Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender equality

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5Footnote 1 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. It recognizes that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. This SDG addresses the reality that, despite progress, gender inequality persists. Women and girls often face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, additionally compounded due to factors based on:

  • race
  • ethnicity
  • geography
  • income
  • education
  • religion
  • language
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • age
  • disability
  • migrant or refugee status

SDG 5 aims for action that will address issues and practices that limit opportunities for women and girls.

Canadian ambition under Gender equality

Canada’s ambitions for this goal are:

  • to eliminate gender-based violence and harassment
  • to support gender equality in leadership roles and at all levels of decision-making
  • to ensure that Canadians, and those who live here, share responsibilities within households and families

Canada’s targets are:

  • that fewer women are victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault
  • greater representation of women in leadership roles
  • equal sharing of parenting roles and family responsibilities

Canadian Indicator Framework

In collaboration with federal departments and agencies, Statistics Canada has developed the Canadian Indicator Framework (CIF) for the Sustainable Development Goals. The CIF includes 76 indicators specific to Canada, which measure progress using a set of nationally relevant, objective and comprehensive indicators. CIF indicators for SDG 5 are:

  • Proportion of population who self-reported being sexually assaulted in the last 12 months
  • Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the last 12 months
  • Proportion of leadership roles held by women
  • Proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work

What we are doing for gender equality in Canada

In addition to targeted measures, the federal government continues to strengthen the implementation of Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) as a means of advancing gender and intersectional equality more broadly. The Government of Canada has sustained its commitment to GBA Plus for more than 25 years because it provides a unique contribution for federal departments and for public servants to appreciate how they can play a role in advancing equality through their work and in their context. It represents a key part of Canada’s strategy to delivering on the "leave no one behind" principles at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and embedded throughout all of its goals, targets and indicators.

Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) is an analytical tool and process used to support the development of responsive and inclusive policies, programs and other initiatives. Its application leads to:

  • greater understanding of how issues and initiatives impact various individuals and groups differently
  • greater understanding of how initiatives can be tailored to meet diverse needs
  • help anticipate and mitigate any barriers to accessing or benefitting from government actions

It is intersectional in its design and considers multiple identity factors such as:

  • biological (sex)
  • socio-cultural (gender)
  • age
  • disability
  • education
  • ethnicity
  • economic status
  • geography
  • language
  • race
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • how these interact with systems of power

The scale of GBA Plus implementation has increased over time and it is now an integral part of key federal decision-making processes. In 2018, it became a permanent part of Canada’s fiscal framework with the passing of the Canadian Gender Budgeting Act. Starting with the first Gender Statement in Budget 2017, gender budgeting has enhanced the emphasis of GBA Plus in the budget process, to effectively support evidence-based policy decisions that benefit all Canadians. Much has been achieved since then to promote gender equality and inclusiveness – which plays a critical role in building a strong and successful economy – including through significant measures aimed, amongst others, at:

  • improving pay equity
  • improving workforce participation among women
  • helping to combat gender-based violence

In 2018, the Government of Canada introduced the Gender Results Framework (GRF), which represents its goals with respect to gender equality. The GRF includes gender equality goals within 6 main areas:

  • education and skills development
  • economic participation and prosperity
  • leadership and democratic participation
  • gender-based violence and access to justice
  • poverty reduction
  • health
  • well-being
  • gender equality around the world

Announced in June 2017, It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, brings together the gender-based violence-related efforts of all federal departments and agencies to prevent and address gender-based violence in Canada.

The Government of Canada continues to build on the foundation laid by the federal Gender-Based Violence Strategy and advance the development of a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, with a focus on ensuring that anyone facing gender-based violence has reliable and timely access to protection and services. In January 2021, the Joint Declaration for a Canada Free of Gender-Based Violence was endorsed by the Federal-Provincial/Territorial Ministers responsible for the Status of Women (Québec supports the general principles of the joint declaration and will continue to be active in the fight against gender-based violence by prioritizing its own actions and measures. It also intends to continue to share information and best practices with other governments on this issue). Notable early achievements include:

  • 3 new national surveys establishing baselines on different forms of GBV and filling critical data gaps
  • funding for community-based research to better understand the impacts of GBV and prevention efforts on specific populations
  • establishing the GBV Knowledge Centre online platform which compiles GBV resources and research into a single platform
  • developing and testing promising practices in prevention and support for victims and survivors
  • enhancing the cultural awareness training for RCMP officers and staff and improving sexual assaults investigations
  • strengthening the trauma-informed responses of federal corrections facility staff who work with those who are incarcerated

The Government of Canada is also working with Indigenous partners, and provinces and territories to implement the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan (National Action Plan). Through an Indigenous-led governance structure, the National Action Plan was developed with the participation of over 100 Indigenous women, Two-Spirit and gender diverse people, family members and survivors, and partners from Indigenous organizations, provinces and territories, and the Government of Canada. As one of the contributing partners to this National Action Plan, the Government of Canada’s Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People outlined its commitments to addressing missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender diverse people. Over 20 Government of Canada departments are actively and collaboratively working on their respective initiatives to implement the programs included in the Federal Pathway.

On September 4, 2019, a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking was launched by the Government of Canada, with investments of $57 million over 5 years and $10 million per year ongoing. Furthermore, on December 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced $22.4 million in funding to 63 organizations for projects designed to prevent and address human trafficking and support at-risk populations and survivors.

The Racialized Newcomer Women Pilot Program helps racialized newcomer women find good, well-paying jobs that set them up for success in Canada, by addressing the barriers they may face – gender and race-based discrimination, precarious or low-income employment, lack of affordable childcare and weak social supports. In 2019 and 2020, more than 2,500 clients participated in activities related to the pilot. Participants were highly diverse, with clients having immigrated to Canada from approximately 128 countries. The majority of participants were of core working age (that is, between the ages of 25 and 54) and recent immigrants (that is, those who have lived in Canada for less than five years).

