Author Archives: cfuwadvocacy

CFUW at the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

Susan Murphy, CFUW President

Today is day 4 of the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and most of CFUW’s 14 delegates have now been in New York since Saturday for the occasion.  For many in our group it is a new experience, and a very confusing one. What is a parallel session? How about a side event? What really happens here at the UNCSW?

I have not been here for long, but during my first trip to UNCSW last year I was so fortunate to room with Mary Scott, a Past President of the University Women’s Club Winnipeg, and the representative for the National Council of Women Canada (NCWC) who has been attending for a number of years and is very knowledgeable.  Mary is very generous in sharing her knowledge and I soaked up as much as I could.

This year’s priority theme of the session is the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the  Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls, that are coming up on fifteen years; eight goals were announced in 2000 with high expectations of alleviating poverty by focusing on these MDGs.

Faith and BlaisTo kick off an exciting two weeks, CFUW was pleased to attend the reception at the permanent Canadian Mission to the United Nations on March 10th. This gave some of our delegates the opportunity to meet other NGOs from Canada, as well as the official Canadian Delegation, including Minister Blais, Status of Women, New Bruinswick, pictured here with Faith Matchett of CFUW Moncton. The Minister of Status of Women Canada, Kellie Leitch was the guest speaker and Irwin Kotler MP from Montreal and human rights activist attended. Some of our delegates were able to sneak a photo with the Minister.

CFUW with Minister LeitchThese two weeks are devoted to conversation circles, panel discussions, presentations, official statements and negotiations on Agreed Conclusions focused on the priority theme that governments can support. Today the formal negotiations begin on the Agreed Conclusions among Member State negotiators, and CFUW with NCWC, has offered a second set of suggestions on priorities this morning to Status of Women Canada. I will attend the European/North American Caucus this afternoon, where the draft Agreed Conclusions will be a topic of discussion.

Hally and LeliaYesterday was CFUW’s and WG-USA’s joint parallel session entitled Universal Primary Education by 2020: In Peril for Girls? Hally Siddons and Leila Metcalf (r) are pictured here just before the session and the second photo of Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs and her assistant responding to a question. They were joined by a woman from UNICEF and one from the Permanent Mission at the UN. It was an excellent workshop, one that CFUW can be proud of.

Minister Fawzia

The Deputy Minister of Womens Affairs Fawzia Habibi and her assistant as she responds to questions from the audience about the coordination that her Ministry provides in Afghanistan to all other Ministries regarding women and girls.

So far this has been a very interesting and exciting, as we meet women from all over the world. The other evening I met a woman from Kabul University in Afghanistan who knows both Dr. Simar and Nasima by chance, as I spoke to another new friend from San Francisco who belongs to Women Graduates-USA and is very involved with making cities CEDAW friendly….not the right term…but better for women and girls.  I will check this out more when I get home.

I am really happy to be working with our colleagues from IFUW while we are here – all for a good cause. The IFUW group has delegates from England and Wales, WG-USA, Nigeria, Finland, Australia, NZ, Bulgaria, and Rwanda.  Such different perspectives and all so interesting and committed. 

UN women ED

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, speaks to the important role of men and boys in the rights and equality of women.

Shaila Mistry from WG-USA and Susan Murphy, CFUW President, on Wednesday morning at the briefing by UN Women.  Shaila is part of our delegation and a long standing participant at CSW.

Shaila Mistry from WG-USA and Susan Murphy, CFUW President, on Wednesday morning at the briefing by UN Women. Shaila is part of our delegation and a long standing participant at CSW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re not a member of CFUW’s Facebook group yet, make sure you join to get updates from UNCSW in real-time. We will also be compiling a newsletter when we return from UNCSW, so keep an eye out for that!

