COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN TAKES UP REPORTS BY CANADA
COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN TAKES UP REPORTS BY CANADA
COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN TAKES UP REPORTS BY CANADA19970128 Growth in Women's Employment, Violence against Women among Issues Discussed
The enhancement of women's economic autonomy and the elimination of systemic violence against women and children were two future priorities of the Canadian Government, according to Louise Bergeron-de Villiers, head of that country's delegation, as she presented this morning the third and fourth periodic reports on Canada's implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
In introductory remarks to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Convention's monitoring body, the Coordinator of Status of Women of Canada, said the growth in women's employment had easily been one of the most significant changes in Canadian society over the last 20 years. However, economic restructuring and social change were creating opportunities for some women and hardships for others.
She went on to point out that, while women represented 45 per cent of all paid workers in 1994, the average earnings of women continued to be significantly lower. In 1995, women employed on a full-time basis earned an average of just 73 per cent of the average earnings of their male counterparts, and the majority of employed women remained concentrated in occupations which traditionally had been undervalued and lower paid.
One of the federal initiatives aimed at encouraging women's economic autonomy, she stated, was a package of amendments to the Employment Equity Act of 1996. The new legislation broadened the application of the Act to include federal public service, as well as federally regulated companies. This year, a child support legislation package would come into effect. A long-term initiative involved the measurement and valuing of unpaid work, which would be completed in 1998 and directed towards a framework for evaluating the policy implications of unpaid work.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 1a - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
The elimination of systemic violence against women was a key objective of the Federal Plan for Gender Equality, she emphasized. Violence against women had its roots in social and economic inequality, and cut across all social, racial and economic boundaries. The Government had undertaken extensive research to understand the dimensions of violence against women in Canada through a landmark 1993 study by the Canadian Panel on Violence against Women -- the first of its kind in the world.
Among the efforts to bring about improvements in the difficult lives of Aboriginal women, she continued, was the five-year study by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which released its final report in November 1996. With more than 400 recommendations, the report urged a process of renewal that would break the cycle of dependency, lost productivity and ever- growing social expenditures of many of Canada's Aboriginal communities. In particular, the Commission recommended that Aboriginal women be specifically included in any process to define the powers of Aboriginal governments and that they be assured of full and equal participation in decision-making bodies.
The delegation also delivered a detailed response to written questions submitted by Committee experts on an article-by-article basis. The questions applied to the provincial and territorial, as well as the federal government.
On the question of whether there had been a backlash against women because of legislative guarantees of their equality and their assertion of those guarantees, Mary Glen, Director General of Status of Women observed that, generally, there was increasingly good support for the equality concerns of women by institutions and the general public. Instead of a backlash, the jurisprudence had, in fact, had a beneficial effect for women and contributed to a public awareness of women's issues and a more positive view of their status in society.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to conclude its examination of the periodic reports of Canada.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to take up the third and fourth periodic reports of Canada (documents CEDAW/C/CAN/3 and 4) on its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which the country ratified in 1981.
The Committee, made up of experts who serve in their personal capacity, is charged with monitoring the implementation of the Convention, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, opened for signature in March 1980 and entered into force in 1981. To date, the treaty has been ratified by 154 countries. It requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights. In pursuing the Convention's goals, States parties are encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures designed to promote equality between women and men.
According to the report, in Canada, a federal State comprised of 10 provinces, the responsibility for the Convention is shared by the federal Government, the provincial governments and, following a delegation of authority by the Canadian Parliament, the territorial governments. The fourth periodic report contains a review of applicable jurisprudence and a review of measures adopted by the federal Government. The other two parts of the report review measures taken by the provincial and territorial governments.
The report states that in August 1993, the Court Challenges Program mentioned in previous reports was reinstated and its funding restored, following an attempt to terminate it for budgetary reasons. The Program provides financial assistance for test cases of national significance put forward on behalf of or by groups or individuals that will clarify Canada's language and equality rights under the Constitution. The federal Government also announced in 1994 that amendments would be proposed to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Other legislative measures include an act to amend the Criminal Code on sexual assault which would test the admissibility of evidence of a complainant's sexual activity in trials of sexual offences and sets out strict procedures to be followed, says the report. The Act also defines for the first time the concept of consent, as it relates to sexual assault. An amendment to the Young Offenders Act prohibits criminal harassment (stalking) and creates a new offence for attempting to remove a child resident in Canada with the intent of committing a sexual offence or assault against a child. Other related measures clarify the types of bail conditions imposed on offenders, including situations of family violence, and provide better protection to children from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation linked to
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 4 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
pornography. "Hate crime" was also made a factor in sentencing, as part of the overall Sentencing Reform Bill.
