Education | Legislation | Status of Women & Human Rights
For Members only: Registration Form and Travel Form
Ontario Council Standing Committees in Legislation, Education, and Status of Women and Human Rights were developed to keep members aware of current issues in Ontario. The Committees meet three times a year - in September, January, and March in downtown Toronto - for a day with SPEAKERS, workshops and discussion. All Club members are invited to attend these meetings.
2013 / 2014 Meeting Dates
September 2013 - January 2014 - March 2014
Please Note: Catering requires pre-registration
Yorkminster Park Baptist Church
1585 Yonge Street
Topic: To be announced
Check In 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.
Meeting Begins at 10:00 a.m.
Catering requires pre-registration
Registration Form (PDF)
Although our mandate at Ontario Council is to address Ontario issues with respect to the standing committee topic Human Trafficking, "Control, Exploitation, Profits,” the speakers provided members with a much broader understanding of this human rights crime against women, men and children. The panel gave attendees an overview based on their combined experiences coming from academic study, field work in Canada and abroad, governmental involvement with immigration legislation and work with Canadian refugees and from the experiences of grass roots organizations appearing in our province.
Karlee Anne Sapoznik, BAH, MA, PhD Candidate (Harriet Tubman Institute, York University, Toronto) led the morning session, introducing the other panel members and providing follow-up information as each finished their presentations.
Ms. Sapoznik researches and publishes works on slavery and is the President and Co-Founder of the Alliance Against Modern Slavery (AAMS). On February 26th, 2013 the AAMS held its Third Annual Conference, attended by more than 200 people and covered by CBC. The AAMS provides information on future events, conferences and workshops as well as resources for training and a link to ways concerned individuals can get involved. http://www.allianceagainstmodernslavery.org/
Members were given a powerful overview of slavery from an historical perspective with comparisons to the current situation. Today there are more slaves than during the pre-abolition period from the 1500’s to the late 1800’s, about twice as many.
Although there are a number of definitions of slavery, it always involves exploitation of one person by another for forced labour, marriage and/or sexual activity. Other conditions of slavery include :
When discussing Human Trafficking and slavery, Ms. Sapoznik categorized the many forms of enslavement including: forced labour, sex trafficking, bonded labour, debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labour, child soldiers, child marriages and child sex trafficking.
- Forced work with no pay
- Threat or use of violence to the individual or their family
- No ability to walk away
Karlee Sapoznik introduced Aura Burditt and Loly Rico, the other two morning speakers who offered their perspectives and experience. Aura Burditt outlined a grass roots approach to human trafficking while Loly Rico discussed the vulnerability of refugees in Canada.
Aura Burditt, Chair of the London Anti-Human Trafficking Committee (LAHT) in collaboration with The Salvation Army Correctional & Justice Services of London Ontario, used her experiences in founding and working with LAHT as a possible model for other communities. The objectives and goals of LAHT include the education and awareness for service providers and the general public on the regional, national, and international scope of trafficking. LAHT members advocate for support service for victims of trafficking and they collaborate with both governmental and non-governmental agencies to abolish human trafficking.
Loly Rico, President of Canadian Council of Refugees (CCR), gave our members an overview of how immigration changes impact human trafficking in Canada. The CCR comments on government policy to ensure that anti-trafficking legislation and practices adequately protect and respect the human rights of trafficked persons. Recent CCR national meetings have led to the identification of important gaps in both tools and in policy. Specifically Ms. Rico referred to Bill C-10 called the Safe Streets and Communities Act which passed on March 13th of last year.
Ms. Rico explained that the bill includes vague and overly broad amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which mandate denial of any foreign national a work permit and do not specify what factors would be used to target an individual as ‘at risk’ of being exploited. Ms. Rico also pointed out that it is harmful to punish foreign individuals who are vulnerable to abuse. www.fcjrefugeecentre.org/
The speakers outlined a number of ways that our CFUW membership can support a movement toward ending human trafficking. The first necessarily is self-education and spreading awareness. There are symposiums and conferences, one-day training seminars and other forums that can be found on the AAMS website. A ground swell has started much as it did for domestic violence against women in the late 1960’s. Ms. Sapoznik indicated that just as Human trafficking is a product of the efforts of organized crime, a solution will come only when organizations, governments and law enforcement put forth an organized front.
CFUW members in Ontario are asked to sign a petition to the Legislative Assembly. Member clubs will have copies of the petition and may take copies to others in our attempts at increasing awareness and moving toward legislative changes to help combat trafficking. Specifically, the petition calls to:
Support stronger legislation to enable more effective investigation and prosecution of those committing these offenses. Secondly we urge the government to provide more substantial funding to law enforcement, Non Governmental Organizations and other groups who are involved in combating human trafficking.
For more information on a national strategy, members are asked to read about a Canadian National Action Plan: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/le/_fl/cmbt-trffkng-eng.pdf
Municipally members should present Toronto’s decision made February 20th, 2013 to “pursue opportunities to reduce the impact of Human Trafficking in Toronto” to our member city councillors and elected officials. The following report and decision could serve as a model for cities not yet involved in the strategies to combat Human Trafficking in Canada:
1. City of Toronto Report:
2. City of Toronto Decision :
Steps are being taken provincially and nationally to organize against Human Trafficking. A recent pamphlet, “I am not for sale”, sponsored by the Government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provides information on
As explained in the pamphlet “I am not for sale”, in Canada and throughout the world, the “vulnerable, economically challenged and socially dislocated sectors of the Canadian population represent a potential pool of trafficking victims.”
- Recognizing victims of Human Trafficking
- Understanding the difference between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking
- Understanding the difference between International and Domestic Human Trafficking.
At the March 16th morning session, our speakers reminded members that ongoing CFUW advocacy work in areas of poverty, education, status of women, human rights and legislation all contribute to the efforts made by those working against human trafficking. The root problems of human trafficking are the problems at the heart of all human rights issues:
These elements in our society demand advocacy by those of us who have a voice and the means and freedom to express it. As Karlee Anne Sapoznik said before ending the morning session, we have achieved an important victory and taken a huge step forward at this point in history. Unlike discussions of slavery in the past, this time we are in agreement that trafficking human beings is wrong. There is no longer a debate on this point. http://www.stopht.ca/
- Lack of voice
Submitted by Sandra A. McCormick PhD/ CFUW Guelph
Topic: Student College /University Math Preparedness
- Cheryl Jensen, Panel Moderator,Vice President Academic, Mohawk College
- Laurel Schollen, Director, College Achievement Project, Seneca College
- Mike Jancik, Director, Research, Evaluation and Capacity Building Branch, Student Achievement Division, Ontario Ministry of Education (MOE)
- Nancy Naylor, Assistant Deputy Minister, Postsecondary Education Division, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities ( MTCU)
- Carol Carruthers, Professor, Mathematics/Coordinator, Applied Science and Technology Certificate Program, Seneca College
The Education Committee’s Keynote Session provided information about the College Mathematics Project , a system wide research project that has informed policy and practice in Mathematics Education in Ontario at the postsecondary education (college) level as well as the secondary and elementary school level. The study included all 24 colleges and all 72 Ontario school boards and investigated the mathematics achievement of first semester college students and worked with both college and school communities to increase student success. The success of the project has resulted in support for a larger project, the College Achievement Project.
