Peter Stock
The Interim

It’s among the smallest of federal departments with only 70 staff, nearly all of whom are women, yet it has to be considered among the most controversial. The Status of Women ministry, with its unfortunate acronym SOW, is essentially a granting agency that hands out taxpayers’ money to advocacy groups that promote the radical feminist aspects of the Liberal government’s agenda.

Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott of Saskatchewan was curious to find out exactly where those tax dollars went last year. After filing an Access to Information request, he was shocked to learn of the extremism of some of the groups receiving funds.

Among the grants handed out in 2004 were $322,646 to a pro-prostitution group called the Canadian National Coalition of Experiential Women (CNCEW), $150,000 to the repeatedly disgraced feminist National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and $27,400 to the anti-life B.C. Pro-Choice Action Network (BCPCAN).

Stephanie Gray, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, was disappointed to hear of funding for BCPCAN. She told The Interim, “It’s extremely frustrating to see groups with which the majority of Canadians disagree get money from the Liberals. People who disagree with their anti-life agenda are still forced to fund their activities.”

And, to say that some Canadians merely disagree might be an understatement. Joyce Arthur, the president of the anti-life B.C. group, is prone to extremist rhetoric. Recently, she dismissed pro-life Canadians as “religious fanatics” who are “anti-woman and anti-child,” have views that are “uninformed, sexist and cruel” and have an inability to empathize, which breeds “intolerance, hate crimes, war.”

Gray responded, “When I hear such comments about the anger and intolerance we supposedly have, I find they’re really talking about themselves.”

Vellacott agreed. “Government funding of such bigotry in a country which supposedly values and protects freedom of religion and conscience boggles the mind,” he said.

Vellacott is also aghast at funding for the pro-prostitution CNCEW. “This Liberal government department (SOW) claims to promote gender equality, but by promoting an extreme ideology which is by no means shared by all or even most Canadian women, the Liberal government has failed to support equality amongst women themselves.”

The CNCEW made headlines in the spring, when it testified before a Commons sub-committee studying prostitution. The group, represented at the hearings by a woman named “Cherry” Kingsley, argued that prostitution should be completely legal.

“Essentially,” Diane Watts of REAL Women of Canada says, “the government is paying groups to lobby itself on issues with which it agrees. The Liberals are using tax dollars to promote an ideology and agenda. They view prostitution as an occupation like any other.”

REAL Women does not receive any federal funding. That is because the group will not advocate for universal daycare, abortion on demand and prostitution, like the funded groups do. Watts says the promotion of such extreme views to the exclusion of mainstream views like those of REAL Women, “is an injustice and demonstrates an intolerance for the great majority of Canadian women.”

While the funding for anti-life and pro-prostitution groups fits in with the Liberal party’s social agenda, the resumed funding for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women is somewhat mystifying. The group’s radical extremism in the late 1990s and early this decade became too much even for the Liberals, who cut their once-significant funding for the group.

The final straw came on Oct. 1, 2001, a few weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when former NAC-SOW president Sunera Thobani, in a speech at a federally funded women’s conference, accused the United States of “patriarchal racist violence” and wanting to “slaughter people into submission.”

Watts says funding for groups like NAC-SOW demonstrates “condescension towards women. What they’re really saying by funding these groups is that women can’t think for themselves.”

Nevertheless, she remains hopeful that society will ultimately reject the Liberal agenda. “The Liberals hold very old-fashioned views of women. Fortunately, the culture is beginning to return to reality. There are a great deal of studies and writings coming out that demonstrate the tremendous differences between men and women.”