Feminist activism -- paid for by you and me
Andrea Mrozek, Western Standard
Published: Thursday, April 06, 2006
It didn't exactly offer the drama of, say, the Persons Case. When Status of Women Canada sent a delegation to last month's 50th UN session on (naturally) the Status of Women, it came armed with a report on the work it does does on behalf of Canadian females. "
Canada's national women's machinery has conducted regional, national and online consultations, focusing on accountability issues, including gender equality indicators," read the delegation's statement. Hardly stirring stuff.
But fighting for women's rights using polls and paperwork seems to be what the federal government agency-with its annual $23-million budget-is all about these days.
In 1973, the Royal Commission for the Status of Women recommended that women's groups with a feminist outlook receive federal funding to help women achieve equality. Status of Women Canada is the result. But with millions of dollars being spent on these groups every year, Canadians might well wonder what these organizations have achieved.
We've all heard that working women earn only about 76 cents for every dollar their male co-workers take home (a statistic that neatly ignores career transience). But when it comes to fighting for equality, women's groups seem focused on less direct concerns. "The biggest driving issue, as well as accomplishment for us in the past couple of years has been on the issue of child care," says Paulette Senior, CEO of the YWCA, referring to the national day-care program passed by the Liberal government last year.
Unfortunately for the YWCA, which received $153,453 in federal funding in 2003-2004, Canadians recently elected a new government, in large part on a promise to dismantle the proposed national child-care arrangement.
Canadians voted this way despite the $60-million in federal funding that went to pro-feminist groups between 1997 and 2003. That figure comes courtesy of access to information documents obtained by Real Women of Canada, the Ottawa-based group that bills itself as the voice of the "alternative" women's movement.
Gwen Landolt, Real Women's vice-president, believes that while some federally funded women's groups work on issues of domestic violence and equal treatment of women, their purpose is superfluous. Many others, she says, are pursuing a different agenda altogether. After all, demanding low-cost housing specifically for women won't make them any more equal to men.
"They're acting as agents of change to promote their radical feminist agenda," says Landolt. "Their theory is that women are oppressed by the patriarchy."
She insists these groups lack any real grassroots support, but rather are front organizations for governments and unions. Landolt's group, by contrast, was delisted from federal funding in 1996 because officials did not qualify it as an equality-seeking group. Today, Real Women claims 55,000 members.
In a country where abortion is legal, divorce laws are liberalized and the majority of university graduates-and four of the nine Supreme Court judges-are women, feminist groups have been forced to find unique reasons for sticking around.
Kathy Marshall is executive director of Womenspace, a group dedicated to empowering women through the use of the Internet. Womenspace received $441,800 in federal cash in 2003-2004, and claims to have 2,000 people on its mailing list. Its most recent success? According to
Marshall, it was ensuring that the "language of women's equality rights" was included in something called the "World Summit on the Information Society Declaration. "
The Ottawa-based National Association of Women and the Law is using its $474,879 in funding not only to oppose the implementation of misogynist sharia law in
Canada, but to fight for "transgendered rights" in the workplace and society.
Meanwhile, visit the Web site of the federally funded National Action Committee on the Status of Women, which calls itself Canada's largest feminist group, and the most recent press release you'll find is one congratulating "the pan-Canadian women's movement" for (apparently) influencing the outcome of the 2004 election. In their June 30, 2004, announcement, NAC directs the victorious Liberals to continue "promoting equality through redistribution policies ... and a new system of proportional representation.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with feminist groups running out of equality issues shifting their focus to campaigning for higher taxes. But since that's essentially the platform of the federal NDP, exactly why are taxpayers funding them to do it? In an age when Canadian women are independent, it seems that
Canada's women's groups are more helpless and dependent than ever.
© National Post 2006
A fine journalist while with the Western Standard, Andrea Mrozek is currently doing more fine work as:
Manager of Research and Communications
The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada
130 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 5G4
613-565-3832 ext. 230