Laurel Schollen gave an excellent powerpoint presentation overview of the college Math Project. Each panel member spoke on the project from their perspective based on questions from the moderator and from the audience. Mike Jancik, in response to audience questions, confirmed that progress has been made in math achievement over the past 10 years in the junior elementary school grades and at the highschool level. However, the Ministry of Education is working on strategies to improve success rates in the Grade 6-10 level. He suggested 3 strategies to improve student success 1) Enlist all teachers in a numeracy Professional Development Day 2) Closer links with parents to encourage the importance of math 3) Revised teacher education to improve the “precision” in teaching and learning.
When asked what MTCU is doing to assist students in college, Nancy Naylor reviewed all the support systems and courses available to support student success at the college level including Foundation Courses, tutoring facilities, support systems for students with special needs and disabilities. She said MTCU is utilizing data from the College Math Project to support college initiatives.The colleges take the Provincial Key Performance indicators seriously especially the measurement of student success and Graduation Rates. As a math professor, Carol Carruthers uses tablets and other technologies so that math curriculum can be customized for every student in her class. She assesses where students are having difficulty and uses the technology to help them. She also finds when all students are on-line in class everyone can be a teacher and everyone is learning. There is a real application of knowledge in college.
At the end of the session, there were a number of questions asked of the panel in the open mic session. Some ideas suggested were as follows:
- Full year option for math courses in highschool.
- Children not learning arithmetic may be due to curriculum with harder concepts in early years.
- Professional development for all teachers to encourage positive attitudes towards numeracy and application of math concepts in all subjects.
- Open learning support centres should be available for all students not just challenged students.
- On-line numeracy test would be helpful for Ontario college applicants.
Overall, this was a stimulating educational session and the moderator and the panelists did an excellent job engaging the audience in this important discussion about the College Mathematics Project and student success in mathematics in the school system and postsecondary system in Ontario.
Rosemary Knechtel, CFUW, Hamilton
Speaker Irwin Elman is Ontario’s first Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, a position he has held since 2008. Mr. Elman has an extensive background as an educator, counsellor, youth worker, program manager, policy developer and child and youth advocate, for the CAS and CCAS and with other groups in Ontario, Jamaica, Hungary, and Japan. The Youth Advocate office reports directly to the legislature, not through a minister, and describes its purpose as:
- "Provide an independent voice for children and youth including First Nations children and youth and children with special needs by partnering with them to bring issues forward"and
- "Encourage communication and understanding between children and families and those who provide them with services"; and
- "Educate children, youth and their caregivers regarding the rights of children and youth, (referencing the U.N Convention on the Rights of the Child and assessing Canada’s progress in applying the Act)"
Mr. Elman sees himself as “walking beside children and youth in care” (includes Crown Wards, as well as youth with special needs and First Nations youth, not other youth in trouble, at school, for example) giving them a voice to bring their issues forward, and acting as an exemplar of “meaningful participation” for them. He does not do research, or impose solutions or decisions on them: he facilitates their using their own voices to express what is best for them.
Children taken into care are there until age 18, or 21 if in school, often being moved from foster home to foster home, and school to school, preventing any stability or cohesion in their lives. Only 40% of Crown Wards graduate from high school, and 47% of street youth have child welfare experience. At 18 they are on their own, not having acquired the basic life skills that come from a stable family: cooperation, work ethic, responsibility for chores, etc.
Mr. Elman discussed his work under three headings:
- Resources: help with practical things (finding a job and housing, money); accessing resources from government sources and agencies.
- Connections: making up for the lack of connections that come from a stable environment. They work on the “One Person Theory”, that it is important for one to have one person they can relate to: The Advocate Office tries to provide that one person.
- Voice: Resources and Connections are useless if young people have no voice or control over their lives, and have no experience to help them make good decisions for themselves.
His role is to talk to, and listen to, young people on their issues, and facilitate their contact with governments and others who can help them. He points with pride to recent hearings held by youth leaving care at Queen’s Park, attended by ministers of several departments, at which the kids told their stories and aired their concerns. This resulted in a report and a working group to come up with a blueprint for reform.
We were urged to pressure the Ontario government to create fundamental change, and urge all sectors (professional groups, unions, etc.) to work to change the system.
Submitted by Peggy Pinkerton
The Status of Women & Human Rights Standing Committee topic for the March 17 morning session was pay equity, and the speaker was Emanuela Heyninck, Commissioner of the Pay Equity Commission for Ontario. The focus of Ms. Heyninck’s presentation was Wage Gaps and Pay Equity: Why Women Should be Concerned.
The issue of pay equity was positioned in the larger context of wage gaps, where pay equity is seen as one component of the 28% (Stats Can 2006) difference in wages between men and women.
Causes of gender wage gap:
Why is the wage gap a problem? At the societal level, under utilization of almost 50% of the labour pool and the talent pool is reflected in higher rates of poverty for women. As a result, there is a greater impact on both the health and welfare systems, which is compounded by a loss of tax revenue. In addition, companies who have more diverse decision-makers are shown to perform better. See The Diversity Advantage: A Case for Canada’s 21st Century Economy at http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/pdf/20051020diversity.pdf
- Level of education
- Level of unionization
- Women entering/leaving/re-entering the workforce
- Ghettoization of women in low-paying sectors
- Discrimination in workplace- hiring/promotion/compensation
When the problem of wage gaps is addressed, the outcomes are experienced at a personal level through:
Some common myths of the causes of wage gap are: women possess a lack of negotiating skills, there are few mentoring opportunities, and women are generally disinterested in career advancement. However, even when women employ the same career advancement strategies, they advance less than their male counterparts and with a slower growth in pay. See The Myth of the Ideal Worker at http://www.catalyst.org/publication/509 as well as the Pay Equity Commission’s Wage Gaps and Earnings Ratios in Ontario at http://www.payequity.gov.on.ca/en/about/pubs/genderwage/wagegaps.php
- Standard of living
- Economic consequences to self/family
- Better job satisfaction
- Enhanced self-image and self confidence
- Role modeling
Under the Ontario Pay Equity Act, pay equity is a mechanism for addressing the gender wage gap. The Act is administered and enforced by the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario, as an independent agency of the Ministry of Labour.
The morning’s topic dealt with the impact of Climate Change on mental health. The presenter was Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, PhD candidate in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph, and a social science researcher with special interest in the impact of climate change on aboriginal people. Her research has been in Rigolet, a small Inuit community in northern Labrador.
She began with background on the evolution of climate change, emphasizing the increasing speed of recent changes: in the past 30 years the rate of warming has doubled that of the pervious 130 years, and the 10 warmest years on record have been since 2001. The change is most marked in the polar regions, as melting snow accelerates the absorption of heat, causing more melting. She followed this with recent history of the Inuit, outlining the effect of the one-two punch that has impacted them:
The social disruption caused by these changes has had severe mental health impact on the community, resulting in depression, anxiety, anger, increased family stress, increased alcohol and drug use, increased attempted and successful suicide, disruption of the Inuit sense of place, a disruption described as being similar to that caused by the residential schools: “It’s not home any more.”
- Government policies in the past 50 years which “for its own good” took a nomadic, land-based, shamanistic culture, subsisting on hunting and fishing, with a strong identification with the land and animals, and mandated for it settled communities, residential schools and a wage-based economy where there were no wages.
