A look back at women’s days

Local director Karen Cho’s doc on the feminist movement in Canada screens Friday as part of Concordia’s Cinema Politica series.

Time for a little history lesson, ladies (and gentlemen). In case you were unaware (as I was), 2012 marked the 45th anniversary of the first proceedings of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, a landmark set of hearings that, upon its conclusion in 1970, yielded 167 recommendations on how to improve gender equality in Canada.

In the film Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada, Montreal-based filmmaker Karen Cho uses archival footage of those hearings to frame her present-day exploration of how far the status of Canadian women has come in the last four decades, and her findings are disconcerting, to say the least.

Cho divides her film into three parts: violence against women, abortion access and universal childcare — all topics that came up in the hearings in the 1960s, but were not necessarily named in the resulting recommendations (let’s face it: abortion is still a dirty word in some circles today). Interviews with a number of pioneers in the Canadian feminist movement give invaluable perspective on the country’s progress (as Lee Lakeman, founder of the first rape crisis/transition centre in Canada points out, there wasn’t even a single such organization in 1973). But one need only reflect on the government’s (continued) gross mishandling of the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis to understand just how much more work there is to do.

The only disappointment was a distinct lack of exposure given to Quebec’s policies as they regard women, especially where a mention of our $7 a day daycare program would have been extremely pertinent. This omission seems particularly bizarre in light of the fact that Cho herself hails from la belle province.

Cho’s juxtaposition of the old guard and the next generation works extremely well to give a nice, rounded picture of the continued issues facing Canadian women. And to its great credit, the film manages to be highly engaging with its provocative, and sometimes shocking, revelations, while remaining educational. ■


Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada screens on Friday, March 8 as part of Concordia’s Cinema Politica series. Director Karen Cho, along with activists Bridget Tolley (FSIS), Cecilia Diocasson (PWC-Q) & Barbara Legault (RebELLEs) will be in attendance for a discussion after the film. The event is co-presented with Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Families of Sisters in Spirit and the Philippine Women’s Centre of Quebec. Room H-110, 1455 Maisonneuve W., 7 p.m., suggested donation $2-5

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