Moncton -In the spirit of organization and agitation, activists gather to highlight women getting the provincial vote and the loss of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. To mark both historic events an actress playing the role of Mabel French, first female New Brunswick lawyer and suffragette, reacts to the news of losing the Advisory Council.
“The good women of this province continue to be underrepresented in all levels of political assembly yet the government of New Brunswick has seen fit to, without consultation, eliminate the incredibly small and inexpensive Advisory Council that has served as women’s independent voice in government all the while telling you that the very same Minister who supports the abolition of this Council will henceforth represent your concerns?” says Beth Lyons, activist and the actress playing the role of Mabel French.
Sunday marks the 92nd anniversary of the majority of New Brunswick women obtaining the right to vote provincially. The law was passed in the Legislature on April 15, 1919 and officially sanctioned April 17, 1919. April also marks another milestone in the history of the New Brunswick women’s movement. On April 1, 2011 the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women lost its government funding and ceased its operations.
“The government of New Brunswick just abolished the Advisory Council. They, in fact, said that it’s just like women’s suffrage: a shocking decision at first, a decision that will be opposed, but a decision that will ultimately prove to be the right thing to do. What a shameful comparison,” says Odette Robichaud, Vice President responsible for women’s issues with CUPE NB, during the Commemorative Ceremony.
On March 22, the provincial government announced it was eliminating the funding allocated to the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Since the announcement, a total of 59 civil society and labour organizations have signed a Joint Statement calling for the Premier to reverse this decision. A copy of the list of signatories was sent to Premier Alward and to Minister Margaret Ann Blaney on April 12, 2011.
A groundswell of support for the work of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women continues to mobilize. A petition, a similar political pressure tactic used by the suffragettes, was launched during the ceremony. Mobilization will continue until the government reverses its decision.
Sarah LeBlanc is the Executive Director of Regroupement féministe du N.-B. and Johanne Perron is the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity.