Harper will not debate Women issues

The refusal of Conservative leader Stephen Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to debate women's issues is a mystery.

Toronto Star, letters Aug 29, 2015

A debate we need to have, Editorial Aug. 25

It is no surprise that Stephen Harper won’t debate women’s issues — he has been our worst enemy over the past nine years. But he must be called to account for his shameful mistreatment of half the population.

He came to power with a minority and even though he inherited a substantial surplus, he immediately dismantled advances won by the women’s movement over the previous 30 years, and jettisoned the government’s equality mandate. He decimated funding, affecting women’s organizations and shelters for abused and needy women, many of which have never recovered from the Harper wrecking ball.

He unilaterally cancelled the planned universal and accessible childcare program for new regulated spaces, even though all provinces and the federal government had set aside funding for it. Women can’t work without a place to care for their children. And a woman can’t pay for child care unless she is paid equitably.

Even here, Harper undercut protections for pay equity in 2009 and employment equity in 2012, both by stealth in a budget omnibus bill. He has repeatedly brushed off calls for action in response to 1,200 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. He destroyed the federal long-gun registry, without a care for the risks to battered women.

Canada under Harper has fallen from #1 in the world in 1996 for gender equality to #18 in 2011.

Stephen Harper’s wretched treatment of Canadian women is rarely a focus for debate, which is just the way he wants it. Women, and the men who love them, pay attention — and vote accordingly.

Linda Silver Dranoff, Toronto

The phrase “women’s issues” is a convenient euphemism for politicians to opt out of their responsibility to all Canadian voters. Women in 2015 should not earn less than men, or their families denied affordable daycare so parents can work.

The old way of thinking is to blame women for whatever happens to them. If they encounter violence, it must be something women did to bring it on to themselves by encouraging a “rape culture” on campuses, for example. If they aren’t wealthy corporate leaders, it must be because they haven’t spoken up to garner raises and win positions of power. Their voices go unheard in Ottawa.

Comments by Kellie Leitch about Islamic State forcing “young women into sex slavery” have little bearing on the lives of women in Canada. There is more threat to Canadian women by the government’s indifference to women than from foreigners. The murders and disappearances of aboriginal women are examples of such indifference.

Women contribute billions to the economy in both paid and unpaid work. They care for children, elderly and the infirm. They volunteer for countless charities and cultural organizations. Young interns work for free. Women academics, scientists, artists, authors and performers enrich our nation. Female athletes even win gold medals for Canada. Yet this contribution is trivialized or ignored — an insult to every voter, woman or man, that I hope will be recalled at the ballot box this October.

Diane Sullivan, Toronto

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