Human-rights activist Shelagh Day calls Stephen Harper our most sexist prime minister

Stephen Harper is the most “sexist and antiwoman” prime minister that this country has seen in the past 50 years, according to Vancouver feminist and human-rights activist Shelagh Day. “In my view, this is a particularly bad time,” Day told the Straight in an interview at a Cambie Street coffee shop. “I’ve never seen government in Canada as bad as they are now.”

Since taking power in 2006, the Harper government has scrapped plans for a national child-care program and eliminated the Court Challenges Program—a national nonprofit organization set up in 1994 to provide financial assistance to those mounting court cases that challenge federal laws and policies that violate a person or group’s constitutional equality rights. In addition, his government axed jobs at Status of Women Canada and removed the word equality from its mandate.

“Sometimes I think prime ministers do a lot of antiwomen things, but it’s somehow less overt,” Day said. “This one [Harper], I’d say, is pretty clearly antiwomen. Some of the attacks he’s made on programs and services that are vital to women are astounding.”

Day, who served as B.C.’s first human-rights officer in 1973, believes government should play an integral part in creating a balanced playing field for women. She says the recent federal budget exemplifies blatant sexism, asserting that a disproportionate amount of funding was allocated to male-dominated sectors such as construction.

“Fine, you’re going to solve the recession; why not put money into soft infrastructure as well?” she asked. “Why isn’t this a time to put money into jobs in daycare or health care? I think the whole question of how government spends money is increasingly important. The issue of human rights is about putting rights and money together. That’s essential to solving the problem of inequality.”

Day said the word feminist has been stigmatized, and that women who call themselves feminists are ostracized. She said this has created a hostile environment in which young women aren’t given the opportunity to understand that being a feminist means “believing in themselves and recognizing that they hold up half the sky”.




Oct 22, 2009 at 10:14am

A good point about boosting the economy by social infrastructure spending. I've often wondered why some people think social services that help the physical and mental well-being of society, and keeping that money in circulation locally, is less useful than huge construction projects by firms not hindered from shifting their profits offshore, and tax-free.
Why do the land speculation and construction sectors get so much more priority.

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Oct 22, 2009 at 5:50pm

Woman are the majority in universities, the workplace as a whole, and in the entire country. The gender based minority is male. Therefore there should be more resources in place to help males achieve equality in school and employment. Feminists are motivated by an internal hatred of males. I think they are just jealous all the hot chicks are straight.

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Oct 23, 2009 at 2:27am

I beg to differ with you. I think he is the best Prime Minister we have had in this country in years. He does listen if you have a legitimate complaint. Those who choose to have children should stay home and look after them as was the thing in years gone by, or don't have them. You can't expect the Country to be responsible financially for a decision you made in your life. If you choose to work and have a carrier, then, don't have the children until you are able to look after them yourself.

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Oct 25, 2009 at 5:26am

Of course he's anti-women; but does anyone care? He's a Christian fundamentalist. As such, he's creating a misogynist society, which gets worse the longer he's in office - so you end up with a society that does not care what happens to women, or girls.

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Oct 27, 2009 at 12:22pm

I don't understand this. A person thinks Harper's a sexist? Why is this news? Who does she represent apart from herself? There is no reason given as to why her opinion needs highlighted. What has she done for the last 35 years? Give us some context, otherwise her opinion would be more appropriate in the letters page.

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Oct 30, 2009 at 11:18am

I've been a feminist since 1972, and the paranoid men are still out there! Why do you think I would hate men? I love my husband and my grown son, but I don't always agree with them. If I am a lesbian, does that mean there is no discrimination against women, I'm just jealous I don't have a dick?
If parents don't work, children don't eat. Not many moms or dads have the ability to stop work until all their children are safe to be home alone, Kimo, and it's not necessarily best for them, (how did it work out for you?). Men and women who have to each work at least one full-time job to feed the kids and put a roof over their heads are more the norm today. Don't you think that the future of that baby affects the whole country? Or that at 2:45 every 7 year old deserves an enriching place to learn, but not at 3:35?
Everyone of us is not free until all of us are free. While women disappear on our streets and highways, and we don't take notice until dozens are gone, but we don't know how many--is your life worth more than hers? Why?

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