This is the Victoria BC office of the Status of Women Action Group. As you can see, it is a 7x7 foot storage locker. While they do have the use of a donated voice mail, they no longer have any federal funding. No swag for SWAG.
H/T to F-email Fightback who blogged about this back in July.
One year ago the federal Conservative government announced it would no longer fund women's groups that do polling, advocacy, lobbying or general research. Perhaps the most drastic change to the mandate and operation of Status of Women Canada was also dropping the word "equality'' from the agency's goals.
So it wasn't much of a surprise this week to learn that NAWL, the National Association for Women and the Law, an advocacy group promoting equal rights, pay equity, legal access and education, is closing its doors due to those very changes to the criteria for funding. Like the two women in the storage locker in Victoria, they will continue their work, but as volunteers.
At the time of the budget cuts, Gwen Landolt of REAL Women, the traditional-values group which has spent the last 25 years fighting against equal rights for women, explained that groups (like SWAG) are no longer needed because "women are equal now". I somehow doubt this line of reasoning would much impress the woman in the wheelchair working at the storage locker, given that a woman working full-time makes 73 cents as compared to the dollar made by a man in the same job. I also suspect this leaves little free time for advocacy but Gwen is unfazed : "If a group can't support itself and its lobbying activities across the country, then it just isn't a grassroots organization and shouldn't be funded by the taxpayer."
She is inordinately proud of the fact that REAL Women does not receive a single penny in federal funding and professes not to see why anyone else should, neglecting to mention that REAL Women has in fact applied for federal funding, but was delisted in 1999 for not having any actual programs that furthered the main objective of Status of Women Canada, which, as you will recall, used to consist of programs and advocacy for women. Gay bashing and anti-abortion propaganda evidently did not count as credits.
Gwen was interviewed on CBC's The Current yesterday.
Anna Maria Tremonti asked her if she didn't think that pay equity, paid maternity leave, and a national daycare plan were things that Canadian women wanted. Landolt explained that women were different from men and that if women had wanted a national daycare plan, they wouldn't have voted for Harper.
I do hope, women of Canada, that you are taking notes. You will recall that in an effort to appear to have outgrown his a nutty Reform roots, Harper campaigned on a promise not to attack funding for women. Nonetheless, Landolt, along with Charles McVety, met with Harper his very first day in office.
Landolt was also very exercised about Canada having been censured by the UN group CIDA for not having done enough to promote women's rights. CIDA attacked Harper, she explained, because of what the feminists told CIDA about him.
Do you really think that was what turned them off, Gwen? Or do you think it might have been that the office of your associate at REAL Women, Sharon Hayes, a Reform MP and also a board member of Focus on the Family, circulated a press release claiming that the Chinese perform ritual abortions in order to eat the fetuses? Just a guess here.
Josee Verner was also on The Current but mercifully the sound of her going round and round in circles blended so well with the sound of the washing machine that I only caught a couple of her cycles.
Roughly paraphrased :
JV : NAWL didn't get funding because they didn't apply for it.
AMT : What, given the new mandate, could they have applied for?
JV : Well they didn't apply. That's why they didn't get funding.
AMT, brightening up : So if they do apply now, could their funding be restored?
JV : Murmer, murmer. At just that point, Josee's spin cycle clicked in so I didn't hear a satisfactory answer.
Gosh, she's so nice though, isn't she? Really, it would be churlish to ask anything more from her.
Go listen to both of them, along with two NAWL advocates, here.
Heather Mallick on the value of SWC & LEAF, the perfidy of REAL Women
F-email Fightback : Amnesty International on NAWL closure
Also : Impolitical, and JJ, and Hope and Onions