On International Women’s Day 2010

Statement by New Democrat Leader Jack Layton on International Women’s Day

Women and men around the world recognize International Women’s Day as a time to reflect upon and celebrate women’s social, political and economic achievements, both globally and locally. In this country, much progress has been made since Canadians first marked International Women’s Day in 1977.

Sadly, there is still much work to be done. Women across the world continue to suffer extreme poverty, violence and violations of their basic human rights.

Last month, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and the Canadian Labour Congress sent the United Nations a detailed report on the statistical decline in Canadian women’s equality and rights. The groups cited “systemic erosion” in the status of Canadian women since 2004.

The Conservative government, led by Stephen Harper, has undermined the important advancements essential for the security of women by:
• Eliminating the phrase “gender equality” from the mandate of Canada’s primary institution responsible for gender equality in Canada: Status of Women; and while the word equality was re-introduced to the mandate, the spirit of equality has not been re-established;
• Failing to meet the commitment to the implementation of gender-based analysis throughout its departments and agencies;
• Closing twelve of sixteen Status of Women offices;
• Ignoring recommendations made by the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force Report, and placing pay equity negotiations back on the bargaining table;
• Eliminating funding for the court challenges program – a program established to provide assistance to court cases related to equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution;
• Failing to create and implement a national childcare strategy. $100-a-month in universal child benefits does not alleviate financial strain for impoverished mothers, especially single ones, who must work to support their families;
• Decreasing levels of financial and human resources allocated to gender-equality projects within the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs;
• Failing to address violence against women;
• Failing to effectively improve the lives of aboriginal women, establishing a comprehensive national response to meet the specific needs of aboriginal women;
• Lacking strategies to address the specific challenges faced by women of colour, women from the LGBTT communities, and women with mental and physical difficulties;
• Failing to improve women’s pension rights.

New Democrats believe that Canadian women deserve fairness, affordability, opportunity, equal pay for work of equal value, a decent standard of living, and the freedom to live without fear. We will continue to fight for equality.

I invite all Canadians to join with New Democrats in celebrating International Women’s Day and to speak out on the issues that matter to all women. We will never stop in our efforts to ensure the full and equal rights of all women.