Advancing gender equality
Gender equality exists when people of all genders – women, men, trans and gender diverse people – are equal in every sphere and can achieve their full potential in society. It affects and benefits people of all backgrounds in all their diversity.
In Canada, the foundation of gender equality can be found in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the right to equality is protected by federal gender equality laws.
Tools and indicators have been developed over the years to help assess systemic inequalities, such as the Gender-based Analysis Plus, and to measure progress on gender equality, such as the Gender Results Framework.
Benefits of gender equality
Advancing gender equality leads to countless benefits for women, men and gender diverse communities. Here are some of the ways that gender equality creates a better world, for all of us.
Fairness, equality and justice are the foundation of human rights. From the early suffragists to the activists of the #MeToo movement, the idea that gender equality is first and foremost the right thing to do has inspired and galvanized advocates around the world.
Gender equality is not only the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing to do. Now more than ever, as we see the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, women and gender diverse communities – who have been more likely to experience unemployment and economic hardship during this unprecedented time – are more susceptible to poverty and food insecurity. The pandemic has also contributed to increased cases of some forms of gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence (IPV), based on data from service providers and police forces. Advancing gender equality will help create a thriving, prosperous country for everyone, and unlock Canada’s economic potential.
Health and happiness
Equality is the foundation from which everyone can all lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. From eliminating discrimination and harmful stereotypes to preventing gender-based violence, advancing gender equality contributes to a higher quality of life for everyone.
Peace and security
Gender equality has the power to create a more peaceful world. Involving women and gender diverse communities in the decision-making process, from peace operations to responses to climate change, helps achieve long-term, sustainable peace.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, and gender equality helps create a world without limits. When steps are taken to advance gender equality, barriers are removed to create a world of infinite possibilities.
Many women still face barriers to economic security and prosperity. Recent initiatives to support diverse communities in this area include:
- convening the Task Force on Women in the Economy to help more women get back into the workforce and to ensure a feminist, intersectional response to the pandemic and recovery
- working to increase the number of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as the skilled trades and other well-paying fields to close the gender gap
- investing in women-led businesses to provide women entrepreneurs with access to financing, talent, networks, and expertise
- supporting women’s economic security through investing in the creation of a Canada-wide learning and childcare system as well as flexibilities for parents raising children, including by strengthening the Canada Child Benefit so that it continues to help families that need it most
- taking action to address the gender wage gap through pay transparency measures in the federally regulated sector, moving forward with a proactive pay equity regime, developing the Employment Strategy for Persons with Disabilities, and undertaking modernization of the Employment Equity Act
- requiring a gender statement in the federal budget to examine the gendered impact of budget measures
- investing in funding for the Union Training and Innovation Program to help apprentices from underrepresented groups begin and succeed in skilled trade careers
- investing $40 billion in the National Housing Strategy to help reduce homelessness and improve housing for Canadians in need, with at least 25% of that investment supporting women, girls, and their families
- supporting housing needs for smaller rural communities and marginalized communities to address homelessness and to improve seniors’ quality of life
- working to establish the Menstrual Equity Fund to help make menstrual products available to those in need
Gender-based violence continues to be a significant and preventable barrier to gender equality. Recent actions to address this barrier include:
- investing $300 million over three years, starting 2020–2021, in emergency funding for organizations providing support and services to individuals experiencing gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic
- to date, over $235 million has been distributed to over 1,400 organizations, including shelters, sexual assault centres, women’s organizations, and other organizations to help ensure that over 1.3 million women and children experiencing violence and abuse across the country have a place to turn to
- providing $55 million over five years, starting in 2021–2022, through Budget 2021 to bolster the capacity of Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ organizations to provide gender-based violence prevention, and $11 million over five years for gender-based violence research and knowledge mobilization
- committing $539.3 million over five years, starting in 2022–2023, through Budget 2022 to work with provinces and territories in order to advance the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence
- working with provincial and territorial ministers responsible for the status of women and endorsing the Joint Declaration for a Canada free of Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
- developing and implementing the five-year National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking
- passing legislation to ensure that federally regulated workplaces, including Parliament Hill, are free from harassment and sexual violence
- investing over $200 million across the federal government to prevent gender-based violence, support victims and survivors as well as their families, and create more responsive legal and justice systems
- investing over $13 million in over 100 commemoration initiatives to help honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, including 2SLGBTQQIA+ people
- making statistical and research reports available to the public from three important large-scale surveys: the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, the Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population, and the Survey on Sexual Misconduct at Work
Advancing gender equality requires the elimination of discrimination on the basis of sex, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. Recent initiatives to advance gender equality include:
- announcing Canada’s first Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan… Building our future, with pride
