HARPER’S POLICIES AND THE IMPACT ON WOMEN
HARPER’S POLICIES AND THE IMPACT ON WOMEN
Written and submitted by Hannah Hadikin, VOW board member
This past June Canadians across the country, together with the opposition parties in Parliament, stood up to Harper’s waves of attacks on women, seniors, workers, refugees, the environment and health care. Inspite of the outcry across the nation, we saw the Conservatives ram through legislation disguised as a Budget Bill, when in fact Bill C-38 contains damaging non-budgetary measures. These measures will have enormous impact on Canadians in years to come. The concerns were not only with the content, but also with the process the Conservatives used which undermined the proper functioning of a democratic parliament. Meaningful participation in civil society is a hallmark of a democracy. Where is the opportunity for dialog and debate? Is it a democracy when a government abuses its majority by shoving more than 70 different laws down the throats of Canadians? This clear abuse of power is very dangerous forCanada.
Canadians will now see the age of eligibility for old age security to 67. Seniors will have to find employment for an additional two years. It is not uncommon for many seniors, to compromise their nutritional needs and diets for lack of adequate income. Women in particular will be impacted due to the historic inequality in labour market participation. Furthering this situation is a cruel and inhumane attack on some of the most vulnerable in society.
Since the federal budget has been tabled, the government has eliminated the National Aboriginal Health Organization and cut the Native Women’s Association of Canada. At a time when it is most critical to improve the health of aboriginal women, the government chooses to take a stab once again, at the vulnerable amongst us.
The Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) pushed through by the Tories raises further alarms. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has gone on record to state those EI recipients who pass up “reasonable’’ job offers could lose their benefits. Claiming that “there are no bad jobs’’; Flaherty has ‘little sympathy’ for EI recipients and will justify forcing teachers, nurses and other professionals to take McJobs or lose their benefits.
The changes to TFWP permit employers to pay migrant workers up to 15% less and to fast-track employer applications for these workers. Clearly the message here is that migrant workers are not equal. Many migrant workers are people of colour, such as the large numbers of women from the Philippines who come to work as nannies, domestic helpers and care aides.
Bill C-38 shows its racist colours brilliantly in discriminating against refugees. With fifty million people in the world today uprooted due to global tensions, repression, war, conflict and persecution, the need to help the displaced to rebuild their lives is more critical than ever. It is incumbent that developed nations such as Canada, shoulder the responsibility and support those who are displaced. Rather than implementing an egalitarian and humanitarian policy, the government behaves like a bully, introducing sweeping changes to the Interim Federal Health Program disallowing newly-arrived refugees access to primary health care and necessary health services. Women and children in particular, who are seeking refuge in Canada, fleeing violence in their countries of origin or from refugee camps, will inevitably without access to desperately needed health services.
Additional examples of major policy shifts and impacts on women include: the reallocation of funding from organizations that support advocacy for women’s human rights to organizations that provide front-line services; the elimination of funding to the court challenges program which was created to provide assistance to court cases related to equality rights guaranteed under the constitution; the elimination of funding agreements that had been negotiated to provide five billion dollars for childcare and early learning programs across the country; the decrease in levels of financial and human rights resources specifically committed to gender-equality projects through the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian International Development Agency.
The federal government has cut the budgets to Environment Canada and Fisheries & Oceans. It has closed down the National Round Table on the Environment & Economy.
By gutting the environmental protections, the oil and gas sectors will be given more authority to push through massive pipeline projects in the quest for profits for their shareholders. This government scoffs at global warming, attacks the entire environmental movement, guts environmental protection and name-calls concerned citizens ‘foreign-backed ecoterrorists.’
We ask: why is there money for war and military expenditures, but not for true human security and social safety nets? Why is there not a priority to demilitarize and create a green, sustainable economy rather than building warships? How can a government call itself responsible when it abandons seniors, women, Aboriginals, disabled persons, refugees and visible minorities by destroying decades of social programs? Is it not time for Canadians to not only sink warship building, Harper’s war drive and ever expanding militarism, but also to sink this government’s anti-democratic, racist, dictatorial policies.