The following letter has been sent to MLAs of all parties.
As equality/equity seeking groups in New Brunswick, we are very concerned with the current political environment and how this will impact the issues the people of our province care about. The NB Coalition for Pay Equity, the YWCA, Regroupement féministe du Nouveau Brunswick, the NB South Central transition house and second stage coalition, and the SJ Women’s Empowerment Network are working to improve access to affordable and inclusive childcare; increase pay equity in the private sector; and develop sustainable comprehensive services and abuse prevention strategies, as well as women focused housing solutions. While each of our organizations have been working tirelessly to effect change in these areas, we also recognize the value of collaboration to reach the ultimate goal of true gender equality/equity in our province.
Affordable, accessible, and inclusive childcare
We support the vision and mandate of the national organization, Child Care Now, which is calling for federal and provincial governments to make child care universal, affordable, inclusive, and high quality. We acknowledge that our current child care program in New Brunswick is going in the right direction, however, there are gaps. Wages for Early Childhood Educators are low; subsidies do not cover before and after school care; and there are insufficient infant care spaces. In addition, marginalized women are further impacted by specific government policies that are punitive and not responsive to their needs.
Comprehensive services and prevention programs to end relationship abuse and violence will benefit us all
Transition houses and second stage facilities are not only temporary places of refuge, we are the change makers who first brought the issue of violence and abuse to the public. Over the years, we have served tens of thousands of women and children in jeopardy. We have done this with few resources, and increasing difficulty to meet the ever changing and complex needs of our clients and our communities. True change takes time and support, which is why 2nd Stage facilities are essential to support the ongoing work of a woman rebuilding her life. Government decision makers need to understand the complex dynamics of abuse and its effects on women and children before instituting new policies that will affect their lives. They need to work with the experts in our sector to develop a plan to invest the resources needed to truly support victims and their children. To create a community that is abuse free, we need to engage youth in programs that prevent violence and abuse.
Safe and affordable housing
Women’s homelessness is often hidden and therefore, is underreported. A woman may be temporarily staying with family or friends, exchanging sexual favors for a place to sleep, or staying in a home where she is subjected to violence because she has no other place to go. While the federal government recognized the importance of putting a gender lens on housing when it announced that 25% of the $40B for the 10-year national housing strategy would be dedicated to women’s housing, we need the Province of New Brunswick to be on board and help make women’s homelessness a thing of the past. The province needs to be respectful of women’s realities, and recognize the need for portable subsidies to accommodate their need to relocate to ensure their safety. The province also needs to ensure that women are not responsible for the NB Housing debts that were incurred by their abuser, or at the very least, accept to engage in repayment plan while she is housed. When women have a safe and affordable home, they are empowered to start creating the life that they envision for themselves.
Pay equity in the private sector
We need pay equity legislation for the private sector. Too often, female-dominated jobs are undervalued and underpaid compared to male-dominated jobs. It is a form of discrimination rooted in old outdated values. It skews our pay systems and reduces women’s economic security in significant ways. Thanks to Pay Equity Act, 2009, public sector employees in female-dominated jobs have received equal pay for work of equal pay. However, 65 to 70 % of employed women work in the private sector in New Brunswick. The government should pass pay equity legislation to protect their rights. It should also invest in the wages of all community care-giving workers, a sector almost completely female-dominated, where women face the deepest wage discrimination.
For gender equality at all economic, political and social levels
The province must continue to affirm its desire to be a leader in respecting women's rights. It is essential to understand that political decisions have a different impact on women and men, particularly on Francophone and Acadian women, racialized women and immigrant women. The diverse needs of all women must be taken into account as obstacles are removed to ensure that their rights are respected. These challenges include the difficult balance of work and family, lack of access to reproductive health care, and economic insecurity. These barriers mean that we have the lowest participation rates of women in politics. We need to ensure that all people who identify as women have access to the same opportunities regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, background, language, age, or social class. A prosperous province is first and foremost a province that put gender equality first.
We are calling on all parties to set aside partisanship and put the interests of New Brunswickers first. We are also calling on citizens to get involved in any of these issues to ensure our voices are heard and taken into account by government. Acting to address the specific issues identified above will bolster our economy, positively impact families, and strengthen the social fabric of our province.
Johanne Perron, Executive Director
New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
(506) 855-0002 (w), (506) 850-6963 (m)
Nelly Dennene, Executive Director
Regroupement féministe du Nouveau Brunswick
(506) 381-2255 (w)
Debrah Westerburg, Coordinator
NB South Central Transition House and Second Stage Coalition
(506) 324-0120 (m)
Michèle Nadeau, Acting Executive Director
(506) 855-4349, ext 104
Brenda Murphy, Executive Director
SJ Women’s Empowerment Network