- changing the gender designation in Canadian passports to support 2SLGBTQI+ rights and permit people who do not identify as female or male to acquire passports that better reflect their gender identity
- continuing Canada’s participation as a member state of the Equal Rights Coalition, the first intergovernmental network to promote and protect the human rights of 2SLGBTQI+ people around the world
- providing $100 million over five years through Budget 2022 to support the implementation of the Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan
- investing $20 million to build stronger capacity and networks for 77 2SLGBTQI+ community organizations in order to advance 2SLGBTQI+ equality across Canada; an additional $7.5 million was announced in 2022 to extend the fund
- authorizing Canadian Blood Services’ submission to introduce sexual behaviour-based screening that applies to all blood and plasma donors, regardless of gender or sexual orientation
- passing legislation to eliminate the practice of conversion therapy
- announcing over $30 million to improve socioeconomic outcomes for 2SLGBTQI+ people in developing countries
- including major investments in Pride events across Canada in the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy
- announcing increased support for 2SLGBTQI+ refugees fleeing violence and persecution through the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership
- setting aside $2 million over two years under the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program for Pride and 2SLGBTQI+ events
- providing $15 million over three years, starting in 2021–2022, for a new, distinct 2SLGBTQI+ Projects Fund dedicated to supporting community-informed initiatives to overcome key issues facing 2SLGBTQI+ communities
Canada is proud to be recognized as a world leader in advancing gender equality. Recent initiatives in this area include:
- continuing to advance gender equality in Canada and abroad in the context of the Generation Equality Forum, namely by leading the Action Coalition on Feminist Movements and Leadership; Canada has been working with partners, including other countries, civil society, and the private sector, to implement concrete actions and commitments in order to make progress in this area
- supporting the feminist movement in Canada by engaging Canadian civil society organizations (CSOs) on key gender equality issues
- participating in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) and negotiating the Agreed Conclusions, where we help shape the work being done to advance the rights of women and girls around the world, and where there is meaningful engagement with Canadian CSOs
- submitting Canada’s tenth report under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
- supporting efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment in the G7, G20, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- continuing Canada’s participation as a member of the Inter-American Commission of Women within the Organization of American States
- strengthening bilateral relations with the United States through exchanges on key areas of interest, such as addressing GBV and implementing Gender-Based Analysis Plus
- working with Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to advance the shared goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment by exchanging information, good practices, and strategies and aligning efforts in international fora, such as the UNCSW
- strengthening bilateral relations with Chile by signing the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment
Intergovernmental relations are key to advancing gender equality across Canada. Women and Gender Equality Canada works with its counterparts in all provinces and territories through the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial (FPT) Forum of Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women.
- The FPT Forum provides a unique opportunity for FPT ministers to lead and influence change on current and emerging issues related to the status of women in Canada, which can include gender diversity and gender equality, taking into account the varying scope of each minister’s mandate.
- In 2020 and 2021, the Forum represented an important platform for ministers to discuss and share information and expertise on how best to respond to COVID-19’s gendered and intersectional impacts.
- In January 2021, the FPT ministers responsible for the status of women endorsed the Joint Declaration for a Canada free of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), reiterating the long-standing commitment of the FPT governments in the fight against GBV and the advancement of gender equality for people across Canada.
- The FPT Forum also provides a venue for FPT ministers and national Indigenous leaders and representatives (NILRs) to discuss priority issues related to Indigenous women. Ministers and NILRs have met annually since 2017 in advance of annual FPT ministerial meetings.
Leadership and democratic participation
Inclusive participation by diverse women, girls, and people from 2SLGBTQI+ communities is essential for promoting gender equality and diversity, and for improving the economic, social, and democratic lives of Canadians. Recent initiatives include:
- launching the 50 – 30 Challenge to promote gender equality and diversity in corporate Canada
- investing $100 million over five years through Women and Gender Equality Canada’s Feminist Response and Recovery Fund to fund projects that will promote women in leadership, end violence against women and girls, and improve women’s economic security and prosperity
- delivering a formal apology for the historic purge of 2SLGBTQI+ members from the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and civil service
- establishing a new merit-based, open, and transparent approach to selecting high-quality candidates for approximately 4,000 Governor in Council and ministerial appointments to commissions, boards, Crown corporations, agencies, and tribunals across the country in order to reflect Canada’s diversity and close the gender gap
- amending corporate governance laws to support an increase in women’s participation on corporate boards and in senior management positions
- amending the Public Service Employment Act to strengthen diversity and inclusion and to address the biases and barriers that equity-seeking groups experience
- developing and implementing an action plan to increase the representation of women, Black and racialized Canadians, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, and 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians in hiring, appointments, and leadership development within the public service
- appointing women to key leadership positions, such as the Governor General, Government House Leader, RCMP Commissioner, Commandant of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defense College, Judge Advocate General, and President of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
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