Cuts to Status of Women and Court Challenges Program Undermine [Federal] Government’s Commitment to Women’s Equality

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA)


Ottawa: FAFIA, a pan-Canadian alliance of women’s and human rights organizations, is denouncing the $5 million cut to the federal department of Status of Women over two years. These cuts will be taken from its modest annual budget of $13 million. The grants and contributions arm ($11 million) of the department was not affected.

“These cuts will critically affect the federal government’s own commitment to live up to its equality commitments to women,” said Shelagh Day, Co-Chair of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).

FAFIA is also dismayed by the elimination of the Court Challenges Program. “This Program has provided Canadian women with their only access to the use of their constitutional equality rights,” said Shelagh Day. “Equality rights have no meaning in Canada if women, and other Canadians who face discrimination, cannot use them.”

“Constitutional cases are too expensive for women to mount on their own.

Without this test case fund, women simply do not have access to the courts when their rights are violated.”

During the last federal election campaign, Stephen Harper promised to “take concrete and immediate measures…to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women.” These cuts are not consistent with Mr. Harper’s election promise,” said Day

Status of Women Canada is responsible for equipping the federal government to conduct gender based analysis of all policies and programs. It also provides internal expertise on specific policy initiatives. The department’s budget is one of the smallest of any department at the federal level.

An Expert Panel on accountability mechanisms for gender equality, that made its report just before the last federal election, concluded that Status of Women Canada needed to be significantly strengthened in order to better perform its function as a watchdog for women’s equality. The cut to SWC ignores those crucial recommendations.

For more information, contact FAFIA’s co-chair, Shelagh Day


Government’s real priorities revealed

OTTAWA, Sept. 26 /CNW/ – We are deeply concerned about the gutting of theonly federal agency that addresses critical questions pertaining to equality and about what it suggests about what this government’s true intentions are for equality matters in Canada.

Announced Monday, the 5 million dollar cut to Status of Women Canada (SWC) is a serious attack on the lone federal department engaged in the development of gender responsive policy and in the fulfillment of Canada’s human rights obligations to women at the international, domestic, and inter-governmental levels.

We now see the government’s real priorities revealed.

SWC is home to the Women’s Program which funds organizations that monitor and work to uphold Canada’s accountability to the principles of equality enshrined in the Charter and in the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The announcement of the SWC cut follows last week’s 11th hour restitution of federal funding to some national women’s organizations by Minister Beverley Oda and appears to be the latest cat-and-mouse game being played with the values held by a majority of Canadians.

The strength and integrity of SWC is integral to efforts of organizations working to protect women’s rights. We do work such as this because while some crucial legal reforms have granted equality to women in Canada, the substance of daily life for many women fails to live up to the promise that formal structures indicate.

The gap between real-life experience and legal equality is the basis for much of the work undertaken by SWC and the women’s groups it supports. Until now, they were together supported at the bargain-basement cost of $24 million federal dollars a year (compared to the $15 billion announced by Harper in June for military vehicles over the next few years).

The announced set of cuts raises serious concerns about the Harper Government’s ability to effectively steward the social values of Canadians. As such, we will be watching closely in the coming weeks for what other truths are revealed regarding this government’s commitment to women’s equality in Canada, and to the full equality of all citizens.


Canadian Council for Muslim Women (CCMW)
Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW)
Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA)
Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC)
DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women’s Network
MATCH International
YWCA Canada