Embassy Row

Article excerpt


Hedy Fry knows that a woman's place is in the House, the Senate, the corporate boardroom or anywhere else her ability can take her. The trouble is getting there.

As Canada's minister for women and multicultural affairs, the physician-politician is on a worldwide crusade to eliminate barriers to female advancement.

She cites Canada as an example of a country that promotes women in all aspects of life, even to the extent of applying "gender analysis" to every action the government takes to determine the effect on men and women.

Her own seat at the Cabinet table of Prime Minister Jean Chretien is proof that Canada takes women's rights seriously, she said in an interview this week in Washington, where she is attending a women's conference at the Organization of American States.

"Unless you have a Cabinet-level position, you tend to ghettoize women's issues. The attitude is: `Let's do something nice for women.' You get a little pat on the head," Dr. Fry said.

She said she has learned to talk like an economist when she advances women's issues and to compare Canada's population, which is 50.5 percent female, to a corporation.

"Given that one sees one's country as a corporation, a competitive unit, we know of no corporation that develops only part of its work force," Dr. Fry said. "We have always believed in Canada that economic and social issues are not separate."

All Canadian government departments apply a "gender analysis" to any regulation or legislation they propose. Such analysis persuaded the navy to include separate female quarters on submarines. It also prompted drug regulators to study the effect new medicine has on men and women before allowing it on the market, Dr. Fry said.

In addition, Canada has adopted a pay-equity system, even though it was like "the traditional comparing of apples to oranges," she said.

Canada allows political refugees to claim sexual discrimination as a ground for asylum, she said.

Dr. Fry hopes Canada's accomplishments will set an example at the OAS conference, which includes representatives from many male-dominated Latin American countries. …