The Austerity Agenda and Harper's Attack on Women
Elsie was turned away from a women’s shelter in Hamilton.1 Marie-Josée worked with native women on health issues until the healing centre where she worked closed for good.2 Ariella makes significantly less at her clerical job than the men at her government agency.3
Protest against Status of Women cuts in Ottawa, 2007.
What do these women have in common? They’ve been directly affected by the austerity agenda, in the form of cuts to organizations and programs that protect women’s rights, safety and well-being. The austerity agenda sacrifices women's equality and well-being for corporate profits.
At Status of Women Canada–the government agency charged with protecting women’s rights– the Harper government closed 12 of 16 regional offices.4 It also cut funding for over 41 women's organizations.5 These include women’s shelters and advocates for women's health, equality and security. It also cancelled funding for legal challenges to enforce the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.6 Harper pushed a bill through that undermines the principle of pay equity,7 and scrapped the national child care program initiated in 2005.8 Finally, officials have repeatedly brushed off calls for action in response to 1,200 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women9 and destroyed the federal long gun registry.10
The impacts of these cuts have been dramatic.
Since 1996, Canada has fallen from #1 in the world for gender equality to #18 in 2011.11 Canada's gender pay gap was the world’s seventh best in 2004, but dropped to 25th place by 2009.12 As of 2010, women in Canada make 71 cents for every dollar a man makes.13
When employers pay women 71 cents on the dollar, that adds up to billions in profits from the exploitation of inequality. It adds up to tens of billions of dollars per year that would be paid to women if pay equity was a reality.14
It’s time to act like we value women’s lives and the work they do. This is part of what it means to unite against austerity.
Why this matters:
The Harper Government have specifically targeted organizations that advocate for the rights of women. These attacks are part of a right wing vision that sees women doing more unpaid work and occupying low-paid, part-time jobs.
This is also part of an austerity agenda that boosts corporate profits at everyone else’s expense. Women who don't have access to childcare services, shelters or other support are more likely to take a pay cut or stay in abusive relationships in order to avoid falling further into poverty.
Gender inequality and precarious jobs for women, create downward pressure on everyone's wages. This is part of why corporate profits keep going up, while wages for most workers have stagnated.15
Lower wages for women also disproportionately affect children: 21% of single mothers live in poverty. Children living in poor households are more likely to have physical and mental health issues, less likely to develop knowledge and skills, and overall do worse in school.16
Women of colour and Indigenous women are twice as likely to live in poverty than Canadian women overall. Indigenous women are targeted by attacks on Indigenous rights and environmental regulations, while recent immigrants are subject to exploitative immigration rules.17
While Canada’s arms industry profits at the expense of predominantly Muslim countries, Muslim women are bearing the brunt of fear-mongering and war propaganda. They are subject to profound discrimination in Canadian society and earn a full third less than Canadian women overall.18
In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, these attacks and the resulting inequality are completely unnecessary. But to tilt the scales back to fairness and equality, we have to take action together: sign the petition or sign up to find out how you can get involved.
- Changed name; real situation. "100 abused women are turned away from shelters in Hamilton each month because there are not enough beds," according to the Hamilton Spectator. –Hamilton Spectator, 2015
On April 18, 2012, StatsCan reported that "379 women and 215 accompanying children were turned away from shelters in Canada." –StatsCan, 2012
The Calgary Herald reported that 17,000 women had been turned away from shelters in Alberta in 2013. –Calgary Herald, 2014
- Changed name; real situation. The National Aboriginal Health Organization closed its doors in 2012 after government funding was cut, followed by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the Sisters in Spirit campaign. 134 aboriginal healing centres across Canada had their funding cut. See: Briarpatch, 2010; CBC, 2012; CBC, 2014
- Changed name; real situation. After a 30-year fight, some postal workers were compensated for a pay equity dispute. –PSAC, 2013
Because of high rates of unionization and 30 years of legal challenges, the gender pay gap for public servants is lower than other sectors, but stands at 10.9%. –Treasury Board, 2013
- "'We don't need to separate the men from the women in this country. This government as a whole is responsible to develop policies and programs that address the needs of both men and women,' the Conservative minister said when announcing the cuts." CBC, 2006
"Particularly affected have been organizations dependent on government funding which advocate for human rights and women's equality. Their voices have been stifled, some completely silenced, by cuts to their budgets." –CCPA, 2011
- "The mandate of SWC was also changed at that time to exclude 'gender equality and political justice' and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying." Canadian Federation of University Women.
- "Access to justice in equality rights cases is severely limited and is available mostly to those with the financial capacity to pursue them." –Voices/Voix, 2012
- "Stephen Harper has refused to implement the recommendations of the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force, which was appointed to design much-needed changes to the federal pay equity system. In addition, in the 2009 Budget, he introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which, in effect, takes away the right of women federal public servants to equal pay for work of equal value." –Canadian Human Rights Reporter, 2013
- Attempts to create a national childcare program go back to the 1970s. The most recent attempt was scrapped by the Conservatives in 2006. –Child Care Canada, 2012
- "Um it, it isn't really high on our radar, to be honest," Harper said in a nationally-televised interview. –CBC, 2014
- "In the last decade, 71% of spousal homicides committed with a firearm involved a shot gun or a rifle." –YWCA, 2011
- "Neglecting a gender-based analysis is not just wrong, it's inefficient, as gender neutral budgeting can ignore potentially fruitful investments, such as childcare, and work against other efforts to foster gender equality." –CLC, 2012
- "[The government] has demonstrated that it is not interested in funding organizations that explicitly advocate for women's equality and rights protection." –CCPA, 2011
- "Statistical evidence demonstrates that women continue to earn less than men in Canada... This is the case despite the fact that women are catching up with men in labour force participation, and have caught up with men in educational attainment." –Parliament of Canada, 2010
- There are 8,076,000 women in the Canadian workforce, and the average salary is 30,000. A 30% increase across the board adds up to over $100 billion annually, so tens of billions is a conservative estimate. –StatsCan, 2010
- "The picture since the last recession is not one of heady growth but rather one of stagnation for the vast majority of Canadian workers, precisely the 83% outside the oil boom provinces" –Michal Rozworski, 2015
- "Eighty percent of all lone-parent families are headed by women. This adds up to over 1 million families, and they are among the poorest in the country. Single moms have a net worth of only about $17,000, while single dads have about $80,000." –Canadian Women's Foundation, 2012
- 36% of Indigenous women, 35% of women of colour and 36% of recent immigrants live in poverty. –Canadian Women's Foundation, 2012 In Manitoba, 68% of aboriginal children live in poverty. –Winnipeg Free Press, 2010
- The median wage for Muslim women in 2010 was $15,763, less than two thirds that of Canadian women overall. "In 2010, the median income of Muslim females was… more than a third (36 per cent) less than the median income of $24,606 of all women in Canada. The disparity was broadly based across age groups and educational levels." Canadian Council of Muslim Women, 2014
Send a message:
We value women’s work equally; we care about women’s lives, safety and health; we want all families to have access to affordable child care.
Let’s reverse the cuts, support an investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women, and recommit to creating a society where women are equal, valued, and free from harm.