2nd Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 152, Issue 31
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
Department for Women and Gender Equality Act
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise before you today to speak about Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Department for Women and Gender Equality Act. I want to thank Senator McCallum for her vision in tabling this bill.
This bill is as straightforward as women’s demands have always been: examining how a policy or process could affect men and women in different ways. But as simple as it is, this bill carries with it a huge transformation that will bring about a positive impact on the lives of every Canadian.
Senator McCallum focused in her moving speech during second reading on Indigenous women and how important this bill is to correct a path that has led to so many tragedies.
A gender-based analysis is intended to help the government identify gender considerations that could be relevant to proposed policies and bills. It aims to analyze the impact that the adoption of public projects would have on women while taking into account the different realities and needs of both genders. It also takes into account other factors like age, race and disability.
As part of ratifying the 1995 UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Canada committed to using gender-based analysis. However, the Auditor General concluded in a 2015 report that Canadian departments and agencies were using gender-based analysis in an incomplete or inconsistent way — if they conducted the analysis at all.
While the current Government of Canada committed to conducting gender-based analysis across departments and agencies, as Senator Boyer said in her speech, it is undertaken through the discretion and goodwill of government. Nothing binds the government to undertake the analysis. This is not sustainable nor enough to secure gender equality at all times.
Much of the reality of women’s lives is known to us but not always reflected in legislation. For example, we know that women’s employment rates continue to be below those of men. We know that women are more likely than men to work in part-time and temporary jobs. We know that women are more likely than men to have reduced hours or miss work due to caregiving responsibilities. We know that 26% of families led by single women live with low income compared to 13% of those led by single men. Women are most affected by earning gaps, including racialized, Black and Indigenous women.
In 2006, the Canadian Council for Refugees issued a Gender-Based Analysis of Settlement. The research conducted was filled with questions that need to be asked when planning initiatives or bills, yet I doubt we can actually imagine the impact we could make if we conducted a thorough analysis. The researchers raised questions very relevant to the gender dimension of certain topics of settlement.
Within the context of immigration, policies and practices affect different groups of refugees and immigrants in different ways. What a difference it would make if gender-based analysis was always carried out. We know the most critical situation is for single women or women who have been left widows and have nowhere else to turn. That needs to be part of gender-based analysis.
In these days, as gender and social inequities are laid bare because of the pandemic, this bill is crucial to ensure that women, especially Indigenous, racialized and Black women, are not overlooked.
A United Nations policy brief states that across every sphere, from health to economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.
These thoughts were echoed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. But for Indigenous women, matters were even worse. A report by the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and Dr. Pamela Palmater, chair of Indigenous governance at Ryerson University, shed light on the deteriorating socio-economic conditions, the increase in gender-based violence, exploitation, disappearances and murders of Indigenous women and girls.
Bill S-213 will ensure that any and all government policies will take into account such disproportionate effects on women. For example, it will ensure post-pandemic recovery plans, undergo analysis with regard to the effect on women and especially Indigenous, racialized and Black women. If we can enforce gender-based analysis on every bill, it will improve lives of all Canadians.
Senators, we recently found out that even though gender-based analysis was carried out by our government, it did not include racialized women. There is a lot of work to be done, and I want to thank Senator McCallum for this very important initiative. Thank you.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)