BC CEDAW Group Appeal to The Honourable Colin Hansen

Date: 
Wednesday, April 9, 2003

#225, 3495 Cambie Street, Vancouver, B.C., V5Z 4R3
Aboriginal Women's Action Network, Working Group on Poverty, West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, Justice for Girls, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter, Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (B.C. and Yukon Region), End Legislated Poverty, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights, British Columbia Coalition of Women's Centres, Vancouver Women's Health Collective, National Action Committee on the Status of Women - (B.C. Society), Women's Working Group of the British Columbia Health Coalition.


April 9, 2003

 

The Honourable Colin Hansen
Minister of Health Services
Province of British Columbia
Parliament Buildings, Room 337
P.O. Box 9050
Victoria, B.C.
V8W 9E2

 

Dear Mr. Hansen, 

We write to you about an urgent matter - the rights of women and girls in Canada and, in particular, the rights of women and girls in the Province of British Columbia. 

The B.C. CEDAW Group is a coalition of twelve non-governmental organizations, based in British Columbia, whose specific concern is the compliance of all levels of government in Canada with the terms of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. 

On February 26, 2003 the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women released its Concluding Comments following its review of Canada's 5th report on its compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Canada ratified this international human rights treaty in 1981 and all levels of government, including the Government of British Columbia, have committed themselves to comply with its terms. 

In its Concluding Comments, a copy of which is attached here, the Committee expresses a high level of concern about Canada's failure to eliminate discrimination against women, and the Committee singles out the Government of British Columbia for specific criticism. At paragraph 35, the Committee states: 

The Committee is concerned about a number of recent changes in British Columbia which have a disproportionately negative impact on women, in particular Aboriginal women. Among these changes are: the cut in funds for legal aid and welfare assistance, including changes in eligibility rules; …the incorporation of the Ministry of Women's Equality under the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services; the abolition of the independent Human Rights Commission; the closing of a number of courthouses; and the proposed changes regarding the prosecution of domestic violence as well as the cut in support programmes for victims of domestic violence. 

The Committee recommends that "the government of British Columbia analyse its recent legal and other measures as to their negative impact on women and …amend the measures, where necessary" (para. 36). As this is a recommendation from a United Nations treaty body, charged with overseeing the compliance of States parties to CEDAW, we fully expect that you, as Minister of Health Services, will immediately take steps to implement the serious review necessary to ensure that the government is fulfilling its obligations under international human rights law. 

We also ask you to halt any further cuts to health programmes and services that women rely upon until a review has been completed. (Please see the enclosed Fact Sheet, Impacting Women: Provincial Government Cuts to Health Care.) We are sure that the Government of British Columbia wishes to enjoy the confidence of its female constituents as well as its male constituents. It cannot enjoy that confidence if it does not make it clear that it respects the rights of women and takes seriously its commitments to realize them. 

On March 6, 2003, you stated that you "would welcome any outside scrutiny of the Liberal government changes to health programmes in B.C.". We are pleased by your willingness to engage in such a review of health policy and we ask for your assurance that the concerns raised by the BC CEDAW Group will be carefully considered by you. 

In addition, we call on your government to immediately implement the recommended broader review of policies and legislation and their impact on women. Please inform us in writing of the steps that you will take to implement both reviews. We also ask that you ensure that these reviews are conducted in such a way that representatives of women's non-governmental organizations can participate fully, and that they result in public reports widely distributed to the people of British Columbia. 

Thank you for your attention to these requests. To begin this process we would like to meet with you to discuss the UN CEDAW report and our concerns about cuts to women's health services and programmes. 

Shelagh Day would be pleased to provide further information, or to assist in arranging the requested meeting. She can be contacted at xxx-xxx-xxxx (telephone) or xxx-xxx-xxxx (fax).We look forward to your early response. 

Sincerely, 

Faye Blaney, Aboriginal Women's Action Network
Christina Davidson, Working Group on Poverty
Audrey Johnson, West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
Annabel Webb and Joanna Czapska, Justice for Girls
Suzanne Jay, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter
Lee Lakeman, Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (B.C. and Yukon Region)
Lesley Moore, End Legislated Poverty
Cenen Bagon, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights
Michelle Dodds, B.C. Coalition of Women's Centres
Caryn Duncan, Vancouver Women's Health Collective
Bev Meslo, National Action Committee on the Status of Women (B.C. Society)
Terrie Hendrickson, Women's Working Group of the B.C. Health Coalition

 

On behalf of the B.C. CEDAW Group

 

cc: The Honourable Gordon Campbell, Premier of the Province of British Columbia
The Honourable Geoff Plant, Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Human Rights, Province of British Columbia
The Honourable George Abbott, Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services, Province of British Columbia
The Honourable Lynn Stephens, Minister of State for Women's Equality, Province of British Columbia
The Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Health, Government of Canada

 


Enclosures: UN CEDAW Report
BC Moves Backwards on Women's Equality
Impacting Women: Provincial Government Cuts to Health Care