On February 12, Harper vowed to appeal a federal court ruling that would allow Muslim women to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. Speaking to the press about the matter, Harper said, "That is not the way we do things." He added that, "This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and I think we find that offensive." This is a classic example of opportunistic feminism, which so many white men like to make use of from time to time.
Much has changed for women. The fact that we have International Women's Day, or that many organizations host Women in Leadership events to empower women, or women feel they can mobilize to effect positive change is testimony to progress.
This year's IWD is themed "Make It Happen." And I think for every woman who is a part of celebrations, this is a goal to which we are ready to commit. For women who cannot just "make it happen" on their own, we must help "make it happen" for them.
It is clear that even in 2015, there is a lot of work to be done both at home and abroad to advance the rights and equality of women. Let's take a peek at what the federal political parties in this country are doing to make a difference.
Wage inequality continues to be an ongoing issue here in Canada, where women, on average, earn only 80 per cent of what their male counterparts earn. The wage gap varies significantly between occupations; the largest gap being in health-related occupations, where women earn just 47 cents for every dollar earned by men--a figure which has not changed since 1986. But determining why this wage gap exists in the first place can garner impassioned appeals from all sides. While some argue the wage gap is symptomatic of society's bias towards women, others say women themselves make concessions in their careers for the sake of their family.
I looked at our home in that moment and stated, "Now THIS is what we should put on Facebook. Welcome to our real life. Our insane, loud, crazy, messy, mucky, happy, shouting, crying, cooking, cleaning (at some point) real life. Take it or leave it -- this is how it really is."
With International Women's Day quickly approaching, I felt it was important to shed a light on why some women in today's society are still feeling held back by barriers that seem to be embedded in professional environments, specifically in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
The Harper government continues to fail Canadian women who suffer violence. Both financial and policy commitments are utterly inadequate -- Status of Women Canada spends a meagre $9.5 million annually on ending violence against women. It is time the government seriously invests in ending the violence.
Canada's colonial reality means Aboriginal people here face challenges where non-Aboriginal people enjoy opportunities. But I believe that through the hard work of many activists, leaders, and thinkers, Canada is slowly decolonizing. In the spirit of optimism that rings in a new year, I'd like to focus on some of the events that signal this gradual shift, even while recognizing that, in the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this work will not be completed in our lifetimes.
For every act of violence against women, society pays a price in lost productivity, worse health outcomes, and, lost potential. Respect for all women and equality is essential. We need to put the same energy into denouncing the violence in Canada, as we do abroad.
Jian Ghomeshi has been revered as attractive, popular, successful, a ladies' man -- until now. Now we see that this man, nearly 50 years of age, may have been thinking and acting like a spoiled child who totally believes the world revolves around him -- and that he may feel completely entitled to have all of his needs met, sexual and otherwise. Personally, I am more surprised that we are so surprised!
There's an epidemic in our country that our government is refusing to respond to. For Indigenous women in Canada, the idea that they might go missing is a terrifying reality. The United Nations has urged Canada to launch a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. But Harper has not been willing to act. Disappointing as the news is, it's, unfortunately, not surprising that a settler-colonial state does not value the lives of Indigenous women as much as other citizens.
As the Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously said, "my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." Peace starts in recognizing and valuing the inherent humanity in each of us. And lasting peace comes when that outlook bleeds into every interaction that we have at work, on the street, and in our homes.
How do we make police, governments, institutions, and one another care more about Aboriginal women, even if they do things that some among us may find unseemly, like drinking, or using drugs, or selling sex? This is precisely the question that those demanding an inquiry into missing and murdered women hope to see answered. An inquiry would help us identify the culprits and, hopefully, stem this epidemic. Not just the epidemic of murder, but the epidemic of seeing Indigenous women as worthless.
The "Action Plan" tabled in the House of Commons this week does nothing new to actually "Stop the Violence" against indigenous women and girls. Unfortunately the Prime Minister sees the overwhelmingly disproportionate number of indigenous women and girls facing violence, who go missing or who are murdered, as nothing more than crimes that should be investigated by the police after they happen.
The issue is staring our Prime Minister square in the face and a just and equitable solution is being proposed from all sides. And yet, Harper has waived off the need for a national inquiry, claiming that his government intends to treat Fontaine's death as a crime and not a "sociological phenomenon."