- Changes in lifestyle caused by climate change. Warmer weather and decreased snow and ice coupled with more severe storms have adversely affected plants and wildlife, making hunting more difficult and unpredictable, and resulting in less time being spent on the land. This has resulted in dietary changes – the lack of wild food has driven people to store-bought food, which is extremely expensive, leading to unbalanced diets – and a more sedentary lifestyle. Previously unknown health issues – obesity, diabetes, gastro-intestinal problems, are rife. Social and emotional issues include loss of language, cultural assimilation and increasing marginalization. Masculine identity, formerly defined by hunting prowess and native skills, has been undermined.
Ms. Willox’s project is to document the Inuit experience through collecting stories, production of a video archive, and instructing individuals in the use of social media to raise awareness of their situation. She faults the federal government for ignoring the plight of the Inuit, at the same time as it values their presence on the land to cement a Canadian presence in the north.
Topic: Ontario Elections
The planned program featuring the three political party leaders discussing the upcoming provincial election was not possible due to scheduling difficulties. Instead, three dynamic and passionate speakers gave insights into three issues of concern, in the context of the October 6 election.
Sheela Subramanian, a policy analyst with the Canadian Mental Health Association, is a member of the Elections Ontario Accessibility Advisory Committee. This committee, with representatives from CAMH, Children’s Mental Health, Ontario Patients’ Council and Addictions Ontario, has been working since May 1 to make mental health a priority with a new government, by informing candidates and voters, and trying to make mental health part of the dialogue.
Mental Health and Addiction patients are seen as undervalued and sidelined in Ontario, despite the fact that the cost of these ailments to the economy is $30 billion, and their cost in social disruption is immeasurable. Access to services varies across the province, with funding for programs ranging from $20.00 to $200.00 per person per service and wait times for treatment of up to three years. The aims of the organization are:
The committee’s strategies include:
- to ensure equitable access and support regardless of where the patient lives
- to pay special attention to child patients and reduce wait times for assessment and treatment
- to invest in supportive housing and improve access – suitable housing has proven to be much cheaper in the long term than hospitalization.
Andrea Calver is coordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, an advocacy group working for universal, affordable child care.
- meeting the parties’ platform committees
- reaching out to voters to speak to their candidates.
- media outreach
- providing on on-line letter to be sent to party leaders and candidates (www.vote4mha)
- providing questions for candidates’ meetings.
Child care is seen as crucial to women’s equality and independence, and to the reduction of poverty. But Canada’s record in the provision of this service is “deplorable”: we score last among OECD countries. The problem is affordability. Child Care costs $15,000 – $20,000 per child per year, out of the reach of most families. There are subsidies, but not nearly enough, with the result that there are 20,000 children on waiting lists in Toronto alone. Ironically, there are vacancies in some private child care centres, as there are not enough parents able to afford to fill them, and if there are too many vacancies, the centres are forced to close, exacerbating the problem. The Coalition is disappointed with the new full-day kindergarten program in Ontario, which was intended to take the pressure off child care, because it does not include a child care provision.
The Coalition wants child care centres to be funded universally, with no means test (seen as more efficient than subsidizing some parents and not others), and better pay for Early Childhood Education teachers, who are greatly undervalued in our society.
Since child care is a provincial responsibility, CFUW members were urged to lobby their candidates in the election and beyond.
Nora Loreto, formerly chair of the Ryerson University Students’ Union, and now Communications and Government Relations Coordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, described a funding crisis in post-secondary education which is not being addressed by any of the parties. She identified three problems: Tuition: Ontario students pay much more than other provinces (eg $6600 vs $2400 in Quebec and $2600 in Newfoundland), and summer and part-time jobs cannot provide enough to pay the cost. Fees have increased 59% since 2003, of which students pay over half.
Debt: Average student debt was $7900 in 1991. It is now $37,000. Some provinces have eliminated interest on student loans – Ontario has not.
Funding: Federal funding has declined since the ‘80’s. Ontario funds $10,000 per student (vs $25,000 for Alberta and Saskatchewan), with the result that normal class size in Ontario universities is 2-300, and some classes have 2500 students. First Nation post secondary funding is especially lacking: 20,000 qualified students cannot afford to attend post-secondary institutions.
The CFS feels that post secondary education should be treated like health care, with no fees. This could be funded by eliminating $2.4 billion in corporate tax cuts, and such measures as cutting the salaries of university presidents and eliminating lobbying. CFUW members were urged to lobby their candidates and party leaders.
Topic: Financial Literacy
Speaker: Greg Pollock, Task Force on Financial Literacy
Speaker Greg Pollock, former teacher, former CEO of the Catholic Teachers Organization, presently director of an umbrella organization of financial planners, was one of 13 members of an expert panel assembled in 2009 by Finance Minister Flaherty to advise on a plan of action to promote financial literacy in Canada. Financial Literacy is defined as “having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.”
The need for such a program is demonstrated by a number of factors;
- Increase in household debt (the average family debt in Canada has increased from $5800 in 1990 to over $100,000 today, and is greater than that in the U.S.)
- The need to make financial decisions at an earlier age (use of credit cards, phone plans, etc.)
- Ramifications of the shift from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution pension plans
- The increasing need for Canadians to fully participate in financial matters
- Only 60% of Canadians contribute to an RRSP
- Only 38% of Canadians feel their financial circumstances will improve in the next year.
The panel’s mandate was to deliver a national strategy, and to determine how to marshal the resources to implement the strategy. It identified five priorities:
Mr. Pollock admitted that hurdles exist in the way of any financial literacy program’s solving individual financial woes:
- Shared responsibility among public and private sector, labour, volunteer sector, financial services etc.
- Leadership and collaboration: a leader is required, who will pull together all relevant ministries and other elements.
- Delivery and Promotion by websites, awareness campaigns, self-assessment tools, clear language on tax forms, credit card applications, mortgages, etc.
- Accountability: constant monitoring of progress.
- Lifelong Learning: foundation should be built in school (Ontario is proposing adding Financial Literacy to its grade 4 to 12 curriculum), but should be continued in the workplace, market place, financial services industry, and government programs.
The panel’s report was delivered to the government in February 2011, and the government has not yet decided on whether to implement its recommendations. Mr. Pollock believes that if they are implemented, success of the operation will result in a better quality of life for Canadians, resilient households in good times and bad, and are a more competitive Canada.
- People behave irrationally and make bad financial decisions despite having knowledge.
- People do not take advantage of programs already available to them (160,000 eligible seniors do not get OAS, 150,00 do not get CPP, most do not take full advantage of RRSPs.)
Topic: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Speakers: Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Ph.D., Aboriginal Studies, University of Toronto
Shelia Burns, Past Chair, FASD Ontario Network of Expertise
The morning discussion featured two riveting speakers, Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux and Sheila Burns, discussing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a permanent brain disorder in children caused by alcohol consumption by their mothers during pregnancy. In her introduction, Chair Jane Sager gave a startling statistic: of 10,000 babies born each week in Canada, three will have muscular dystrophy, four will have HIV, eight spina bifida, 10 Down Syndrome, and 20 FASD. FASD is the only one which is completely preventable.
Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Ph.D, former professor of Aboriginal Affairs at U of T, is a member of the Chippewa-Georgina First Nation who has spent 25 years of community work and research in native communities, with a special interest in mental health.
