In Other Words: Social Program Cuts Hurt Women

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The Province, March 11, 2003 

B.C. is not meeting its obligations to women under international human rights law, says a United Nations committee. The group singled out B.C. recently for criticism in its review of Canada's compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The committee cited recent changes in B.C. including: funding cuts to legal aid and welfare assistance; narrowed eligibility rules for welfare; elimination of the Ministry of Women's Equality; abolition of the independent Human Rights Commission; closing of courthouses; cuts in support programs for victims of domestic violence; and proposed changes regarding prosecution of domestic violence.

The Committee recommends the government change these laws and policies in order to eliminate the discriminatory impact on women.

B.C. was the only province targeted for specific criticism. But the committee also found Canada was not living up to its obligations to women. In a country as wealthy as Canada, poverty rates of 54 per cent for single mothers, 43 per cent for Aboriginal women, 37 per cent for women of colour, and 48 per cent for female recent immigrants were unacceptable. The UN group was concerned that government cuts to social programs were deepening women's social and economic vulnerability, since these cuts eliminate good jobs, increase the burden of unpaid work, and make women less able to leave abusive relationships.