British Columbia Moves Backwards on Women’s Equality

Women's equality moving backwards in B.C. says women's coalition


Alternative report on provincial government cuts and changes that negatively impact women and girls presented to United Nations Committee

Vancouver - British Columbia is moving backwards on women's equality due to current provincial government policies and is in contravention of its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), says the B.C. CEDAW Group. 

"B.C. is moving resolutely backwards on women's equality with policy shifts and program cuts that have increased the economic and social vulnerability of women and girls," says Tami Friesen of the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). "The provincial government cannot honestly claim to be meeting international human rights obligations while it continues to take steps that worsen conditions and life opportunities for women and girls in B.C. 

The B.C. CEDAW Group - a coalition of 12 leading B.C. women's organizations - has produced an alternative report, British Columbia Moves Backward on Women's Equality, that details recent, drastic changes in provincial government policies and programmes and explains their harmful impact on women and girls. This report was presented to the CEDAW Committee last week and will be considered by the committee in its upcoming review of the government. 

"B.C. has made drastic cuts to welfare, legal aid, women's advocacy organizations and other supports such as child care programs. These cuts have dramatically increased women's vulnerability to male violence including sexual harassment on the job and violence in the home. The changes are especially dangerous as the present government is concurrently considering increasing prosecutorial discretion to divert criminal cases of wife assault away from court," says Lee Lakeman of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres. 

Caryn Duncan of the Vancouver Women's Health Collective says that the B.C. government's changes to the health care system will disproportionately harm the health and well-being of women and girls. "The increase in MSP premiums and elimination of services under the plan, increase in deductibles for Pharmacare, restrictions on eligibility for home care, closure of residential care beds, and loss of good women's jobs in the health sector will have devastating effects on women and their families," says Duncan. 

Cenen Bagon of the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights says that changes to the B.C. Employment Standards Act favour employers and establish minimum standards that permit the exploitation of workers, especially the large numbers of women who work in non-union and minimum wage jobs. "Combined with B.C.'s new, two-tiered minimum wage structure and severe cuts to Workers' Compensation, the government has seriously undermined workers' human rights and particularly those of young and immigrant women." 

Shelagh Day of the Poverty and Human Rights Project is already in New York as part of the B.C. CEDAW delegation. "Neither the B.C. nor the Canadian government has officially informed the U.N. committee that pay equity guarantees, the B.C. Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Women's Equality no longer exist in our province," says Day. "The B.C. government is relying for evidence of its compliance with the Convention on programmes and policies that are now cancelled. Our alternative report sets out current program and funding cuts and demonstrates how the B.C. government is in breach of its international obligations." 

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979 and is frequently described as an international bill of rights for women. 

Canada signed onto CEDAW in 1980 and ratified it in 1981. 

The federal, provincial and territorial governments are obligated to put CEDAW provisions into practice and to submit national reports to the CEDAW Committee every four years. 

The U.N. committee will review British Columbia's compliance with CEDAW on January 23 in New York City. 

British Columbia moves backwards in Women's Equality
Submission of the B.C. CEDAW Group to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on the occasion of the Committee's review of Canada's 5th Report, January 23, 2003

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA)