The federal government has refused funding for one of the main advocacy groups for women’s rights in New Brunswick. The Coalition for Pay Equity has been told it will not be receiving project funding from Status of Women Canada.
The Coalition calls this decision strange, since its project was chosen this year as one of the ten best across Canada and also since the Coalition has reached all of the objectives set out in projects previously funded by Status of Women Canada over the last decade.
“Evidently, their decision is based on ideology, not on the value of the project or on the group’s ability to reach the objectives” said Denise Savoie, a vice president of the Coalition.
Savoie says the federal government’s surprise decision puts the Coalition in jeopardy. “We are a bilingual organization with a provincial mandate. We’ve accomplished a lot with a relatively small budget but without any financing, it will be extremely difficult to defend the right to pay equity.”
The Coalition had requested financing from Status of Women Canada in order to work with women throughout the province to develop leadership skills and to strengthen their participation in democratic and economic activities in their community. The project centered on workshops and tools for leadership, awareness, media training and networking. The project would have reached a large number of people in the general population through distribution of information on workplace discrimination and of tools to help in improving women’s wages.
Denise Savoie says the efforts of the Coalition have contributed to the recent adoption of a law on pay equity for the public sector and the implementation of pay equity programs for job groups that provide services mandated by the government, such as home support workers and nursing home and child care centre employees.
“However, 67% of women in the New Brunswick labour force work in the private sector. So, it is essential that a law for that sector be adopted also,” said Savoie.
Soon after it was elected, the Harper government radically changed the goals of the Women’s Program at Status of Women Canada. Before, it had financed only women’s groups and projects that advanced women’s rights. The changes opened funding to profit and non-profit organizations, except cooperatives, unions and universities, and the goal had to be to improve individual women’s skills.
“Yet we know that discrimination that women face is real, no matter their skill level,” said Denise Savoie. “A prime example is the fact that female-dominated jobs are often underpaid compared to male-dominated jobs of the same value.”
“If today, women’s status is improved, it is because they insisted that their rights be respected. Think of the right to vote, the right to own property, to take maternity leave. We’ve made great gains, and there are many other gains needed before we reach equality. The government should be an ally in our efforts, instead of being afraid of us.”
The Coalition for Pay Equity has over 700 individual members and 81 group members.