Women's Centres Not Invited to British Columbia Government International Day Event

Wednesday, July 28 2010

Women's Centres Not Invited to British Columbia Government International Day Event

Lynn Stephens hijacks International Women's Day from its feminist origins - Women's Centres send symbolic "bread and roses" to underscore BC Government's lack of commitment to women

The BC Coalition of Women's Centres is outraged at being shut out of a luncheon celebrating International Women's Day. The luncheon is being hosted by the Lieutenant Governor, Iona Campagnolo and Minister Lynn Stephens. Women-serving organizations across the province received invitations. Women's Centres the oldest feminist organizations in the province have been excluded.

The invitations to other women's organizations read: "The Honourable Iona Campagnolo, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, together with the Honourable Lynn Stephens, Minister of State for Women's Equality, requests the pleasure of your company at a Luncheon in Government House, Victoria to mark International Women's Day o­n Friday 7th March 2003 at 11:15 a.m. Dress Business Attire."

The BC Coalition of Women's Centres has sent a symbolic delivery of the

traditional International Women's Day bread and roses to Minister Stephens' Luncheon. The 38 roses in the delivery package represent the 38 Women's Centres which are having their funding cut by Minister Stephens' government. The $47,174 grant is the o­nly operational money available to Women's Centres in BC, and many Centres are at a high risk of closure within the next 18 months due to this cut.

On International Women's Day around the world, bread symbolizes economic security for women, and roses symbolize a better quality of life.

Women's Centres historically have been responsible for establishing Transition Houses, Sexual Assault Centres and other services for women across the province. International Women's Day is a day to honour that work and the women who fought those hard battles.

International Women's Day is a day with socialist roots and a day to celebrate the achievements of women and the gains made by the Feminist Movement.

Minister Lynn Stephens is clearly punishing Women's Centres, and specifically the BC Coalition of Women's Centres, for speaking out against her government and the cuts to women's services. Minister Stephens is shutting women's centres out for doing exactly what International Women's Day celebrates and honours.

Once again the BC Government has excluded those that do not agree with them. o­nce again Minster Stephens has moved the BC Liberals anti-woman agenda forward. The divide and conquer rift the Minister is hoping to create among women's groups will not happen.

The BC Coalition of Women's Centres does not accept being ignored and dismissed by a Minister that has sold women in BC out. Minister Stephens has shown us over and over again that she does not have a working understanding of the women's movement in BC and makes choices to exclude women who work for change.

The BC Coalition of Women's Centres are not the o­nly group of women being discriminated against by this government. This week the UN Committee o­n the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women released their report.

The United Nations report singles out and criticizes British Columbia for the cuts to social programs in BC.

The UN Committee states that it is concerned about the is roportionately negative impact o­n women and girls of a number of resent changes in BC, including the cuts in funds for legal aid and welfare assistance, the elimination of a free-standing Ministry of Women's Equality the cuts to the Human Rights Commission, courthouses, the cuts in support for victims of violence and the proposed changes regarding the prosecution of violence against women offenders.

Minister Lynn Stephens has discounted criticism from many BC groups by tagging them as "special interest" groups, "labour" groups or "leftover NDP-ers." The UN, as the International Body regulating Human Rights, cannot be so easily dismissed, and the UN has spoken.

The BC Coalition of Women Centres demands that Minister Lynn Stephens and Premier Gordon Campbell begin the work today of implementing the many, many recommendations made in the UN submission or resign.

We cannot accept a Minister or a Premier who continues to violate women's rights in this province and who refuse to comply with the Convention o­n the Elimination of the Discrimination Against Women.

Media Contacts:

Heidi Wurmann 250-344-5317 (w)

Debra Critchley 250-542-7531 (w)

Dodie Goldney 250-376-3009 (w)

Benita Bunjun 604-255-6554 (w)

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