In 1989, grass roots Canadians were becoming educated on issues as never before. Pro-lifers were grappling with the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, groups like Kids First were lobbying on behalf of families, and REAL Women was exposing the federal government’s lavish funding on feminist groups.
In Yellowknife that spring, participants in International Women’s Day decided to form a Women’s Centre ( one of those hotbeds of feminism that seem to attract so much government funding). A small group of pro-life and pro-family women recognized the crucial importance of becoming involved.
They attended the founding meeting to press for a guarantee that the Center’s governing society would not be feminist.
New Women’s Centre not feminist
“The press was there, and organizers were smarting because of the national scrutiny resulting from the REAL Women exposes. They bent over backwards to assure us that the Centre would be for every women,” recalls Pat Strus. They were not convincing. So Mrs. Strus and her group continued their vigilance. As the bylaws were worked out over the next few months, they valiantly fought every point, not to gain control but to ensure a voice for pro-life, pro-family women.
“We put them on the defensive because they were never sure they could out vote us. We were able to field more people more often. We jus wore them out. We found that radical feminists were not willing to invest their time the way we were,” she says.
In a final day-long workshop on bylaws, they managed to win over some of the feminist supporters by the sheer logic of their arguments, and to gain approval for their own decision-making model.
“We didn’t get the ideal pro-family, pro-life organization. But we did ensure that no one group cant take control. As Women’s Centres go, it is unique,” says pat Strus. (Local feminists call that day Black Saturday. Some of them will have nothing to do which such an a-typical Women’s Centre.)
Protecting their influence
Thanks to the group’s valiant efforts, the Yellowknife Women’s Centre takes a public stand only on the issue where there is consensus. Sometimes all sides fully agree on an issue such as unfair taxation of married couples. However, when there is only partial agreement, the Center’s statements can only cover the areas of common ground.
When consensus cannot be reached, each faction goes its own way, under the umbrella of the Centre if it wishes. So on international Women’s Day, the centre has sponsored both a feminist film festival and a Christian women’s prayer meeting.
But Pat Strus notes a difficulty in encouraging Christian women to participate in this work.
“ They already have a support network through their church community so they do not seek the Women’s Centre. They are not sufficiently politicized to see the importance of projecting their influence into project such as this,” she explains.
Thus maintaining a pro-life, pro-family presence and regularly airing their perspective has fallen to a very few women. It is a familiar situation.