I have heard from many Liberals who know Dion personally that he is more committed to women's issues than any past Liberal leader and I have certainly liked what I've seen so far with some of the most important commitments being:
- Commitment to one third female candidates in the next election (which they are on pace to meet) and gender parity in candidates within 3 elections
- 50% female appointments to Crown Corporations and the Senate
- Re-instating a national child care program
- Restoring the funding and mandate of the Status of Women Department
- 30/50 poverty plan
It is a dramatic departure from the regressive Conservative government in charge of the country right now.
I was therefore pleased to see two further positive commitments Dion has now made. I already knew for some time that Dion would not let Bill C-484 ("unborn victims of crime") pass, though it is very good to see him come out and make it official.
The reality is that the law ALREADY allows for increased penalties against those who would assault pregnant women leading to the loss of the pregnancy. Judges make sentences based on the severity of the crime and if the woman has been traumatized (as woman would be who lost her baby unwillingly) the penalty will almost be greater. But is extremely dangerous to be ascribing virtual personhood to an unborn fetus in legislation as once you have that in legislation it is a slippery slope. I respect people's personal opinions (especially as a Catholic) but I am strongly opposed to legislating one's religious views. Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephane Dion have all held the same view thankfully.
It is extremely telling that NOT A SINGLE anti-violence against women organization supports this bill and yet many pro-life groups do. It is my view that if this bill wasn't Ken Epp's attempt to re-open the abortion debate than I just don't think you would have the pro-life groups getting behind it. When Ken Epp actually says that he believes the bill will put pro-choice advoates in a greater position of having to justify to others why abortions are ever necessary, I think his intentions are being shown. As well, when not a single organization concerned with violence against women supports this bill you do have to question its necessity.
That said, I don't agree with those who have characterized those Liberals who voted for this at earlier readings as anti-choice. When you hurl such accusations at them in an attempt to get them to vote differently they are less likely to listen especially since the accusation is not true at all for a good many of the Liberal MPs who voted for this. I know some MPs legitimately believe that this bill (since it specifically says abortion won't be affected) won't re-open the abortion debate. I strongly disagree and I think the best approach is to lay out as clearly as possible without any personal attacks why those MPs who voted for this are wrong and why this legislation is not necessary to protect pregnant women against violence.
I want to commend the National Women's Liberal Commission and provincial Women's Liberal Commissions for taking exactly this approach in arguing against this bill to the Liberal caucus. I am sure they have changed some Liberal MPs minds about this legislation, but what's most important to me is that Dion has laid down the line and this will not become law.
The second commitment I was pleased to see is Dion's commitment to create a Commissioner for Gender Equality.
A Liberal government would create an independent Commissioner for Gender Equality to ensure that legislation and policies of the Government of Canada are examined with an equality lens.
This newly created office would be supported by enabling legislation which would mandate the Commissioner to report annually to Parliament. The Commissioner would also have the authority to audit federal government departments for gender-based analysis; examine existing programs and policies for their gender equality; whether those policies are in line with the Canadian government’s Federal Plan for Gender Equality as outlined here; and to ensure international human rights commitments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), are honoured.
Combined with the legislation that would be introduced to give the Commissioner his/her mandate, Canadians would have genuine accountability about the effect of their government on the quality of life of Canadian women and their families.
In addition, Mr. Dion announced Ms. Marleau and the members of Women’s Caucus will tour the country over the next few months to hear from Canadian women about the issues they are most concerned about. “We want to reach out to Canadian women to hear what they have to say on a number of Liberal initiatives, as well as other issues they want to highlight,” said Ms. Marleau.
“It’s important to listen to what women have to say about some of the most pressing issues facing our country and we will report back our findings.”
I think it's a great idea and this would be in line with what has been done in the UK, Australia and South Africa. I hope the other opposition parties can get behind this idea as well. It is a shame that the major news media hasn't really picked up this proposal of Dion's focusing more just on his (also important) opposition to Bill c-484.
In the next election the female vote will be crucial and I'm glad to see the Liberals aren't neglecting the issues that matter most to women. In stands in stark contrast to the Conservatives. I had to laugh when I read this Don Martin article awhile back that implied that Harper is successfully winning over female voters with his policies. The reality is Harper has taken a few baby steps forward with product safety regulations which is a valid thing to be doing, but it pales in comparison to all the major steps background this government is taking. Martin seems to take women for fools saying that obviously Harper doesn’t care about women but women will basically fall for his half-hearted efforts to show he is female friendly. Never mind the cuts to status of women, removing the drive for gender equality from its mandate, killing the popular child care plan and failing to create any new child care spaces since they've come to government, failing on poverty, pay-equity and a host of other Harper is failing to address. Women haven't been blind this past two years and aren't now. Perhaps Don Martin should have talked to some more women to see their thoughts before penning that article.
If Harper really wants the female vote perhaps he wouldn't have spent the past two years gutting all the positive advances for women that past Liberal governments had made. He should have a real child care plan that actually addresses the need for accessible affordable child care spaces. He should show a real commitment to gender equality in the House of Commons by running more female candidates, having more females in cabinet and giving at least some of them some clout (name ONE female minister that seems to have Harper's ear). He should have a real plan for addressing poverty. He should get behind Dion's proposal of a Commissioner on Gender Equality. Harper shows his true colours by failing to take on such proposals and that's why women still solidly prefer the Liberal party to his.I give the NDP credit for seriously addressing gender issues and gender equality over the years but women know we desperately need a better government and the NDP can't provide that, they simply can't. A Liberal government will provide the leadership we need and it is clear that the large majority of women in this country don't want a renewed mandate for Stephen Harper.
A Liberal government will be the most progressive on women's issues than any that preceded it and I hope the NDP will work with them to make this happen.
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