Toronto – September 28, 2015 – If you have ever visited Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto, you would have seen the names of a number of Canadian women honoured for their notable achievements including Louise Arbour (Social Justice), Roberta Bondar (Science/Innovation), Céline Dion (Music), and Rachel McAdams (Film) just to mention a few.
But what about the names of other important women who changed the course of Canadian history? The Famous Five aren’t noted on the Walk of Fame, but their tenacity and courage to stand up to gender-discrimination in their time changed the way women would be viewed in Canada after October 1929. Emily Murphy was among them, and through the “Persons Case”, the courts ruled that women were “persons” in society, with a right to hold office and to be treated with equality.
Almost a century later, gender-based discrimination and inequality remain a barrier for women to access and achieve their full and desired potential within Canadian society. In June, the United Nations Human Rights Committee reported a serious deterioration in the state of human rights in Canada over the past decade, including Canada’s lack of action to redress gender-based pay inequity, discrimination, and violence against women.
As Stephen Harper seeks his fourth term in office, I encourage you to reflect on the lack of progress that has been made in society under Harper’s leadership. One recent flagrant disregard for equality was Harper’s refusal to join other federal party leaders for a debate and public forum discussion on women’s issues prior to the October 19th federal election. Under the Harper regime’s rejection of a publicly funded national child care system, a child care crisis has been left to continue with a lack of affordable, quality, child care spaces. The result: many women continue to be forced to choose between work and home responsibilities, or in single parent households, women continue having to work two or three jobs to afford child care and meet household responsibilities.
This month, while it is important to celebrate Canadian achievement of Canadian women, it is equally important to recognize that the barriers that perpetuate gender inequality also affect other issues important to Canadians, including rates of poverty, violence and health. By advocating for women’s issues and calling for a new government that believes in equality, we affirm our solidarity with all Canadians.
For more information on UFCW Canada’s participation in women’s social justice events taking place across Canada throughout the year, see www.ufcw.ca/women.
Paul R. Meinema