Victoria Status of Women Action Group Boycotts December 6 Ceremonies at BC Legislature for a Third Year

Wednesday, July 28 2010

Victoria Status of Women Action Group Boycotts December 6 Ceremonies at BC Legislature for a Third Year

For 3 years in a row, SWAG has boycotted the Dec. 6 ceremonies at the BC legislature led by BC's Minister of State for Women's Equality, Lynn Stephens (this ministry is under the Community Aboriginal and Women's Services and includes every thing form leaky condos to the olympics to women and first nations and intercultural issues -- it has been called the Ministry of Lost Causes).

The first year the BC Liberals had a ceremony (Dec. 6, 2001) in the rotunda at the legislature, it was packed with people. I and a SWAG board member came in to the legislature with no problem as it was open to the public. We distributed our letter stating why we felt we must boycott the ceremony - that the government was embarking on policies that would increase the incidence of violence against women. This was covered on the media fairly prominently.

The second year, the ceremony was still open to the public, supposedly, but invitations were faxed to specific groups. SWAG received this invitation but had not RSVPed, but we did witness many people entering the legislature with no invitation.

We had just done a walk, taking over the streets with only about 30 women, from a women's homeless shelter and were going to deliver 77 pink socks to Liberal MLAs filled with eviction notices and other mementos of the increasing assaults on women's security that the BC government is responsible for.

We laid the socks on the legislature steps but were barred entry to the ceremony. Some of the outraged young feminist womyn tried to push their way in with the security people pushing back as hard as they could. They finally slammed the side door shut and managed to trap one of the coats of the young womyn. She was stuck in the door for about 20 minutes before they would open the door to let her out. We were also barred from the front entrance with this altercation also covered on the TV news. During our action last year we saw at least 50 people from the public and from different organizations enter the legislature.

This year SWAG, along with 150 others, were given an invitation to attend the ceremony. Wishing to again draw attention to the violence that will be caused by this government (see press release that follows) we were more proactive and we faxed as many organizations as we could think of asking them to boycott the ceremony. Most people instead attended a huge ceremony (600 people) at UVIC to remember the victims of the Montreal Massacre.

This year the complete lack of legitimacy that the BC Government has in daring to pretend that they care about violence against women, was clearly evident -- hardly anyone attended their ceremony in the rotunda of the legislature on Dec. 5.

This year the legislature was totally closed to the public. Only those that had RSVPed Lynn Stephen's ministry were allowed to go in. There was a woman with a list who checked everyone's name before they went in. No one else other than legislature staff were allowed in. About 50 people attended with most of those people working for the government. We saw only about 15 community people attend.

About 15 women from SWAG and some male allies held signs and handed out information to the very few people who were planning to attend the ceremony. We asked people to boycott the ceremony to show they would not legitimize the violence of this government, but that if they felt they must go in we asked that they bring up the issues we had raised. Several government workers also engaged in respectful conversations with us and some productive dialogue even occurred with those who we thought would be hostile.

Two First Nations members of SWAG used SWAG's invitation because they wanted to raise their issues with the minister. Right after they entered the legislature they were unexpectedly told they had 6 minutes to speak to Lynn Stephens which they did and got, as would be expected, no straight answers from Lynn.

We also received a report from one long time feminist who did go in to the ceremony. This is what she wrote: "I couldn't make the University Service... so I decided to get on the list of the Government Service and experience their Memorial. Meeting you all outside the legislature totally caught me realizing I hadn't thought through the present political situation and what attendance means. Still, I wanted that experience."

"When I left, you all asked my "take" on the inside. Sterile, bureaucratic, perfunctory - except for the woman who spoke of her feelings as a young engineering student when the massacre occurred. Who was there? 50 - 75 people max and appeared mostly to be working for the government or social service organizations connected to government. Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan were not there."

"Lynn Stevens and the other main speaker expressed feelings of sympathy, spoke of the violence before us all, and then concentrated on what the government is doing. That grabbed me because I thought of the violence that increases as women become poor, powerless, and the gross policies that you people have worked so hard to bring before the public. A big deal was made of the government declaring that from Dec. 6, 2003, onward, this day will be known as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against women in BC. Funny, that is the Federal Declaration with "BC" tacked on. Also announced was forthcoming printed resources developed by the government to assist those in shelters and volunteers in their work. I thought it would be the other way around - staff in shelter and volunteers educating the government and the government response would be a form of stable funding. - an on-going interrelationship of community and government working together.

"I brought your information forward to a policy analyst with the Women's Branch, and she already had it. I didn't know anyone else. The only meaningful part to me was listening to Rose Henry and the other young woman with her. I felt co-opted... reminded me of how government policies pursue the "business of violence." "Thank you, and all those with you for being a beacon on the present tragedies of violence in women's lives and the policies of government that support this human degradation. See you next year - on the outside."

It was very encouraging to get this thoughtful letter from a feminist elder. It was also very encouraging that Lynn Stephens cannot get away with her blatant lies about being concerned about violence against women. She only recognizes physical violence but refuses to see how economic violence and cutting services to women and children only puts them at risk.

Here is what we handed out to the few people who attended the ceremony:

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WOMYN! ON DEC. 5, 11 am, 03 DO NOT LEGITIMIZE
THE VIOLENCE OF THIS GOVERNMENT
DO NOT ATTEND LYNN STEPHEN'S CEREMONY AT THE LEGISLATURE

Cutting thousands of women off welfare will leave them vulnerable to violence. It is total and cruel hypocrisy for this government to invite people to a ceremony against violence against women when they are causing increased violence against women.

All this is violence. All this is legislated by the government of this province. The government says no one needs to suffer from poverty because everyone who is able can get a job. Jobs are not a solution to poverty for several reasons.

This is why SWAG, along with many other groups in the world, is calling for a universal guaranteed livable income, especially as to how it would benefit women.

We urge everyone to boycott this ceremony and ask that they instead join a gathering outside the legislature where women will speak to the issue of violence against women in all its forms, both visible and invisible.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH THE LIES, DISRESPECT, DEVALUATION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!

SHOW YOUR SOLIDARITY WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO FACE THE VIOLENCE OF BEING CUT OFF WELFARE THIS APRIL

SHOW YOUR SOLIDARITY WITH WOMEN WHO ARE THE BIGGEST VICTIMS OF THE POLICIES OF NEO-LIBERALISM

BOYCOTT LYNN'S DUPLICITOUS CEREMONY

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Next year I'm sure Lynn will be standing there at her "ceremony" with only her paid staff around her. Perhaps she'll get the message that violence comes in many forms and that what she is doing is violence against women.

Victoria Status of Women Action Group (SWAG)
swag@pacificcoast.net
www.pacificcoast.net/~swag
250-383-7322 (ph) 250-388-0100 (fax)
Box 8484, Victoria BC, V8W 3S1
Coast Salish Territory

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