today and Vancouver women have done it up right, occupying the Status of Women Canada Office there.

Women Reclaim Their Rights 

For Immediate Release

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Sit-in at BC/Yukon Status of Women Canada Vancouver Office

Vancouver - Women in Vancouver are currently occupying the BC/Yukon Status
of Women Canada (SWC).  On the heels of a successful rally against federal
cuts to equality rights, earlier today, 15-20 women are demanding that the
Harper conservative government:

.   reinstate the $5 million which as been slashed from Status of Women
Canada budget
.   withdraw the decision to close 12 of the 16 Status of Women Canada
regional offices 
.   return "equality" to the Women's Program mandate while ensuring that
research, lobbying, and advocacy are eligible for funding
.   reinstate the Court Challenges Program so that equality rights test
cases are accessible
.   adopt proactive pay equity legislation
.   implement the promise of a nation-wide accessible childcare program
.   insist that Canada honours and fulfills its CEDAW obligations

SWC National has been notified of the sit-in and the Vancouver office awaits
a response.

The women resisting the cuts and closures, who are occupying the office,
encourage women to engage in similar sit-ins at other SWC office across
Canada.  These women also welcome others to join them at the sit-in to
'reclaim women's rights' which have been attacked.


Media Contacts:

Fatima Jaffer: 604-838-3599
Benita Bunjun: 778-558-6504

Vagina Warriors

For those who are not aware of the great work that’s been done and continues to be done with the Vagina Monologues, here is a post, in its entirety from the V-Day website.  V-Day is a global movement to create bigger attention on the struggle to end violence against women and girls, worldwide.

Vagina Warriors: An Emerging Paradigm, An Emerging Species

I have sat with women in crowded factories in Juarez, in crumbling shelters in the back streets of Cairo, in makeshift centers for teenage girls and women in Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Pine Ridge and Watts, in mansions in Hollywood, in burnt-out backyards in Kosova and Kabul, in a moving van after midnight with sex trafficked girls in Paris. Sometimes these meetings went on for hours; in the case of the 17-year-old Bulgarian sex slave, we had 35 minutes before her pimp came looking for her. I have heard the staggering stories of violence – war rapes, gang rapes, date rapes, licensed rapes, family rapes. I have seen first-hand the scars of brutality – black eyes, cigarette-hole burns in arms and legs, a melted face, bruises, slices and broken bones. I have witnessed women living without what is fundamental – sky, sun, a roof, food, parents, a clitoris, freedom. I have been there when skulls washed up on riverbanks and naked mutilated female bodies were discovered in ditches. I have seen the worst. The worst lives in my body. But in each and every case I was escorted, transformed, and transported by a guide, a visionary, an activist, an outrageous fighter and dreamer. I have come to know these women (and sometimes men) as Vagina Warriors.

It was Zoya who first took me to the muddy Afghan camps in Pakistan; Rada who translated the stories of women refugees as we traveled through war-torn Bosnia; Megan who led pro-vagina cheers on a freezing cold campus in Michigan; Igo who made jokes about land mines as we sped in her jeep through the post-war roads outside Pristina, Kosova; Esther who took me to the graves marked with pink crosses in Juarez, Mexico; Agnes who walked me up the path with dancing and singing Masai girls dressed in red, celebrating the opening of the first V-Day Safe House for girls fleeing female genital mutilation (FGM).

At first I thought this was just a rare group of individuals, specific women who had been violated or witnessed so much suffering they had no choice but to act. But after five years of traveling, forty countries later a pattern has emerged, an evolving species. Vagina Warriors are everywhere. In a time of escalating and explosive violence on the planet, these Warriors are fostering a new paradigm.

