Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dirty doings at Women’s Forum?

As I write, a Forum sponsored by the International Women's Rights Project is taking place on Parliament Hill, to celebrate "Canadian women's historic constitutional victories--learn about constitutional opportunities and challenges in developing countries--and then brainstorm across national and generational boundaries, to develop new forward-looking strategies for action." The Forum has received generaous support from the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives. The conference was opened yesterday by the Honourable Josée Verner, our new Minister of International Cooperation.

Less than twenty-four hours before the Forum opened yesterday, 271 registrants were told that they had been de-registered. Co-signed by the Forum Chair, Marilou McPhedran, and The Forum Coordinator, Lindsey Dalton, the letter read:

You are receiving this email because our appeals to the Sergeant at Arms at the House of Commons to increase the space for the Forum that begins tomorrow have been rejected. Registration for the forum has exceeded the space allowed by the Sergeant at Arms by almost 300.

Every effort has been made to facilitate the involvement of a range of participants from all over Canada. However, we encourage you to share in this historic forum by watching it broadcast live on CPAC on the 14th and 15th of February. The proceedings from the forum and background materials can be accessed through both forum websites: www.adhoc2.org [
This one doesn't work--DD] http://www.adhoc2.org and www.takingitglobal.org/livedrights.

We are truly sorry for inconvenience and disappointment but the matter is out of our hands. If you have not received a confirmation from Marilou McPhedran of (sic) Lindsey Dalton, you will not be allowed past security to enter the West Block.

Needless to say, this generated a lot of concern. It's difficult to unmake travel and leave arrangments at the last moment. But, on further inspection, there appears to be more to it.

Many of the registrants had registered early last month. They had been told, on-line, that they had "successfully" registered. Well, if the organizers received word at the last minute from the Sergeant at Arms, the matter really was out of their hands. If they had overbooked, waiting for positive word from that official, that was perhaps less acceptable. But now, it appears, a screening process was used to pick and choose among the registrants.

Here is what a Co-Chair of the Women and the Law group at Queen's University had to say, in part:

We have made financial commitments for arranging transport and accommodation for the 30 members of our Women and the Law group who had intended on participating in the conference--leaving us with less than 24 hours to react will certainly finds (sic) us in a difficult situation both logistically and financially.

While this matter appears to be out of your hands, I ask why was proper notice not given earlier?

We had registered as a group prior to the conference deadline following a conversation with Ms. McPhedran in which I was instructed that for so long as we register as a group that evening our registration would be secured. Some of our members have been confirmed and others declined--yet we all registered simultaneously (same date, same time). Furthermore, members of our group who had registered independently several weeks before the deadline have also been declined registration. I would like to know how it was decided that we would not be able to attend the conference as it does not appear to be on a first-come, first-served basis. [emphasis mine--DD]

And so would I.

[Declaration of interest: the applications of my step-daughter and partner, who had applied well before the deadline and had been told that they had "successfully registered," were also declined.]


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