Cuts to Status of Women and Court Challenges Program Undermine Government's Commitment to Women's Equality

Monday, July 26 2010

September 25, 2006, Ottawa: FAFIA, a pan-Canadian alliance of women’s and human rights organizations, is denouncing the $5 million cut to the federal department of Status of Women over two years. These cuts will be taken from its modest annual budget of $13 million. The grants and contributions arm ($11 million) of the department was not affected.

“These cuts will critically affect the federal government’s own capacity to live up to its equality commitments to women,” said Shelagh Day, Co-Chair of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).

FAFIA is also dismayed by the elimination of the Court Challenges Program. “This Program has provided Canadian women with their only access to the use of their constitutional equality rights,” said Shelagh Day. “Equality rights have no meaning in Canada if women, and other Canadians who face discrimination, cannot use them.”

“Constitutional cases are too expensive for women to mount on their own. Without this test case fund, women simply do not have access to the courts when their rights are violated.”

During the last federal election campaign, Stephen Harper promised to “take concrete and immediate measures…to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women.” These cuts are not consistent with Mr. Harper’s election promise,” said Day

Status of Women Canada is responsible for equipping the federal government to conduct gender based analysis of all policies and programs. It also provides internal expertise on specific policy initiatives. The department’s budget is one of the smallest of any department at the federal level.

An Expert Panel on accountability mechanisms for gender equality, that made its report just before the last federal election, concluded that Status of Women Canada needed to be significantly strengthened in order to better perform its function as a watchdog for women’s equality. The cut to SWC ignores those crucial recommendations.

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