On immigration, the fourth report says new guidelines on women refugees were issued in March 1993, which acknowledge gender-related refugee claims. New federal measures were introduced to make language training more accessible to immigrants. The Live-in Caregiver Program enables people to come to Canada as caregivers who work and live in Canadian homes (the majority of applicants are women). Immigration regulations were changed to require applicants to have at least 12 months experience in employment related to the job being offered in Canada or six months full-time training.
In 1991, the Government established the Canadian Panel on Violence against Women. It delivered a final report in 1993 which contained historical information, an analytical framework and almost 500 recommendations pertaining to all sectors of society. It addressed violence-specific issues and cast the issue of women's victimization in a framework of overall gender equality. Other initiatives involved specific media efforts and a national day of remembrance and action on violence against women. Canada has launched two major international initiatives to counter violence against women. One led to the adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the other contributed to the appointment of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women.
On employment, the report notes that Parliament had considered a report which contained 31 recommendations to expand the Employment Equity Act to include the federal public service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Armed Forces, Parliament and all federal agencies, boards and commissions. A stronger enforcement role for the Canadian Human Rights Commission was also recommended. The federal Government has undertaken a major reform of the public service job classification system. The report highlights a new Broadcasting Act which calls for equal programming and employment opportunities in the Canadian broadcasting system.
On women in public life, the report states that 31.2 per cent of persons appointed to federal agencies, boards and commissions are women. Women accounted for 122 of 950 federally appointed judges in 1994, an increase of some 3 per cent from 1991. A slight increase to 11 per cent was achieved by women in the Armed Forces. Progress has also been registered in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and in the recruitment of women in the foreign service.
One of the most significant developments in higher education in recent decades, the report continues, has been the increased participation of women who, in 1993, represented 52 per cent of full-time students and 62 per cent of part-time students. Strategies were also developed to encourage greater
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 5 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
participation of girls and women in mathematics, science and technology.
The report lists a number of studies on women's educational issues such as women's training needs, which examined those needs and practices and offered generic principles for use in the elaboration of bridging and skill development programmes for women.
In 1993, the federal Government amended unemployment insurance legislation to include those persons who claim harassment as the reason for quitting a job. Awareness training packages were also developed on sexual harassment in connection with the amended law.
The Canadian Government also recognizes the importance of better understanding and meeting the needs of women-owned businesses. Several relevant studies of women entrepreneurs were undertaken. Women now represent about 25 per cent of business owners in Canada. In recent years, women have been starting their own businesses at three times the rate of men and succeeding more often, at a time when small business is credited with creating most of the new jobs in the country in the past decade.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission continues to promote respect for the equal pay provisions of the Human Rights Act. A number of individual and collective equal pay complaints are currently before the Commission. The federal Government in 1994 contributed approximately $680 million to the cost of child care services for parents. Canada has developed a second five-year plan of action which sets out health policies and programme direction through 1990-1995. The Women's Health Bureau will coordinate the development of a national health strategy. Specific women's health initiatives dealt with such issues as breast cancer and tobacco use.
Women in Canada, as in other countries, carry out a disproportionate burden of unpaid work. To address that issue, an international conference on measurement and valuation of unpaid work was held in Ottawa in 1993.
On women and the family, the third periodic report, which covers the period from January 1987 to December 1990, describes the Family Violence Initiative. Launched in 1988 and extended in 1991, the Initiative received an allocation from the federal Government of $136 million. The Initiative addresses violence against women, child abuse and abuse of seniors. It seeks to increase public awareness and prevention efforts; strengthen the federal legal framework; provide services to Aboriginal people; strengthen intervention and treatment services; increase the availability of emergency shelters and second-stage housing for victims; and establish a solid information base of the extent of family violence. The report also lists the major components of the Initiative.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 6 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
The third periodic report also contains a statistical overview of the situation of women in Canada, as well as sections devoted to measures taken at the federal, provincial and territorial levels. Both reports provide a detailed account of measures taken at the provincial and territorial levels on an article-by-article basis. An example of the specific measures taken at those levels would be the efforts of the provincial government in New Brunswick to review curriculum material to ensure that it is stereotype-free and portrays women in a positive light. The New Brunswick Department of Education developed advocacy material encouraging female students to pursue non-traditional careers in the fields of mathematics and science.
