A REAL alternative for the past 25 years

  • August 28, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - REAL Women of Canada was conceived in 1981 during the debate over Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Gwendolyn Landolt and her friends grew disturbed when the only voices representing women were “just a bunch of feminists” with government funding, she said.

“The women of Canada demand so-and-so in the charter,” was the refrain Landolt kept hearing via the news media. “Has anyone ever asked the women of Canada?”

When the Liberal’s status of women minister Judy Erola announced there would be no tax credits for women who chose to stay at home, Landolt knew there had to be an alternate voice.

At first Landolt and six friends met informally around her kitchen table.

“We were very aware at the time the family was in a state of crisis,” said the Catholic mother of five who is also a lawyer and former Crown prosecutor. “We felt the fragmentation of the family was the major cause of disruption in society.”

When ready to incorporate, the group had everything in place except a name. But REAL Women’s national vice president recalled how she and her friends were always asking what the “real” women of Canada — the salt of the earth women who raise their children, who pay their taxes — would be thinking. They decided on REAL (for Realistic, Equal, Active for Life) Women of Canada and the organization was officially born.

Landolt never expected the reaction the group received.

“It really was astonishing,” Landolt said. “It was just an explosion. We knew from that time on we were filling a need.”

They were deluged with phone calls and mail from individuals and news media. Membership quickly grew to 10,000.

“The secular media were livid,” she said. “How dare we go against the radical feminists? They thought if they ridiculed us and made fun of us that we would disappear.”

Landolt said she had experience with media attacks from working in the pro-life movement. The smears “strengthened our resolve.”

Feminist groups would refuse to debate REAL Women on TV or radio; they tried to dismiss the group as “irrelevant,” she said.

REAL Women proved them wrong, she said, noting the group has appeared in more than 250 government committee hearings and commissions, such as the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies. “There have been very few important issues that we’ve not addressed,” she said, noting all the work has been done on money from donations and memberships.

The group now has about 50,000 members. Except for a few small project grants, the group has survived without any government funding, addressing everything from safe injection drug sites and prostitution to the dangers of the vaccine Gardasil.

Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler decision prompted REAL Women to battle in the courts. Two weeks after the decision, Landolt went to Ottawa and requested the dockets.

“There was not one single document that was pro-life,” she said, describing that day as the loneliest and saddest of her life.

She vowed that from then on anything to do with “the culture of life or death or the family” would have a pro-life and pro-family view expressed in court.

“There has to be an historical record that not everyone went along with these very foolish decisions the courts were handing down.” Nor did she want the courts “exonerating themselves” by saying no one argued the case against their decisions.

REAL Women has been on the forefront in criticizing human rights commissions that are drawing attention lately for suppressing religious freedom and freedom of speech. In 1989, REAL Women started raising questions when a one-woman tribunal declared women should be in combat duty contrary to all the evidence, Landolt said. She said she knew then that human rights commissions and tribunals were simply politically correct tools to change society. Though nobody was even reporting on those issues, “we just plugged away.”

REAL Women has also taken its work to the international arena. In 1996, it gained “consultative status” with the United Nations.

“We’ve been to over 35 UN conferences and meetings around the world . . . working to defend family and life,” she said.

REAL Women celebrates its 25th anniversary with a conference in Ottawa Sept. 20 that will feature internationally known family expert Allan Carlson. Carlson was international secretary for the World Congress of Families (WCF) in Mexico City and Warsaw. After opening remarks from REAL Women president Laurie Geschke, he will talk about the role of the natural family.

U.S. columnist Don Feder, who is WCF communications director will speak on the demographic winter; National Post columnist Barbara Kay will address feminism’s effect on Canadian society; Beverly LaHaye Institute senior fellow Janice Crouse, will speak on children’s rights; Alberta political scientist and author Michael Wagner will talk on the history of social conservatives in Canada; and Colin Mangham will speak on harm reduction’s “hijacking” drug policy. Landolt will wrap up the conference with a look at REAL Women’s 25 years.

The conference will wrap up with a reception on Parliament Hill hosted by Senator Ann Cools. More information is available at www.realwomenca.com.

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