March 5, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The following message for International Women's Day, March 8, was issued today by the chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, Gordon L. Porter.
International Women's Day was recognized by the United Nations in 1977. Each year at this time, Canadians celebrate progress toward equality and full participation for women, reflect on the challenges and barriers that remain, and consider future steps to achieving equality for all women, in all aspects of their lives.
In Canada, the theme for International Women's Day 2009 is "Strong Leadership. Strong Women. Strong World: Equality."
The Human Rights Act and the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission continue to play important roles in the advancement of equality for women. Sex discrimination in general was first prohibited in New Brunswick in 1971, when the Human Rights Act was amended to prohibit sex discrimination in employment, housing, services, publicity and certain associations.
It was a major advance. It was the first time that women enjoyed any protection against discrimination, apart from salaries. The act was amended in 1987 to specifically prohibit sexual harassment, and amended again in 1992 to prohibit pregnancy discrimination.
Men and women who have experienced discrimination or harassment can file a complaint with New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. For several years, sex discrimination and sexual harassment complaints were the most frequent complaints investigated by the commission. While they represent a much smaller percentage today, the commission still receives new complaints of sex and pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment every year.
For example, in one case, an employee alleged that she was laid off a short time after she informed her employer that she was pregnant. She was the only employee laid off. The employer said that she did not have the skills needed for the next work that needed to be done. The woman filed a complaint, which the commission was able to settle to the satisfaction of both parties. Unfortunately, this type of complaint is still not unusual in New Brunswick.
Women's equality has made great strides in New Brunswick since the '70s. It came as a result of the efforts of many people, and in particular of women who worked hard over a period of years to identify the issues and keep them at the forefront. As we celebrate International Women's Day this year, I invite New Brunswickers to celebrate the work of those who have furthered women's equality, and to work together with us to ensure that women can work and live free from discrimination, harassment and violence.