After months of collaboration with community groups, West Coast LEAF is excited to release our first ever BC Gender Equality Report Card. Like the CEDAW Report Card we published between 2009 and 2018, the Gender Equality Report Card assesses the BC government’s recent progress on advancing gender equality and meeting globally recognized human rights standards. Unlike the CEDAW Report Card, the Gender Equality Report Card includes a substantial focus on inequalities based on gender identity and expression and is grounded in firsthand knowledge shared by members of community groups: PACE Society, Urban Native Youth Association, and the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism. We are grateful to all those who shared their expertise to guide our research and analysis, and to our generous project funders, the Law Foundation of BC and Health Sciences Association of BC.

The shift in approach with this year’s Report Card aligns with the expansion of our mandate announced in the fall of 2018: from advancing women’s equality to advancing equality for all who face gender discrimination, including trans and cis women, trans people of other genders, Two-Spirit people, non-binary people, and gender non-conforming people. While announcing this change was a big step for West Coast LEAF, many more steps will be needed as we learn, grow, and seek strategies for putting our expanded mandate into practice. As a beginning step in this process, we created this Gender Equality Report Card, which we hope builds on the strengths of our earlier CEDAW Report Card while also addressing some of its limitations.

While recognizing that BC has taken some steps in the right direction between December 2018 and early April 2020, the BC Gender Equality Report Card also finds that many of these steps have left marginalized women and gender-diverse people behind.

In the area of health, BC earned a C+, the highest grade in this year’s Report Card. The provincial government made significant strides in making gender-affirming surgeries more accessible, yet serious barriers to transition-related health care remain. And while BC’s move to introduce a safe drug supply during the COVID-19 pandemic is critically important, a sustained commitment is needed to ensure access to life-saving harm reduction services. Finally, BC has yet to cover the costs of contraception, despite evidence that this measure would be both cost-effective and socially beneficial.

In the area of justice for people who are criminalized, BC received a D-, the lowest grade in this year’s Report Card. The passage of the Community Safety Amendment Act was a backwards step for BC: this law allows neighbours to police one another and leaves marginalized communities, particularly Indigenous women, more vulnerable to eviction. Moreover, longstanding systemic injustices in BC’s prison system remain unchecked, such as grossly disproportionate rates of incarceration of Indigenous women, and violations of the human rights of transgender inmates, especially women.

In the words of Tami Starlight, an organizer with the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism who shared insights for the Report Card, “The Gender Equality Report Card presents the sorely needed analysis of the ways in which people who are marginalized based on their gender (including women, Two-Spirit people, nonbinary people, and gender non-conforming people) continue to face violence and discrimination in our communities. In order to enact solutions that address root issues, the voices, experiences, and leadership of multiply marginalized communities must be centred and prioritized, especially Black and Indigenous trans sex working communities.”

Do you agree that the BC government needs to listen to those communities who currently find it difficult or impossible to access the services and systems that should be supporting them? We hope you will read and share our Gender Equality Report Card and the Executive Summary to help push for change. Also, stay tuned for a social media campaign and webinar based on the Gender Equality Report Card!