She described the effects of alcohol in a developing fetus, the physical and behavioural effects of FASD, and its impact on First Nations communities. Besides having noticeable physical impact, FASD affects primarily the area of the brain responsible for decision making and discernment, causing inappropriate behaviors that can result in problems socially, in school and with the law. Many afflicted kids drop out of school, and many are put up for adoption. In addition, birth defects may be cardiac, auditory, renal or skeletal. (Since FASD is a spectrum disorder, however, some high-functioning children can proceed to the graduate level in school, and some can lead functional adult lives.) Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux stresses that no level of drinking during pregnancy is safe, and it is vital that women of childbearing age get the information they need. Also important is reaching children, ideally in schools, with information on the dangers of drinking, and having this topic included in the curriculum of schools of medicine and social work.
Sheila Burns is founding member and past chair of the FASD Ontario Network of Expertise, a group of clinicians and specialists lobbying government to recognize FASD in policy and services. She is a consultant and trainer in FASD.
Ms. Burns focused on drinking, the importance of warning young women of the dangers of FASD, and the difficulty of persuading heavy drinkers to stop during pregnancy. She addressed, and was skeptical about, a private member’s bill (C503) currently before parliament calling for warning labels on alcohol packaging: she felt that this could be helpful to low-risk drinkers, but not to heavy-use drinkers, who need greater intervention. She admitted this could be a first step, however, and suggested that information labels and posters could go in other sites such as malls, liquor stores, pregnancy test packages. Other points:
- While FASD is associated with First Nations, it is present in all sectors of society, and should be considered a mainstream problem.
- Mothers with FASD should be treated and supported rather than being allowed to fail and then having their children taken from them.
- FASD should be considered a disability rather than a behaviour problem.
Topic: Sexual Violence from Horror to Healing
The first speaker was Rhea Pretsell, President of CFUW Belleville & District and the Ontario Council Chair of the Status of Women and Human Rights Committee. She presented her paper entitled Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War: The Case in the Congo. This discussion paper was chosen to be presented at the IFUW Triennial in Mexico City last summer. The historical background of hostilities in the Congo dates back to Belgium’s rule, the Mobutu era, and ongoing tribal hostilities. The sexual violence perpetrated by all armed groups in the Congo is the worst seen anywhere in the world. Rape victims, judged to be soiled and dirty, suffer in shame and silence. The present situation is fuelled by demand for natural resources and the militarization of the mineral trade. The international community has a responsibility to protect and to promote the establishment of a civil society that builds democracy and educates its women and girls.
The next speaker was Jacqueline Benn-John, Executive Director of the Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services of Halton, and the president of the Ontario Coalition for Rape Crisis Centres. The OCRCC has been in consultation with the government to establish a Sexual Violence Action Plan. There is a long waiting list for services and centers need the capacity to respond. The plan will focus on prevention through education and publicity, improved community services, training for staff, and better co-ordination between agencies. The goal is to establish long term solutions, not just temporary easing of problems. The consultation document is online at http://www.citizenship.gov.on.ca/owd/english/women/svap_doc.shtml at the Ontario Women’s Directorate which is one of the responsibilities of Laurel Broten’s ministry.
The final speaker was Kim Charlebois, the Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Centre for Quinte & District. The focus of her presentation was the healing process, which is unique to each person. They had seen a need among their clients for a residential healing program in addition to the personal and group therapy available. They developed a 1 week program to serve a group of 10 in a rural setting. The Paths of Courage is a holistic program that includes intensive therapy in the morning coupled with physical, emotional and spiritual emphases.
The morning session ended with a presentation by the CFUW Burlington. They role-played visits with various elected officials that were both educational and highly entertaining.
With thanks to Barbara Willoughby, for the report.
Topic: Family Court Process and its Need for Reform
Speaker: Pamela Cross
Speaker Pamela Cross addressed the issue of Violence against Women by describing proposed changes to the Ontario Family Court system to make it more accessible and compatible to the needs of women in or trying to leave abusive relationships. Pam Cross is a lawyer with wide experience in women’s issues, who is presently legal director of Luke’s Place, (a unique clinic providing legal services for abused women), and director of Strategic Planning, National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL).
In 2007 the Ontario government established the Domestic Violence Advisory Council (Ms. Cross was one of 13 members) to recommend changes to the Family Court system. It identified several issues:
Within the Family Court:
- The need to compile statistics on women’s deaths.
- Analysis of government action plans: are they being carried out?
- Services are often lacking for women of colour, immigrants, women in remote areas or those unable to leave abusive relationships.
- Need for education in schools to make children aware of issues at an early age.
- Need for collaboration among schools, child welfare agencies, doctors, and police to identify at-risk families.
- Need for law school course in violence against women.
In December 2009 the Ontario Attorney General released the government’s Four Pillars of Family Court process reforms:
- Most important – increased funding to provide legal counsel for women appearing in family court:
- 60-70% of women are not represented, and
- court procedures and legal requirements can be insurmountable hurdles at the best of times, but especially for women with limited language capacity, and/or undergoing emotional stress.
- Custody laws do not address women’s issues:
- hearings are held in open court, and
- women may be forced to confront their abusers; they may ask less than what they are entitled to out of fear of abuse.
- There is a lack of information on court procedures.
Pam Cross considers this to be a good first step, provided it is adhered to, and provided it is adequately funded. In addition, she wants:
- To provide more information to families.
- To triage family court cases – less serious cases to be directed to alternate dispute resolution mechanisms.
- To increase legal advice.
- To require that Family Court judges and lawyers have Family Court experience.
Court practice should be streamlined to decrease number of appearances.
- A clear definition of violence against women to be understood by all involved.
- Violence against women cases and their circumstances to be regarded as unique.
- No one should be pressured into an alternative dispute mechanism (mediation, arbitration, collaborative law)
- Triage should be done only by someone with background in violence against women.
She approved some recent changes (e.g., those breaching Restraint Order provisions will now be treated criminally; recent changes to Legal Aid will provide greater access to information) but she urged CFUW to lobby MPPs to move on these reforms.
For more on this, and other topics, please see Pamela Cross’s blog at http://pamelacross.blogspot.com
Also see the report she authored in December 2009, MAKING THE SYSTEM WORK: Reforming family court processes to support abused women and their children, which can be found on our website at http://www.cfuwontcouncil.ca/Letters%20Briefs/Family%20Court%20Process%20Paper,%20Dec.2009.pdf
Pascal Report on Early Childhood Learning
The Pascal Report on Early Childhood Learning was addressed by representatives of both the
Childcare workers and School teachers, who both lamented Ontario’s position at or near the bottom of OECD countries in the provision of early learning.
Andrea Calver, co-coordinator of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, began by describing her organization’s struggle to obtain funding for childcare and the immense strain on parents to find and afford suitable care. She deplored the fact that there is no coherent system for childcare in Ontario and that it has not been mentioned in either of the last two provincial budgets. Childcare providers accordingly must campaign every year for their funding. A crisis looms for the March 2010 budget, since a one-time federal grant of $256 million received in 2006 is nearly gone, and five million must be granted in this budget to prevent cuts in services.
The Coalition thus supports full implementation of the Pascal report, which would begin by offering full-day kindergarten for four and five-year-olds, and ultimately before- and after-school childcare for all children to age 12. They anticipate that cost savings from having much of the child care segment taken over by the Boards of Education can be used to stabilize the system and raise the wages of Early Childhood Education teachers. This would be a win-win improvement, both in the educational start for children and the quality of life for parents.