Another example of provincial measures is in Quebec, the fourth report states, where the new civil code was passed in 1991, which governs persons and relations between persons and property. It confirms the family law reforms of 1980 and 1989 concerning the partition of family patrimony, which enshrine the equality of women. In 1993, Quebec adopted a new policy on the status of women. To give women greater independence, the Government intends to provide women with active support so they can control the conditions of their social, personal and occupational lives. They will act in four areas: financial independence, respect for physical and psychological integrity, elimination of violence against women and recognition and development of their collective contribution. The policy will be implemented over 10 years with the first stage involving 135 commitments by the Government over 3 years.
Introduction of Report
LOUISE BERGERON-DE VILLIERS, Coordinator for Status of Women of Canada, said her country was currently facing new domestic and global socio-economic challenges. In order to best meet the needs of Canadians, the arrangements among federal, provincial and territorial governments were being reviewed through a social reform and renewal process currently under way. As part of that process, all governments had agreed that social policy must take into account the differential impact social programming can have on men and women.
She went on to say that Canada's national machinery for advancing women's equality was well-established. Both the federal Government and all the provinces and territories had a Minister or Secretary of State responsible for the status of women, and had some form of women's bureau or agency, which helped provide gender analysis and policy advice on existing or proposed government legislation, policies and programmes with respect to their impact on women. Canada also had an extensive network of non-governmental organizations which focused on the common and diverse interests of women. Status of Women of Canada presently funded over 400 of those organizations each year.
In March 1996, she continued, Status of Women launched a three-month
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 7 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
consultation process across Canada. Input was sought on ways to enhance the working relationship between Status of Women and organizations and individuals interested in the advancement of women's equality; the development of a new independent policy research fund; and the future direction of the Women's Program. The results of those consultations and a follow-up plan were outlined in a report released in November 1996. Canada placed a high importance on community involvement and social action, and was determined to build effective partnerships with all sectors of civil society.
She said the Canadian Government's approach to advancing gender equality was based upon a recognition that gender was a factor in its current social, economic, cultural and political systems -- that women's unequal status had its genesis in and was perpetuated by systemic causes. Treating men and women identically would not ensure equality because women and men experienced different social relations and living conditions. Women's situation was also affected by race, ethnicity, disability, indigenous status and income. That approach was supported by both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Federal Plan for Gender Equality -- the federal plan for implementing the Beijing Platform for Action. The plan detailed over 300 federal commitments to promote women's equality. One of the most important components of the Plan was a requirement that federal departments and agencies conduct gender-based analysis of future policies and legislation in order to support gender equality objectives. That would ensure a more complete and objective picture of the costs and benefits of an initiative before an action was taken.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, she said, had played a central role in shaping the jurisprudence that had resulted in significant practical advances for women. The Charter provided protection for women against laws and practices which inadvertently resulted in the unfair treatment of women. More recently, a number of significant cases had dealt with gender equality issues related to women's economic equality, and to violence against women. For example, the Supreme Court had held that individuals who cohabit without having been married may be considered to enjoy the same benefits under their partner's accident benefit scheme, as if they had been legally married.
An important development in women's legal rights, she said, was the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program in 1994. Since 1982, that Program had played a vital role in helping individuals from official linguistic minorities and from equality-seeking groups to launch Charter cases. Funding for the Program had been discontinued in 1992 as an economy measure, but it had been resumed following extensive consultations.
Another advance in the area of equality, she said, was the addition in 1996 of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act. The legislation applied to employment in, and the provision of goods and services by the federal Government and federally regulated
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 8 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
businesses, such as banks and airlines. The amendment would help to ensure that homosexuals were afforded the same basic protection from discrimination as all other Canadians.
Concerning economic equality, she stressed that 52 per cent of women in Canada had jobs in the paid labour force, up from 42 per cent in 1976. As a result, women represented 45 per cent of all paid workers in 1994. The growth in women's employment had easily been one of the most significant changes in Canadian society over the last 20 years. However, considerable room for improvement remained. As in other countries, economic restructuring and social change were creating opportunities for some women and hardships for others. The average earnings of women continued to be significantly lower than those of men. In 1995, women employed on a full-time basis earned an average of just 73 per cent of the average earnings of their male counterparts. The majority of employed women remained concentrated in occupations which traditionally had been undervalued and lower paid. In 1994, 70 per cent of all employed women were working in teaching, nursing and other health occupations, clerical positions or sales and service jobs. Furthermore, many women worked in part-time positions with limited or no benefits.
