Huberte Gautreau and Nancy Hartling
Co-chairs of the New Brunswick Committee for the World March of Women 2000
Twenty years ago, 139 New Brunswick women boarded three buses bound for New York for the World March of Women to urge member country representatives to tackle poverty and violence. against women.
This event originated at the World Conference of Women in Beijing in 1995 and it was the Fédération des femmes du Québec under the presidency of Françoise David who assumed responsibility. In 2000, this project brought together 6000 groups representing 161 countries. On October 17, several thousand women were in front of the United Nations in New York to meet the Secretary General and present him the 5 million signatures collected around the world, 30,000 of which came from New Brunswick. On our way to New York, we stopped in Fredericton, Montreal and Ottawa to bring the same message to the federal and provincial governments. In addition to eliminating violence, our petition called for the adoption of legislation aimed at eliminating pay inequity – the main cause of women’s poverty.
This event was the catalyst for the creation of the Minister’s Task Force on Violence Against Women, inaugurated by Premier Bernard Lord. Its objective was to explore issues of domestic violence under the direction of the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Margaret Ann Blaney. This initiative gave rise to many important recommendations, including the creation of the Women’s Equality Directorate. In line with the recommendations of the Task Force, many important goals have been achieved, but much remains to be done in the prevention of domestic violence. Currently, in the context of the pandemic, domestic homicides have increased across the country, including Atlantic Canada. Every six days, a Canadian is killed by her intimate partner. For its part, New Brunswick has the highest rate of police-reported spousal violence in Atlantic Canada. About 70% of deaths occur in small towns or rural areas of the province. We look forward to the day when we live in a society free from gender-based violence.
As for the eradication of poverty, the Union des femmes pour équité payiale, founded by the Fédération des dames d’Acadie, consolidates and becomes the Coalition for Pay Equity of New Brunswick. For 20 years, this organization has pursued the same objective, namely pay equity for all workers in the public and private sectors. The public sector achieved a positive result with the passage of the Pay Equity Act, 2009 under the Liberal government of Shawn Graham. However, New Brunswick still lacks pay equity legislation for the private sector, where more than 65% of women in the workforce work.
Twenty years later, women and girls continue to experience sexism, violence, wage inequality and other gender inequalities. Stepping up efforts to achieve gender equity is essential. Numerous reports published since the pandemic have stressed that a feminist perspective and gender-based analysis must be done for all future policies and budgets in the Canadian context.
Reflecting on the past 20 years, it helps to understand how long and difficult the path to change is. However, we are grateful to these courageous women who have worked and continue to work for change and are not content with the status quo. Let us never give up on gender equity, because it is essential not only for women and girls, but for society as a whole.