The executive of the Catholic Women's League at the annual national convention in Winnipeg. Outgoing national president Margaret Ann Jacobs is in the centre; on her left is Calgary Bishop William McGrattan, the CWL's spiritual advisor; on his left is past president Barbara Dowding. On Jacobs' right is incoming national president, Anne Gorman. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Catholic Women's League vows to keep fighting summer jobs attestation

  • August 20, 2018

OTTAWA – The Catholic Women’s League (CWL), Canada’s largest women’s organization, resolved Aug. 13 to continue its opposition to the Canada Summer Jobs attestation.

“We’ll give it another try,” said outgoing president Margaret Ann Jacobs in an interview from Winnipeg, where the CWL held its 98th annual national convention Aug. 12-15.  “We worked hard on it last year. The members are adamant.

“A lot of people are upset,” Jacobs said. “This is not just faith-based groups — this is a challenge to our rights and our ability to make decisions.”

The resolution, passed by the more than 600 delegates at the convention, calls on the federal government to remove the attestation requirement for future Canada Summer Jobs programs.

The attestation forces applicants for summer jobs funding to affirm both abortion and gender theory as Charter values. It is now the subject of several legal challenges.

CWL members held break-out sessions on a range of other issues, focusing on the environment, Indigenous issues, human trafficking, homelessness, pornography and mental health, Jacobs said.  “These were the highest-ranking topics really of concern to the women,” said Jacobs.

“We’ve had palliative care for a couple of years, and women continue to be encouraged to support that, but mental health has now been added.”

The convention also heard the results of an extensive consultation regarding strategic planning for 2018 to 2022. 

“We’re losing members and members don’t want to step up and take leadership,” Jacobs said.  “It’s so very vital, we wanted to take a look at whether we were providing what our members needed to move forward.”

The League has roughly 80,000 members. Jacobs is finishing her two-year term as president and is being succeeded by
Anne Gorman. Jacobs will now be in charge of archives as the CWL prepares for its 100th anniversary in Montreal in 2020.

The three priorities of the League are faith, service and social justice, she said.  “We need to be moving forward with new voices, new perspectives, thinking of the future.”

Jacobs worked with past-president Barbara Dowding and president-elect Anne Gorman in spearheading the consultation.  Gorman takes over as national president, now that Jacobs two-year term has ended.

“It’s been a wonderful convention; it’s been a wonderful two years,” she said, noting she was thrilled by how many first-time attendees there were this year.

Jacobs will now be in charge of archives as the CWL prepares for its 100th anniversary in Montreal in 2020.

“I’m not a historian, but my interest has been piqued,” she said.  The League will be preparing a table book to mark the upcoming anniversary.  “I’m really looking forward to going to the archives in Winnipeg and learning all the backstories.”

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