Raging Grannies Sing Their Person’s Case Song

Celebrating at the Constitute! Premiere

LEAF Releases Failing Report Card on BC At Premiere of Constitute!

Vancouver Sun October 18, 2020 Front Page: LEAF and Constitute! Film Screening

“B.C. Gets Failing Grades for Treatment of Women: Provincial Government Fails to Live Up to Standards Set by United Nations, LEAF Says”

By Denise Ryan, Vancouver Sun October 18, 2020

B.C. has received poor marks, including two Fs, on a report card measuring its treatment of women, says a report being released today by the West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.
The report card measures the compliance of the B.C. government with the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, (which enshrines protections for women in international human rights law) to which Canada is a signatory.

“In a nutshell, British Columbia is not living up to its expectations under the treaty,” said Alison Brewin, executive director of LEAF.

The province gets an F in the social assistance category, for “cuts to services for social assistance recipients” that continue to target marginalized women.

Another F goes to access to justice, for continued cuts to services that provide equal access to justice for women.

The recently announced inquiry into the missing women’s investigations bumped the grade on missing and murdered aboriginal women up to a C, Brewin said.

In the area of women and housing, the province gets a D-plus.

LEAF uses statistics, academic reports, government reports and research and consultation with community groups across the province to compile its report card.

“This report tells us that if you look at international standards and expectations around these issues, B.C. is not measuring up,” said Brewin.

There is a particular irony that the report is being released on the 81st annual Person’s Day, which commemorates a 1929 court decision that declared women in Canada to be “persons.”

“Person’s Day is a celebration of the case in which it was finally determined that women were persons under the law,” said Brewin.

The poor report card shows that women still are not getting equal benefits and treatment under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said Brewin.

LEAF is releasing the report card tonight at a screening of Constitute! a documentary film commemorating the work of an ad hoc group of 1,300 women who went to Parliament Hill to lobby to extend the equality clauses in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“It was a phenomenal event,” said Susan Bazilli, director of the international women’s rights project at the centre for global study at the University of Victoria and the film’s director.

“Many things we fought for, that were emulated around the world, we are now losing at home,” she said.
Marylou McPhedran, one of the people featured in the film and now dean of Global College at the University of Winnipeg, lobbied on Parliament Hill in 1980 for changes to the proposed Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Prior to the charter, the Canadian Bill of Rights did not give adequate protection to women under the law, said McPhedran.

“If you go back to the Canadian Bill of Rights, the judges decided key cases of women’s rights in the 1970s and women lost every single case,” said McPhedran.

The film Constitute! recalls the extraordinary moment in 1980 when 1,300 women gathered on Parliament Hill to make recommendations to then-justice minister Jean Chretien after a meeting to hear women’s concerns had been cancelled.

“This was the largest ever gathering of women on Parliament Hill,” said McPhedran.

MPs Flora MacDonald, Margaret Mitchell and Pauline Jewett crossed party lines to work together, and many women like McPhedran stayed for months in Ottawa after the spontaneous summit to lobby.

At the time, said McPhedran, to get access to MPs in some areas of the Parliament building, the women disguised themselves as secretaries by carrying steno pads and slipping past security.

In an unprecedented move, the amendments the “ad hackers” (as they were called) proposed were introduced and passed unanimously on third reading of the charter bill in Parliament.

It was momentous. Shockingly, McPhedran said, the grassroots success story has largely been left out of writing on constitutional history in Canada.

“We were written out of the history books, written out of text books” she said.

The film looking back at how women hammered out their place in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a start at rectifying that omission.

Thanks to the support of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said Bazilli, “The film is going to be taught in every high school in B.C.”

Referring to the 2010 report card, Bazilli said: “It is time the government took these issues on. The welfare rates of the last decade have had an incredibly negative impact on women, the legal aid system is failing women and an incredible divide is growing between rich and poor that affects women.”

The film screens Monday night at the District 319 theatre, 319