Status of Women's Equality in B.C. Under Microscope at UN Committee Today

BC CEDAW group issues second report on the degradation of the rights of women in British Columbia

Vancouver - The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will hear from representatives of the BC CEDAW Group about the continuing decline of women’s equality in British Columbia under the BC Liberal government today in Geneva, Switzerland.

The BC CEDAW Group, a coalition of 11 women’s equality-seeking organizations, will be presenting its report, Inaction and Non-compliance: British Columbia’s Approach to Women’s Inequality, to the UN Committee at the beginning of its 42nd Session. Inaction and Non-compliance is the group’s second report and documents how the government of British Columbia continues to fail to respect women’s human rights protected under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

After the UN Committee reviewed Canada in 2003, the Committee singled British Columbia out for particular comment and indicated that the provincial government should take immediate steps to review and remedy the negative impact of government legislative and policy shifts. 

The B.C. government refused to comply. 

“It’s an international embarrassment to British Columbians and to Canadians,” says Associate Professor Margot Young of the Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia. “The same issues – particularly those impacting Aboriginal women – that the UN Committee noted in 2003 remain outstanding. 

“The BC Liberal government has steadfastly ignored its international human rights obligations and has refused to comply with the recommendations of the United Nations Committee,” says Young. 

Poverty and Human Rights Centre representative Shelagh Day, who is in Geneva to present to the UN Committee, says that B.C. women have moved backwards since 2003. 

“B.C. has some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Single mothers and their children are more likely to live in poverty here than in most other provinces. Social assistance rates remain dismally low. The lack of safe and affordable housing is acutely felt by women living in poverty. Cuts to civil legal aid have reduced women’s access to justice. These issues affect the daily lives of many B.C. women,” says Day. 

“Aboriginal women in BC remain grossly disadvantaged and experience very high levels of violence because of provincial and federal government inaction on Aboriginal women’s equality and absolute non-response to violence against Aboriginal women,” says Carrie Humchitt, president of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network. 

“The provincial government's changes to charging policy in cases of violence against women continue to send the message that the government does not take violence against women seriously. Despite the 2003 CEDAW Committee concerns, funding for Women's groups has not been restored," says Daisy Kler of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. 

"Child care in BC is in a crisis" says Susan Harney, Chairperson of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC. "Since 2001, parent fees have increased and wages for college-trained staff, predominantly women, have remained stagnant overall. Only 14% of children under 12 have accessed to a regulated space, so waitlists have also grown dramatically." 

On October 22, the UN Committee will review Canada’s compliance as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, frequently described as an international bill of rights for women. The Convention, ratified by Canada in 1981, binds all levels of government in Canada. The UN CEDAW Committee will issue Concluding Observations on Canada’s compliance under the Convention in November.

 

Shelagh Day,
BC CEDAW Delegation, Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Jade Hotel 011-41 22 544 38 38, Geneva

Associate Professor Margot Young, UBC, (604) 822-9685, Vancouver

Carrie Humchitt, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, (250) 589-1687

Susan Harney, Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC, (604) 532-5367, Vancouver

Daisy Kler, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, (604) 872-8212, Vancouver

The B.C. CEDAW Group report to the Committee can be found on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website.