Susan Murphy, President of CFUW

Fun and Games on IWD 2014

Mary Butterill

Editor, CFUW-Ottawa Capital Carillon

facebook bannerOn Saturday evening, March 8, 2014, over 300 people (mainly women of all ages, some men and a few children) attended the 6th annual International Women’s Day event held in the auditorium and foyer of Library and Archives Canada at 395 Wellington. With a theme inspired by The Hunger Games books and movies, the free and fun event was co-hosted by CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld (in English) and WUSC’s Alexandra Baril (in French). It featured a Feminist Activism Fair, a short cross-country video of feminist champions, a “What the F!” skit to review the feminist year, and the 2014 Femmy Awards. Claudette Commanda (Executive Director of The First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres and part-time professor at the Institute of Women’s Studies and the Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Ottawa)gave the traditional opening and welcomed guests to the unceded Algonquin territory. As well as free child care, the event generously offered a wide array of delicious sweet and savoury refreshments (some provided by Thyme & Again), beverages, and a cash bar.  Music was provided by DJ Jas Nasty and DJ Daisy.

CFUW (National) partnered with Amnesty International Canada, Inter Pares, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), Oxfam Canada, Planned Parenthood Ottawa, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and World University Service of Canada (WUSC) toorganize the event. Additional sponsors included the CBC, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), MATCH International Women’s Fund, Nobel Women’s Initiative, and Suzy Q Donuts.

The 2014 Femmy Awards honoured four local individuals and one organization for their contributions to women’s equality: Dillon Black, Marian De Vries, Denise Jessica Freedman, Hollaback! Ottawa, and Diane McIntyre.

IWD 2014 at LAC 03 (4)

Janice, CFUW Member Services, Tara, CFUW Advocacy Coordinator, and Nancy DeVillers, CFUW Ottawa President

CFUW-Ottawa members Mary Butterill, Nancy DeVillers, and Charlotte Rigby helped Tara Fischer, CFUW Advocacy Coordinator, and Janice Pillon, CFUW Membership Services, at the Feminist Activism Fair, answering questions, taking photos, and handing out promotional material. New at the Fair this year was a concerted effort by participating organizations to engage with attendees on feminist issues. In keeping, CFUW highlighted and encouraged dialogue on publicly funded child care. Child care outside the home became an issue in Canada in the 1960s. The 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended a public program to encourage greater gender equality. Since 1972, CFUW has adopted several policies in support of affordable, accessible, quality child care and early learning.  Proponents of publicly funded child care such as Quebec’s seven-dollar-a-day program, claim that the resultant increase of women in the work force increases the income and consumption taxes collected in government coffers and strengthens the economy.  As well, studies indicate improved educational, health, and social outcomes for children in such programs.

CFUW Celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD), taking place on Saturday, March 8th, 2014, is an extremely significant event to women and feminists globally. It is a reminder to the world to pause to celebrate women and consider how further progress can be had for females around the world.

The first IWD was held on March 19th, 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland.  After this event, other countries in Europe caught on and began recognizing the day annually. Later, in 1975, the United Nations (UN) declared it International Women’s Year. Only two years later in 1977 did the UN officially instate an annual International Women’s Day, to be taken place on March 8th.

This year, the UN has elected the theme: “Equality for women is progress for all.” The focus is on the improvement of economic and social conditions through gender empowerment and the important role of women as innovators.

From this theme, Canada has chosen a more specific theme: “Strong Women. Strong Canada. Canadian Women – Creating Jobs One Business At a Time.” The emphasis is on women entrepreneurs, how they contribute to the Canadian business landscape, and how their development can be fostered and supported.

Since the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, CFUW has raised funds for projects and programs in developing countries for IWD. Last year, the organization raised over $4000 for the International Federation of University Women’s (IFUW) Bina Roy Partners in Development (BRPID) Programme. This year, CFUW and its various national clubs and chapters will be supporting the BRPID Programme once again

CFUW Clubs organize a diversity of events and fundraisers across the country to celebrate IWD, but our National Office is also involved in organizing the Feminist Games in Ottawa, a lively get-together to celebrate IWD. Head to the Library and Archives Canada at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 8th, 2014, for entertainment, food, cash bar, and childcare for free! It will be a great night out and an excellent opportunity to support women’s rights. Along with CFUW the event is organized by Amnesty International Canada, Inter Pares, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), Oxfam Canada, Planned Parenthood Ottawa. Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and World University Services of Canada (WUSC).

The UN is holding an observance at their headquarters in New York on Friday, March 7th, 2014. If you’re interested, check out the webcast.

If you’re looking for something easy to fill your time this weekend in Ottawa, Wall Space Gallery is featuring young female artists from Saturday, March 8th, 2014 to Sunday, March 30th, 2014

How are you celebrating International Women’s Day this year?

