Charlottetown: “For once I have to part company with some of my friends in the women’s movement. Designating half the elected Senate seats for women is not the way to achieve gender parity in the political arena.” So said MP Sheila Copps here in mid September. Copps gave the opening address at the “Winning Women Forum,” a conference on political skills for women.

The following day, wrap-up speaker Nancy Jackman of Toronto, a founder and a major financial backer of LEAF (the legal arm of the feminist movement), told the gathering not to worry about Sheila Copps. As Deputy Leader of the Federal Liberal Party, Sheila had no choice but to speak along party lines, she said. But, she continued, “We are familiar with Sheila and her beliefs. We assisted her in getting to power and she knows we are behind her 100%.” According to some, the clear implication was that the feminists regard Ms. Copps as being “in their pocket,” and committed to working for feminist interests first and foremost.

Forum

The Forum, advertised as non-partisan, was well attended. It was opened by Lieutenant Governor Marion L. Reid. Workshop participants included MP Catherine Callbeck (Lib, Malpeque), local female MLAs, and key women in all provincial parties and many volunteer organizations.

It was sponsored by the Secretary of State Women’s Program; Employment and Immigration Canada; and the PEI Advisory council on the Status of Women. In her wrap-up talk, Ms. Jackman emphasized the importance of getting women into positions where they can work for changes beneficial to women. She cited several examples, including Doris Anderson, abortion-rights promoter and founder of NAC, who is the new chancellor of UPEI.

She made other revelations about feminist strength.

She told about offering $150,000 to two Ottawa firms to develop a NO campaign for the referendum.

She emphasized that training and assistance are available for women interested in entering politics. “If you need help with money and training, come and see us. We can make it available,” she told them.

Feminists only, please

Jackman did not specify that applicants must be feminist. But history suggests that openly Christian women who are pro-life and pro-family are unlikely to qualify for financial aid.

At times during the Forum, local feminists were observed trying to bully the women politicians into supporting their Senate demands. They tried to hijack proceedings early in the conference, but mainstream women insisted that the Forum and workshops adhere to the advertised non-partisan agenda.

Overall, the atmosphere was generally cordial until Ms. Jackman’s wrap-up talk. She unabashedly pitched a strongly feminist line, greeted at times with cheering, loud clapping, and stand-up applause.

Hostility became obvious when some women again raised objections. Boos, moans, and rude remarks greeted a lone male who challenged some of the arguments for a NO campaign.

Immediately after the Jackman talk, a core group of feminists (about 15 activists had caucused at noon to develop strategies) seized the mike to read a press release indicating that the Winning Women Forum supported designated Senate seats for women.

One women noted that the female politicians were apparently taken by surprise, and remarked, “We were all taken in. This non-partisan forum became an outright feminist rally, not one bit impartial.”

And the taxpayers footed the bill.