The Centre for Gender Advocacy’s Stance on Charter of Quebec Values
Proposed Charter Will Lead to Greater Gender Inequalities
The Centre for Gender Advocacy, a Concordia University student-funded community group, has a mandate to fight gender oppression through campaigns that challenge gendered, sexual and racial violence, and to promote trans* rights, indigenous women’s rights and access to public health services including abortion and gender transition. Our staff and board members unanimously oppose the recently proposed Charter of Quebec Values.
From its beginnings as a women’s centre in the 1980s, our organization has been strongly committed to feminist activism and culture. We would, therefore, support a charter that truly valued women’s rights and social justice. Unfortunately, the proposed charter does not promote women’s rights and it is not feminist—in fact, it is quite the opposite.
A charter of Quebec values that sincerely sought to give equality to women, especially women from “ethnic communities,” would directly address the sources of current and persistent inequities.
It would give priority to ensuring women are paid as much as men, which is not yet the case across the province. It would mandate the government to guarantee healthcare for refugees and for women in ethnic communities, and it would ensure easy access to the social services and community support needed to assist all women.
Such a charter would also include ways to stop violence against women by promoting consent programs and teaching sexually active people that no means no, and yes means yes. It would include holistic sexuality education classes as part of the mandatory public school curriculum and thereby address two elements sustaining the inequality of women: sexual violence and access to health services.
A respectful charter would also incorporate “values” that require urgent attention be given to indigenous women who are murdered and missing, as well as ensure there are proper police investigations for such cases. These actions would clearly promote women’s rights.
By contrast, the charter as proposed so far would exclude thousands of Muslim women from keeping or accessing well-paid, maternity-friendly secure jobs, and can only lead to further inequality, thereby harming rather than helping women.
Excluding women from certain jobs because of “ostentatious” religious symbols would limit the kind of role model that women can be for their children, and will cause their families to suffer financially. Moreover, these women may become economically dependent on their husbands, which further isolates any who are in abusive situations. These exclusions may limit women to low-paying precarious work, without a serious pension, and no opportunities to advance in their careers or economic status.
And the children of these mothers who have to work twice as hard to gain as much or even half as much as they earned before will also pay a heavy price, potentially losing decent housing, healthy and diverse foods, extra-curricular activities and access to other determinants of their healthy development.
The social and economic disempowerment of women is not feminism, and it certainly is not a way to achieve equality.
We strongly oppose the current proposals for a charter of Quebec values. It is not about gender equality and it is not a path to social justice. We encourage our feminist and activist allies in Quebec to speak up and denounce this abuse of feminism.