 

World Day of Social Justice

By: Kelsey Sunstrum

Defined by the Public Health Agency of Canada as giving “individuals and groups fair treatment and an equitable share of the benefits of society,” social justice is an important concept in local and global culture.

Since 2007, the United Nations has celebrated February 20th as the World Day of Social Justice as a way of promoting social justice. Member States are encouraged to participate by taking action in ways that are in line with the World Summit for Social Development. Though justice is the overarching goal of the day, the UN suggests concentrating on activities that focus on improving world poverty; the amelioration of employment and work for all; and gender equity.

The World Summit for Social Development took place in Copenhagen in 1995 and was then the largest ever gathering of international leaders. Important decisions were reached at the summit that would impact the future of development. It was agreed that it was necessary to shift attention to the impacts on humanity in terms of development. By aligning themselves with the summit, the participating countries made a commitment to take serious action to rectify world poverty; create jobs; and support social integration.

An example of progress in the field of social justice is the adoption of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization in 2008. This declaration implicates 182 Member States to abide by the policies outlined in the document which seek to advance social justice in the fields of work and employment around the world. The report ensures fairness through “social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.”

It is of utmost importance to teach and promote the goal of social justice, though the task is certainly not easy. The Guardian put together a list of helpful resources for anyone looking for tools in teaching social justice to all age groups. The resources are practical and relevant, addressing actual current global issues, while encouraging children and adolescents to give back to their local and global community.

Oxfam has many such programs, two of which are Food for Thought and Change the World in Eight Steps. Food for Thought is a programme about the global food system that uses activities to guide children and youth to think critically about the implications of the practices of the food system, and suggestions for ways to take action to improve nutritional social justice. Change the World in Eight Steps takes a similar approach to explain and further explore the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs were selected to be focus for development starting in 2001 and extending to the year 2015. The goals include eradicating world poverty; bettering maternal health; and working towards environmental sustainability.

There are numerous organizations across the country working towards social justice, including the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW). We encourage you to find out how you can contribute to social justice in your local community by getting involved with a local Club of CFUW, and/or with other organizations such as ACORN Canada in your area. For listings of Ottawa charities and non-profit organizations, check out the following links:

-         Volunteer Ottawa

-         Ottawa Charity Village Volunteer Opportunities

-         Ottawa Charities & Fundraisers Guide

-         Ottawa Charitable & Community Organizations

Black History Month is also in February, so we also encourage you to take advantage of the excellent web resource by Teaching for Change which contains a myriad of free informational resources on the Civil Rights Movement.

Federal Budget Offers Little for Women Once Again

OTTAWA – February 12, 2014 – With the exception of a few announcements, Economic Action Plan 2014 offers very little to improve women’s economic opportunities and address violence against women says the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW).

In previous Economic Actions Plans we have seen the Government of Canada focus heavily on industries and job creation in fields where women are significantly underrepresented, such as in resource development, infrastructure, science and technology, and the trades, while at the same time cutting jobs in the areas where women do work and earn more equitable wages, such as in the public sector. Again in this budget we see a similar emphasis. There does, however, appear to be a small investment specific to women and the economy, with a mere $150,000 to increase mentorship among women entrepreneurs, and initiate discussions about how to increase the numbers of women entering into, and succeeding in, business.

“Approaching job creation without considering gender differences is very damaging for women, who continue to lag behind in terms of pay and workforce participation”, said Susan Murphy, President of the Canadian Federation of University Women. “And while young women are increasingly attaining higher levels of education, they are struggling with high rates of unemployment, underemployment, and student debt. We need the Government of Canada to think about the impact of their budgeting decisions and economic policies on both women and men of all ages.”

Budget 2014 also announces that the Government of Canada will launch a Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan shortly. “This is a positive step, which may help women attain more flexibility in the workplace to attend to their care responsibilities. However, this announcement does nothing to address one of the most limiting factors forcing women out of the workforce, partially or even entirely, the high cost of child care and elder care”, said Ms. Murphy. “For many years, women’s groups have been urging the Government of Canada, to no avail, to work with provinces and territories to address the lack of affordable and safe child care in this country.”

