Premier Christy Clark should use her power and position to actually improve equality for women in British Columbia. Here is the record of the B.C. Liberal government.
- Refusal to ensure women’s voices are heard at Missing Women’s Inquiry: As premier, Christy Clark has had the opportunity to show she cares about women’s equality. She had the chance to stand up for the province’s most vulnerable women who sought support to be heard at the Missing Women’s Inquiry into the Highway of Tears and the murders of Downtown Eastside women. Instead, she has refused to give women’s groups who have full standing the same legal support they are extending to police and provincial officials.
“The refusal of funding in this case is also especially egregious because the groups granted standing represent some of the most disadvantaged in Canada, including Aboriginal women, women living in poverty, women with drug addictions, and women engaged in prostitution. These are women whose voices are rarely heard in legal fora. They are women who are regularly, and in the facts at issue in the Inquiry, repeatedly, preyed upon, violated and murdered. To render them voiceless when it is their lives and safety which are the subject of the Inquiry, is unprincipled, as well as legally unsound.”– Professor Kent W. Roach, Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Letter to B.C. Liberal Attorney General
- Child poverty: Under the Liberals, B.C. has had the worst child poverty in Canada for almost a decade. More than 25 per cent of families of children in poverty are headed by single women who are often underemployed and struggling to afford overpriced housing. The Liberals' failure to build on and improve child care programs has contributed to child poverty in British Columbia.
“After housing, child care is the second highest cost faced by B.C. families with young children. There are only child care spaces available for 5 percent of children under the age of three in this province.”– First Call, 2010 Child Poverty Report Card
- Failing grades on women's equality, year after year: Every year, West Coast LEAF and CEDAW put out a report card on the government's actions to promote and protect women's equality. Year after year the Liberals receive failing grades. This year they received an F in the category of “Women and Access to Justice,” a D for “Social Assistance and Poverty,” a D- for “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls,” and a C- for “Access to Childcare.”
“The inaccessibility of the legal system results in women staying in situations that are unhealthy and sometimes dangerous, while women fleeing abuse without legal help are often re-victimized by their abuser and by the court system.”– 2011, West Coast LEAF and CEDAW Report Card on How B.C. Is Measuring Up on Women's Rights.
- Restricted legal aid to women in need: In 2002, the Liberals slashed legal aid funding by 38.8 per cent. Since then women have been largely denied legal aid funding for family law disputes, which leaves women, especially women trying to leave violent relationships, vulnerable and at risk of further victimization.
“These legal aid changes effectively deny legal representation to the most vulnerable women in matters that affect their ability to pay for food and shelter for themselves and their children, to escape violent spouses, and to seek spousal support and custody of their children.” – The Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Women in British Columbia, Human Rights Under Attack
“Women are disproportionately affected by inadequate legal aid in family law because they are frequently in a situation of relative economic disadvantage and they often bear the lion’s share of both the short-term and long-term consequences of our failures in this regard. The need for adequate legal aid is very compelling in situations where a woman is attempting to leave an abusive relationship, and her life and her physical and emotional security are at risk, as is the safety of her children. Less obvious but no less pressing is the need for legal assistance to ensure that women and their children do not face poverty in the short and long term.“– Leonard Doust, Report on the Public Commission on Legal Aid in British Columbia
- Cut funding to women’s centres: In 2003 core funding was cut for 37 women’s centres across the province. This move, which was opposed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, led to the eventual closure of many of these centres, leaving women with less resources, especially in small communities where there may be few other service providers to fill the gap.
- Abolished Canada’s first free-standing ministry focused on women’s equality: One of the first acts of the B.C. Liberal government was the elimination of the Ministry of Women’s Equality, which was established by the previous New Democrat government.
The Ministry of Women’s Equality was focused on increasing economic equality, ending violence against women, and improving women’s health. Since eliminating the ministry of women’s equality, at least three different ministries have picked up and dropped responsibility for these goals.
“This constant shuffling and de-emphasizing of women’s issues is evidence of the current lack of government support for women in B.C.”– BC CEDAW, Inaction and Non-compliance: British Columbia’s Approach to Women’s Inequality