United Nations: BC must step up for women’s equality

A week ago, millions of people in Vancouver, Washington, DC and around the world took to the streets to sound a clarion call for our political leaders to respect women’s rights as human rights. Today, West Coast LEAF, as part of the BC CEDAW Group, is calling on the provincial government to take immediate action to ensure women’s equality in BC.

As we witness global upheaval, uncertainty about the future amid racist and Islamophobic attacks, the normalizing of misogyny, and the deliberate undermining of basic rights taking place across our border, it is imperative that the Canadian government take an immediate and firm stance on protecting basic human rights here at home.

Today, in a letter to Premier Clark and Opposition Leader Horgan, we strongly urge them to commit to implementing – fully and without delay – the UN’s recommendations to demonstrably improve the lives of women in our province. In addition to the BC-specific letter, West Coast LEAF and the BC CEDAW Group join with nearly 100 allied organizations across the country to call for our federal government to take coordinated national action to step up for women’s equality.

This campaign follows West Coast LEAF’s trip to Geneva to speak at the United Nations on the review of Canada’s progress under the international bill of women’s rights, the Conventional on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The UN Committee’s Concluding Observations provide a clear road map for how we can and should do better on a wide range of issues crucial to the dignity, security and freedom of BC women, from child care to the gender wage gap; from housing and poverty reduction to violence against Indigenous women. In many of these areas, we already have solid research setting out BC-specific solutions and many of those solutions could be implemented immediately with enough political will.

The UN Committee was particularly concerned about the state of family law legal aid in the country. Access to legal aid is in a state of crisis, and women in Canada — especially in BC — bear the brunt of this crisis. On Thursday this week, our Executive Director Kasari Govender will be in Ottawa to appear before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (“JUST Committee”) to raise an alarm that the state of legal aid has arisen to the level of international concern.

The last few weeks have provided a stark reminder that we cannot afford to take for granted the strides we’ve made to ensure equality and to bring the promises of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to reality. We cannot take for granted that our basic human rights will be respected, especially for women, LGBTQI, Indigenous and racialized people, religious minorities, and those with precarious immigration status.
We assert that the CEDAW Committee’s recommendations must be meaningfully enacted and cannot be permitted to collect dust like so many recommendations have over the years without an implementation strategy. Now is the time for action.

Whether marching together for justice or raising our voices and speaking out against discrimination, hate, intolerance, misogyny and bigotry, we must remain vigilant to ensure equality and justice for women. Now is the time to join together to be heard in the corridors of power and in the halls of justice.

Read the full letter here.

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