children playing

Reality check: Women in Canada and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action -- Fifteen years on

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
A Canadian Civil Society Response
Canadian Labour Congress and Feminist Alliance For International Action (FAFIA)
Publication Date: 
6 Jan 2011


The findings of this report show that Canada is falling behind. Once ranked 7th in the world for closing the gap between women and men, Canada is now ranked 73rd. The decline is no accident. There has been a systematic erosion of the human rights of women and girls in Canada during the period covered by this report and the current UN review: 2004-2009. The changes to Status of Women Canada, the shifts in policy and programming within the federal government, and the government's response to the economic crisis have been felt by the most vulnerable women and girls in Canada.

Women in Canada have a higher rate of poverty overall than men. One in three Aboriginal women, single mothers, and women with disabilities lives in poverty in Canada. One in five single women over 65 live in poverty.

One in three women in Canada will experience violence in her lifetime. Women are four times as likely to be killed by their spouse as are men. 83% of victims of spousal violence are female and estimates suggest that as many as 70% of incidents of spousal violence are never reported. Rates of violence against racialized and Aboriginal women are significantly higher. Over 500 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing. Women living in remote communities in the North experience higher rates of violence and have far less access to support services than do women in the southern regions of the country.

As women and girls in Canada continue to see their safety and well-being threatened, the organizations that provide those women and girls with an opportunity to bring their concerns forward have been eliminated, or silenced by new funding regulations. Between 2006 and 2008, the word "equality" was removed from the mandate of Status of Women Canada, 43% of the budget of SWC was cut, 12 out of 16 regional offices were closed and approximately 50% of staff were laid off. The criteria for funding from SWC was changed to preclude support for advocacy or lobbying for law reform. This meant that important national women's rights organizations dedicated to advocacy, law reform and systemic change were forced to close down.

One of the few areas where progress can be seen is in higher education. Women are better educated than they were in 1995 and they are increasingly enrolling in programs such as law and medicine, where they were previously under-represented. However, even women with professional degrees in Canada still earn 79 cents on every dollar their male peers earn (only slightly better than the overall wage gap, which stands at 70.5 percent). Moreover, women in the federal public service are no longer able to make human rights claims when they receive unequal pay for equal work as a result of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, passed in 2009.

This report calls on all Canadians to condemn the policies that have resulted in the deaths of Aboriginal women, the abandonment of women living in poverty, and the curtailing of the democratic representation of women's needs and interests. It calls on Canadians to work together to create a Canada where women can live free from violence and poverty, where women receive equal pay for equal work, and where girls can look forward to having the same opportunities as boys in all spheres of achievement.