Are we being used? Is it the old story of "seduced and abandoned? Women's groups and organizations, both in and out of the government, both voluntary and paid, work hard with very few resources in order to influence the state to implement many things it appears not to want to do. Because of the exigencies imposed by meagre resources and unrealistic time-frames (from when we hear about an issue to its deadline for debate), we do not have much real discretion over setting our own priorities. Our planning tends to be in a reactive mode rather than a long-term predictive one, and often we simply do not have the time to do our best. Our access to information is not always full, although freedom of information legislation should ease this somewhat. Our resources are meted out in a way which fragments us all: researcher from researcher; agency from agency. It also fragments our accumulated information and methodological experience. The state and its own resources have a jump on us in every category of operation...except perhaps commitment to women's causes. While some of us are indeed invited to submit briefs some of the time (and only rarely), and others of us manage to wangle invitations, there is no trend on the part of the state either to solicit agenda from women's groups, inform us of their undertaking, or to invite our participation. We are in the especially compromising position of working inordinately hard for little or no pay in order to produce material which only MIGHT be considered, and if applied, in a piecemeal fashion. It then devolves upon us to consecrate part of our already slender resources to ensuring that those few of our recommendations which have been adopted or incorporated are being implemented.

Is research a back-up for strategy, or has it become through default a strategy itself to Canadian women's organizations? Is our reactive mode so absorbing that we simply no longer have the resources left to strategies with the long view available to politicians, most of whom are not committed to our cause? Simone de Beauvoir characterizes women's culture historically as a deprivation of 'transcendence'. In her own specialized vocabulary this means that we are so caught up in the "en soi" (the morass of the everyday, characterized by the caring for perishable matter and those jobs that are "never done"), that we have no time for long term planning which is the "transcendence" over our daily tasks. Has Canadian women's policy research, focused on situations and statistics which are in a constant state of flux, fallen into the "en soi?" If so, can we get out?


The purpose of this investigation has not been either to denigrate Canadian women's enormous work in the field of policy research, nor to castigate ourselves for "not doing enough". However, it is clear that research is not an end in itself. It is a necessary but not sufficient component of political change. We need the research, but we also need a praxis. What are our priorities? What would we want to investigate if we had the power, the time and the resources to investigate matters according to our own research agenda?

It would seem that we still must keep in the political arena as it is while we try to change it. If this is so, then we must find out ways to get involved in the beginning, at an early stage of the policy-setting process. In order to do this, we must be more politically organized.

We need time and space for brainstorming as well as exchanging information on research already undertaken. We need to share information, data, methodology, rumours, and intentions. It is essential that we consolidate our research priorities and programs in such a way as to complement rather than duplicate one another's work. This costs money and we need to strategies on a nationwide basis how to demand more, rather than allowing ourselves to be divided in our rush for the few crumbs which fall in our path.

Our virtual exclusion from the power network which runs things and makes decisions in Canada is no where as clear as it is when we see the final outcome of our briefs. It is no news that our only hope for any inclusion at all is through unity, as we showed in the battle on the Constitution. We must not settle for mere inclusion, however. We now must empower ourselves to set our own agenda and insist on more complete implementation. In order to do this, we must avail ourselves of our right to make long term predictive planning, and to form a united front on such matters as agenda setting, methodology, hiring and contracting practices and funding. We must do these things in order to focus our energies so that the policy research we do will have a much more substantial impact on government policy.

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