A number of federal initiatives were aimed at encouraging women's economic autonomy, she stated. One of those initiatives was a package of amendments to the Employment Equity Act of 1996. The new legislation broadened the application of the Act to include federal public service, as well as federally regulated companies with more than 100 employees and companies that did business with the federal Government. A child support package would be coming into effect this year. It would establish fairer and more consistent child support payments and strengthen the enforcement system and enhance income supplements paid to lower income families. A long-term initiative involved the measurement and valuing of unpaid work. The results were expected in 1998 and would be directed towards a framework for evaluating the policy implications of unpaid work.
A major priority, she emphasized, was the elimination of systemic violence against women -- a key objective of the Federal Plan for Gender Equality. Violence against women had its roots in women's social and economic inequality, and cut across all social, racial and economic boundaries. The federal Government had undertaken extensive research to understand the dimensions of violence against women in Canada.
In 1993, the landmark Canadian Panel on Violence against Women -- the first study of its kind in the world -- reported on evidence from survivors of violence, and on the extensive research and analysis of the impacts of violence, she said. Canada's approach to the problem was comprehensive and holistic. It included everything from community services to media public
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 9 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
awareness campaigns. Measures were also being taken to improve women's economic autonomy and social equality, and specific actions were being directed to the health, social and criminal justice systems, as well as to schools, the workplace and general public awareness. There was also the Family Violence Initiative.
She said a number of efforts had been made to bring about improvements in the lives of Aboriginal women, who often lived in very difficult circumstances. One such effort was the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which after five years of study, released its final report in November 1996. With more than 400 recommendations, the report urged a process of renewal that would break the cycle of dependency, lost productivity and ever-growing social expenditures that reflected the condition of many of Canada's Aboriginal communities. In particular, the Commission recommended that Aboriginal women be specifically included in any process to define the powers of Aboriginal governments, and that they be assured of full and equal participation in decision-making bodies responsible for developing and implementing measures to ensure physical and emotional security. Other recommendations included the right to freedom from violence, and addressed such issues as economic development, education and training, housing, health and family law.
Major changes were expected in the health system in Canada over the next decade, she said, because of rising health care costs and growing fiscal constraints facing all levels of government. In 1994, a National Forum on Health was established to take a broad look at health care issues. The federal Government was deeply committed to promoting women's health, since women were the majority of health-care providers and the majority of health- care consumers. An important initiative was a $2 million, five-year programme to establish five Centres of Excellence for Women's Health. Other initiatives were also aimed at enhancing the health system's understanding of, and responsiveness to women's health issues.
While progress had been made in the advancement of women, she said much more remained to be done. In that context, federal priorities for the coming years were the enhancement of women's economic autonomy and eliminating systemic violence against women and children, thereby addressing two serious human rights problems currently faced by women in Canada.
Response to Written Questions
Ms. BERGERON-DE VILLIERS, responding to questions on the status of minority women, said the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 said it recognized that many people of different cultures had contributed to and had a continuing role to play in the country's development. The Government, often in partnership with communities, was working to identify and eliminate
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 10 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
discrimination and prejudice.
She said the Government encouraged and assisted the social, cultural, economic and political institutions to be both respectful and inclusive of Canada's multicultural character. A four-year initiative to provide employment and business opportunities for Aboriginal women, which ended in March 1995, was overseen by the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Inuit Women's Association and the Indian and Inuit Nurses of Canada. The Government continued to develop and implement programmes to encourage Aboriginal participation and progress in employment and business. Presently, it was focusing on new partnerships with provincial governments.
Turning to questions on the development and advancement of women, she said Canada's "Setting the Stage for the Next Century: The Federal Plan for Gender Equality" was a forward-looking plan to advance strategic goals and commitments to the year 2000. The Plan underpins implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and coordinates 24 federal departments and agencies. It was coordinated and monitored by the Status of Women in Canada, and its most strategic objective was to introduce and implement gender-based analysis throughout the work of the federal Government in policy and legislative areas.
Copies of the Convention and Canada's reports were available at no charge to the public through the Department of Canadian Heritage.
She then outlined government action to identify obstacles to the de facto advancement of women, including its consultation with women's and other equality seeking groups when specific policies were being developed. Many initiatives had built-in policy and programme reviews to evaluate progress and address problems, such as two recent initiatives -- the new, strengthened Employment Equity Act and a child support reform package. Ongoing improvement of statistics and indicators were another way to assess women's situation and identify obstacles. Federal, provincial and territorial governments were working independently and collaborating on that initiative.
