Women’s groups protest Stephen Harper’s budget outside United Nations

Over 40 women’s groups and trade unions across the country, including the British Columbia Federation of Labour, have signed a notice of communication to the UN Commission on the Status of Women indicating that they will be filing a complaint against the Canadian government and its practices of discrimination against women.

According to a press statement released today (March 6) by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a union representing 165,000 Canadians, the complaint denounces pay equity legislation proposed by the 2009 federal budget.

The issue at stake for the signatories was a change to the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act in the Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-10). An on-line statement by the president of the Treasury Board outlines the new budget’s updates to the act. Of particular note is how pay equity concerns will be addressed: complaints by employees in the federal public sector will now be handled by the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

According to the complaint launched by the signatories, the proposed act will “deny women employed in the [federal public] sector the right to submit pay equity complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.” Complaints also must be filed with the Public Service Labour Relations Board without the help of a union. In addition, the new “legislation calls for a fine of $50,000 to be levied against any union that assists or encourages its members to file a pay equity complaint or helps them do so.”

Yesterday (March 5), representatives of some of the organizations protested outside the UN headquarters in New York, as Minister of State for Status of Women Canada Helena Guergis spoke to the UN about women’s rights in Canada.

“It’s appalling that she would set foot on an international stage to make claims about women’s equality while the government is in the midst of implementing policies that are trampling women’s equality rights at home,” said PSAC’s Patty Ducharme in the press statement.

The Liberal party also commented on the incident yesterday on their Web site. “As countries around the world are preparing to mark International Women’s Day on Sunday, this government is taking the women’s movement back,” said Liberal Status of Women critic Anita Neville in a press release.