The Government of Canada has also indicated that it will continue funding to address violence against indigenous women and girls, but the $25 million committed over 5 years is miniscule in comparison to the tremendous costs of violence estimated at over $7 Billion annually. A growing number of organizations and groups have been calling on the Government of Canada to develop and adequately fund a comprehensive National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls, along with a National Public Inquiry on violence against indigenous women and girls. “We are looking for a much higher funding commitment from the Government that brings a stronger focus on prevention, and addresses all forms of violence, particularly for disproportionately affected groups of women and girls, ” said Murphy.

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace. It holds special consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC) and belongs to the Education Committee of the Canadian Sub-Commission to UNESCO. CFUW is the largest affiliate of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), which represents women worldwide.

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For more information or to schedule an interview please contact:
Tara Fischer, Advocacy Coordinator, CFUW, 613-234-8252 ext. 106 or cfuwadvocacy@rogers.com

Supreme Court Ruling on Anti-Prostitution Laws Stirring Debate: CFUW Joins in Supporting the “Nordic Model”

If you have been following the news over the past month, you are probably already aware that the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a unanimous ruling on the Canada v. Bedford et al. case that has struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws, including prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients. The laws will however, stay in place for one year to give Parliament time to develop new legislation, if it chooses to do so.

The decision is already stirring up a lot of debate among feminist groups, academics, and politicians in the country, and will likely push the issues of prostitution, sex worker safety, and women’s equality to the forefront in 2014.

In 2010, CFUW’s membership adopted a position on prostitution, sharing the view with several other women’s/feminists groups (e.g. the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, including the Native Women’s Association of Canada and others) that Canada should adopt a model similar to that in Sweden, and most recently embraced by France, which approaches the issue by decriminalizing prostituted persons, helping women and girls to exit the sex industry, and seeks to address demand for the purchase of sex by criminalizing purchasers and pimping, and raising awareness through public education. Former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, interestingly enough, also chimed in on the Supreme Court decision to express his support for Canada adopting this model in a recent op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen. In terms of Canadian politicians, Joy Smith, a Conservative M.P., has been one of the strongest proponents of the “Nordic approach”, as it’s often called.

There are however, other feminist, health and human rights groups in Canada who support the full decimalization of prostitution, including Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott (i.e. the women who brought the case forward), PIVOT Legal Society, FIRST, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and others. They believe that through the full decriminalization of the sex industry, sex workers will have their human rights respected, and will enjoy increased health and safety. Opponents of this position fear that full decriminalization will only proliferate sex trafficking, as has been the case in other countries that have adopted this approach. See this recent study “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?” for more information.

These two competing visions will likely be at the centre of the debate on how best to move forward in 2014.

Irrespective of the criminal laws Canada does or does not decide to put in place in the coming year, CFUW strongly supports the Government of Canada working with provincial, territorial and municipal governments to address structural factors that limit women and girls agency and increase their vulnerability to sexual exploitation. These factors include poverty, inadequate and unaffordable housing, gendered violence, racism, and lack of adequate mental health supports and services. To ensure greater equality for all women and girls, including those involved, or becoming involved in the sex industry, we would like to see all levels of government working together to:

  • Implement national poverty, housing and homelessness strategies that are sensitive to gender differences;
  • Promote equitable access to full and productive employment and decent work for women;
  • Implement a comprehensive national action plan to address all forms of violence against women and girls;
  • Respect Aboriginal rights, treaties, and international human rights of Aboriginal Women; and
  • Improve mental health supports and services, again ensuring sensitivity to gender differences.

In the coming months it is important that Members of Parliament hear from their constituents to help shape the position that the various political parties take on this issue. CFUW Clubs and individual members are encouraged to adapt this template letter and fact sheet when corresponding with politicians. Provincial governments and municipalities also have important roles to play in the supporting prostituted women and girls, so you may also wish to write to your provincial and municipal elected representatives using this template.

See our website for more suggested actions and resources.

What are Politicians saying about the Bedford et al Decision?

To give you an idea of what position the Government of Canada, the various political parties, and key stakeholders are taking on the decision at this point, what follows is a compilation of some of the key statements and commentary made to date.

Statements by the Minister of Justice, Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P.

