The federal election campaign is underway, and voting will take place on Monday, September 20, 2021. This election is happening during a uniquely challenging time. Our communities are struggling to cope with the climate catastrophe, continued colonialism and dispossession of Indigenous peoples, systemic discrimination in policing, health care, and other institutions, and increasing economic and social inequality in the COVID-19 pandemic. Women and particularly Indigenous and racialized women, Two-Spirit people, intersex people, gender non-conforming people, trans people of all genders (not only women), and people with non-binary gender identities continue to be left behind by federal policies and inaction on critical issues that must no longer be ignored.
In the next four years, we must see the rights of Indigenous people respected, and a real commitment to advancing equality and ending gender-based violence and discrimination. We have identified three issues we want to see all federal parties prioritize:
1) Health and wellbeing for Indigenous children, youth, and families by implementing the Spirit Bear Plan, 2) Economic equality and the right to be free from poverty by providing universal access to an effective social safety net, and 3) The right of people marginalized because of their gender to live free from violence.
A person’s hand dropping their voting card into a box
Photo Credit: Element5 Digital on Unsplash
1. Prioritize the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children, youth, and families by implementing the Spirit Bear Plan
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society’s Spirit Bear Plan highlights the long-standing and discriminatory funding gap between public services for children and families living on reserve, and those received by others in Canada. It calls on the federal government to immediately cease its discriminatory funding of First Nations child and family services, as well as address the gaps in the federal provision of services like education, health, water, and child welfare.
Though efforts have been made in recent years to improve the ability of the current child welfare system to support Indigenous families to remain together, the reality is that many Indigenous families continue to experience the child welfare system in the same way their ancestors have: as one that perpetuates colonialism and genocide under the guise of protecting Indigenous children. Federal parties must commit to prioritizing the wisdom and expertise of Indigenous leaders, families, Elders, and child welfare advocates so that the current child welfare system can be transformed from an ongoing colonial intervention system to one that enables Indigenous children, families, and communities to thrive. Federal parties must also prioritize kinship families, many of whom are Indigenous and made up of grandparents, aunts, cousins, older siblings, and other relatives who are raising children, who are demanding fair and equal access to financial support during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
A photo of Spirit Bear sitting on a stool next to a leather book. A human hand is propping the book up in the photo.
Photo Credit: First Nations Caring Society
2. Prioritize economic equality and the right to be free from poverty by providing universal access to an effective social safety net
All the federal parties must commit to removing barriers to economic equality, including by committing to an intersectional feminist economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that eradicates the poverty experienced by many women, Two-Spirit people, intersex people, gender non-conforming people, trans people of all genders, and people with non-binary gender identities. About 13% of BC women live in poverty, and 16% of racialized women in BC live in poverty, higher than the rate for either racialized men or white women. This disparity is even more pronounced for Indigenous people, seniors, LBTQIA2S+ people, and people who are disabled. It has been estimated that 25-40% of LGBTQIA2S+ youth in Canada are homeless, and research indicates that the median income of trans Ontarians was just $15,000. The critical need for affordable, adequate, and accessible childcare, financial supports that eradicate poverty, and advancements in pay equity must be prioritized in this election.
Photo of a person holding a child’s hand. They are walking on a cobble stone street.
Photo Credit: Sai De Silva on Unsplash
3. Prioritize the right of people marginalized because of their gender to live free from violence by implementing a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, and the Calls for Justice from the MMIWG2S National Inquiry Report.
Data collected by the federal department of Women and Gender Equality suggests that rates of intimate partner violence nationwide have increased by 20 to 30% during the COVID-19 pandemic, part of a global trend that the United Nations has called a shadow pandemic. This surge in violence has disproportionately harmed Indigenous women, girls, and gender non-conforming people, one in five of whom faced intimate partner violence in the first few months of the pandemic in Canada.
Ending gender-based violence must be a priority for all federal parties. Intimate partner violence, sexual assault and exploitation, and cyber misogyny must be robustly addressed through cross-sectoral strategies and funding allocations. Survivors of gender-based violence must have access to both justice-sector and health-based supports. The federal parties must commit to implementing a coordinated strategy to address gender-based violence that sets standards for equal protection across all jurisdictions through a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. Moreover, the federal parties must commit to implementing the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women based on the meaningful inclusion of Indigenous advocates and agencies.
Photo of the back of a person at a march holding an orange sign above their head that reads “Defend and Protect #QueerKidsAB”
Photo Credit: Denin Lawley on Unsplash
If you share these critical priorities, please join us by acting today.
You can use this easy tool to email your candidates to ask them where they stand, and to demand action to advance the safety, well-being, and human rights of all people who face gender-based discrimination.