Monthly Archives: November 2011

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

On December 17, 1999 the United Nations General Assembly designated the 25th of November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. On this day governments, international organizations and NGOs are encouraged to organize activities designed to raise public awareness about the issue. The date originates from the brutal assassination of three women political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujilloin 1960.

November 25th now marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence against Women, ending on December 10th Human Rights Day.

Yesterday a number of events were held in Ottawa, including the launch of the 16 Days of Action Campaign, which took place at Amnesty International Headquarters, as well as the YWCA’s Red Rose Campaign to end violence against women and girls, which involved a breakfast at the Parliamentary Restaurant to engage legislator in a discussion of the connections between poverty, homelessness and violence against women.

Throughout the 16 days there will be actions around the country, as well as internationally aimed at raising public awareness. For example in Ottawa, there will be with a vigil taking place  on  December 6th at Minto Park, to commemorate the women who lost their lives during the Montreal massacre.

This year, the 16 Days Campaign is focusing on ending militarism and violence against women.  Amnesty International has a number of ways for you to take action, including:

  • Demanding justice for women victims of sexual violence amidst ongoing armed conflict in Colombia;
  • Guaranteeing Afghan women’s rights in talks with the Taleban; and
  • Appealing to the political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to guarantee the rights of survivors of rape

Response to Margaret Wente: Sexual Assualt is NOT a “Grievance Industy”

On Wednesday, Nov. 23rd  CFUW submitted a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail, in response to a column written by Margaret Wente. Wente’s article implied that organizations and individuals concerned about sexual assault were part of a “grievance industry”, that really just needs to recognize the fact that rape has declined. So far, the editor has not printed ANY letters in response to this column.

CFUW’s letter:

While sexual and gender based violence in Canada may be dropping, Wente missed the mark with her conclusions in Tuesday’s piece on the surprising news about rape statistics.

Just because there have been improvements (in large part due to growing gender equality thanks to the feminist and human rights movements), does not mean that women’s organizations and feminists should stop advocating on behalf of the many women who experience violence every day.

 Let’s consider some facts: even with a dramatic decline in gendered based violence many women’s shelters across the country still operate at their full capacity, and some even have to turn women away. For example in 2007, an Ottawa shelter had to turn away more than 1,000 women and children fleeing violence. Consider further the fact that Aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience spousal violence than non-Aboriginal women according to Statistics Canada. With over 600 missing or murdered Aboriginal women today, it is quite insulting to imply that the family, friends and organizations advocating for justice are part of a “grievance industry”.

 Without this so called “grievance industry”, which I assume Wente means feminists activists, where would we be today? Perhaps it would still be acceptable to print ads promoting gender based violence as they did in the 50’s. In fact, wasn’t it just a few months ago that an Edmonton based hair salon used images of woman with a blackened eye to promote their services?

Wente is quite right to point out that many rapes go unreported. According to StatsCan, sexual assault is the most under-reported crime, with less than 10% of assaults being reported. If you apply that to Pinker’s stats, than you’d get a number closer to 500 out of 100,000. It may not be 1 in 3, but it is far too many.

 Let’s be sure, it’s great that we have made so much progress, but we can and should continue to do more.

Brenda Wallace, National President of the Canadian Federation of University Women

Regina, SK

National Housing Day – Renewing our Call for a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy

On National Housing Day it is important to recognize that Canada has made some significant efforts to improve access to affordable housing and address homelessness. However, the fact still remains that there are between 150,000 and 300,000 people who are homeless in Canada.[1] Many civil society organizations, activists, politicians[2], as well as federal Standing Committee reports and the UN committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women[3] have called for a national strategy to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis, yet we are still waiting. Canada is the only G8 country without such a strategy.

CFUW has been an advocate for improving access to affordable housing since the early 1990’s. We are particularly concerned about the gendered impacts of homelessness and poverty. Poverty and lack of affordable housing options can also prevent women from leaving abusive relationships. This is quite troubling as we know that gender based violence continues to affect women and children in Canada. According to a survey from 2004, of the 6,109 women and children residing in shelters across Canada, about 5,000 had escaped an abusive situation representing about three-quarters of all women residing in shelters.[4]

Aboriginal peoples, newcomers, lone parents, women, people living with disabilities, and seniors are all disproportionately affected by housing insecurity. Although there are many persuasive moral and human rights arguments for addressing this glaring reality, it also makes financial sense. It is estimated that Canadians are already paying $1 billion a year for the emergency shelter, health care, and criminal justice costs associated with homelessness. In 2001, the BC Provincial Government published a study which determined that the costs of services for someone that was homeless were 33% higher than for someone who had been homeless and subsequently housed. [5]

We therefore take this opportunity on National Housing Day to renew the call on the federal government to once and for all establish a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy involving the provincial, territorial, municipal and Aboriginal governments.


[1] Eggleton, A. and Segal, H. (2009). In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness. The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Report of the Subcommittee on Cities. Senate of Canada.

[2] See Libby Davies Private Member’s Bill C-304 An Act Ensuring Secure, Adequate Accessible and Afforable Housing for Canadians:http://www.parl.gc.ca/LEGISInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=3630084&Language=E&Mode=1

[3] UN CEDAW. (2008). Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Canada.

