Robyn Benson, PSAC

Status of women in Canada--2015


Canadian women are not faring well under Stephen Harper. A new UN Report covers a number of areas where our country has failed to measure up. And looking over the list, it’s hard to disagree. We’re being told what most Canadians already know.

Take the pay gap. In fairness, it predates Harper, but he didn’t exactly help to close it when his government, with Liberal support, passed the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act in 2009, which, like the Fair Elections Act, flatly contradicts its name. The pay equity provisions of the Canada Human Rights Act, that gave past and present PSAC members billions of dollars in compensation owed to them for years of pay discrimination, were abolished outright. Now, a basic human right has been made a negotiable issue, an affront to the whole concept of a Charter of Rights. And given the government’s “just say no” approach to collective bargaining, pay equity will be extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve. But that new law went further. Now only an individual is permitted to submit a complaint about pay discrimination. Unions can be fined $50,000 for daring to assist her.

Non-union employees and union employees alike are supposedly governed by Article 3 of the Act, which obliges Treasury Board and separate employers under federal jurisdiction (and bargaining agents for unionized employees) to “take measures” to provide “equitable compensation.” But, as the UN report notes, six years later no regulations have been put in place to determine how this will be done.

When it comes to violence against women, we have little to be proud of either. The Report says Canada is failing to enforce legislation, to provide avenues for complaint and protection against retaliation, to penalize the perpetrators appropriately, and even to compile relevant statistics.

Homing in on murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, the Report is deeply critical. It points out that they are “disproportionately affected by life-threatening forms of violence, homicides and disappearances,” and expresses concern about “the lack of information on measures taken to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible.” It also calls for a national inquiry on the issue, in consultation with indigenous women’s groups and the families involved, adding its voice to countless Canadian individuals and organizations that have been demanding just such inquiry—which Harper has so far stubbornly rejected.

The Report is a condemnation of the current government but it is not complete. Instead of bringing in an affordable national child care program, for example, the Harper government has doled out a flawed “Universal Child Care Benefit,” while abolishing the Child Tax Credit at the same time. The net amount does not give families the financial support they need for child care, and it does not create a single child care space to address the critical shortage.

Harper shut down 12 out of 16 Status of Women offices during his tenure. And he abolished the Court Challenges program, which helped women fight for their Charter rights.

The Conservative government, in short, has been bad news for women. The record speaks for itself. But this October 19, women from coast to coast to coast have a chance to speak right back at the ballot-box. I know I will.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on August 7, 2015 6:08 PM.

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