By Gwen Landolt, Edmonton Journal September 4, 2015

(L-R): Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair listen as Conservative Leader Stephen Harper take part in the first leaders debate Thursday, August 6, 2015 in Toronto.

Photograph by: FRANK GUNN , Edmonton Journal

A number of women’s groups are trying to drum up a debate during the election on so-called “women’s” issues.  Such a debate does not and will never represent “women” in Canada.

All women are important, and that’s the difficulty with the proposed debate.

The groups requesting the debate have their own agenda, which certainly does not represent the views and aspirations of most women.  Rather, they represent the special interest group of feminists only.

Women’s views differ according to their social, economic, religious and cultural backgrounds, the same as men.  As no men’s group can claim that it represents the views of all males in Canada, similarly, these feminist groups cannot claim that their ideological views represent the voice of all Canadian women.

The activist women proposing the debate have, of course, every right to their own views, but to suggest they represent “women” is to insult our intelligence.

The agenda of these women’s groups suggests that women are supposedly “victims” and that a special debate is required to provide them with protection.  On the contrary, most women are perfectly capable of standing up for themselves, and do so.  We are not shrinking violets.

For example, women in Canada are now poised to become dominant in medicine, since more than half the physicians in Canada under age 35 are female, and most retiring doctors are male.  This has occurred owing to the fact that medical schools have emphasized the need for women in the profession — highlighting female physicians as role models, offering scholarships, and celebrating parity when it arrived in the 1990s.  Even now, when men are a minority of medical students in Canada — there are at least nine scholarships exclusively for women to become medical students in Canada — and none for men.

A problem does arise however, with the dominance of women in medicine, as research shows female doctors are more inclined to work part-time than their male colleagues, and avoid certain specialties, such as surgery, as they balance demands of raising a family.  This creates problems for patients’ access to physicians, especially specialists.

There is a similar problem with women in law as nearly half the women eventually leave the profession entirely, or work for the government or corporations because of a need for regular hours to accommodate their family requirements.

The concerns of these professional women to balance their lives are laudatory and reasonable, but they do indicate the difference in women’s workforce availability.  The latter, it is noted, is not in any way due to discrimination but rather to women’s own personal preferences.

It is significant that even as far back as 2009, according to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada ranked fifth highest among OECD member countries in that 60 per cent of graduates and post-graduates in Canada were female in all fields, but notably high in the areas of science (50 per cent) and health and welfare (80 per cent). Women don’t seem to be doing badly at all in Canada.

It is significant that grants to feminist organizations by the Status of Women Canada have increased by 73 per cent over the last 10 years. In fact, the taxpayer has paid more than $500 million to the Status of Women Canada since the 1980s. However, this large financial contribution, according to the feminists groups, has failed to improve women’s equality in Canada. Obviously a new strategy is required. Perhaps cutting the $30-million annual funding to Status of Women Canada would give women’s groups a head start on learning to be financially independent, as REAL Women of Canada has managed to be for the last 32 years, without government funding.

It may surprise these activist groups, too, that many women share the same broad interests as men on such issues as the economy, foreign affairs, national security, crime, pipeline systems, etc. These issues affect us as deeply as they do men. Why wouldn’t we be interested in them?

Their assertion that women are left out of the election campaign and require a separate debate is truly bizarre. These activist women should move away from the past, and into the present. They are looking through a rear-view mirror, focusing on the past, instead of looking to the present and the future.

Gwen Landolt is national vice-president of REALWomen of Canada.

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