Today, on Human Rights Day and the final day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we have released our report card assessing how the BC government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected gender equality.
The COVID-19 BC Gender Equality Report Card explores the gendered impacts of BC’s pandemic response in six areas: access to justice; economic security; freedom from gender-based violence; health care; justice for people who are criminalized; and the rights of parents, children, and youth.
Although BC has introduced some critical pandemic measures, our report card finds that many of these steps have excluded the very communities facing the most severe gender-based discrimination, violence, and poverty.
The voices of marginalized communities have largely been missing from the mainstream public conversation about the pandemic. That’s why we were incredibly grateful to hear directly from community about the impacts of the pandemic and of government policy in their lives.
This report card demonstrates a key aspect of the transformational change work that we believe is necessary to bring about a more equal and just world: those closest to the harms have the solutions. We need to listen and act.
“COVID has exposed and shone a giant spotlight on how our society is so stratified and unequal.”
–Community dialogue participant
The highest grade in the report card is a B- for Economic Security. BC put in place some essential supports for people who were financially impacted by the pandemic, such as workers who lost their jobs. However, the supports were grossly inadequate for those facing the deepest poverty, including those who did not have full-time employment to begin with—often women and Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people.
BC entered the pandemic with a legal aid system already in crisis, especially for people fleeing family violence. The report card gave a D for Access to Justice because many were left without legal remedies at the same time as gender-based violence has spiked. Court closures, the subsequent move to remote hearings, a lack of adequate information to navigate changes, and disparities in access to technology have worsened the already uneven playing field of access to justice, especially for Indigenous communities and those in rural or remote areas of the province.
BC also received a D for Justice for People who are Criminalized. It is particularly unacceptable that incarcerated Indigenous women and Two-Spirit, trans, and gender-diverse people continue to be harmed by solitary confinement and separation from family and community—harms that have only intensified during the global pandemic.
Our report card shows how the pandemic has deepened existing cracks in the system. We know that short-term solutions will not address the root causes of systemic inequality and exclusion for those who are marginalized because of their gender. The pandemic is not a public health crisis narrowly defined. Its impacts are felt broadly, so we need to take a broader view, one that includes safety, freedom from violence, family well-being, and economic security, as well as access to an inclusive and comprehensive health care system.
This report card is a result of a collaboration with grassroots community organizations and numerous volunteers. We offer heartfelt thanks to the community dialogue participants, research volunteers, community reviewers, and our generous project funders, the Law Foundation of BC and Health Sciences Association of BC. We’re especially grateful for the rich and urgent insights from dialogues with members of PACE Society, Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA), and the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA) that ground the report card in firsthand community knowledge.
“We need people with lived experience making decisions and delivering services.”
–Community dialogue participant
Read the COVID-19 BC Gender Equality Report Card.