The Government of Canada is working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide, community-based Early Learning and Child Care system, so all families have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care no matter where they live. Investing in ELCC will:

  • provide jobs for workers, the majority of whom are women
  • enable parents, particularly mothers, to reach their full economic potential
  • improve graduation rates
  • promote lifelong well-being
  • boost lifetime earnings
  • increase social equity

Through Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, the Government of Canada provides communities with the flexibility to use their funding to prevent and reduce homelessness and meet the needs of at-risk populations, including:

  • seniors
  • youth
  • women
  • LGBTQ2 individuals
  • individuals and families fleeing violence
  • Indigenous peoples
  • veterans
  • racialized Canadians
  • newcomers

The Gender Equity in Sport Strategy and funding support the participation and leadership development of women and girls. It strives to ensure that girls, Indigenous peoples, and members of LGBTQ2 communities, persons with a disability, and newcomers have access to quality sport activities.

Since 2016, the new approach to Governor in Council (GIC) appointments supports open, transparent and merit-based selection processes that strive for gender parity and reflect Canada's diversity. As of December 31, 2021, there are around 1,760 people appointed to administrative tribunals, agencies, boards, commissions, international organizations and Crown corporations. Of these appointees:

  • about 52% identify as women
  • about 12% as visible minorities
  • about 7% as Indigenous peoples
  • about 4% as Canadians with disabilities

COVID-19 responses

COVID-19 has affected all Canadians, but its impacts have been unevenly felt as it amplified gender inequality at its intersections with other factors, resulting in women and gender diverse people, in particular those from systemically marginalized communities, being disproportionately impacted. A Task Force on Women in the Economy was created in 2020 to help guide a robust, inclusive, and feminist economic recovery from COVID and to help address long-standing systemic barriers.

In 2020 to 2021, the Government of Canada provided an initial $100 million in emergency funding to over 1,200 organizations, including :

  • women’s shelters
  • Indigenous shelters off-reserve
  • sexual assault centres
  • women’s organizations
  • other organizations providing supports and services to those experiencing gender-based violence

Since April 2020, more than 1.3 million people have a place to turn because of this funding. Budget 2021 committed a further $200 million to ensure the continuation of critical and often life-saving services for those in need, and support organizations to pivot to a post-pandemic environment.

In 2020, Canada was recognized by the Cooperative for Assistance Relief Everywhere (CARE) for having the most gender-responsive plan to address COVID-19. That gender-responsive approach to COVID-19 is ensuring that initiatives help those most in need while not reproducing or perpetuating gender inequalities. It included measures such as the Feminist Response and Recovery Fund, which provides $100 million for recipient organizations to launch new projects or scale up past projects. On July 29, 2021, funding for 237 projects was announced under the call.

What Canada is doing for gender equality abroad

Canada’s Trade Diversification Strategy takes an inclusive approach to trade and seeks to ensure that the benefits of trade are more widely shared, including with women. This means:

  • negotiating co-operation based trade and gender chapters in our Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), which may have development dividends if the FTA partner embraces the opportunity to work with Canada
  • mainstreaming gender provisions throughout our FTAs supported by GBA Plus
  • advocating for more countries to join the Inclusive Trade Action Group and Global Trade and Gender Arrangement
  • promoting trade and gender initiatives through multilateral fora, such as the WTO

The Feminist International Assistance Policy aims to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world by focusing on 6 action areas:

  • promoting gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, including addressing sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, (core action area)
  • human dignity (health and nutrition, education, humanitarian action)
  • growth that works for everyone
  • environment and climate action
  • inclusive governance
  • peace and security

Canada has continued to draw attention to the disproportionate share of paid and unpaid care work shouldered by women and girls, especially for women caring for children during pandemic-related school closures. At the Generation Equality Forum, Canada announced $100 million in new support for low- and middle-income countries that will help increase women’s ability to participate in the economy, in education, and in public life.

Canada has launched the second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and Canada’s first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security was appointed.

Canada’s defence policy, ‘Strong, Secure, Engaged’, includes a commitment to increase the proportion of women in the Canadian military by 1 percent annually, moving from 15 percent in 2016 to 25 percent representation by 2026;

Canada played a leadership role in the Generation Equality Forum:

  • as co-leader of the Feminist Movements and Leadership Action Coalition
  • as a catalytic member of the Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact
  • in its commitments in the Action Coalitions on Gender-based Violence, Economic Justice and Rights, Feminist Action for Climate Justice, and Bodily Autonomy and SRHR
  • the Forum has set a bold feminist agenda that tackles persistent barriers to gender equality, underpinned by the values of intersectionality, inclusivity and collaboration

Canada is also playing a leadership role at the OECD, contributing to a range of initiatives to advance gender equality. This includes:

Canada promotes gender-based initiatives tied to international frameworks, including the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees.

For example, in July 2021, Canada became Chair of the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework Support Platform (“MIRPS” per the Spanish acronym), a regional application of the Global Compact on Refugees. Canada’s theme as Chair of “Protection and Empowerment of Women and Girls on the Move” seeks to mobilize tailored support for the particular needs of women and girls in Central America and Mexico while promoting their meaningful participation in decisions that affect their lives.

Canada places a high priority on the protection of refugee women and recognizes their unique protection needs. Through the Women at Risk program, Canada provides resettlement opportunities to women abroad in precarious or permanently unstable situations who do not have the formal protection of a family unit. This includes women who are experiencing significant difficulties, such as harassment by local authorities or members of their own communities.

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