10/07/2015 05:18 EDT | Updated 10/08/2016 05:12 EDT

Harper Is Throwing a 'Veil' Over the Women's Issues That Matter


It's the last two weeks before we go to the polls for the federal election, and we're heading into the home stretch.

I love following politics, but this election has been wearying. With the longest campaign in history, I'm not surprised the voters are tired.

Every day we see another poll, another tracker, another analyst examining this or that issue.

The latest is the niqab, the face veil some Muslim women wear. There are other columnists and commentators who are more eloquent than I can be on the issue of women's clothing and the ongoing policing that happens.

But women's issues and politics in Canada encompass more than a face veil. In fact, I'm going to come out and say there are far more pressing issues we have to deal with from a woman's point of view than whether or not some women wear a veil.

I grew up with nuns in my schools. Veils are nothing new or different. And given how much we have to do as workers, builders, creators, nurturers, and so on in our communities, Stephen Harper's continuing waving of the veil in our faces is nothing more than a distraction and a deflection from what truly matters.

Let's talk about the steadily increasing numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women -- almost 1200 of them -- women who were someone's mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt.

Let's talk about violence against women generally, be they indigenous, of colour, ethnic, white, LGBTQ, and/or disabled women, whether it comes from partner abuse, street and workplace harassment, or pornography.

Let's talk about the increasingly stretched resources of emergency services such as women's shelters in urban areas and the limited options available to women in rural and remote areas of the country.

Let's talk about how housing costs are rising and more than 3300 women sleep in emergency shelters every day.

Let's talk about gender equity, or more accurately the lack thereof, in our pay packets. That gender imbalance in the work place translates to 20 per cent less on average for paid work, not to mention we have fewer women as managers and CEOs or as directors on corporate boards.

Let's look at the repeated refusal to introduce and support a quality-driven, national daycare program for kids in our country. Nor should we forget that the wages of childcare workers, many of whom are women, are often little better than minimum wage.

Let's talk about how women have to make do on 50 per cent and in many cases, much less, of their wages while on maternity leave.

Let's talk about how the elimination of the long form census deprives us all, but especially women, of useful and important data about what is happening in our communities with work, wellness, social and economic wellbeing.

Let's talk about the elimination of funding to a myriad of advocacy agencies who helped us understand where we needed to change, how to build new ways of working together, and what has to be done to advance equality, not just in name but in practice too.

Yes, we have made strides in education for women, in opening more doors to more careers, and in establishing and protecting rights for women through the Charter.

But that is not enough.

Throwing a veil, literally and figuratively, over these issues will not erase them, make them invisible, or disguise them. We have too much to lose.

A version of this article originally appeared in The St. Johns Telegram.


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