How do Canadian women’s rights measure up internationally? As it turns out, not so well.
It is tempting to think that the state of women’s inequality at home would not warrant international attention. And yet, last week the UN released its report on Canada’s compliance with the international treaty on women’s equality – and they are calling Canada out for its human rights record. Indeed, the Committee’s concerns reflect what we hear from women on a daily basis about the barriers they experience in their lives.
The UN Committee’s report follows the review of Canada’s progress on women’s human rights under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in late October. West Coast LEAF and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC attended the review in Geneva and made a submission to the Committee on the state of child care in Canada and in British Columbia.
The Concluding Observations make clear that the UN Committee is concerned about a lack of progress in Canada in a number of areas and provides Canadian federal and provincial governments with clear recommendations that set out what needs to be done to satisfy our international legal obligations regarding women’s equality.
In particular, the Committee expressed clear concern about the erosion of legal aid funding and resulting denial of access to justice, particularly for women. It’s no secret that BC has a legal aid crisis on its hands after more than a decade of underfunding and eroding services, and that crisis has serious consequences for women’s human rights.
The Committee recommended that Canada take steps to ensure that federal funds are used to ensure women have access to adequate legal aid in all provinces and territories. As an organization committed to gender equality in Canada, and in particular access to justice, West Coast LEAF will be holding governments to account for following through on this issue.
In addition, the Committee expressed clear concerns about a lack of affordable child care facilities and women’s concentration in part-time and low paid jobs as a result of their role as caregivers. The Committee recommended that Canada support women’s employment and address women’s poverty by ensuring that women have access to adequate and affordable child care facilities.
Based on our High Stakes report, we share the Committee’s concerns about the current child care crisis in Canada and its impacts on the human rights of women, so we were particularly pleased to see clear recommendations calling for increased access to affordable, high quality child care using a human rights framework. In BC, we already have a solution to address the UN’s concerns in the $10 a Day Plan. We just have to roll up our sleeves, commit to it, and get started on implementing it.
The full Concluding Observations, including other recommendations made the Committee, can be found here. Our submissions to the Committee can also be found here.
Read our 2016 CEDAW Report Card on how BC measures up on women’s equality.