Susan Swackhammer, of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, also fully endorsed the recommendations of the Pascal Report. She praised the government for its muilti-million dollar commitment, which she feels will narrow the literacy gap and improve retention rates. She feels that Primary and ECE teachers will bring complementary skills to the classroom, and that any professional differences can and will be worked out. Planning and training sessions for both sets of teachers are anticipated. She looks forward to a return to play-based education for kindergarten (recently jettisoned in schools’ focus on standardized testing) and feels this will integrate with the ECE component. She is optimistic that if fully implemented this program will make schools a more valuable resource and give parents peace of mind, as well as the convenience of not having to shuttle children between school and daycare.
Both speakers stressed that children are not legally required to be in school before age 6, so participation in full-day kindergarten, or even half-day kindergarten, is voluntary.
Answers to questions:
- Two teachers will be in classrooms at all times: the Primary teacher in regular hours, two ECE teachers, one from 7:00 – noon, and one from 1:00-7:00.
- Special Education students will not be involved: the plan will only cover children required to be in school.
- Boards are being “strongly encouraged” to keep the plan operating during PD days and holidays
- It has not yet been decided what union ECE teachers will belong to.
- Municipalities will continue to collect fees for extended program and pay subsidies.
Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) Why were they established?How do community members measure the success of their local LHIN?
Speaker: Juanita Gledhill, Chair, Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network.
Juanita Gledhill is an award-winning Human Resources professional, with 20 years experience in the field, specializing in organizational development and operational leadership. She is principal in a HR consulting practice.
In 2006 Ontario established 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) across the province to plan, integrate and fund local healthcare. They are run by 9-person-volunteer-boards, whose members serve 2-3 year terms.
The LHINS mandate is to serve the local community, concentrating on
Promoting wellness and prevention,
Providing quality, accessible health care in the community.
Guaranteeing that the system will be there for the long term.
The LHIN does not provide health services, but works closely and continuously with local providers - hospital boards, mental health facilities, CCAC’s, for example, to provide funds for operating expenses based on local requirements. It does not fund capital costs, although it is consulted on them to ensure that local needs are met. Its community focus allows it to respond to differing communities; Juanita’s region, for example contains two large First Nations communities and one Francophone community; others may contain a large proportion of the elderly, all of which may require specialized attention.
Work is being done on new initiatives, both by individual LHINs and the provincial Ministry of Health and Long Term Care:
Aging at Home: a 3-year. $60 million dollar program of the province to fund, through LHINs, programs to allow the elderly to remain in their homes.
Clinical Services Plan: continuously works to integrate information received from various sources.
Integrated Health and Service Plans: developed by individual LHINs to supply a road map for the community outlining future services
In addition, work is being done on such goals as reducing wait times in Emergency Rooms and wait times for long term care; increasing hours of palliative care; increasing care for patients coming out of hospital, allowing them time at home to make decisions as to their future placement; services for children, especially for mental health; care at the end of life; care for those with disabilities; integrating information among LHINs to avoid duplication.
HIV/AIDS Curriculum and the Schools
Speaker: Christine Fortin, Founder, Patrick 4 Life
The speaker was Christine Fortin, mother of Patrick Fortin, who died in 2001 at age 23 of AIDS contracted by tainted blood products taken to control his hemophilia. In her son’s memory, Ms. Fortin founded Patrick 4 Life, a charity dedicated to educating youth about how to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS by “creating awareness through education, leadership, fundraising and partnerships.”
Diagnosed at 7, one of the earliest and youngest HIV patients in Canada, Patrick Fortin in his older years visited high schools in his home town of North Bay to spread awareness of HIV and the message that HIV, while not curable, is preventable. This was the genesis of Patrick 4 Life.
The program began in 2006 with a Run /Walk 4 Patrick Family Fest, a family marathon, and in 2007, ParticiPatrick a 10-week program in schools which involves students in daily physical activity along with age-appropriate HIV/AIDS awareness and self-esteem-building activities, all during school hours. Children spend 20 minutes a day in physical activity that translates to the equivalent of a 40K marathon, followed by a 2.5K marathon with children from other schools. The program started in Grade 4, but has expanded to older grades. All North Bay school boards are supportive and involved, as are principals and teachers, who are provided with teaching materials. A program for high school students, Youth 4 Youth, aims to engage young people in HIV/AIDs awareness with the use of new media, such as podcasting and websites. Youth 4 Youth participants also assist in presenting the program to younger students.
The program has the support of politicians at all levels in the North Bay area, and while the province will not adopt HIV/AIDs awareness into the provincial curriculum, it does support school boards to run the program locally.
Christine Fortin claims that she chooses to relive the nightmare of her son’s illness to demonstrate that something creative can come out of chaos in one’s life. Her activities have catapulted her into several Boards and agencies dealing with HIV/AIDS.
Poverty Reduction in Ontario: What is being proposed and What is the Government Doing to Address this Serious Problem?
The morning session addressed poverty reduction in Ontario. Speakers were The Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Child and Youth Services and head of the Provincial government’s anti-poverty cabinet committee, and Jacquie Maund, coordinator of Ontario Campaign 2000, a coalition of 120 partners working to end child poverty in Ontario.
Minister Matthews asserts that poverty and poverty reduction are high priorities with the current Liberal government, and that while poverty will not be eliminated, it is being reduced. There is no longer stigma in being poor. She credits the Women’s Caucus of the Liberal party with bringing women’s issues to the fore since their election in 2003, citing particularly the prevention of Sharia law and their action against poverty.
The poverty-reduction strategies focus on children, with emphasis on the new child benefit, junior kindergarten for four-year-olds, and the 25 in 5 campaign (25% reduction in child poverty in 5 years), a program which brings many groups together to lobby collectively to help the government come up with a plan of action. (Later campaigns will address other groups, such as the disabled). She wants poverty to be a continuing focus of the government after the five years are up, but in the meantime called upon volunteers for children’s reading, breakfast and other programs, as well as lobbying MPPs. She commended CFUW for its efforts on the poverty file.
Jacquie Maund revealed Canada now ranks 19th out of 26 industrial countries in the incidence of child poverty, and that 12% of Ontario children (760,000) now live in poverty, the same proportion as in 1989 when the Federal government resolved to end child poverty by 2000. She attempted to answer three questions:
- Why is there so much poverty in Canada?
- The social safety net is flawed: EI has gaps (32% of employed women are not covered); The social assistance rate (adjusted for inflation) is unchanged since 1967
- Permanent jobs are giving way to contract and part-time work, with lower pay, lack of benefits and security. Systemic discrimination exists against the poor, single mothers, marginalized groups.
- What action is Campaign 2000 taking?
- It is pushing for specific targets, timetables and funding, and lobbying all national parties to end child poverty in a generation
- It is calling for a strategy to ensure living wage jobs, affordable housing and daycare, access to post-secondary education and training.
- What can Ontario Council do?
- Keep lobbying at federal and provincial levels, especially Ontario before its budget in the spring, focusing on childcare.
- Keep up-to-date with 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction through its website, http://www.25in5.ca . Ontario Council and Toronto Caucus have endorsed this campaign.
- Build local awareness through contact with childcare workers, parents and letters to press.
Religious Arbitration Revisited- Changes in Family Law - Family Law Education for Women.
Where do we go from here?
