BC CEDAW Group Appeal to The Honourable Geoff Plant

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 Geoff Plant
Attorney-General
Minister Responsible for Human Rights
P.O. Box 9044
STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, B.C.
V8W 9E2 

 

Dear Mr. Plant, 

We write to you about an urgent matter - 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). As you are aware, 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 "British Columbia…analyse its recent legal and other measures as to their negative impact on women and…amend the measures, where necessary" (para. 36). 

We ask that you, as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Province of British Columbia, respond immediately and positively to the United Nations CEDAW Committee's recommendation. We understand an appropriate response to the recommendation from this international body to involve at least the following two things:

1) that you take steps, with your Cabinet colleagues, to implement the thorough review that is necessary to ensure that your government is fulfilling its obligations under international human rights law to the women and girls of British Columbia, including, in particular Aboriginal women and girls. A credible review of the impact of recent provincial policy, funding, and legislative changes on women will require an independent and open process, conducted in such a way that representatives of women's non-governmental organizations can participate fully. The review process must conclude with a public report of the process and its findings;

2) that you halt the implementation of any further cuts to programmes, services, or funding until this review of policies and legislation is completed. 

To discuss the CEDAW Committee's concerns and the review process more thoroughly, we would appreciate meeting with you at your earliest convenience. We would also like to discuss the particular matters of the cuts to family law and poverty law legal aid, the abolition of the Human Rights Commission, and the proposed change to the Violence Against Women in Relationships policy. 

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to a quick reply from you, as we consider this matter to be extremely important. 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). 

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, Province of British Columbia
The Honourable George Abbott, Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services, Province of British Columbia
The Honourable Colin Hansen, Minister of Health, Province of British Columbia
The Honourable Lynn Stephens, Minister of State for Women's Equality, Province of British Columbia