BC CEDAW Group Appeal to the MLA

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 

Dear MLA, 

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 urge the Premier and members of the Cabinet to respond positively to the CEDAW Committee's recommendation and to implement the thorough and transparent 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. 

A credible review of the impact of recent policy 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 must result in a public report detailing the process and its findings. 

In light of the CEDAW Committee's concerns and its recommendation for review, we also urge you to support a halt to the implementation of any further cuts to programmes, services, or funding until this review of policies and legislation is completed. 

Thank you for your attention. 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 reply. 

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