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Thursday, March 16, 2000

Monks in the middle of fracas at women's meeting
Paul Waldie
National Post

A Canadian women's group is being accused of stacking its delegation to a United Nations conference on equal rights for women with monks.

The religious delegates, sponsored by REAL Women of Canada, have taken over key seats during meetings on abortion and sexual orientation at this week's UN Commission on the Status of Women.

"The goals of these monks is clear," said Joan Grant-Cummings, head of the National Action Committee for the Status of Women, a rival group to REAL Women. "The point is to get themselves and the legitimate organizations kicked out of these proceedings. REAL Women is stooping to all-time lows."

She said the men, dressed in grey and brown robes, have been disrupting meetings and causing chaos.

Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women, scoffed at Ms. Grant-Cummings' comments and called the NAC delegation "donkeys."

She said REAL Women's 60 delegates to the conference are simply trying to stop what they believe is the commission's anti-family agenda.

REAL Women's delegates "are just raising up and speaking out," Ms. Landolt said yesterday. She added that the delegates being accused by the NAC of causing trouble are priests, not monks.

The United Nations meetings have turned into a fight between groups led largely by REAL Women and NAC over the implementation of a United Nations action plan adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women.

The commission's meetings in New York are in preparation for a special United Nations session in June that is dedicated to reaffirming the plan and reviewing its success.

Canada's delegation has taken a lead role in the meeting and represents a group of nations that includes several European countries and the United States.

The plan covers 12 areas, including women in poverty, women and health and women in power. It also touches on abortion and rights for homosexuals.

"There is some pro-choice language in it, in terms of sexual and reproductive health rights," said Suki Beavers, a delegate to the meeting and director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Cooperation.

"There are all sorts of really organized things going on by the right wing that are very disruptive to the caucuses and to the negotiations that are currently under way," she added.

But Ms. Landolt said Ms. Beavers and NAC members are upset because their agenda is not being adopted. She said REAL Women delegates decided this week to start speaking out at the meetings to change the focus of the action plan.

"Our position is, if [REAL Women delegates] don't like it, speak out, don't let them ram it down our throat," she said.

Ms. Landolt added that Canada's delegation is a disgrace and "is made up of nothing but radical feminists."

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