Idle No More: International Women’s Day Denied

Back in 1975, the United Nations marked the first official International Women’s Day on March 8. But the roots go back much further … back to February 28, 1909 when women rallied together and demonstrated on the first anniversary of the 1908 New York Garment Workers’ Strike. But the New York Garment Workers’ Strike of 1908 wasn’t without its focus on women’s rights. In fact, in 1908, the strike saw 15,000 women march through New York City to demand shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

It didn’t end there. In Copenhagen in 1910, at the second International Conference of Working Women, a resolution was passed by 100 women representing 17 countries where it was decided that an International Women’s Day would be established, recognized, and celebrated on March 19 of each year. The date was moved to March 8 in 1914, and has continued on that date ever since.

There may be some who, disliking the concept of International Women’s Day, will point out that it was the brainchild of a German Marxist theorist, activist, and advocate for women’s rights. While it’s true that Clara Zetkin (née Eissner; 5 July 1857 – 20 June 1933) was a German Marxist theorist, activist, and advocate for women’s rights, that doesn’t take away from the reasons for the creation and celebration of International Women’s Day.

But while global corporations hold internal events in celebration of International Women’s Day, and while global corporations sponsor external events in celebration of International Women’s Day, the inequality between men and women is still alive and thriving.

According to the United Nations, women perform 66 per cent of the world’s work and produce 50 per cent of its food, but earn only 10 per cent of its income and own one per cent of its property. What’s more, nominal wages for women are 17 percent lower than for men.

Adding to this inequality is the fact that only 17 per cent of national parliament seats are held by women, and 1 in 6 elected officials who is appointed as a cabinet minister is female.

Only 13 per cent of the 500 largest corporations have a woman as CEO, and only 25 per cent of all scientific researchers are women. And when it comes to family life, women carry an overwhelming amount of the workload.

Keeping in mind that 66 per cent of the world’s work is performed by women, another companion statistic is also true — 66 percent of illiterate adults are women.

Two days ago, the Harper government’s Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, decided that it would be best to toss his 40 English-only initiatives on the floor when asked by another member of parliament when the documents would be available in both official languages. Peter MacKay’s action was interpreted as a “strong indication the committee will not be recommending a national inquiry” when the final government report titled “Invisible Women: A Call To Action” was due to be presented in parliament on Friday.

When the report was tabled yesterday, it made 16 recommendations but did NOT call for a public inquiry, which supported the perception that Peter MacKay’s reaction the previous day was accurate.

This goes contrary to what the United Nations special rapporteur, James Anaya, stated last October when he stated that the Harper government needed to launch a “comprehensive and nationwide” inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Months later, the Harper government continues to refuse to do so in spite of the fact that Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic, Carolyn Bennett, has stated thatthe final report does not accurately reflect the recommendations made by the witnesses who appeared before the MPs.”

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay — the man who threw papers down on the floor on Thursday — has stated that such an inquiry is unnecessary. Allegedly the Harper government has taken action thereby supposedly negating the need for an inquiry it would seem.

According to Maryanne Pearce’s research, 25 per cent of all reported missing women in Canada are Aboriginal, and it’s suspected that there are hundreds more unreported missing Aboriginal victims. Putting this into perspective. according to Statistics Canada, in 2011, 4.3 per cent of the total Canadian population is made up of Aboriginal peoples which means that 94.7 per cent of the total Canadian population is made up of non-Aboriginal people. Additional information from Statistics Canada states that in 2013, the gender ratio in the Aboriginal population was 0.99 males to females.

So let’s take a look at this information in easy-to-understand steps.

    • 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population is made up of Aboriginals.
    • That means that Aboriginal women and girls make up 4.3 per cent of the total Canadian female population.
    • 25 per cent of all missing women in Canada are Aboriginal.

Today marks International Women’s Day.

When will there be justice for missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada?

UPDATE [10 March 2014]:   APTN’s Jorge Barrera caught up with Stella Ambler, the Conservative MP who chaired the special committee on violence against Indigenous women since last March.  Click HERE to watch the report.

Elyse Bruce

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One Response to “Idle No More: International Women’s Day Denied”

  1. mutanatia Says:

    I have a few questions for you, just so I get the entire breadth of what you are saying:
    1) What is a “public inquiry?”
    2) Did MacKay actually “throw papers on the floor” literally or figuratively, meaning “he proposed?”
    3) I’ve noticed that the Harper government tends to not do things when there is a sizable portion of Aboriginals involved in Canada that can be helped. This is an example. However, he DOES do things that hurt a sizable portion of Aboriginals, which he also has done in this situation. Is this due to politicking, or does Harper actually hold a grudge against Aboriginals. If it’s personal, why is that? If it’s politicking, what are the dynamics that make/lead to him choosing to either take harmful action or inaction?


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