As you can probably tell by now, many of us don't like that our Prime Minister, who is supposed to represent all of us, refers with derision to women as a "left wing fringe group." He characterizes the women who act on behalf of disadvantaged women in the same way too. It's just not decent for a Prime Minister to be running down any Canadian citizen the way he did:
Just to comment on one aspect of Harper's speech, he criticizes the former Liberal governments for "subsidizing lawyers to bring court challenges on behalf of left wing fringe groups." This is a reference to his government's having done away with the Court Challenges Programme, a federal programme that has funded litigation on equality issues, going back to the original adoption of the Charter. The thinking was that groups who have expertise and can speak to the impact of a given law on their members should be represented at appellate court levels in Canada so they could contribute to the development of the Charter case law on equality. Otherwise, we would have had only private litigants who can afford it appearing before the courts. The case law that has developed over the last 30 years would have been much different without these groups' participation and Stephen Harper likely knows that.Thanks to Allison for the blog burst and Antonia Zerbisias for pushing the issue in her column on Friday. And join the Facebook group!
One of the legal advocacy groups that has been funded in the past, for example, is the Women's Legal and Education Action Fund (LEAF). As their site notes, they've intervened in over 150 cases since 1985, many of them landmark and which have advanced women's rights in Canada. In acting on behalf of women and being funded by the Court Challenges Programme, however, to Stephen Harper this is "left wing fringe group" stuff. It's a great reminder for women in Canada about what Stephen Harper thinks of such advocacy efforts on behalf of women.