Speaker: Pamela Cross, lawyer, consultant, activist, feminist
The world of family law can be an impenetrable jungle to women thrust into it in the midst of family breakdown, abusive relationships or child custody disputes. Our speaker described the role of family law in demystifying the law to women, particularly to women in crisis, who have no context to help them understand the system.
Pamela Cross is a feminist lawyer of vast experience working for women’s equality locally and globally. She has been a consultant for several women’s organizations, as well as executive director of NAWL (National Association of Women in the Law), legal director of METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children) and director of Advocacy and Public Policy with the YWCA. She was named a YWCA Woman of Distinction.
A particular concern is legal education for women, and she discussed attempts to inform women of their legal rights and the remedies available to them. Women are often not aware that they have a right, for instance, to spousal and child support and property rights, and do not know the difference between marriage and common law relationships. (Common law confers no property rights.)
There can be several barriers to legal education: women in family court are often traumatized, vulnerable and lacking in self-confidence; they may be non-English speakers; if in a situation of geographic isolation, with infrequent courts, and limited access to lawyers, they may have to co-exist with an abusive spouse awaiting a hearing; in some patriarchal faiths women are not aware that their rights under the law are different from the strictures of the faith; legal information may be difficult to access, and may be unreliable, particularly from the internet.
Ms. Cross described education projects underway:
Despite these initiatives, there are still pitfalls that can trap women, and areas in which they need assistance:
- Provincial government brochures, available in 14 languages
- Campaigns to inform Franco-Ontarien and aboriginal communities
- Luke’s Place (Oshawa) provides legal information, court support, help with affidavits, motions, etc
- METRAC gives information and training to front-line workers
- Springtide Resources assesses workers dealing with women in crisis, offers training in family and immigration law and on-line course (with York U).
- Cleonet is a clearinghouse for information on law
- FLEW (Family Law Education for Women) (grew out of the campaign to halt religious arbitration in Ontario and is funded by over $1 million from the province) has created specialized information for use by agencies helping isolated women.*
*Note: CFUW /Ontario Council is part of the FLEW Project. The project is close to completion. We want to encourage Clubs to become involved with the legal education campaign. Look for us to contact you with specifics.
- Domestic contracts: women can inadvertently sign away their property rights
- Restraining orders: should be made more enforceable
- The difference in rights between married and common law relationships should be eliminated.
CFUW Ontario Council Violence Against Women Survey
Judie Arrowood, Leaside-East York, chair of the Ontario Council Stop Violence Against Women Sub-Committee, introduced the Report of the CFUW Ontario Council Violence Against Women Survey which was initiated by former RD North Andrea Levan, Sudbury, and undertaken by eleven Ontario CFUW Clubs. All together these Clubs surveyed more than 30 agencies that deal with victims of violence. We quote, however, the report’s recommendations from the front-line workers to CFUW members.
How can CFUW help? The vast majority of answers to this question fall under one or both of the following headings: lobbying/advocacy and increased public awareness.
Two individual responses summarize these concerns particularly aptly:
"Advocate, advocate, advocate. Lobby parliament for changes. Be in the news. Hold a rally. Create a ruckus."
"Lobby, lobby, lobby. Educate, inform, train. Bring this issue to everyone you can. We need this issue to create a tipping point – a solid universal response that deems any violence against women and children as unacceptable and intolerable."
In addition to the nearly universal calls for lobbying/advocacy and increased public awareness, there were a number of more specific things that respondents thought groups like CFUW can do around violence against women. These are listed here in no particular order.
- Recognize the violence as it is! - not domestic or family abuse
- Don't put the victim in more danger. She is the expert on her safety
- Work closely with each county's domestic violence group throughout Ontario and the country
- Connect with teenagers regarding violence
- Publicize the need for corrective change (better lighting, emergency signals, video monitoring) to ensure safety in public areas
- Letter writing
- Sharing information from front-line practitioners
- Have guest speakers on the topic of violence
- Be accessible to isolated women: get on line; have toll-free numbers; have directories of lawyers who specialize in family law involving abuse
- Be interested, be thoughtful, be current, be knowledgeable
- Practical help - e.g. providing clothing for women having job interviews; donating items needed for women setting up housekeeping away from an abuser; volunteering; serving as a board member."
We commend and thank all the volunteers from the following Clubs who inquired for us about the reality of violence against women in their community: Barrie, Leaside-East York, Muskoka, Nepean, North Toronto, Oakville, Orangeville, Orillia, Ottawa, Perth & District, Stratford.
We also thank Pamela Scott, M.A., CFUW Leaside-East York and A. John Arrowood, Professor Emeritus University of Toronto for compiling the report.
Report by Peggy Pinkerton
STILL AIN'T SATISFIED: EQUITY AND FEMALE ATHLETES,
Speaker: Laura Robinson, author, playwright, journalist, athlete and coach
We were delighted to have Laura Robinson join us on this snowy morning from Port Elgin. Although much of what she had to say was deeply disturbing to hear, she herself had a positive outlook and encouraged us to learn and act wherever possible.
Laura described the world of competitive sports in Canada based on her experience as a competitive cyclist and cross-country skier. Starting in bicycle racing at age 14 at the Mississauga Cycling Club, she had numerous male and female mentors who encouraged her to develop her skills and to be confident in herself and in her body.
Laura described a number of situations where girls had 40-year old male coaches, one in particular, who used sex as control over the team members. A number of girl athletes, especially in cross-country skiing, were pressured into gradual starvation to have thin bodies, to the point where they ceased to menstruate. In some teams, girls who did not cooperate with sexual favours for coaches or sponsors did not get funding for the best equipment. Laura had to compete with a second-hand bike. Various attempts were made to make the men legally accountable, by charging them, but convictions were very difficult.
Laura's book, Crossing the Line came from her research into the links between aggressive male hockey players and rapes of girls. She cited a case in 1993 in Saskatchewan, where members of a hockey team gang-raped a girl, but were acquitted in a process that was a cover-up by police and lawyers. She found that similar situations happened in various small towns, where the raped girls received no legal or police assistance and were persecuted.
She developed a theory about the cycle of violence which she sees as beginning with the violence in junior male hockey, where some coaches molest young boys, who pass on the violence, in raping or sodomizing girls. She sees this pattern of teaching-learning violence in the military as well as in hockey, and often finds military men willing to speak about similar experiences.
Laura has made the film Front Runners about the aboriginal runners who ran the torch from St. Paul to Winnipeg for the 1967 Pan American Games only to have it taken from them and run into the stadium by white athletes. In 1999 when the Pan American Games returned to Winnipeg those same aboriginal runners returned to run the torch into the stadium. The men who made both runs described violence and atrocities committed on children at their residential school in the 1960’s, some related to competitive running. We learned a good deal of the athletic activities which Laura volunteers for at Cape Croker Reserve Elementary School. Cross-country skiing and cycling teams with donated equipment enjoy their sports. Her teams won prizes at the provincial cross-country skiing competition at Hardwood Hills this winter.
Question period was lively and raised a number of related issues, including the following:
Here are a few references if you wish to follow up.
- Women’s hockey has made real progress, although there is manipulation of the image of some of the players. Laura deplores women athletes posing in " T and A" pictures. She questioned whether body-checking should be introduced into women’s hockey as it would likely lead to a more violent sport.
- To get more women reporters in sports, we should petition the newspapers and the CBC.
- The question of the girls’ ski jumping campaign for the 2010 Olympics was raised.
