Path: antenna!gn!cdp!web!jemaher
Date: 03 Dec 95 22:14 GMT
Subject: Ontario Women's Declaration
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Please disseminate in your networks.

Janet Maher

The Ontario Womens Declaration

To all interested organizations

From: Andree Cote, for Action Ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes.

Date: Friday, December 1, 1995


We are sending you a copy of the Ontario Womens Declaration, for your endorsement.

This document was developed and presented by Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes and by the Table feministe francophone de concertation provinciale de lOntario. These are two provincial coalitions of local, regional and provincial francophone womens groups.

A first version of the Declaration was drafted on November 8, and distributed in over fifty groups in our network. On November 10, it was presented at a provincial strategy planning session called by NAC in Toronto. It was further discussed at a November 15 continuation meeting, and then approved at a third meeting on November 28. The following organizations participated in some or all of these meetings: METRAC, the Ontario Womens Justice Network, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), the OFL, the CAW, OCHU, CUPE, CAILC, PEALS, USWA, Woodgreen Community Centre, YWCA, the Alliance for Employment Equity, a Centre for Independent Living, Oasis Womens Centre, the Ontario Coalition against Poverty, P.S.A.C., the Ecumenical Coalition for Economic for Economic Justice, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League. More than 60 groups have endorsed the Declaration so far, and you can get an updated list either at the news conference or by calling on the sponsors.

We are launching the Declaration at a press conference in Toronto, on December 6. You are invited to attend, at 10:00 a.m., at the Sheraton Hotel, on Queen street, corner of Bay. After presenting the Declaration, spokeswomen from NAC, the OFL, the CAW, the Congress of Black Women, OAITH, the Table de concertation and a few others organizations will give short two minute statements. We will read out the list of groups present in the room, so that the media may do individual press interviews after the questions to the speakers.

The Declaration will also be integrated in many local events all around the province, on that same day. But this is just a beginning! We would like to have over 1,000 womens groups, trade unions, community groups and solidarity committees endorse the document by March 8, International Womens Day.

We are thinking about organizing local meetings, maybe on the first Saturday of February, in the form of public agoras, where women from all communities, in all the regions of Ontario can get together, do pot luck, update the Declaration and strategize on what we should do when the government refuses to answer our demands. Local and regional autonomy will be encouraged. We will soon have a list of regional contacts around the province. We would like to translate the Declaration in other languages; suggestions as to resources for translation would be appreciated.

If you wish to endorse the Declaration for December 6, we will add the name of your organization to the list. Please call before 5 p.m., on Tuesday December 5 in Toronto:
Katryn Penwill, Oasis at (416) 923-9292; fax 923-8452, or
June Veecock, OFL at (416) 441-2731; fax 441-0722 in Ottawa:
Ghislaine Sirois, Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes: (613) 241-8433; fax: 241-8435.

Please circulate this memo and the Declaration in your networks. A French version of the Declaration is available on request. I can be reached, fax & phone at: (416) 763-2558; e-mail: acote @

En solidariti.

Ontario Womens Declaration
December 6, 1995

We, the women of Ontario, have assembled together to declare our opposition to the policies of the Conservative government, and to demand a radical change in the way it governs this province .

WHEREAS the Conservative government of Mike Harris has announced a staggering 8 billion dollar spending cut, including cuts of $800 million in education, $1.3 billion in hospital spending and $1.4 billion in transfers to municipalities, representing 47% of their transfers in the next two years; and whereas it has taken the following steps since coming to power last June:

a 21.6% reduction in social assistance recipients allowances;
the elimination of grants for new non-profit child care centres;
cutbacks in transportation services for the disabled; the elimination of funding for the prevention of spousal abuse;
the elimination of funding to second-stage shelters for battered women;
cutbacks in the funding of other shelter services;
cutbacks in immigrant settlement programs;
deep cuts in funding for the arts and culture;
elimination of funding for new abortion clinics;
cutbacks in the funds allocated to Childrens Aid, and a reduction in the services available to survivors of incest;
a reduction in funding for social services adapted to the specific needs of cultural and racial minorities;
cutbacks in the French-language services provided by municipalities and a number of government departments; cutbacks in the social services provided in French in several cities, including Toronto, Hamilton and Welland;
elimination of funding for the gay and lesbian youth counselling telephone line;
the adoption of new regulations that penalize women on social assistance if they share their dwelling with a man;
cuts to family counselling services;
the abolition of the Employment Equity Act;
a freeze on expenditures for pay equity, and the elimination of pay equity for over a 100,000 women;
the abolition of the Jobs Ontario job creation program;
deep cutbacks in funding for low-income, co-operative and not-for-profit housing, and the privatization of public housing;
cutbacks in the services provided to pregnant women;
closing of the womens College Hospital in Toronto;
cutbacks in funding for health services in hospitals and home care; a $10 million cutback in the program providing home oxygen to the sick;
the abolition of Bill 40, which prohibited the use of strike-breakers; the introduction of legislation jeopardizing major victories of the trade union movement;
the implementation of a snitch-line against welfare recipients.
allowing user fees on all drugs received by 380,000 seniors and 1.3 million people receiving social assistance, allowing pharmacists to charge most seniors a dispensing fees on each prescription drug that they buy, in addition to imposing on them a $100 a year user fees.
allowing municipalities to impose user fees for such things as garbage collection, visits to public parks and library services;
allowing community colleges and universities to raise tuition fees by 15%, and , respectively;
making it easier for municipalities to privatize public services, such as public utilities;
allowing for increased property and school taxes.

