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Greens interested in more than biological diversity, candidate Gal says

May, 2011

Whatever their political leanings many people, women in particular, were disappointed that Elizabeth May’s voice was missing from the televised leaders’ debates.

Afterward, May commented on what she called “orphan issues” that had no place during the candidates’ heated confrontation.

The Senior Times asked 36-year-old Jessica Gal, Green Party candidate for N.D.G.-Lachine, what some of these issues were.

“It’s inexcusable not to address climate change in this campaign,” Gal said in a televised interview. “It’s such a serious threat to our well-being and security.” Gal says The Green Party is the only one that continues to make climate change a priority while it seems to have fallen off the agenda of other parties.

Gal says she is concerned with the seeming intention of the Harper government to silence the voices of those who work in the public interest.

“Many civil society organizations that are working in areas of women’s issues, indigenous, multicultural issues and human rights are being defunded. The public must realize this has been going on—the Harper government has been defunding hard-won rights in this country.”

The Green’s Gal says the Harper government is silencing many voices.

A June 2011 Globe and Mail article by Gerald Caplan echoes Gal’s warning: “The Canadian International Development Agency has cut funds to projects in Pakistan and Kenya that were explicitly dedicated to gender equality. In fact, hard as it is to believe, CIDA staff has told NGOs to remove the words ‘gender equality’ from their proposal if they want a chance at funding.” In the same article, Caplan quotes the head of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Gerry Barr. “What we’re experiencing here is punishment politics. Speak out against government policy and risk losing your funding.”

Gal cites examples including former RCMP Chief Supt. Martin Cheliak, director of the Canada Firearms Program and adamant supporter of the gun registry who was removed shortly before the vote on this issue. Linda Keen, chair of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, was fired after speaking out about the safety of the Chalk River facility, Gal said.

A three-page list of individuals or organizations defunded or terminated by the Harper government includes Richard Colvin of Foreign Affairs, Yves Côté, ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, Paul Kennedy, chair of the RCMP Police Complaints Commission, and several social justice organizations.

According to the list, compiled by former MP Dennis Gruending, the mandate of the Status of Women has been changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and it must ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying, while Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency, has received a promise of “conditional” funding if it avoids any and all connection with abortion.

Gal says the Greens are not a “one-issue party” and have put together a program with realistic, concrete solutions with respect to seniors, eliminating poverty, employment, housing, health and the environment.

May was excluded from the debates on the ground that the Greens have no seat in Parliament. Yet, Gal says, in terms of the popular vote, the Greens are very healthy. “Nearly one million in 2008 voted Green. Compared with the Bloc Québécois, we got a similar number of votes. They received 40 seats because they are concentrated in one area. This is why when the decision was made to exclude May, we say that doesn’t hold up.”



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