CAROL HUGHES MP ALGOMA-MANITOULIN- KAPUSKASING
************************* International Women’s Day
Many events are being held across Canada today to celebrate International Women’s Day.
While the wage gap between men and women has narrowed since the 1970s, we are fighting the same battles we did 30 years ago.
On average, a woman today working full time, all year long, earns 70.5 percent that of a man’s wages, if she is a woman of colour it drops to 64 percent, and if she is an aboriginal woman it drops even further to 46 percent.
Using the cover of a fiscal crisis, the government has stripped the right of women to challenge pay-equity decisions.
Combined with the past decisions that ended the court challenges program and removed equality from the mandate of Status of Women Canada, this government has done all it can to ensure the ‘pink ghetto’ of underpaid and undervalued work will continue.
This is not to say that Canada has not done a reasonable job of ensuring pay equity in our public service, but there is still a mountain to be climbed in terms of bringing the private sector up to standard on this issue.
Pay equity is not as simple as equal pay for doing the same job as a man.
What equity implies is that work of equal value receives similar compensation.
It is not as cut and dry, and often requires third-party intervention to settle disputes – the courts.
This is where the budget is failing women horribly.
There are women who have been waiting 10-plus years to have their cases heard.
These people can stay in under-paying jobs for long periods, confident that they will make their case in a legal setting and be compensated for their work.
Not any longer.
Now that the Conservative Government of Canada and the Liberal Opposition have no interest in moving the equity agenda ahead, these women are left to their own devices.
These are very political decisions and point to a genuine lack of respect for women.
As a country, Canada demands more from those we provide aid to than we do of ourselves.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) demands that funding is tied to a budget that reflects gender issues.
So it is important for Canada that developing countries address these concerns.
This is what makes the actions of our government all the more confusing.
Canada sits 49th in the world for the ratio of women elected to parliament and are at the bottom of the list for child care programs among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
Issues like representation, child-care, and pay equity are central to women’s rights.
They allow us to take meaningful roles in government, the workplace and to make choices such as raising a family while holding down a job.
The economy is certainly reeling, but a full and vital role for women will be a large part of any recovery we embark on.
Using crisis to strip hard-won battles of their significance is a step backwards at the most inopportune time.