WHEREAS the Harris government has announced its intention to take the following measures within the near future:

the dismantling of rent control legislation;
the introduction of workfare;
cutbacks in the legal aid budget;
the elimination of legal clinics such as the Pay Equity Advocacy and Legal Services;
amendment of the Employment Standards Act to limit potential claims by employees who have lost their jobs because their workplace was shut down;
a watering down of the environmental protection regulations;
the abolition of the Advocacy Commission and the repeal of the Advocacy Act;
cutbacks in the procedures for monitoring the health and safety of working women, such as inspection of hazardous working conditions;
abolition of the subsidies for 68,000 day care spaces;
a redefinition of the concept of disability, and possible elimination of the financial support given to thousands of disabled persons;

WHEREAS the government is threatening to cut back funding to womens groups who criticize its policies, thereby demonstrating lack of understanding of the role of these groups in the democratic process and an attitude similar to that of abusive men who try to control their partners through threats and violence;

WHEREAS the Harris government has aligned itself with international finance and business interests in limiting the role of state intervention to action that will benefit only the affluent class, and has already committed itself to the following policies:

the abolition of annual filing fees for corporations, at a cost of $15 million to the public treasury;
a 30% reduction in income taxes in the next three years for a total loss in government revenue of $5 billion.

WHEREAS the immediate and future effects of these measures will be:

increased poverty for the most vulnerable women;
increased poverty of children, with one in three children living in Toronto currently being on welfare;
a deterioration in the living conditions of the population as a whole;
a deterioration in housing conditions and increased homelessness;
a loss of autonomy for the disabled;
continued barriers to employment for women, and in particular women of colour, aboriginal women and disabled women, or their confinement to job ghettos with no opportunity for promotion;
increased family violence;
the confinement of women to their traditional role in the family;
increased unemployment, with a predicted direct job loss of 4,300 and an indirect loss of up to 120,000 jobs;
a deterioration in the health and well being of women;
the loss of public day care;
a deterioration in womens working conditions; the further erosion of the environment; increased vulnerability of working women to sexual and racial harassment; the erosion of Francophones entitlement to French- language services; the erosion of the rights of cultural and ethnic minorities to health and social services adapted to their needs; the increase in womens workload due to the cuts in health and social services; the erosion of womens right to participate in full equality in the democratic process; the deterioration of social solidarity; the increased vulnerability, dependency and domination of women.

We can only conclude that the Harris government is waging a veritable war against women.

We believe that the policies being implemented by the government violate the fundamental rights of women that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights law. For example:

The cutbacks in social assistance violate the right to Ran adequate standard of living... including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 11).

The introduction of workfare will violate the right to a freely chosen or accepted job, and the right to just and favourable conditions, equal remuneration for work of equal value without discrimination, as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ( articles 6 and 7).

The cutbacks in support programs for battered women and in domestic violence prevention programs endanger the life, liberty and physical and psychological security of women , protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 7). They are inconsistent with the obligation to develop approaches based on prevention that promote the protection of women against all forms of violence and guarantee the establishment of specialized services, as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in February 1994, (article 4).

When the government violates its constitutional and international obligations in regard to womens rights, it goes beyond the bounds of legality, and acts illegally. In so doing, the Harris government has lost all legitimacy in our eyes.

On this 6th of December 1995, we the women of Ontario commit ourselves to defending the fundamental rights of our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our friends, our lovers and our neighbours. We will fight to defend the hard-won legal, economic, social and political gains women have achieved throughout the 20th century. As the many thousands of women who met in Beijing last September chanted: We are not going back!

We hereby put the Harris government on notice that it must forthwith cease its policies of cutbacks; they are discriminatory and they are destroying the services and support networks that have been developed over the last thirty years.

We demand that this government radically reorient its approach to the administration of public affairs, and we call on it to govern fairly and equitably, and to refrain from exercising its power solely in the interests of big business and businessmen.

its administration must be egalitarian, that is, it must tend to decrease, and not increase, the social and economic disadvantages of women, and of men in historically disadvantaged groups;

its administration must be equitable, that is, it must accord equal protection and benefit to women and men of all colours, ethnic or cultural origins, sexual orientation and social status, in terms of both its policy and program objectives and the methods by which they are administered;

its administration must be legal, and it must be consistent with the universal principles of fundamental justice. In particular, it must respect human dignity and freedom and the equality and independence of women;

its actions must be guided by the principle of universality, and its programs must be delivered effectively and efficiently to everyone living within the provinces borders.

We demand that the government order an immediate moratorium on all cutbacks or reductions in services that might increase the disadvantage suffered by women.

We demand that the government tell us, by March 8, 1996, International Womens Day, what concrete steps it intends to take to promote the rights of women and to restore, preserve, strengthen and promote the following rights, laws, programs and services:

a public child care system; access to affordable housing and rent control; the right to work and to benefit from just and favourable working conditions; pay equity; public transportation in cities and outlying areas; the right to health; measures aimed at spousal abuse and sexual assault; income security; French-language rights and services; legal aid; the reinstatement of Bill 40, and the full recognition of trade union rights; the Employment Equity Act; the rights of aboriginal peoples; health and social services adapted to the specific needs of minority communities; citizenship rights for immigrant women; occupational health and safety; the right to education.

We will await the reply of the Harris government next March 8.

We the women of Ontario consider that this is a state of emergency. We formally notify the government of Ontario that if it continues to attack the rights of women, we will take all steps necessary to secure and defend our legitimate rights. womens groups will not bow down to threats and attacks by the government.

We will resist all forms of subordination.

(disponible en frangais)