She also cited affirmative action in various provinces, including Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
Turning to questions on follow-up to ensure positive measures and actions were being implemented, she said a new and strengthened Employment Equity Act, which came into force in October 1996, referred to the need for "special measure". The Act targeted four disadvantaged groups, including women. It enforced obligations through on-site audits by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and through the Employment Equity Review Tribunal, which had the power to review matters and issue court-enforceable orders. Employers
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 11 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
subject to the act were required to identify and eliminate barriers to the employment of designated groups and to institute policies and practices to move towards a representative workforce. At the end of 1995, officials of the Labour Branch of Human Resources Development Canada, which has programmes to ensure pay equity in federally regulated establishments, visited some 1,250 employers to offer advice and counselling and monitor implementation.
She also outlined questions about affirmative action programmes in Nova Scotia and the effectiveness and monitoring of Quebec's three-year plans for women.
Addressing a question on child pornography legislation, she said Canada's Criminal Code included separate statutory prohibitions against child pornography. It made it an offence to make, print, publish or possess for the purpose of publication, and to import, distribute sell or possess for the purpose of sale or distribution any child pornography. It was also an offence simply to possess child pornography. Breaches in the law were also prosecuted at the provincial level. The new child pornography provisions helped to curb the flow of child pornography, including on the Internet.
In response to questions on obscenity laws, she said the Minister of Justice had not introduced new legislation to deal with obscenity. Provisions in the Criminal Code made it illegal to produce, deal in, display or mail obscene materials and also to produce obscene performances. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the criminalization of the distribution of obscene materials was justified in view of the associated harm to society and further concluded that the criminal sanction demonstrated "our community's disapproval of the dissemination of materials which potentially victimize women and restricts the negative influence which such materials have on changes in attitudes and behaviour".
Replying to a request by the Committee for data on women in decision- making and managerial positions in the media, she said the Canadian Women in Radio and Television organization, founded in 1991, was dedicated to advancing the involvement and impact of women in the communications industry, particularly at the management level. It had established CareerLine, a dial- up job posting service for members and a database of women in management positions. The group had conducted the first systematic study of women in media management and those aspiring to positions.
She then answered questions on domestic violence. Although there was no single or specific federal law directed solely at addressing family or domestic violence, the federal Government had undertaken numerous legislative reforms to improve the criminal justice system's response to family violence. She then cited several reforms to the criminal code, including a bill which created the new offence of criminal harassment to better capture "stalking",
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 12 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
to which women were particularly vulnerable. Another bill strengthened criminal harassment provisions by making murder committed while stalking a victim first degree murder without having to prove planning and deliberation. Other bills on the criminal code's sentencing provisions made the abuse of a spouse or child by the offender an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
The federal Government's 1988 Family Violence Initiative aimed to promote the well-being of the family and improve the responses of the justice, social services and health systems to help victims and stop offenders within federal areas of responsibility. It also aimed to increase public awareness of family violence; strengthen the criminal justice legal framework; provide prevention, protection and treatment services to Aboriginal and Inuit communities; provide emergency shelter and long-term housing services and enhance national information exchange and coordination. The Government was currently reassessing its approach to family violence.
She referred the Committee to family violence programmes for migrant and minority women and girls in Nova Scotia, Yukon and Quebec.
She noted that the Canadian Human Rights Act expressly prohibited sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination and discrimination in the employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities and accommodation. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provided similar protections against discrimination on the grounds of sex. Non-governmental organizations were generally involved in support activities via shelters and sexual assault centres and there were networking and lobbying bodies representing shelters and other services for abused women and children at the provincial and national levels. They had developed strategies to prevent and eliminate violence and participated in the development of policies and legislation and advocated the development of responsive and appropriate services.
In reply to a question on impact of various programmes on family violence, she said the majority of crimes committed against women, especially violent personal crimes, were not reported to police. A survey in 1993 indicated that 29 per cent of women who had been married or lived in a common law relationship had been assaulted by their partner. Police were informed in about 26 per cent of the cases reported in the survey and of those cases, charges were laid in 28 per cent of cases.