“I am concerned that, with its ruling in the case of Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford et al., the Supreme Court of Canada has found sections 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code related to prostitution unconstitutional. The court has ordered, however, that these provisions remain in force for 12 months to give Parliament time to consider how to address this very complex matter. We are reviewing the decision and are exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution, and vulnerable persons. We are committed to the safety of all Canadians and the well-being of our communities. A number of other Criminal Code provisions remain in place to protect those engaged in prostitution and other vulnerable persons, and to address the negative effects prostitution has on communities.”

Source: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2013/doc_33020.html

In another statement, Minister Mackay told QMI Agency that, “I’m not entirely convinced that the direction that has been attempted in other countries, and this Nordic model being one, is the right fit for Canada”.

Source: Sun News
http://www.torontosun.com/2013/12/22/conservatives-set-to-replace-prostitution-laws-to-help-sex-workers

Minister Mackay also said in an interview with the Prince Arthur Herald that “[i]t’s going to take a much more concerted effort than what any local government or jurisdiction could do. So for that reason I think you will find that there is a necessity within that 12-month period that the Supreme Court (of Canada) has granted that we will bring forward legislation, and amendments that will address what we think are significant harms that flow from prostitution.”

Source: Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/01/20/peter_mackay_rules_out_legalization_municipal_regulation_of_prostitution.html

Conservative Party of Canada

In November, the Conservative party policy convention in Calgary adopted a resolution stating it “shall develop a Canada-specific plan to target the purchasers of sex and human trafficking markets through criminalizing the purchase of sex as well as any third party attempting to profit from the purchase of sex.”

Source: The Canadian Press
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/supreme-court-prostitution-ruling-forces-issue-on-harper-1.2472807

The NDP

“NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin said she was in favour of drafting new legislation to deal with prostitution that does not put women’s safety at risk but draws a legal distinction between those entering the trade by choice and those who she said are being exploited….

Boivin said Canada should not simply adopt legislation from Sweden or the Netherlands, but rather develop an approach that responds to prostitution as it is carried out in this country.

‘We will have to work on the real concept of prostitution, of human trafficking – I think we will need a bigger study and I do hope the government will take the prudent approach.’”

Source: Tobi Cohen, Postmedia News
http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/12/20/supreme-court-strikes-down-canadas-anti-prostitution-laws/

“NDP Leader Tom Mulcair…[did not] directly respond when asked if he’d consider legalizing prostitution. He said the issue is complex and needs to be studied by a parliamentary committee, hearing from police, health experts, community groups and sex trade workers.”

Source: Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/16/justin-trudeau-prostitution-legalization_n_4612213.html

Liberal Party of Canada

At the upcoming national Liberal convention in February, the party’s youth wing is proposing a resolution to treat (and tax) the sex trade just as it would “any other commercial enterprise”.

“When asked about the resolution, a spokesperson of Mr. Trudeau’s office said, ‘ultimately, the government must respond [to the Supreme Court ruling] in a way that addresses both community safety and the security and safety of all those involved in the sex trade’.”

Source: Chris Selley, The National Post
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/01/15/chris-selley-trudeau-totally-untested-in-a-tough-policy-debate-and-prostitution-will-a-hard-one-to-start-with/

“In French, Trudeau [said that] it is important to recognize that ‘prostitution itself is a form of violence against women.’ He called for a ‘responsible, informed debate’ on the issue.

Trudeau also said Liberals are ‘certainly going to look at’ the so-called Nordic model, which penalizes those who purchase sex, not those who sell it.”

Source: Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/16/justin-trudeau-prostitution-legalization_n_4612213.html

Green Party of Canada

No Statements to date

Bloc Quebecois

No Statement to date

What are NGOs Saying About the Decision?

Equality-Seeking Women’s Groups continue to demand a Change in Prostitution Laws
Read the full statement here: http://www.abolitionprostitution.ca/downloads/equality-seeking-womens-groups-continue-to-demand-a-change-in-prostitution-laws.pdf

NWAC deeply concerned with Supreme Court Ruling on Bedford v. Canada
Read NWAC’s full statement here: http://www.nwac.ca/nwac-deeply-concerned-supreme-court-ruling-bedford-v-canada-2013-12-20-en

Asian Women look to Parliament after Supreme Court offers partial support for progressive position on prostitution
Read their full statement here:http://www.awcep.org/news/asian-women-look-parliament-after-supreme-court-offers-partial-support-progressive-position