Although Vagina Warriors are highly original, they possess some general defining characteristics:
They are fierce, obsessed, can’t be stopped, driven.
They are no longer beholden to social customs or inhibited by taboos. They are not afraid to be alone, not afraid to be ridiculed or attacked. They are often willing to face anything for the safety and freedom of others.
They love to dance.
They are directed by vision, not ruled by ideology.
They are citizens of the world. They cherish humanity over nationhood.
They have a wicked sense of humor. A Palestinian activist told jokes to an Israeli soldier who pointed a machine gun at her as she tried to pass the checkpoints. She literally disarmed him with her humor.
Vagina Warriors know that compassion is the deepest form of memory.
They know that punishment does not make abusive people behave better. They know that it is more important to provide a space where the best can emerge rather than “teaching people a lesson.” I met an extraordinary activist in San Francisco, a former prostitute who had been abused as a child. Working with the correctional system, she devised a therapeutic workshop where convicted pimps and johns could confront their loneliness, insecurity and sorrow.
Vagina Warriors are done being victims. They know no one is coming to rescue them. They would not want to be rescued.
They have experienced their rage, depression, desire for revenge and they have transformed them through grieving and service. They have confronted the depth of their darkness. They live in their bodies.
They are community makers. They bring everyone in.
Vagina Warriors have a keen ability to live with ambiguity. They can hold two existing, opposite thoughts at the same time. I first recognized this quality during the Bosnian war. I was interviewing a Muslim woman activist in a refugee camp whose husband had been decapitated by a Serb. I asked her if she hated Serbs. She looked at me as if I were crazy. “No, no, I do not hate Serbs,” she said, “If I were to hate Serbs, then the Serbs would have won.”
Vagina Warriors know that the process of healing from violence is long and happens in stages. They give what they need the most, and by giving this they heal and activate the wounded part inside.
Many Vagina Warriors work primarily on a grassroots level. Because what is done to women is often done in isolation and remains unreported, Vagina Warriors work to make the invisible seen. Mary in Chicago fights for the rights of Women of Color so that they are not disregarded or abused; Nighat risked stoning and public shaming in Pakistan by producing “The Vagina Monologues” in Islamabad so that the stories and passions of women would not go unheard; Esther insists that the hundreds of disappeared girls in Juarez are honored and not forgotten.

For native people, a warrior is one whose basic responsibility is to protect and preserve life. The struggle to end violence on this planet is a battle. Emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical. It requires every bit of our strength, our courage, our fierceness. It means speaking out when everyone says to be quiet. It means going the distance to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means honoring the truth even if it means losing family, country, and friends. It means developing the spiritual muscle to enter and survive the grief that violence brings and, in that dangerous space of stunned unknowing, inviting the deeper wisdom.

Like Vaginas, Warriors are central to human existence, but they still remain largely unvalued and unseen. This year V-Day celebrates Vagina Warriors around the world, and by doing so we acknowledge these women and men and their work. In every community there are humble activists working every day, beat by beat to undo suffering. They sit by hospital beds, pass new laws, chant taboo words, write boring proposals, beg for money, demonstrate and hold vigils in the streets. They are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts, our grandmothers, and our best friends. Every woman has a warrior inside waiting to be born. In order to guarantee a world without violence, in a time of danger and escalating madness, we urge them to come out.


– Eve Ensler, Founder/Artistic Director, V-Day; playwright, “The Vagina Monologues”

For the sexist political pigs

Here’s one for the young men who are fast becoming old boys in thinking they know what is best for women’s economic freedom and in so doing perpetuate the war on women.  With thanks to Toedancer for the link.

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

Joe South and The Believers

Written by Joe South(Peaked at # 12 in 1970

Re-make 4 months later by Willie Hightower managed only # 107)

If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour

If we could find a way to get inside each other's mind

If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego

I believe you'd be surprised to see that you'd been blind

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes

 Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse

 Walk a mile in my shoes

Well, your whole world you see around you is just a reflection

And the law of common says you're gonna reap just what you sow

<SPOKEN "yes, you will">

So unless you've lived a life of total perfection

Mm-mm, you'd better be careful of every stone that you should throw

<SPOKEN: "yeah, yeah">

Yet we spend the day throwin' stones at one another

'cause I don't think or wear my hair same way you do

Well, I may be common people but I'm your brother

And when you strike out and try to hurt me it's a 'hurtin you,

<SPOKEN " lord have mercy">

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes

 Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse

 Walk a mile in my shoes

There are people on reservations and out in the ghettos

And brother, there, but for the grace of God, go you and I

<SPOKEN: "yeah, yeah">

If I only had the wings of little angels don'tcha you know I'd fly

To the top of the mountain and then I'd cry?

