Women’s issues missing from election campaign

Posted on September 21, 2015 in Equality Debates

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – It’s about time the party leaders were held accountable for policies that specifically affect women.
Sep 21 2015.   Editorial

More than half way through the election campaign, issues of specific interest to women have yet to hit the radar of the three major party leaders.

It’s not clear why women’s issues are so invisible since half a million more women than men cast a ballot in the last election.  But it is shameful.

As Green Party Leader Elizabeth May tweeted during Thursday night’s televised leaders’ debate on the economy (one she wasn’t invited to): “Missing in this discussion? Women’s issues.”

Indeed, they were also missing during the only other televised leaders’ debate, so far, causing Kelly Bowden of Oxfam Canada to note: “The word ‘woman’ was only mentioned four times, and there was no discussion of women’s rights or gender equality.”

Happily, those issues will finally get some atttention on Monday evening when a panel on gender justice and equality called Up for Debate at Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre livestreams in both official languages on the websites of the Toronto Star and Le Devoir. It will be broadcast live on Twitter Canada’s Periscope.

It’s true that it’s not the nationally televised leaders’ debate on women’s issues that more than 175 organizations had lobbied for. That was torpedoed when Conservative Leader Stephen Harper disgracefully refused to participate, leading the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair, who had earlier agreed to take part, to drop out too.

Still, the organizers of Up for Debate, Oxfam Canada and the Alliance for Women’s Rights, will shine a spotlight on issues of specific interest to women in two ways.

First, the program will feature recorded interviews with May, Mulcair, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe. (Harper again refused to take part.) Second, it will include two panels of women in the fields of media and social justice who will debate the leaders’ positions.

Among the “asks” the organizers made of party leaders:

– To address the root causes of violence against women in Canada.
– To act on women’s economic inequality, recognize their contributions, and fund social programs that help lift women out of poverty, such as affordable housing and childcare.
– To re-invest in organizations and institutions that champion justice and equality for women.

It’s not clear why women’s issues haven’t surfaced during the campaign so far. But here are some statistics on violence, the economy and power that should be top of mind for the leaders in this campaign:

– Eight thousand women and children seek protection every day in Canada’s shelter system.
– In the last 35 years, more than 1,000 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing.
– Despite their gains in education, women continue to earn 20 per cent less than their male counterparts. Racialized women fare even worse.
– According to Statistics Canada, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
– On average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
– Each year more than 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence — 12 per cent of all violent crime in Canada. That’s despite the fact that only 22 per cent of all incidents are even reported to police.
– According to the Justice Department, each year Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence.
– Just one in five board seats in Canada are held by women, a proportion far behind companies in Europe, according to Catalyst Canada.
– Women hold only 25 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

In the end, Monday night’s event won’t be the nationally televised discussion that organizers wanted. But if they hope to be elected the party leaders should all tune in, regardless. Then they should start campaigning on these issues.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2015/09/21/womens-issues-missing-from-election-campaign-editorial.html >

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