- There are more accredited women coaches at the local level, probably the majority, in women’s sports. But at the higher levels, such as the World Cup, men are the coaches.
- On the topic of fitness and non-competitive children, Laura described her plans to get the Cape Croker children and families involved through finding donations of ordinary bikes and XC skis.
- She is interested in designing space for "moving bodies" within buildings, especially where people are car-dependent.
- Laura spoke of the preparation or lack of it for parents and young athletes to refuse sexual pressures and for parents to be more aware of the pitfalls of intensive coaching.
Books by Laura Robinson:
Laura also mentioned the 44-page report, Violence in Amateur Hockey, April 2007 by Dr. Graham Pollett, Medical Officer of Health, Middlesex-London Health Unit, 50 King Street, London, ON N6A 5L7 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Great Girls: Great Canadian Athletes Who Just Happen to be Girls
- She Shoots, She Scores: Canadian Perspectives on Women in Sports
- Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport
- Black Tights: Women, Sport and Sexuality.
Aboriginal Education and Culture from Pre-school to Post-secondary Graduation
The morning session featured two speakers, both aboriginal, on developments and challenges in aboriginal education, at elementary, secondary and post secondary levels. Elizabeth Bigwin is with the Aboriginal Education Office of the Ministry of Education, an office that was established in 2006 on the present government’s recognizing aboriginal education as a top priority. Lu Ann Hill represents the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium, a group advocating for increased support for aboriginal post-secondary education.
Elizabeth Bigwin described her office’s aims and strategy for restoring respect and collaboration with the province’s 50,000 aboriginal students (First Nation, Metis and Inuit). The aim is to ensure that students achieve the knowledge and skills necessary to function in the mainstream in an environment that recognizes traditional skills and culture, and to increase the system’s ability to this end.
In an attempt to recognize where needs are greatest, Boards of Education are encouraged to self identify as having aboriginal students - so far, 21 (of 72) have, 30 more are in progress. In September 2007 the Office’s efforts expanded to the Secondary level, with dedicated funding of $13 million, with the goal of preparing aboriginal students for post-secondary education.
Specific goals are to increase the educational system’s ability to meet the cultural and learning needs of aboriginal students by:
providing quality services and appropriate curriculum
assisting aboriginal students to meet provincial standards
increasing aboriginal teaching staff
increasing the graduation rate
increasing overall achievement
increasing self esteem
increasing collaboration with aboriginal educators, the Federal government, the College of Teachers, western provinces
The office recognizes the size of its undertaking, but aims to build "the will and skill, one Board, one school, one teacher, one student at a time."
Lu Ann Hill, of the Bear Clan, Six Nations of the Grand River, began with an overview of indigenous education (she prefers the term "indigenous" to "aboriginal", "First Nations", etc), including residential schools and various government initiatives.
She pointed out that until 1951 indigenous people had to relinquish their identity to attend post secondary institutions. Since then, government support and assistance has increased gradually, so that now there are 50 post secondary indigenous institutions in Canada, tasked with providing training and knowledge in many fields, while reflecting indigenous culture and needs.
Enrollment in these institutions has increased 95% in the past five years, but Ms. Hill claims that thousands of qualified applicants are denied access because of lack of funding. The profile of attendees is mainly women, often mature, with family and job commitments.
Problems facing aboriginal institutions:
A lack of adequate, sustained funding
Lack of government and mainstream public recognition of the institutions’ degrees, diplomas and certificates
The government expects that indigenous institutions will perform as well as regular universities and colleges, with much less funding: Ontario gives $1577 per indigenous student, $9667 for each mainstream student
Indigenous institutions are forced into partnerships with mainstream universities and colleges.
A 2001 Federal government report acknowledges the need for aboriginal institutions, but provides no increased funding, with the result that these institutions are now organizing regionally (they are much more successful in Western provinces) and are slowly gaining regional recognition.
Of special concern to Ms. Hill was the possible closure of the First Nations Technical Institute located on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory east of Belleville, due to a funding impasse between the federal and provincial governments.
CFUW members are urged to lobby their federal and provincial members to provide support for these institutions.
Lu Ann Hill’s presentation www.aboriginalinstitute.com
THE ONTARIO ELECTION: Women Candidates' Perspective
Liz Couture, Green Party Candidate for Richmond Hill, and President of her Constituency Association
Catherine Fife, New Democratic Party Candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo, and CFUW Kitchener-Waterloo member
Pamela Taylor, lawyer and first Progressive Conservative Candidate for Toronto Centre Riding
Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Liberal Candidate for Don Valley West, and Minister of Education
Chair Elaine Harvey distributed a questionnaire on the referendum on electoral reform, asking for members’ comments. Ontario Council does not have policy on this, but individuals’ opinions will be tabulated and the results posted on the website.
Elaine introduced the four candidates, who were given 15 minutes each for opening statements, to be followed by questions. Candidates had been advised to note the election questions prepared at the March Standing Committee meetings and posted on the Ontario Council website.
Liz Couture, Green Party candidate for Richmond Hill, a private music teacher and president of her constituency association, described her family and personal background, and her diverse interests in music, sports, volunteering and the environment. She stated the Green Party’s commitment to improve sustainability, fight climate change, and work on problems in the health system. The Greens promised no overall change in taxes, but property taxes will be overhauled to tax toxin producers more heavily. Green Party education platform planks were:
Catherine Fife, NDP, Kitchener-Waterloo, child advocate, school trustee and member of CFUW K-W, credited her experience living in Parkdale and Cape Breton for exposing her to inequality and instilling a passion for public education as a leveler of playing fields. She accordingly feels that public funding should be directed exclusively to public schools. She relates a strong education platform, including better child care, which she connects directly to public schools; more autonomy for school boards; more emphasis on special needs education
Other NDP planks were:
- Quality childcare: Greens would allocate $300 million for a child care program.
- Education should be considered an investment, not a social cost.
- There should be no faith-based education. Public funds should be used for public schooling only.
- There should be environmental education in elementary schools.
- The funding gap between elementary and secondary school teachers should be ended.
- Physical education should be mandatory in secondary schools.
- There should be a cap on university tuition.
- more environment funding, with emphasis on sustainable growth.
- no more nuclear power projects.
- emphasis on conservation, with investments in solar energy.
- opposed to recent MPP pay raise.
- in favour of higher minimum wage.
Pamela Taylor, Progressive Conservative, Toronto Centre (new riding), a lawyer and businesswoman, inspired to enter politics by the inaction of government to her concerns as an activist, commented on the strides already made by women in Ontario, and praised the PC position as one of compassion and inclusion, coupled with the need for a healthy economy. PC positions on CFUW issues:
Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Liberal, Don Mills West, Minister of Education, stressed the Liberals’ commitment to restore funding to publicly-funded institutions (education, health care, social services, etc.) unraveled by the Harris Tories. She is strongly in favour of public education, and wants to provide aid to the disadvantaged, and to parenting centres. With respect to CFUW issues, she described Liberal actions already taken:
- Childcare: research is being done, informed by Mustard and McCain.
- Clawback: is being looked at.
- Post secondary Education: for stable, multi-year funding.
- Education: will revisit the funding formula.
- Electoral reform: want to “reform the legislature, not the electoral system”.
- Environment: will take a “realistic, practical approach” granting subsidies and incentives to Go Green.
- Health: will help and hire more nurses.