<SPOKEN "yeah">

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes

 Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse

 Better walk a mile in my shoes

 <SPOKEN "try an' watch whatcha doin'">

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes

 Oh, before you abuse, criticize and accuse

 Walk a mile in my shoes,

 <SPOKEN  "yeah">

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes

 Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse

 Walk a mile in my shoes

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:  rather ignominious ending-no two musicians seem to

stop at the same time

Only sexist pigs say no to a $10 minimum wage

Blogger was unable to post my comment to Jason Cherniak, a loud-mouthed young Liberal who suggests that Ontarians say no to a $10 minimum wage. It’s pretty obvious to this mother of two, who has never lived in Ontario, that Cherniak has never raised a child and that he has no clue whatsoever as to what costs are involved in doing so.

If you figure 40 hours a week at $8 an hour, you are looking at about $16,500 in income. I won’t deny it – that would be awfully tough to live on. However, it is not impossible if you are single and without loans to pay. After $9,600 in rent, you would still have around $200 a month for food after taxes. If you are a parent, then you will have other resources such as the child tax benefit to help you.

To suggest that the Child Tax Benefit is enough to help you feed and clothe a couple of kids as well as yourself shows just what a clueless child Cherniak really is. Apparently, he is one of the silver spoon crowd and perhaps he should keep it there rather than spew off the sexist crap he’s spewing! Or, maybe this is part of his initiation rite into the Old Boys’ Club!

Grow up, Cherniak, read the new Report Card on Child Poverty in Canada and show some social and moral responsibility for the lives of those who do not have the luxury to which you are so entitled.

Edited 11:20 p.m. 02Jan07 to add a link to Robert, two to Eugene, the second provides some numbers re some of my points in the comments below, another link is to The Jurist who comes to the economics of it by looking at the relationship between corporate profits and minimum wage and to my favourite cowboy, the one for social responsibility. All are worth having a look-see.

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 (

SWC changes close doors

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

Andrea Lavigne

Victoria News

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
to light.

“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.


Death by a thousand cuts

A New Brunswick perspective on Harper’s round of cuts, with an excellent analysis of why. I can’t get to it online (even though it was published in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal on Sat. Oct. 14) so I’m reproducing it here.

by Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, Chairperson of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women

There is a brand of politics – shall we call it sniper politics – where groups are picked off one by one.

It’s done carefully so that – it is hoped – no broad segment of the population or one region is hit hard enough that a critical mass can form to fight back. The damage in citizen protest is calculated and deemed acceptable because the gains are assured.

It buys the loyalty of those party faithful whose vote depends on such actions and on nothing else.

That’s what happened to certain groups of Canadians this past couple of weeks. Without having mentioned it neither in the recent election campaign, nor in the Speech from the throne a few months ago, and at the same time as it announced a 13 billion dollar surplus, the federal government picked off citizen voices it does not agree with. Here are a few of the changes that will affect New Brunswick harshly.

The federal government abolished the Court Challenges program mostly because, let’s say it, the program had helped gays and lesbians go to court to get the same rights other Canadians have under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

No matter that the $5-million Program also well served seniors and handicapped Canadians, victims of sexual assault, communities concerned by obscenity and official language minorities (including English-language rights in Quebec, and P.E.I. Acadians’ right to schools in French), among others.

No matter that a few months ago, the federal government was in Geneva bragging to a United Nations Committee that the Court Challenges was a “uniquely Canadian” program that has been successful, that a recent evaluation found that there remains work for the program and so it was extended to March 2009.

No matter that Canadians of all sexual orientations have a right to access the courts and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The official reason for cancelling the Program given by the Treasury Board president is that it didn’t make sense to him for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government’s own laws in court. It is rather disturbing that a government minister does not respect the system and the checks and balances he is sworn to uphold.

In a constitutional democracy, laws can be measured against the constitution. Laws are not perfect, as some eminent jurists have said in response to these cuts, and those who need to point out the imperfections in our laws, in order that they may live on an equal footing with others, deserve to be heard. Now only those who can pay their way to court in Canada will get to challenge laws or seek protection of the Charter.

About a year ago, Stephen Harper was telling Canadians that if he were elected, the courts would hold him in check. What was not said was that people most affected would not be able to get to court.

Another recent change by the government was to the funding rules for community groups. Advocacy and lobbying will not be allowed. In other words, help the victims but don’t try changing the conditions that creates victims – and don’t bother us. If women’s history teaches us anything, it is that nothing ever changed without advocacy and lobbying. As the New Brunswick groups that came together to fight these cuts say, it is thanks to advocacy efforts that women now have access to wage parity, maternity leave benefits and transition houses.

