Today, we’re in Geneva joining other feminist lawyers and NGOs to speak up for BC women’s rights at the United Nations. As the international spotlight shines on Canada’s track record on women’s human rights, BC is caught in the glare — particularly around the ongoing crisis in child care.
West Coast LEAF’s Kendra Milne is joined in Geneva by Melanie Anderson representing the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC (CCCABC) to participate in the UN review of Canada’s federal and provincial progress under the international bill of women’s rights. West Coast LEAF and CCCABC made submissions and are meeting with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to highlight Canada’s lack of progress with respect to child care.
The UN human rights review process requires that countries submit a report setting out the progress they have made implementing the Convention. The federal government typically takes the lead in this report and – not surprising — it often paints a rosy view of the status of human rights across Canada. While areas within provincial jurisdiction are included, details are often scant.
The only counterpoint to Canada’s self-assessment are non-governmental organizations (typically non-profits), which provide a more realistic picture of women’s equality. We play a crucial role in ensuring that that the Committee has an accurate picture of what is actually happening for women on the ground in BC — although we get no funding or support from the provincial or federal government to attend.
Canada’s last review was in 2008. At that time the Committee expressed concern about a lack of progress in a variety of areas that are all or in part within the BC government’s responsibility. These included inadequate social assistance rates, a lack of affordable housing, stagnant employment equity, inadequate legal aid, and access to quality, affordable child care spaces. Sadly, since 2008, not a lot of progress has been made in these areas. In fact, BC stands as a worst-case provincial example of many of these areas.
Our CEDAW Report Card, released last week, notes repeatedly that the province is failing to make significant progress on equality for women and girls in BC, for example by failing to follow through on the recommendations of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and to ensure the safety and human rights of women and girls in prison.
As Kendra noted in a post for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s blog Policy Note, she and Melanie are in Geneva to ensure that the Committee understands the state of child care in Canada and the serious and vast implications of the current child care crisis for BC women’s human rights. These include the role that caregiving plays in the earnings gap between women and men, that fact that women are disproportionately in precarious and part-time employment, and the effects of child care (or the lack thereof) on women’s independence and safety within relationships. West Coast LEAF’s July 2016 High Stakes report details the impacts on the human rights on women and children.
In a province as prosperous as BC, little to no progress on women’s human rights is embarrassing. The UN CEDAW Committee asked repeatedly why progress has remained stagnant — or regressed — since Canada’s last review. Here’s hoping that this week’s spotlight on BC’s provokes meaningful action. In the coming weeks, the CEDAW Committee will issue concluding observations about Canada’s progress with respect to women’s rights.