Was that so hard?

The New Brunswick government has introduced a law to create an independent women’s Council. That means it gave up on the internal committee structure, Voices, which governments insisted was independent except the committee found it could not work on its priorities, spend its budget or hire staff.

The legislation proposed today is a good thing. Bravo to the Premier who allowed his mind to be changed. Brava to Voices who eventually saw no other way to make it work.

But.

Did we really need to learn that without status, you’re nothing, and certainly not independent? Ain’t that what the last century of women’s history has been about, getting status and independence?

Anyone who knows how government works knew an independent body required legislation. And anyone who knows women’s issues – the controversial nature of much of it, the kind of change they require – knew that only strong legislation would work.

Governments know how to set up an independent body. They do it for commissions, advisory groups, advocacy offices – the ombudsman, official languages, child advocacy, and other offices. For women, they didn’t follow the template.  For women, it was “let’s just have an internal committee? Can’t we all get along?”

Without legal status, you don’t have status. Women of all people know that, over and over.

So this is a good day. After 5 years without an independent Council, and 3 years where so much effort and money was put in a frustrating unnecessary exercise, there will be a law. I could give you a list of lost opportunities since 2011.

Like I tell the young’uns around the fire, when you face a showdown with government because you think women should be treated as equals, as some of us have, what do you do? What do you reach for? You reach for the law, and the microphone.  That’s how we all get along, and get change done.

 

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