06 June 2008

Dion on Women's Equality

Dion vows to create gender equality post


Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion said yesterday that if he becomes prime minister, he'll appoint a federal commissioner of gender equality.

"Women have made huge strides in the last few decades, but our society still has further to go," he said, citing violence and social and economic inequality as issues "that have been allowed to exist for far too long in Canada.... We need a new tool to further the cause of gender equality."

[The new commissioner] would have status equivalent to [that of] the official languages commissioner or the privacy commissioner. She or he would have power to audit federal departments, review legislation or policy and make recommendations to Parliament.

Liberal status of women critic Maria Minna said the advantage in having a gender officer would be that "we can see who benefits from government policies and who doesn't."

For example, Minna said, a gender equality commissioner might criticize the Conservative government's cancellation of the court challenges program (which provided funds for challenges of government policies on language or equality grounds). Or the commissioner might comment on Canada's tax system, which Minna called a "huge discriminatory piece when it comes to women."

This is a step in the right direction and one which has been recommended by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) - see their Reports 7, 8, and 9 here.


Dion also said this week that he would ensure that the Liberals defeated Bill C-484, a bill introduced by Conservative MP Ken Epp as a backdoor means to reopen the abortion debate. Epp denies it, but his ruse has been uncovered.


Dion's statements are encouraging, but will he hold to them?


The promotion of women's equality in Canada took a major step backward when Stephen Harper's Conservatives took over in 2006. Status of Women Canada was severely gutted, one consequence being the closure of several women's organizations; the Court Challenges Program was outright cancelled; and other measures which had been in place to protect and further women's equality have either gone unfunded or been brutally curtailed.


Here's one woman who hopes Dion keeps his word.


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