National Post

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Monday, June 07, 1999

Feminists ask Liberals to pay for 'revolution'

Robert Fife, Ottawa Bureau Chief
National Post

OTTAWA - The leader of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women will press Liberal cabinet ministers today for more funding so the feminist group can carry out a "major political struggle and revolution" against "racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism and classism."

Joan Grant-Cummings, the president of NAC, said yesterday that Canada's largest feminist lobby is struggling financially despite the infusion of a recent $281,000 federal research grant.

"You know we don't have drivers ushering us from meeting to meeting. We don't have speech writers. We don't even have policy analysts," she told about 200 women at NAC's annual meeting. "We understand that this is a major political struggle and revolution."

Ms. Grant-Cummings said NAC must rely on government funding because individual Canadian women are not opening their wallets, a fact she attributes to her efforts to transform the organization into a voice of women of colour, lesbians, aboriginals and poor immigrant women.

"Right now you have women of colour, refugee women, you have women living in poverty. The women who currently support NAC are probably further down on the economic ladder," she explained.

A copy of NAC's budget for 2000 shows the organization has been reduced to seven staff members after four workers were laid off last year. NAC spends more on salaries and administration than it does on its various lobbying activities.

The two-page document shows that NAC expects to receive $741,692 in revenue next year, of which $642,892 is in the form of government and labour union grants as well as from direct mail campaigns. Only $35,000 will come from donations, although NAC will spend $81,000 on fundraising and administration. Projected income from affiliated feminist groups is estimated at $43,000.

Total expenditures are forecast at $660,442, including $339,242 for salaries and benefits and $83,000 for the national office based in Toronto. Ms. Grant-Cummings, who earns $60,000 annually, also has a $10,000 travel budget. Another $33,600 is set aside for expenditures by NAC's seven-member executive board.

Ms. Grant-Cummings and other NAC women took time out yesterday for a "celebration lunch" where they listened to various feminists speak about issues of concern to the movement.

Amparo Torres, a Colombian refugee living in Toronto, was enthusiastically applauded after she praised Marxist resistance to the Colombian government.

"The guerrilla movement is fighting to protect the Colombian peoples' rights," she said. "They have very strong popular and political support and they have become the only voice of the Colombian people."

The meeting also heard from Bella Galhos, an East Timorese refugee who is part of the underground resistance against the Indonesian government, as well as from Nicole Hotte, a Bell Canada union leader who led a five-week strike against the telephone company. Ms. Galhos and Ms. Hotte received the Women of Courage Award for their activities.

Later, the delegates debated motions calling on the NAC to contribute to "bringing about a just and peaceful resolution to world conflicts." They urged Canada to ask Mexico to disarm all paramilitary groups in the Chiapas and to replace the World Bank and International Monetary Fund with a new global body that has human rights as "its central value."

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