National Post

Saturday, June 5, 1999

NAC spoiling for fight with Ottawa over funding

Sheldon Alberts
National Post

Saturday, June 5, 1999

NAC spoiling for fight with Ottawa over funding

OTTAWA -- Canada's largest feminist lobby group is meeting in Ottawa to consider resolutions demanding the dissolution of the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, and one that would have the group campaign on behalf of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia.

The National Action Committee on the Status of Women is also spoiling for another fight with the federal government over its decision to impose tight restrictions on a new $281,000 research grant.

Joan Grant-Cummings, the NAC president, said yesterday that Ottawa has issued an "implied threat" that it will withhold further funding if her organization's research criticizes government policies.

"The government actually has a choice of shutting it down at any point. That is part of what is threatening about the contribution agreement," Ms. Grant-Cummings said at the start of the NAC's annual general meeting in Ottawa.

"The government's agenda with this, as we see it, is to get groups like NAC to not bother accessing government funding and to get groups like NAC to come to heel."

The feminist group waged a high-profile battle last year with Hedy Fry, the federal minister responsible for the Status of Women, over the government's decision to cut $240,000 in core operating funding to the NAC.

The fight centred around Ottawa's decision to change funding criteria to a program-based system, with a new system of accountability, instead of a no-strings-attached grant.

The government rejected the NAC's first two proposals for research grants. The organization last December temporarily laid off six staff members and claimed Ms. Fry was trying to destroy the NAG, which claims to represent 700 women's groups across the country.

But Ottawa approved a third grant application for $281,000 in late March for a project that will study the impact of government cuts and globalization on the lives of Canadian women.

The decision to approve funding means the government is paying for a study that will almost certainly be critical of government policies.

Ms. Grant-Cummings said Ottawa has only forwarded $140,000 of the grant so far, and she fears it will refuse to pay the rest if it does not approve of the NAC's interim report that is expected this fall.

The funding agreement gives the government the power to reject certain language in NAC's research.

"It may not be implemented, but it is there. For us, it is an implied threat and it is a possibility. It is a potential for the government to impact the integrity of the research," she said.

She said the government recently turned down the NAC's application for funding to launch an Internet Web site, and has also stopped funding bilingual services for the group.

Members of NAC plan to raise their concerns about changes in the funding criteria - and other feminist issues - with MPs on Monday on Parliament Hill.

Inky Mark, the Reform Party's women's issues critic, said the NAC should consider itself lucky it still receives any funding at all.

"I would say they are rather self-serving and have forgotten where the money comes from. It comes from their pockets as well as everybody else's pockets. It is public money: said Mr. Mark.

"If they are not accountable, they shouldn't be funded. Just because they are the Status of Women, long gone are the days when they should throw money at them.."

Mr. Mark said he believes the NAC has become "irrelevant" to most Canadian women and Reform plans to continue pressuring the Liberals to end funding.

About 250 NAC delegates are debating resolutions that call on the organization to oppose the recent Social Union agreement, demand Ottawa comply with the controversial public service pay equity ruling and push for new health-care funding for aboriginal women's groups.

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