DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women's Network Ontario

FAFIA (Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action)

Press Release

September 20, 2007


FAFIA Dismayed by the
Closing of Key Women’s Group


The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) expresses its dismay at the closure of the offices of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL). As a long-standing member group of FAFIA and collaborator on key policy issues affecting women, this closure represents a significant loss to women in Canada.

NAWL, throughout its over thirty year history, has been instrumental in reforming legislation that has historically discriminated against women. Through its wealth of legal expertise, it has advocated for the criminalization of sexual assault perpetuated by husbands and intimate partners, the inclusion of the equality clauses in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the elimination of workplace barriers, equal pay for work of equal value, as well as women’s equality rights in family law and immigration legislation.

In 2004-2005, NAWL was also a key player in the struggle to ensure that religious arbitration, including Sharia law, would not be used in Ontario. NAWL also participated on behalf of women in Canada in international reviews of key UN human rights conventions to which Canada is a party.

Despite these accomplishments, NAWL has been adversely affected by changes made under the Conservative government in 2006 to a key federal grants program. The Women’s Program at Status of Women Canada no longer funds any advocacy related work on the part of women’s organizations. Due to the very nature of NAWL’s existence, to eliminate advocacy on behalf of women’s equality is neither feasible nor appropriate.

Despite significant changes to the law, many women’s equality issues persist in Canada:

  • on-going and persistent pay inequities as documented by Statistics Canada;
  • profound inadequacies in maternal and parental leave programs (only a third of women are eligible for maternity leave through Canada’s Employment Insurance Program);
  • family laws that ignore the role of spousal violence as a factor in determining child custody and access;
  • and immigration laws that typically recognize a female spouse as a ‘dependent’, thereby severely constraining her rights as a newcomer in Canada.

These realities of women, among many others, demand sustained advocacy, not muted voices.

It is indeed ironic that while Canada is deeply involved in major efforts worldwide to promote democratic reform and create a more powerful and strengthened UN Women’s Agency, women’s civil society organizations in Canada that explicitly advocate for women are now in peril.

As a pan-Canadian alliance of women’s and human rights groups, FAFIA is deeply saddened by these developments. Advocacy is at the heart of achieving equality for all women in Canada and the closure of the NAWL offices will make this goal that much more difficult.


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