Women’s groups want more from gov’t; Committee says that the recent government-led summit didn’t allow for comprehensive discussion
Times & Transcript, Nov 15 2011
Members of the Ad Hoc Committee for a Council on the Status of Women held a press conference in Moncton yesterday to urge the government for a true public consultation on reinstating a provincial body which represents the voices of women.
In the wake of a province-led women’s summit in Fredericton over a week ago, the committee’s spokeswomen, Sarah LeBlanc and Jody Dallaire say that during the two-day event, the invited guests were not truly given the opportunity to choose how women in New Brunswick should be represented.
“Our biggest criticism is that the summit did not allow enough time to discuss what mechanism is needed in New Brunswick to continue advancing women’s equality now that the advisory council is no longer there,” said City of Dieppe councillor-at-large Dallaire.
“Several options were put forward but there was no space to discuss which option will best meet the needs of New Brunswick women.”
Many members of the Ad Hoc committee attended the summit, including Johanne Perron, the executive director of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity. She agrees with the committee’s stance that the summit wasn’t conducive to supporting all women in the province.
“It was the first step but we need to have much more discussion, and hear opinions of New Brunswick women,” she said.
The summit was organized in response to support of the council, abolished by the government in March due to funding cuts. Since the announcement, the Ad Hoc committee was formed.
The summit was organized by the Women’s Issues Branch of the Executive Council Office. The first day of the summit was for women representing organizations, and the second was reserved for individuals.
“There were options put on the table but no opinions were heard,” LeBlanc said.
“It’s logical to suggest that women need to discuss amongst themselves in the consultations so our message for the government is for them to include New Brunswick women in this decision making process.”
But Environment Minister Margaret Ann Blaney, who co-hosted the event with Justice Minister Marie-Claude Blais, says that the summit provided countless opportunities for women to voice their thoughts and that it wasn’t held by invite only.
“I know they have been saying this but it’s not the case,” she said from Saint John yesterday.
“The organizers messaged as many groups and organizations possible and put word out through social media. There were a lot of women there who felt identified and there was representation from so many diverse groups.”
Blaney says the weekend went over famously and herself, Blais and many female MLAs spoke about several solutions. Although one wasn’t endorsed by every person at the summit, she said that the ideas are creative and will be compiled together and sent out publicly as soon as possible.
“The feedback process will certainly continue.”
The Ad Hoc committee doesn’t believe that the current Women’s Issues Branch can serve New Brunswick women as did the council. If government won’t reinstate a council, they says that an alternative body needs to be developed, including some the following principles:
– Women must have an independent voice that’s recognized by the government, as was its predecessor;
– Its central role must be to advise the government on matters of interest and concern to women and bringing those matters to the public;
– It must be representative of all New Brunswick women (anglophones, francophones, Aboriginal women and minorities) and should be accessible to all;
– Sufficient resources must be allocated to enable success for its mission and mandate.
The committee, which is composed of individual and organizational members, is also compiling names in a petition to reinstate the council or a similar body. They launched it in April and have 800 names so far.
A similar process of a two-day summit was followed in the 1970s and ultimately led to the creation of the Advisory Council of the Status of Women.
Seven other provinces currently have women’s advisory councils.