- Cities: 2% of gas tax to be directed to infrastructure.
The candidates answered questions on early childhood education, the working poor, the funding formula for schools, and the loss of manufacturing jobs, and each made concluding statements. All candidates were in favour of inclusiveness, and everyone supported the environment.
- Clawback: Liberal Ontario Child Benefit goes beyond the clawback, to help all children, not just those on social assistance.
- Minimum Wage: raised by Liberals.
- Home care: $700 million for the Aging at Home program.
- Cities: gas tax has been returned to the cities.
- Environment: she cited the green belt growth plan, and favours wind, water and solar power initiatives.
- Early child Care: programs are being expanded, including full-day kindergarten for four- and five-year olds.
Margaret Binek thanked the speakers who had taken time out of their own ridings the week the writ was dropped in order to represent their parties on our panel. To show our appreciation, they were each presented with a copy of the book, Proudly She Marched.
THE REFORM OF ONTARIO’S ELECTORAL SYSTEM:
SAVIOUR OR THREAT TO DEMOCRACY?
The morning speaker was Dr. Graham White, professor of political science at U of T, an expert on Canadian governments, speaking on the potential reform of Ontario’s electoral system.
The Ontario Citizens Assembly, a group of randomly-selected volunteers chosen to reflect the Ontario demographic, is meeting to consider alternatives to the present Single Member Plurality (first-past-the-post) electoral system now in place.
If it recommends changes, a referendum must be held at the October 10th election this year. If the referendum passes, the new system must be in place by the 2011 election.
Prof. White outlined the two basic systems, Single Member Plurality (SMP) and some form of Proportional Representation (PR), stressing that neither was right nor wrong, and that each had characteristics that could be either advantages or disadvantages. The Report
DORIS ANDERSON (1921 – 2007)
The morning session began with a tribute by Margaret McGovern to Doris Anderson, who died on March 2, for her work on women’s issues. It was her dramatic resignation as chair of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women that led to the inclusion of Article 28 of the Canadian Charter in which rights and freedoms were “guaranteed equally to male and female persons.” Margaret proposed a scholarship on women’s issues to be offered in Ms. Anderson’s memory by CFUW, either at the national or provincial level.
THE FAMILY LAW STATUTE AMENDMENT ACT
Other announcements included a plea for Clubs to pressure MPP’s to proclaim Sections 1, 4 and 5 of Bill 27 (The Family Law Statute Amendment Act, 2006) which are the only sections not yet in force. These are of particular importance to women who may be disadvantaged by religious arbitration of family disputes under the existing law.
CREATING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES THROUGH EDUCATION
Communities are recognizing the interrelationship of social dynamics – something that is currently being called the “social determinants” of health, of educational attainment among other aspects of life.
Two programs were highlighted – Pathways to Education www.pathwaystoeducation.ca and Roots of Empathy www.rootsofempathy.org
The speakers included Sue Sigurdson, EdD, R.S.W, Program Director, Pathways to Education and Lucy Di Carlo, Ontario Provincial Coordinator, Roots of Empathy The mission of The Pathways to Education Program, started in Regent Park, is to reduce poverty and its effects by supporting the development of youth from economically disadvantaged communities. It also promotes their individual health and the health of the community by addressing the two principal social determinants of health: education and income.
In 1996 Mary Gordon, an educator, founded Roots of Empathy, a not-for-profit, evidence-based classroom program that has shown dramatic effects in reducing levels of aggression and violence among schoolchildren while raising social emotional competence and increasing empathy.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CHILDCARE - POLICY & ADVOCACY
The panellists included Gordon H. Cleveland, an economist and professor in the Division of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough spoke about the economic benefits and effects of child care.
Elizabeth Ablett, the new Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare discussed the work of the Coalition, the current campaign of Code Blue, and the upcoming work for the elections, both provincial and federal.
THE HIGH SCHOOL DROP OUT RATE and THE SAFE SCHOOLS ACT:
A Panel Discussion
At the joint morning session, two speakers addressed the related issues of the high school drop-out rate and the Ontario Safe Schools Act. Both speakers have serious issues with the Act, and feel it exacerbates the dropout problem
Selwyn Pieters is a lawyer, specializing in education issues, working with parents and students in areas of human rights, safe schools, expulsions and suspensions. He also has an interest in refugee issues, and is a member of many professional and community associations.
Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph-Wellington and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services responsible for the Safe Schools Act Review, is a former chair of her local school board and president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association from 1998-2002.
The joint Standing Committee morning session was treated to detailed and fact-filled presentations on Health, Safety and Welfare, focusing on response to disasters and the implications of the recent Supreme Court Chaoulli decision.
Tracey Croft, Emergency Management Coordinator, County of Dufferin, described the wake-up call for the need for local emergency planning offered by recent local disasters, notably the ice storm of 1998, and the perceived Y2K emergency.
MAKING WOMEN SAFER
Dr. Joni Seager is Dean of Environmental Studies at York, and an expert in feminist environmentalism. Her talk countered the notion that disasters are gender neutral.
CHAOULLI v QUEBEC UPDATE
Dr. Colleen Flood, New Zealand-born associate professor of law at University of Toronto and a student of comparative health care policy, gave a scathing critique of the recent Supreme Court Chaoulli decision overturning Quebec's ban on private health insurance.
WILL TOMORROW BE BETTER?
A Discussion about Women and Violence
Pam Cross, Legal Director, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children (METRAC)
Eileen Morrow, Executive Director, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses
Ciara Adams, Amnesty International.
At the morning session members were treated to an up-date on Violence against Women, featuring a panel of activists: Pam Cross, legal director with METRAC, Eileen Morrow, executive director of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, and Ciara Adams, representing Amnesty International.
Discussion revolved around the government's Domestic Violence Action Plan, announced in 2004, which is intended to attack the problem in four ways: increased community supports, more training of judges and police, prevention, and justice reform. There were to be changes to the Family Law Act, and more funds were to be allocated, but since then, nothing has happened. Dollars allocated to the program were funds that had been announced previously - there were no new funds; there was no action on child custody, and use of a promised risk assessment tool promised for women in abusive relationships has been severely limited on being challenged by defense lawyers.
March 5th, 2005
PUBLIC EDUCATION TODAY
Kathleen Wynne, Parliamentary Assistant to Gerard Kennedy, Minister of Education addressed a gathering of Ontario Council CFUW members in the Toronto Clubhouse. Ms. Wynne reported she notices an improved tone in schools since the election of a new government, sensing that educators feel the government is at least listening to their concerns. She told the group that the Liberal Government is working hard to establish a "different way of doing business". Gone is the "fortress mentality" in which a maze of offices led to one closed door after another. The Liberal government intends to reach out and get feedback from constituents.
Also speaking to the group was Annie Kidder of People for Education who spoke of the real issues concerning education, of real children, finances and high school.
ARBITRATION ACT PANEL
At the January Standing Committee, Hon. Marion Boyd, Chair of the Arbitration Act Review Committee, Nuzhat Jafri of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and Annie Bunting, Professor in the Law and Society Program at York University gave their views on the proposed revisions to Ontario’s Arbitration Act.
Full report on the panel discussion
WOMEN AND ELECTIONS
In the morning, the speakers, Chi Nguyen, founder of Young Women Vote 20,000 and Peggy Nash of Canadian Automobile Workers Union and member of the Board of Equal Voice, spoke about women and politics.