Women Want Action, Not Promises: Parties Must Move to Establish a Parliamentary Committee for Women

Tuesday, July 27 2010

June 23, 2004

Ottawa: The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), a coalition of over thirty- five women’s and human rights organizations, is challenging all party leaders to make good on their commitments to women once the election results are in. Throughout the campaign, every party has said that they will protect women’s rights and improve the quality of their lives. However, no party has offered concrete measures for how they will do this when it counts - once they are in Parliament. FAFIA is proposing that all political parties move to establish a permanent Parliamentary Committee on Women’s Issues immediately after Parliament resumes.

This committee will serve as a forum in which to address many of the outstanding issues that have been identified by women in this election. Many of the issues about which political parties have sought to reassure women are ones that receive insufficient attention outside of election campaigns. Reliable access to abortion and reproductive health services, a comprehensive, national childcare program, the improved representation of women in Parliament, better home care services, and the strength of Canada’s social programs in general are all issues that women and women’s organizations have worked tirelessly to advance over many decades.

“No matter who wins this election, and regardless of whether or not there is a majority or minority government, a permanent Parliamentary Committee on Women’s Issues must be created to ensure that all of the parties in the House live up to their commitments to women,” insists Charlotte Thibault, co-chair of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action.

This measure is necessary because with only 23% of all candidates in this election being women, women’s representation in the House of Commons cannot reach a ‘critical mass’ of thirty percent. According to the United Nations, thirty percent is the minimum percentage necessary if women parliamentarians are to influence decision-making so that it reflects the interests and needs of women. Because Canada continues to rate poorly in terms of the numbers of women elected to its national Parliament, a parliamentary committee is badly needed to ensure that issues that are vital to women stay on the table.

As well, the United Nations recently soundly criticized Canada for the on-going inequality that many women still experience even though Canada signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1980.

The UN has noted that Canada’s human rights obligations require it to address outstanding issues including the systemic and on-going discrimination against Aboriginal women, lack of affordable housing accessible to women, lack of access to family law legal aid, high rates of non-standard employment for women and poverty among Canadian women.

Prior to the election call, three of the five parties agreed to establish a permanent Parliamentary Committee on Women’s Issues. Liberal member Mauril Bélanger, Deputy Leader of the Government during the last session of Parliament, and Jean Augustine, Minister of State for Women, have both said that the Liberal Party will lead the formation of this Committee. Bloc Quebecois Member and Critic for Women's Affairs Diane Bourgeois has also called for its establishment, as has New Democratic Women’s Critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis. The Conservatives have not yet stated their position.

“Women want real action, not promises. FAFIA is working hard to ensure that no matter which party forms the next government, women’s voices will be heard in Parliament. The establishment of a Parliamentary Committee is fundamental if the parties want to treat women as equal participants in Canadian society,” says Thibault.

For more information on this issue, please contact Nancy Peckford at 613-232-9505, x 222.


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