[4] Women Housing and Equality Network. Fact Sheet Women and Girls: Poverty and Homelessness. Retrieved from: http://www.equalityrights.org/when/

[5] Eggleton, A and Segal H. (2009)

Canada Must Support Afghan Women at Bonn II

For Immediate Release:

OTTAWA, November 22, 2011 – The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) is urging the Government of Canada to support the inclusion of Afghan Women at the upcoming Bonn II Conference and to ensure that women are adequately represented in Canada’s national delegation. On December 5, 2011 Foreign Ministers from over 90 countries will meet with the Afghan Government in Bonn to discuss the future of Afghanistan. There is reason to believe that Afghan women will not be adequately represented at the conference, and that their issues may not be fully addressed.

In making these requests of the Government of Canada, CFUW invokes the principles of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR), which calls for the full representation of women in all discussions aimed at conflict resolution and the development of a just and peaceful civil society. CFUW strongly supports UNSC Resolution 1325 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Its members believe that their full implementation must be a global priority.

A substantial Taliban presence is expected to attend the conference, and Afghan women remain concerned that the Bonn conference could legitimize the Taliban. This would mean a major setback in the realization of women’s rights in the country. “Women must play a key role in the main discussions at the Bonn II Conference and must not be relegated to a position of secondary input”, said Brenda Wallace, CFUW National President. “It is essential that Afghan women have a strong presence, and that the Government of Canada advocate for their full participation.”

The European Union has taken a strong position on the implementation of Resolution 1325.  Canada also played a lead role in its development.  With this in mind CFUW asks the Government of Canada to pursue the fulfillment of Resolution 1325 and to ensure that Afghan women are full and active participants in the discussions of Afghanistan’s future.

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For more information please contact:

Robin Jackson, CFUW Executive Director

613-234-8353 ext.102 or executivedirector@cfuw.org

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization of close to 10,000 women university graduates, students and Associate Members in 112 Clubs across Canada that works to improve the status of women and human rights, education, social justice, and peace. CFUW 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 of the 61 affiliates of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW).

Petition Calling on the Government of Canada to Host Dicussions on a World Wide Ban on Nuclear Weapons

Please consider collecting signatures for a petition calling “upon the House of Commons to issue an invitation for all states to gather in Canada to begin discussions needed for a global legal ban on nuclear weapons”.  The Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (of which CFUW is a part) hopes to get at least 200 petitions tabled in the House before the end of the year.

You can download the petition here.

General information on handling the petition:

1.  Print the petition: The attached petition is formatted for  8 x 14″ paper so all 25 signatures can go on one page.   If you must convert it to 8 x 11″, kindly observe the rules for doing so set out here.

2.  Seek out signatures.  They must be clearly written  – for the Clerk won’t certify the petition their office have checked each name against a phone book to ensure each person exists.

3.  Once signed, the Petition should be sent to your Member of Parliament with a request that he or she arrange for certification by the Clerk of Petitions (who checks every name to ensure the person exists) and then that the M.P. present the petition during Routine Proceedings.  You could ask the MP’s assistant to advise you of the date of the petition presentation so that you may find the presentation noted in the Debates and the Journal.

To find names of MPs, go to the centre column here:  http://www.parl.gc.ca/SenatorsMembers.aspx?Language=E

The address for all MPs is House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

No postage required.

Is your MP required to present your petition?  The rules state:

“Members are not bound to present petitions and cannot be compelled to do so; [53]  nevertheless, it is evident that many Members consider it a duty to present to the House petitions brought forward by citizens. [54]  The Member, whose role it is to make the presentation on behalf of the petitioners, is not required to be in agreement with the content of any petition he or she may choose to present, and no such inference is to be drawn. [55] “

If your MP won’t present, please ask for the petition to be returned and send it to Mme. Hélène Laverdière, Foreign Affairs Critic for the NDP or to M. Dominic LeBlanc, Foreign Affairs Critic for the Liberals.  I’m sure either would be happy to assist with the tabling of these petitions.

4.  Note that the Government must respond to each Petition within 45 days of it being presented.   The instructions say:

” Government responses to petitions are generally tabled in the House during Routine Proceedings, under the rubric “Tabling of Documents”, but may also be deposited with the Clerk. [78]  Petitions receive individual responses. Any Member who has presented a petition is provided with a copy of the response at the time it is tabled. After being tabled in the House, government responses to petitions (unlike the petitions themselves) become sessional papers. [79] “

The Debate Over the Long Gun Registry Continues at Committee

On November 15th and 17th, CFUW staff attended hearings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) to listen to witnesses for the study of Bill C-19 Ending the Long Gun Registry.

On Tuesday Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, Solomon Friedman, a criminal defence lawyer, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and Murray Grismer, a Sergeant from Saskatchewan, all spoke in favour of the Bill, citing the criminalization of long gun owners, the registries inability to prevent crime and errors and inaccuracies of data as reasons for abolishing the registry.

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) was the lone witness speaking against the Bill and reminding the Committee members of the public safety implications – including women and children’s safety and the rights of first responders to a safe workplace.

On Thursday, there were a number of witnesses speaking in support of the Bill while Dr. Wendy Cukier of the Coalition on Gun Control, students from Dawson College and Quebec public security officials spoke against its abolition. Quebec Public Security Minister Robert Dutil asked the government to keep the registry and simply decriminalize non-compliance. At the very least, he argued, the government should remove the clause that calls for the destruction of data because Quebec would like to use it to set up its own registry. “If the unrestricted long-gun registry saves just one life, we are morally justified to continue our efforts to maintain it,” he said.

CFUW has also submitted a brief to SECU to highlight the gendered impacts of Bill C-19 and hopes to be called as a witness in the coming weeks. In the meantime we will support our fellow allies in promoting gun control, such as the CLC, in any way we can, including writing to all the Conservatives members of the committee that continue to deny the public safety issues at stake, and attending committee meetings to bear witness to the debate.