Remove the veil from women’s issues

Women’s issues and politics in Canada encompass more than a face veil

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ST. JOHN’S, NL Oct. 8, 2015/ Troy Media/ – I love following politics, but this election campaign has been wearying.

With the longest campaign in history, I’m not surprised many of us are tired. Every day there is another poll, another tracker, another analyst examining this or that issue.

The latest is the niqab, the face veil some Muslim women wear. Other columnists and commentators are more eloquent than I can be on the issue of women’s clothing and the ongoing policing that happens. But women’s issues and politics in Canada encompass more than a face veil.

In fact, there are far more pressing issues we have to deal with from a woman’s point of view than whether some women wear a veil.

I grew up with nuns in my schools. Veils are nothing new or different. And given how much we have to do as workers, builders, creators and nurturers in our communities, Stephen Harper’s continuing waving of the veil in our faces is nothing more than a distraction from what truly matters.

Let’s talk about the steadily increasing numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Let’s talk about violence against women generally, whether indigenous, of colour, ethnic, white, LGBTQ and/or disabled; whether it be partner abuse, street and workplace harassment or pornography.

Let’s talk about gender equity, or more accurately the lack thereof, in our pay packets.

Let’s look at the repeated refusal to introduce and support a quality-driven, national daycare program for kids in our country.

Let’s talk about how women have to make do on 50 per cent and in many cases, much less, of their wages while on maternity leave.

Let’s talk about how housing costs are rising and more than 3,300 women sleep in emergency shelters every day.

Let’s talk about how the elimination of the long form census deprives us all, but especially women, of useful and important data about what is happening in our communities with work, wellness, social and economic wellbeing.

Let’s talk about the elimination of funding to a myriad of advocacy agencies that helped us understand where we needed to change, how to build new ways of working together, and what has to be done to advance equality, not just in name but in practice, too.

Yes, we have made strides in education for women, in opening more doors to more careers, and in establishing and protecting rights for women through the Charter. But that is not enough.

Throwing a veil, literally and figuratively, over these issues will not erase them or disguise them. We have too much to lose.

Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. A version of this article originally appeared in The St. Johns Telegram.

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