A Bittersweet Victory for Sex Workers
Read the full article here:http://rabble.ca/columnists/2013/12/bittersweet-victory-sex-workers

Health and Human Rights Organizations Applaud Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Unjust Sex Work Laws
Read the full statement here: http://www.aidslaw.ca/publications/interfaces/downloadFile.php?ref=2186

Celebrating Morgentaler’s Legacy

By: Kelsey Sunstrum

henry morgentaler

January 28 is an important day for women in Canada. Today marks the 26th anniversary of the monumental R. v. Morgentaler case, which afforded women the right to abortion, and ultimately, to take control of their body and their ability to reproduce. Before this ruling, Canadian women were only able to obtain abortions from designated hospitals and after being granted approval by the hospital’s three-doctor Therapeutic Abortion Committee.

The 1988 ruling was a long time coming for abortion activist, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who passed away this past May. In 1967, Morgentaler presented a brief to the House of Commons on the topic of illegal abortions, stating that women should not have to risk their lives for the procedure. At this time, if a woman was not granted hospital approval, her abortion would not be performed, which forced women to turn to different, often unsafe, outlets to end their pregnancy. After this, women began reaching out to him for abortions though he refused at the time, referring women to two other doctors.

However, in 1968, knowing that Canadian women needed safer and more accessible abortion practices, he opened the first freestanding abortion clinic in Canada, the Montreal Morgentaler Clinic. In 1970, his clinic was raided by police and he was charged by authorities for performing illegal abortions.

This would be the first of many times that Morgentaler was charged for offering safe abortions to women. Throughout the early- to mid-1970s, Dr. Morgentaler was charged and acquitted multiple times for the services provided by his clinic. Despite this, in 1983, he opened two more clinics in Toronto and Winnipeg, both of which were also raided multiple times over the years.

Later that year, Dr. Morgentaler, as well as Dr. Leslie Frank Smoling and Dr. Robert Scott, were charged with performing illegal abortions during a raid of the Toronto clinic. After appealing the charges, the Supreme Court overturned section 251, the previous abortion law, in 1988.

Morgentaler, Smoling, and Scott held the position that section 251, which declared that women could only receive an abortion after an approval from an in-hospital committee, was unconstitutional based on section 7. Section 7 defends the autonomy and personal rights of Canadian citizens. There are three types of protection in this section, and Morgentaler argued that section 251 violated the security to person type. This type denotes primarily an individual’s ownership of their body, health, and psychological well-being. Because of this ruling, abortions are now considered medical procedures that are governed by the Canada Health Act rather than the criminal code.

The legacy of this case is far-reaching. Before, women’s reproduction was dictated by an in-hospital approval committee. Morgentaler fought for women’s right to make their own decisions about their body, and to have access to safe and healthy outlets. Unfortunately, on the 26th anniversary of this ruling, Canada’s abortion services still have much to be desired.

It is almost unbelievable to think that Prince Edward Island currently offers no surgical abortions. P.E.I. will cover abortions performed off-Island if they are performed in a hospital and with a referral from an in-Island doctor. It will not cover abortions taken place in private clinics. Poorer and younger women are impacted the most by P.E.I.’s lack of abortion services. Many do not have access to obtain off-Island procedures due to costs, working schedules, family pressures, transportation, and a lack of information about abortion services. The scary truth is that abortions are still done in P.E.I. Women self-induce abortion which can result in infertility, suicidal thoughts, and a decreased likelihood of pursuing academic goals.

New Brunswick’s abortion access is not much better than P.E.I. Abortions are publicly funded if they are completed in a hospital with the approval of two doctors. However, if they are performed in a clinic, the woman must pay the expenses as the province will not cover the cost of the procedure outside of publicly funded institutions. Moreover, only obstetrician/gynecologists are permitted to carry out the surgery whereas common practice in Canada is that the family physician is responsible for the procedure.

Women in rural Canada are also at an extreme disadvantage in terms of proximity and quality of abortion services. Rural physicians who perform abortions face the following obstacles: operating room scheduling; logistics; extremely long waiting lists; geographic and professional isolation from colleagues; absence of replacement providers; and fear of response from community. Often, the distance between rural areas and abortion providers is just too far for some women with less resources and/or support.

