08 Dec 2012 09:01AM
When the provincial government abolished the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women early in 2011, people decried the move as a step backward.
But at the approach of the council’s 35th anniversary, which is officially marked Saturday, the province announced that a working group has been formed to make recommendations for “new mechanisms” to help ensure women’s voices are heard in New Brunswick.
Following the collapse of the advisory council, an Ad Hoc Committee for an Advisory Council on the Status of Women was created. That committee has been meeting over the past few months to develop a more “modern structure” that would replace the former advisory council to give women “an independent voice that advises government.”
The committee, which includes community representatives that advocate for the continuation of the core functions of the former advisory council, will support the new working group.
Jeanne d’Arc Gaudet, spokeswoman for the ad hoc committee, said it’s encouraging to see the province recognize that it perhaps made a mistake in cutting all funding to the advisory council last year.
“It’s really a positive development that the province came back and recognized that maybe they made an error and they put together this (working group) to come out with recommendations to the minister about how they would want women’s issues represented in this province,” she said.
Marie-Claude Blais, the minister responsible for women’s issues, wasn’t available for comment on the new working group on Friday afternoon.
Gaudet, who’s also a past-president of the advisory council, said it’s important to remember the impact the advisory council has had on women in this province over the last 35 years.
The government appointed the first New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women on Dec. 8, 1977. The agency had the mandate to advise the government on women’s issues by recommending legislation, policies and practices, bringing awareness to the population, as well as conducting research.
“I think the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women did a lot to advance women’s issues in this province,” she said.
Gaudet cites changes to legislation that affected family law, pay equity and creating more awareness about women’s rights.
She said when the advisory council was first established it recognized there were injustices against women and worked to correct them.
Gaudet said that while the public’s mentality has changed significantly over the past 35 years, many challenges remain.
Violence against women remains a serious problem, pay equity is an issue for many and women still have a poor showing in politics and executive-level jobs.
“We need to bring more women into the decision-making jobs,” she said.
Gaudet is hopeful that the committee’s “demands” will be taken into account as the working group develops its recommendations for the government.
“We are open to the implementation of a new mechanism with a mandate and actions that would be in line with the same objectives as the former New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women,” she said.