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October 17, 2000

Marchers sing a tired refrain

Donna Laframboise
National Post

This past weekend, 5,000 protesters converged on Parliament Hill claiming to speak for Canadian women. Armed with no fewer than 68 demands, they insisted on immediate government action "to end poverty and violence against women." Afterward, their leaders were granted an audience with the Prime Minister.

So who were these people? A glance at the protest Web site ( shows those organizing it were not just women's groups. Rather, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Federation of Students, CUSO, the National Anti-Poverty Organization and the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada were also involved.

In other words, these weren't typical, middle-of-the road citizens, but a group of quasi-Marxists with a definite political axe to grind. Yet even they have figured out it's easier to get government hand-outs if they claim to be championing women rather than the overthrow of capitalism.

And make no mistake, government money -- your money -- is something they want lots of. Rather than being a sober, thoughtful blueprint for a more egalitarian society, their demands (outlined in a 48-page report available on the Web site) are more like a Christmas list.

For starters, these activists would like $2-billion for a national child care program and $50-million for "women-controlled groups." They also want additional funding for "immigrant and refugee settlement programs," for aboriginal women's organizations, for "a national meeting of lesbians," and for medical research examining environmental toxins and women's health. Oh, and funding that ensures women are "informed and represented in all legal proceedings."

These people think student loans should be replaced with "non-repayable grants," that it's okay for Quebec to follow different rules than other provinces when spending federal money, and believe welfare benefits should be a "universal and inalienable right." Huh? Since when did these become tenets of feminism?

By their own admission, the protest organizers don't just want to tinker with the current state of affairs, they want to dramatically alter life as you know it. They say they're "calling on the Canadian government to radically change its ways of governing." It's also their belief that "eliminating violence against women requires fundamental change in many areas" (my emphasis).

Attempting to justify their view that nothing but a wholesale fix will do, they insist "the statistics on violence against women are staggering."

Hardly. The truth of the matter is that we've made astonishing progress on this front. A Statistics Canada report released in late July shows that, over the past 20 years, spousal murders have been cut in half. The rate at which men murder their wives fell from 15 murders for every million couples in 1979 to seven per million in 1998.

Domestic violence claims the lives of 70 people in a typical year in this country (three quarters of whom are women). Now, class, repeat after me: seven-zero.

But in that same year, 700 people die of accidental poisonings. Two thousand die from accidental falls, 3,000 in motor vehicle accidents and 4,000 people commit suicide. Then there's the 65,000 souls who succumb to cancer and the 80,000 Canadians who lose their lives to heart disease and stroke.

So when's the last time marchers descended on Parliament Hill insisting the federal government restructure society from top to bottom to prevent suicide -- a social problem that claims 57 times more lives?

Pardon me, but I want bang for my buck. If we're going to revamp everything from housing policies to immigration to the criminal justice system -- as the protesters' report says we must -- we'd better be saving more than 70 people a year.

(Yes, domestic violence affects more than those who are tragically killed by it. But don't forget, this is true elsewhere. For every person who dies from an accidental fall, many others are left permanently disabled. For every person who dies of cancer, many others battle the disease for years - years in which both they and their families suffer.)

In terms of sheer numbers, there's a long, long list of bad things that ruin a lot more Canadian lives. So let's keep things in their proper perspective, shall we?

For every woman who gets murdered by her spouse, 15 are killed in car crashes, and 730 succumb to heart disease and stroke.

Why don't women's protesters ever talk about those staggering statistics?

(Each link opens a new window)

  • Canada March of Women
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