Rural communities are much less likely to have clinics dedicated solely to abortion procedures, so local hospitals and providers need to work together. Because of moral and religious opposition, this can be quite a difficult feat. Moreover, a very real problem in rural communities is the rate of burn out experienced by physicians performing these services as they are often the only provider in close proximity.

Unfortunately, it is clear that abortion and reproductive rights and services in Canada leave much to be desired. For the rights and services Canadian women do have, thank you, Dr. Henry Morgentaler. May his brave spirit be remembered, and the historical R. v. Morgentaler ruling which gave women in Canada greater choice.

The 2013 Highs and Lows for Feminists in Canada

2013 was an eventful year for feminists in Canada, filled with highs, lows and other noteworthy events that fall somewhere in between. Compiling and categorizing such a list becomes a challenging task given that feminists are not a monolithic group that share all the same viewpoints, experiences or locations. None-the-less, below are some of 2013’s noteworthy events.

This is certainly not exhaustive, so please share any additions you may have in the comments section!

Highs

In-Between

Lows

 International

What were some of the big moments for gender equality on an international scale? Check out UN Women’s 2013 Gender Equality Year in Review and a video produced by the Association of Women’s Right’s in Development, Significant Moments for Women’s Right in 2013 .

Popular culture

In Canada we share a lot of a media with our neighbors to the South, so here are some of the highlights from American popular culture in 2013:

Give the Gift of Equality and Social Justice This Holiday Season

If you’re still looking for gifts to give to family and friends this holiday season, why not consider making a donation in their name to one of the many organizations improving the lives of girls and women here in Canada and abroad? Charitable donations also make excellent birthday gifts throughout the year!

A few options to consider:

The CFUW Charitable Trust, which funds Fellowships and Awards for Women (Canadians and Permanent Residents) pursuing graduate studies.

Canadian Women’s Foundation is the only foundation in Canada that specializes in helping women and girls move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence through community programs, and support for hundreds of women’s shelters across the country.

Girls Action Foundation supports empowerment programs for girls, training for educators, and seed grants for young women change-makers in Canada. They ensure all our projects reach girls & communities who benefit most from their support, and that’s why 90% of the girls & women who participate in their programs come from marginalized communities.

Inter Pares is an organization dedicated to promoting international social justice, with a focus on women’s rights. In Canada and overseas, they support people’s struggles for peace, justice, and equality; their efforts to challenge structural obstacles for change; and their alternative development approaches.

MATCH International Women’s Fund is a first of its kind grant-making organization based in Canada that funds women’s rights organizations around the world to make lasting changes in the lives of women and girls. The fund supports projects that dismantle barriers, change systems, challenge perceptions and transforms societies.

Oxfam Unwrapped is a unique source for charitable gifts that provide supports to people and communities in developing countries. For example, your donations can build a well for an entire community, school books for children, or a goat for a family, among others. You can also give to specific Oxfam programs and projects such as the Marion Dewar Fund that supports training and development for women and girls’ leadership in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, or a project that supports women farmers in Nicaragua.

Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope to Support Girls is another ethical gift-giving program with over 40 gifts to choose from, with 15 that specifically support girls. You’ll also receive free personalize greeting cards with your purchase.

The Malala Fund is the official organization led by Malala Yousafzai focused on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education around the world.

YWCA Canada is the country’s oldest and largest women’s multi-service organization. Their Turning Point Programs for Women address personal safety, economic security and well-being, reaching out to 1 million women and girls across Canada. They are also the largest national provider of shelter to women, children and teen girls.

You could also consider giving to organizations serving women and girls in your local community, such as your local women’s shelters and transition houses, sexual assault support centres, women’s centres, drop in centres, your local YWCA and other programs that support women and girls, such as through leadership development and economic empowerment.

Of course this list is not comprehensive, so please share yours ideas in the comments!

A Gender Neutral Gift Guide For Children

Many toys on the market today are extremely gendered and can reinforce gender stereotypes. While some companies are trying to change their products and marketing by offering more gender neutral options, it can still be difficult to navigate the toy aisles. If you’re looking for some gender neutral gift options for the children in your life, particularly this holiday season, we’ve compiled a list of toys that don’t conform to the traditional pink vs. blue, Barbie vs. trucks norms. Hopefully this list helps stimulate further ideas, which we would love to see in the comments section!

