Stephen Harper's breach of promise to Canadian women

Actions since taking office directly contradict prime minister's election campaign commitments


Ottawa (28 Jan. 2007) - Stephen Harper has broken many promises since he became prime minister of Canada nearly a year ago.

One of the most glaring breaches of good faith is his pledge to improve women's rights. On Jan. 18, 2006, five days before Canadians elected his minority Conservative government, and just three weeks before he took the oath of office, Harper made the following commitment to the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA):

'Yes, I'm ready to support women's human rights and I agree that Canada has to do more to meet its international obligations to women's equality. If elected I will take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations, to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women."

12 offices closing

And what has he done as prime minister?

In November, Bev Oda, the Tory minister responsible for the Status of Women, disclosed 12 of the federal agency's 16 regional offices will be shut down by April 1. The blow will slash $5 million (43% of the operating budget) from the Status of Women Canada.

Thousands of women have protested across the country since then, including an occupation of government offices in Vancouver on Jan. 20. Oda agreed following the 12-hour protest to an hour-long meeting but no change in policy has been made.

“Since coming to power, Harper and his government have not only ignored their public commitment, but blatantly contradicted it,” said Shelagh Day, co-chair of FAFIA.

“In 2007, women in Canada will take several leaps backwards unless there is a reversal in Harper's actions,” adds Doris Anderson, former president of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women and long-time advocate for women's equality.

Besides cutting staff responsible for the advancement of women's rights at Status of Women Canada, the Harper government has also imposed a ban on all federally-funded advocacy regarding women's equality.

"As a consequence," says FAFIA, "equality-seeking groups like the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, the Conseil d'intervention pour l'accès des femmes au travail in Québec, among many others, including the National Association of Women and the Law, the Canadian Research Institute on the Advancement of Women and the Canadian Feminist Alliance face an uncertain future. Many fear that they will have to cut back their operations while some may have to close their doors entirely." 

Stephen Harper's promise to Canadian women during the 2006 election campaign
NUPGE letter to Harper

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has been one of the national organizations fighting to have the cuts reversed. NUPGE president James Clancy wrote to the prime minister in October on behalf of the union's 340,000 members across the country – a majority of whom are women. NUPGE

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