Canada ignores human rights for women, says FAFIA

'Canada is the home of serious violations of the human rights of Aboriginal women and girls.'

Ottawa (4 Feb. 2010) - Canada is ignoring the basic human rights of the poorest and most vulnerable Canadian women, says the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).

The group has just released a new report entitled No Action, No Progress: FAFIA’s Report on Canada’s Progress in Implementing Priority Recommendations made by UN CEDAW in 2008.

The document assesses Canada’s response to priority recommendations that were made by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) after its review of Canada in 2008. Filed with the United Nations this week, the submission has the support of 32 endorsing organizations including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

In 2008 the UN CEDAW committee identified two areas in which human rights violations were so pressing that they required immediate action:

  • Persistent failure to provide adequate social assistance to women and girls living in poverty.
  • Endemic violence against Aboriginal women and girls.

“Canada is the home of serious violations of the human rights of Aboriginal women and girls,” says FAFIA spokesperson Sharon McIvor.

“The disappearances and murders of 520 Aboriginal women and girls have now been documented by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). About half of these disappearances and murders have occurred since 2000. But the Government of Canada has not taken effective steps to address the failures of both police and governments to protect Aboriginal women and girls from violence and to investigate that violence promptly and effectively when it occurs.

"The many calls from NWAC, Amnesty International (AI), FAFIA and many other non-governmental organizations – for a national investigation or inquiry to correct the systemic failures in law enforcement and a national action plan to deal with the shockingly poor social and economic conditions of Aboriginal women and girls – have fallen on deaf ears," McIvor says.

"The government of Canada says that it is talking – there are two intergovernmental working groups – but, so far, there is no action.”

Leilani Farha, co-chair of FAFIA, welcomed the concern recently expressed by Prime Minister Harper for the health and well-being of women in the developing world.

"It is time that he show similar concern for the poorest women at home," she said.

"Women who have to rely on social assistance in Canada do not receive enough income to pay for both healthy food and rent for themselves and their children. Low welfare rates have well-documented gendered consequences, making women less able to escape violence and more likely to stay in abusive relationships because they have no other options," Farha added.

"The government of Canada has taken no steps to ensure that social assistance rates across the country are adequate to meet the basic needs of women and children, and to promote the equality of women, as the UN Committee urged. These women’s human rights issues are fundamental and urgent. But we see no action and no progress.”

NUPGE International Women’s Projects

At the National Union’s 2006 conference, Building International Sisterhood, NUPGE announced it would be developing partnerships with four women's projects, one of which is the Sisters in Spirit initiative. At NUPGE’s 2007 Triennial Convention, a resolution was passed to provide support to the projects for three additional years.

More information:
• Download - No Action, No Progress: FAFIA’s Report on Canada's Progress in Implementing Priority Recommendations made by UN CEDAW in 2008 - pdf
• Feminist Alliance for International Action website
• BC turns it's back on women at risk