Ages 0 – 3

Gender Neutral Gift Guide

  1. Nighttime Nursery Rhymes: A Bedtime Shadow Book. $11.69. This book contains transparent pictures which you shine a flashlight through to project the images onto the wall as you read to your child. A fun and interactive way to introduce your toddler to classic nursery rhymes.
  2. Radio Flyer Grow ‘N Go Tricycle. $59.99. Every kid loves riding a tricycle, and this trike’s easily adjustable metal frame enables it to grow with them so you can get use out of it for years to come. Also contains a convenient storage bin at the back for toys
  3. Fisher Price Classics Changeable Picture Disk Camera. $24.95.You loved it as a child, now you can share it with your child. It comes with three picture disks: nursery rhymes; Goldilocks and the Three Bears; and animals.
  4. Bathtime Fun Water Flutes. $15.00. Turn bathtime into music time! These adorable water flutes are tuned by filling them with different levels of water to produce a variety of sounds. Also comes with waterproof song sheets.

Ages 4 – 6

Gender Neutral Gift Guide 2

  1. Wooden Cutting Food Box. $19.95. This wooden cutting set familiarizes your child with different foods, their preparation, and can even be an opportunity to teach them safe kitchen practices. This set comes with a child-safe knife and a cutting board.
  2. Large Standing Easel. $79.95. Let your child explore their artistic side with this versatile standing easel. It features a dry-erase board on one side with a chalkboard on the other. It is equipped with attached cup holders for convenient loading of art mediums.
  3. Playmobil Take Along School. $39.95. Get your child excited for school with Playmobil’s Take Along School. It can be folded up and carried around with your child, and includes many school accessories, such as desks, chairs, chalkboards, and many more.
  4. Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine. $74.55. Goldie Blox is a book series and construction set that aims to boost girls’ spatial, engineering, and problem-solving skills. While Goldie Blox’s packaging and accessories are still quite gendered, it is a step in the right direction and is worth a mention.

Ages 7 – 9

Gender Neutral Gift Guide 3

  1. Hape Pallina Game. $79.95. A fun game the family can enjoy together that encourages creative problem-solving. The goal is to remove sticks without dropping any of the balls. This will keep kids of all ages entertained.
  2. Curious Chef 17 Piece Measure & Prep Kit. $24.95. Knowing how your food is made and preparing it yourself are important steps in growing up. Allow your child to explore food and nutrition with this measure & prep kit, which they can use to help you during meals or making her lunch.
  3. Eco-Friendly on the Go Artist Travel Kit (21 Piece). $26.99. Let your child create wherever they go with this artist travel set! The natural cotton carrying case houses a sketchpad, pencils, pencil crayons, rulers, stencils, and more. This is a great activity in the house but very handy when you’re going out to dinner or travelling to keep your little ones entertained.
  4. Sea Monkeys. $32.55. For the child that’s begging for a pet… Sea Monkeys can be a great ‘starter pet’ to acclimatize your child to the responsibilities of petcare without making the commitment of a dog or a cat.

Ages 10 – 12

Gender Neutral Gift Guide 4

  1. Little Passports. $131.40 + $20 shipping for 12-month plan.Get your child interested in geography and international cultures, as well as learn about their own, with Little Passports! The first month, your child will receive a fun travel suitcase with a world wall map, passport, activities, and access to more online games. For every subsequent month, they will receive a new adventure letter for a new country to explore.
  2. Apples to Apples Junior. $21.99.Teach your kids to have fun with their friends and family while learning! Apples to Apples Junior is a game of comparisons that will further develop your child’s vocabulary and analytical skills.
  3. Fabric Screen printing Kit. $49.95. If your child is into fashion and design, foster their creativity with this fabric screen printing kit by Mindware. The kit teaches your child the basics of screen printing and various techniques. Your child can make clothes, paper prints, textile art, and more with this gift.
  4. Puffin Classics Deluxe Edition. $47.50. Introduce your child to the magic of reading with this beautiful book set of eight classics, including Peter Pan and Anne of Green Gables, which they can cherish for years to come.

Looking for more ideas? Check out this Girl Empowerment Gift Guide from A Mighty Girl.