Saturday, September 22, 2007

The tyranny of the minority...


The Konservative Minority Guvmint, that is. Yes, King Stephen strikes again: the 33 y/o National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) has shuttered its doors.

Over the last three decades, NAWL has fought very hard to improve the social, legal and economic standing of Canadian women: improving maternity and parental benefits, the criminalization of wife assault, and legislation against sexual harassment, for just a few examples.

This was not a sudden death, but rather a protracted, painful demise due to a starvation of resources. NAWL's fate was as good as sealed as soon as the HarperKons announced their cuts to Status of Women Canada (that's SWC, NOT "SOW," you Kretins). Cut, cut, cut...
  • October 4, 2006: "Tories to cut Funding for Womens' Advocacy Work (Canadian Press)
  • November 29, 2006: "Tories Shutting Status of Women Offices (CBC News)
  • November 30, 2006: "Ottawa Consolidates Status of Women Services" (CBC News)
  • ...
Ah hell. I can't bear to do the list. You see, NAWL was neither the first, nor the last organization to be cut by the HarperKons. April Reign has kept careful track of the bloodletting over at her blog.

But it's ok. Don't see this as another symptom of ruthless neglect. Clearly you misunderstand! Yes, Harper and his latest stooge Minister of Canadian Heritage, Josée Verner, would like NAWL to simply apply themselves a little better and follow their new & improved guidelines for SWC funding. On Thursday, Verner joined CBC Radio's Ana Maria Tremonti to 'splain things for us (The Current, Sept 20, 2007). Verner claimed to be "very disappointed that this group did not apply" for 2007/2008 funding and "did not submit any requests yet." When Tremonti countered that the New Government's (TM) funding rules do not apply to groups who perform advocacy functions (e.g. NAWL), Verner rolled out Meme#1: "We decided to fund concrete projects"

Ah yes. Concrete projects. None of that wishy-washy, namby-pamby advocacy horse-pucky.

Advocacy. As in avocat--French for lawyer. As in: people who practise law. Call me crazy, but it's hard to see how the National Association for Women and the Law could get around doin' a little advocacy now & then.

So what's a "concrete," ergo SWC-eligible project? Well, Verner rambled about funding for women's shelters, but failed to provide any solid--concrete?--examples. Verner repeated that she was confused about why NAWL simply didn't apply for SWC funding, leaving the impression that the organization had simply let itself starve to death out of sheer negligence.

But: NAWL is not dead...yet. The association is maintaining its board of directors and volunteers, but has closed its physical shop and laid off staff. Konservative Krazies, like Gwen Landolt (REAL women--I'm not linking!) have suggested that NAWL simply raise funds the 'traditional' way--after all, if they're really so important to women, shouldn't they be able to come up with their own support? REAL translation? Har har har, we know you radical feminazis don't have the same kind of grassroots support that we do! You don't speak for all women, or you wouldn't need your government-funded ivory towers!

Bullshit. Money does not equal democracy. A lot of the organizations decimated by the HarperKons were established to serve those without the means or the megaphone to speak--nay, advocate--for themselves. Think Court Challenges Program. Think federal programs for the homeless (e.g. SCPI, the 'Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative').

If you heard or read anything at all about the cuts, it was probably this word: Neanderthal. As in: "Harper called 'Neanderthal' for cuts to women's groups." (that was Opposition critic, Maria Minna, dropping the N-bomb there). But Minna wasn't the only one outraged by the cuts. Here is a sampling of official and unofficial rxn to NAWL's announcement:

NDP Reaction: Irene Mathyssen
The work NAWL has done in coalition with other groups to dismantle barriers to achieve women's equality will be greatly missed by the many women's organizations that depend on them for their research, advocacy and expertise [...]
The closure of NAWL will turn back the clock on women's equality in Canada [...] The Harper government is not committed to promoting women's equality. They don't understand the issues that women face today. They are abandoning everyday women in this country.
Liberal Reaction: Maria Minna
Women's groups that promote equality in Canada and around the world are fighting for the right to exist under the Harper government [...] NAWL is just the latest victim of the Conservatives' narrow-minded, right-wing ideological policies.
[...] NAWL has been instrumental in many areas of women's advancement including Sections 15 and 28 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; amendments to sexual assault laws; positive changes to family law and to the Divorce Act; rape shield legislation; and criminal harassment legislation [...] I would like to know why Mr. Harper is against an organization that protects women's rights.
Le Bloc Québécois: Nicole Demers
En mettant la clé sous la porte, le groupe Femmes et droits montre à quel point les femmes sont mal servies par le gouvernement Harper, qui a procédé à des compressions budgétaires sans précédent dans les fonds destinés aux groupes de défense des droits de la femme. Le Bloc Québécois a dénoncé à plusieurs reprises ces coupes injustifiées et continue à contester cette attitude préjudiciable pour les femmes d'ici.
[...]Stephen Harper a décidé que seuls les groupes de femmes qui offrent des services à leur clientèle peuvent bénéficier des subventions gouvernementales. Comme Femmes et droits est un groupe de défense des droits des femmes, il ne reçoit plus de subsides du gouvernement. Est-ce à dire que les femmes n'ont plus besoin d'être représentées? Et qui va s'occuper de la défense et de la promotion de leurs droits si ce n'est des groupes comme ceux-là? Sûrement pas les conservateurs!
{NOTE: No official Green Party rxn, but their leader is smack-dab in the middle of hip-replacement surgery today--a successful surgery, from what I gather}

From NAWL itself:
Blog Rxns:
Other important links: Bookmark these, if you haven't already!
{'Far enough' Image courtesy of April Reign. H/T to Holly Stick, Sparqui and Alison at Breadnroses.ca for The Current interview and other helpful links}

UPDATE, Saturday, Sept 22, 1:50 PM: added link to Alison's fab post @ Creekside :)
UPDATE, Saturday, Sept 22, 5:12 PM: added links to matttbastard's fab post @ bastard.logic, and CUPW sisters' 2 new posts @ F-email Fightback (here & here).
UPDATE, Sunday, Sept 23, 4:55 AM: added fab post at April Reign.
UPDATE, Sunday, Sept 25, 2:15 AM: added fab post by Prole at A Creative Revolution.

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