Public Values

Canada falls to 25th in Gender Gap Index, down from 7th in 2004

UN has strongly criticized Canada on women's poverty, violence to Aboriginal women & girls.

Higher education for women has increased but other achievements eroded past 15 yearsIn response to two indexes that rate Canada as failing dramatically in achieving equality for women, a new report has just been released, "Reality Check: Women in Canada and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Fifteen Years On". Issued by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (CFAIA), the report will be presented at the United Nations in New York in March.

"Canadian women have lost ground in many areas in the past 15 years," says Barbara Byers, CLC Executive Vice-president. "Our government has sent a report to the United Nations that paints a rosy picture on women"s equality in Canada. We have written our own document and it is a reality check on what the government is saying."

The UN meeting in March will evaluate progress, identify challenges, and recommend policies to promote gender equality and the advancement of women. This year holds special significance because it marks the 15th anniversary of the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing Declaration (link below).

Teachers see the effects of poverty first hand in the children they teach, according to Mary-Lou Donnelly, President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. "As teachers, we see the ravages of poverty every day in our classrooms, and rates are increasing at an alarming rate while the support mechanisms are disappearing or non-existent," she said. "With more women and girls living in poverty and being denied fundamental human rights, how can we build for a strong and prosperous Canadian future?"

  "Although Canada has made commitments to implement equal pay for work of equal value, the federal government hasn't lived up to its commitments. A case in point is the federal government's removal of the right to pay equity for federal public sector workers in 2009, with the adoption of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act."

Though Canada's achievements towards women's equality over the past decades have been considerable, for example, women's participation in higher education has increased since the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in 1995, during the period of 2004-2009, women's achievements in all twelve areas of critical concern outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action have slowed or been turned back. Canada no longer compares favourably against other nations in assessments of gender equality and the gender gap.

For example, in 2004 the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, Canada was ranked 7th. In the 2009 Gender Gap Index, Canada ranked 25th. In 2009, Canada was ranked 73rd in the UN Gender Disparity Index. Canada has been strongly criticized by several UN human rights bodies on the issues of women's poverty and the endemic violence against Aboriginal women and girls.

Patty Ducharme, National Executive Vice-President, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), adds, "Although Canada has made commitments to implement equal pay for work of equal value, the federal government hasn’t lived up to its commitments. A case in point is the federal government's removal of the right to pay equity for federal public sector workers in 2009, with the adoption of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. We raise this issue in this report and it will be front and centre for us next week at the United Nations in New York."

The report focusses on what is claims is a sharp decrease in institutional and political support by the Government of Canada for the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls during the period 2004 - 2009. Examples include:

• The elimination of the phrase "gender equality" from the mandate of Canada's primary institution responsible for gender equality in Canada: Status of Women

• The closing of twelve of the sixteen Status of Women offices, on the principles that women's and men's issues do not need to be separated

• The reallocation of funding from organizations that support advocacy for women's human rights to organizations that provide front-line services only

• The elimination of funding to the court challenges program, a program created to provide assistance to court cases related to equality rights guaranteed under Canada's constitution

• The elimination in 2006 of the funding agreements that had been negotiated with provinces and territories to provide five billion dollars for childcare and early learning programs

• The decrease in levels of financial and human resources specifically committed to gender-equality projects in the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs

Adds the executive director CFAIA, co-sponsor of the report, Kate McInturff, "Five years ago, Canada was ranked amongst the top ten countries in the world for its achievements in women's human rights; in 2009 Canada had fallen to 73rd in the UN Gender Disparity Index. Changes to gender architecture, shifts in policy and programming within the government, and the government’s response to the economic crisis have been felt by the most vulnerable women and girls in Canada."

Links and sources
  Reality Check: Women in Canada (pdf download)
  Beijing Platform 1995

Posted: February 23, 2010

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