The Conservative government is closing down most of its Status of Women Canada offices, saying they are not doing enough to serve women directly.

Twelveof the agency's 16 offices will close by April 1, Heritage Minister Bev Oda said Wednesday.

"What these offices don't necessarily provide is the help directly to women. There was a lot of lobbying groups, there was a lot of advocacy," Oda said.

"We don't need to separate the men from the women in this country.… This government as a whole is responsible to develop policies and programs that address the needs of both men and women."

Oda said the closures will save on unnecessary rent and utility bills, savings that she said will free up more than $700,000 for women's programs even after$5 million in funding cuts.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada said themove will cut61 of 131 jobs at the Status of Women.

Oda said women in regions will be able to get service from offices of the Canadian Heritage Department. Liberal critic Maria Minna, citing a letter from Oda, said there will be four offices left as of April 1:

  • Edmonton, serving Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon.
  • Montreal, serving Quebec and Nunavut.
  • Moncton, N.B., serving the Atlantic region.
  • Ottawa, serving Ontario and national organizations.

Status of Women Canada works to advance women's economic equality and human rights, and eliminate violence against women.

Minna called the move "reprehensible."

"Canadian women are still only earning 71 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts, more and more women are living in poverty, and we are still waiting for the government to create child-care spaces," she said.

"With the closure of these regional offices, the government is taking away one of the very few remaining resources for women."

Minna said the closures are a clear sign that the Conservatives plan to completely dismantle Status of Women Canada.

But Oda insisted that women will be better served despite the budget cuts and the office closings.

"I'm very surprised that the opposition would say, 'Put money back into inefficiencies,' when you can find inefficiencies and streamline the operations."

With files from the Canadian Press