The community groups in New Brunswick that share about $300,000 per year in grants from one affected program, Status of Women Canada, include the Coalition for Pay Equity, the New Brunswick Coalition of Transition Houses, Saint John’s Urban Core Support Network and several others. The change will be devastating for them and for New Brunswick.

The new rules will also eliminate any Status of Women Canada funding for work towards equality. While – for now – leaving intact the amount that is available for grants, the federal government has made such huge changes to the program that it no longer funds what it was created to do, advance women’s equality. You’ve come far enough, baby, as humourist Rick Mercer said last week.

The promise of equality is written in the Charter and Canadian governments have up to now felt some responsibility towards making that promise real, by assisting groups working to end violence, discrimination and poverty, for example.

The federal government also cut $10 million from the Canadian Volunteerism Initiative, designed to support the volunteers who run thousands of services across Canada.

Earlier this year, candidate Stephen Harper assured Canadian women that, if elected, he would “take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations, to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women”.

Nine months later, the concrete and immediate measures that Prime Minister Harper announced are mean and unnecessary and will set back equality among Canadians. The equality-seeking groups, one could say, help governments do their job: they work to end violence, poverty and discrimination, they help adults become literate and they even the playing field by giving discriminated groups access to the courts.

New Brunswickers doing equality work, including adult literacy – another abolished program – are stunned by these cuts. This is not the Canada they know. Why is this possible when this is a minority government? Where are the opposition parties? In reality, a large protest movement is building.

These cuts to some pet peeves of some Conservative party faithfuls is likely an attempt to ensure their support, since the party had to follow a moderate road to gain popular support. The cuts are carefully planned to not awaken the general population. But what is scary about snipers is that we don’t know where they will strike next.


Evidence demands Oda’s resignation

This should be enough evidence to demand Bev Oda‘s resignation from her responsibility for the Status of Women in Canada. First, examine this, from her opening statement to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on the Status of Women:

…Canada’s new Government fundamentally believes that women are equal.

As this New Government of Canada has demonstrated, it is very good at ignoring the facts.  Now, get a load of this load of dung:

…As far as capacity building goes, we believe there are a number of organizations that have had many years to establish themselves. On a going forward basis, we’ve made a commitment. We made a commitment prior to coming into office, and we’re fulfilling the commitment that we will make sure taxpayer dollars…. They’re hard-earned dollars.

They are not vulnerable and weak; they are taxpayers. They work very hard for their taxes, not only as women but as citizens of this country. Consequently, we believe and we know they support more direct action to help overcome the identified barriers. After years of identifying the issues and the problems, we are now committed to doing something.

First, what does it mean for organizations to “establish themselves?”  Is she suggesting that women’s groups should be self-sufficient, even though women continue to earn less than their male counterparts and even though more women than men live in poverty in their senior years?  Is she suggesting that women’s groups should cosy up to the corporate sector that needs that cheap labour pool and that feeds off women’s inequality?

Second, who said that women are vulnerable and weak? Not a single feminist I know or have read calls women vulnerable and weak. It is only the Conservative supporters and (un)R.E.A.L. women who use that language. So, why is the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women in this country using such discriminatory language? Why is she pitting women as taxpayers against women as equality-seekers? Is it that she’s trying to divide women, just as Bush & Co. divided U.S. citizens? Is this yet another attempt to win that Harper Majority? It smells desperately like Bush’s, you’re either with us or you’re against us rhetoric.

Third, Status of Women Canada is doing something. Or was until the New Government of Canada took office. The research and programming within SWC and collaboration with women across the country brought gender-based analysis to the federal government. SWC’s response to our nation’s grief after the Montreal Massacre brought the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The work SWC does to highlight statistics on violence against women, for example, is crucial to making our society a safer place for all.

To suggest that SWC does nothing is to ignore its almost 30 years of working to improve the status of women in Canada.  It is also a lie.  And, worst of all, it degrades the work that women and women’s organizations in this country have done to improve the lives of women living and working here.

I suggest Canadian women are too smart to fall for Oda’s kind of nasty politicking. Canadian women know there is a power imbalance in this country and though we desperately want to feel equal and to be treated as equals, we know we are not.

Minister Oda has demonstrated that very clearly.  She must now do the right thing and resign.