Responding to questions on sentencing for violence against women, she said Canada's sentencing statistics did not identify the gender of the victim of violent crimes. Reports for 1995 indicated that female victims accounted for 49.7 per cent of violent crimes, 84.5 per cent of victims of sexual assault and 46.4 per cent of non-sexual assault. A significant number of accused convicted of those offences were being incarcerated.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 13 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
Prostitution itself was not illegal in Canada, she said, in reply to a question on the legal regime. However, it was an offence to keep or be an inmate of a common bawdy-house and there were several offences know as "procuring" or "living on the avails". The provisions were not aimed at prostitutes but were designed to prevent persons from being forced into a life of prostitution. There were also laws regarding the customer and the prostitute communicating in public for the purposes of engaging in prostitution. There were also laws regarding juvenile prostitution.
Women's participation in politics had increased and currently, 52 out of 295 members of the national parliament were women, she continued. At the provincial level 133 women out of 756 representatives had been elected. Political parties had instituted measures to increase women's representation, including fund-raising measures, quotas for women's participation, separate women's organizations within party structures and special training for women candidates. The 1990s had seen the first woman elected as Prime Minister, the first woman elected to head a national political party, the first Deputy Prime Minister and the first woman elected as Premier. However, women continued to be under-represented in almost every court in Canada, and although there had been some progress, the pace of change had been modest.
MARY GLEN, Director General for Status of Women of Canada, answered questions on female employment and said the Government realized the need for long-term skills to deal with changes in the market place.
The delegation also answered questions on the numbers of women in the diplomatic corps and recruitment to the foreign service; the percentage of women receiving scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and related disciplines; and specific policies to change the tendency of women to study in traditional female fields such as education, the humanities and social sciences.
Continuing the responses to written questions, Ms. GLEN said the federal Government had undertaken a number of initiatives for families and individuals living in poverty. The Government recognized that long-term improvement for low-income families required people to have the skill necessary to succeed in the job market of the future. Therefore, governmental action was aimed at helping Canadians find and keep work. Free trade agreements were expected to boost the economy and bring more jobs and prosperity, but in the short-term the effects could be uneven in various sectors. The differing impact on men and women would be taken into account. In addition, there had been progress in diminishing the number of non-traditional occupations. The new Employment Equity Act was aimed at eliminating systemic discrimination in employment against women, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities and Aboriginal peoples.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 14 - Press Release WOM/946 329th Meeting (AM) 28 January 1997
She said the objective of the Equal Pay Program of 1984 was to eliminate sex-based wage discrimination in employment within the federal jurisdiction, by promoting the concept of equal pay for work of equal value, monitoring employers' compliance with the law and verifying that employers implement pay equity. Provincial legislation had filled in gaps in the Program, such as the laws on equal pay passed in Quebec. There had been significant progress in the federal public service in the implementation of pay equity. The federal Government had already paid out over $935 million in retroactive pay equity adjustments and continued to pay $85 million annually.
As in other countries, she indicated there was a link between fertility and economic circumstances. Women's participation in the labour force was increasingly important to household income and the costs of having children were quite high. The economy increasingly required an educated workforce, so women stayed in school longer. Such factors, as well as good availability of birth control and overall reproductive health care, contributed to many women's decision to delay child-bearing until their education was complete and they were well-established in the workforce.
On women's health issues, she said that women's use of alcohol and other drugs was an area of significant concern. Alcohol was the drug most commonly used by women. The provinces and territories had the responsibility for the actual delivery of health care, including rehabilitative services. Health Canada was collaborating with other federal departments, Aboriginal associations and groups, the provinces and territories and non-governmental organizations to reduce the harm to women caused by alcohol and other drugs.
Concerning the temporary suspension of the Court Challenges Program, she said it raised the question of whether there had been a backlash against women because of legislative guarantees of their equality and their assertion of those guarantees. Generally, there was increasingly good support for the equality concerns of women by institutions and the general public. Equality jurisprudence had contributed to the growing appreciation for the perspectives of women in Canada. Instead of a backlash, the jurisprudence had, in fact, had a beneficial effect for women and contributed to a public awareness of women's issues and a more positive view of their status in society.
On the harmonization of work and family responsibilities, each jurisdiction had legal responsibility for developing and implementing strategies in that area. She listed a number of child-care programmes and enhanced maternal and parental benefits. There were many policies that supported the sharing of family responsibilities. The advancements that Canada had made in measuring and valuing unpaid child-oriented and household work were providing a much more detailed understanding of women's and men's patterns of paid and unpaid work in different family types and what it meant to their economic situation. A project had been initiated to develop a framework for evaluating the policy implications of unpaid work.
* *** *