Interview with Ivy Shaw*, Retired Postal Worker, Halifax
FROM MY OWN PERSPECIVE, and this is my personal opinion, I think that not only women have to get out and vote at election time but they also have to run to change the culture of what is happening across Canada. There are women who are not ready to put their name on the ballot but they can help other women who want to run, whether in municipal, provincial or federal elections.
The safety net, which is undergoing steady erosion by the Harper government, is fundamental and important for all Canadians from coast to coast. It should not be a race to the bottom, the way it is now, everybody should be brought up to a decent living wage. As far as I am concerned, I have a good pension that came from a strong union that fought for pensions and benefits for all. I am retired now but I continue and will continue to fight for justice for all. I have been in a number of protests over the last year and a half and I will continue to do that. I have been involved with Idle No More and other movements because I have children and grand-children that are coming up and I worry about what our society is going to look like, what Canada is going to be like with governments such as the Harper government that keep eroding the social safety net.
Women are the nurturers, the ones that stay home for the most part and maybe work part-time job or have seasonal jobs in Atlantic Canada. They are also the predominant target of the EI changes by the Harper government. I think they are running out of workers in the Western provinces and the government is trying to get people so fed up with being scrutinized and under attack all the time, whether they are on EI or on social welfare, that they will go west to work. This is premeditated by the Harper government to divide the people, those who work and those who don’t, the same way they are trying to divide the people between those who have a pension and those who don’t.
The Harper government is targeting Atlantic Canada, Quebec and rural communities across the country with the EI changes. If people leave the rural communities where they work in seasonal industries, the communities are going to disappear. The people in the service industry, predominantly women, will be gone because they have to move to keep their families going. The other services, education, health care, will be gone too. Businesses have to understand that they are going to be affected as well because there will be no one there to work.
I do see women participating in all the social movements and I see more women putting their names forward to go on the ballots. They have decided that it is important that the voices of women should be heard more. We have to voice our concerns and change the culture of what is happening across the country. You see the protests in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, every week people are getting out and voicing their displeasure with what is happening. Women can play a leadership role there. Women are not shy to speak out because these things are going to affect their future and their children’s future. We have to educate our families, our neighbours, our co-workers about what is happening to Canada, we have to keep fighting.
Hopefully we are going to continue to fight. I truly believe that people are waking up, they see what the Harper government is trying to do to Canada and they are not going to stand for it. I see it with the fight back movement against the EI changes. I think that come next election, people will get out and vote and make a difference. The government has cut off Atlantic Canada and it is telling us what the heck, you are gone.
We can make a difference and we are going to make a difference.
* Ivy Shaw is a longtime labour activist and retired letter carrier, member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Ivy was one of several militants interviewed by TML Daily in its feature edition on International Women’s Day.