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 compounded due to factors based on:

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

Canadian ambitions under gender equality

Canada's ambitionsFootnote 2 for this goal are to:

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

Canada's targets are:

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

Measuring Progress: the 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 that 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, more broadly, intersectional equality. 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.

GBA Plus is an analytical tool and process used to support the development of responsive and inclusive policies, programs and 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
  • increased capacity to 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
  • ways 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. As part of implementing the Act, the Government of Canada has also begun reporting annually on the impacts of expenditure programs on gender and diversity. 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 at, among others:

  • improving pay equity
  • improving workforce participation among women
  • helping 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

The National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence (NAP to End GBV) was launched in 2022. The Action Plan includes 5 pillars and a foundation to guide cross-country efforts to end GBV.

  1. Providing support for victims, survivors and their families through life-saving support and safe spaces, and delivering social, health, and community services that protect and empower victims and survivors.
  2. Preventing GBV by addressing its root causes.
  3. Supporting a responsive justice system to improve the experiences of victims and survivors.
  4. Implementing Indigenous-led approaches.
  5. Expanding social infrastructure and enabling environments as populations that experience socioeconomic inequities are at a greater risk of experiencing GBV.

Launched in 2017, It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (federal GBV Strategy) is a whole-of-federal government approach to ending GBV. The Strategy is the federal government's contribution to the National Action Plan to End Gender Base Violence. Notable achievements under the federal GBV Strategy 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 Secretariat
  • 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; 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 provided the Government of Canada's Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, which outlined its commitments to addressing missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender diverse people. Over 20 Government of Canada departments are collaboratively working on their respective initiatives to implement the programs included in the Federal Pathway.

In 2019, the Government of Canada launched a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking , with investments of $57 million over 5 years and $10 million per year ongoing. Under this Strategy, the Government of Canada is supporting 42 organizations to develop and implement promising prevention or intervention practices that will advance knowledge and enhance empowerment supports for at-risk populations and survivors of human trafficking. Many of the promising practices support focus on trauma-informed prevention training, peer support interventions models, and educational programs.

The Menstrual Equity Fund Pilot addresses barriers related to affordability and stigma that some Canadians face when accessing menstrual products. Menstrual equity would ensure equal and comprehensive access to menstrual products, as well as access to education regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights. Lack of access to menstrual products is closely linked to poverty and disproportionately impacts youth, single mothers, Indigenous peoples, Black and other racialized communities, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, people living with disabilities, gender diverse individuals, and those who live in remote areas. The national pilot will distribute free menstrual products to community organizations serving diverse low-income populations across Canada and will scale up education and awareness activities in grassroots organizations already advancing menstrual equity.

The Women's Economic and Leadership Opportunities Fund will increase women's and girls' economic security and prosperity, as well as their representation in leadership and decision-making roles. The Women's Capacity Fund will increase the capacity of women's organizations to reach their goals, and to participate in activities such as partnership development and community engagement. Women's rights organizations in Canada play a leading role in driving social change by supporting women and girls from diverse backgrounds both economically and socially. These 2 funds will provide up to $130 million to women's organizations.

Since 2020, the Government of Canada has provided $300 million in COVID-19 emergency funding to over 1,400 organizations, including:

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

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 ensured 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.

Canada provides funding to settlement service providers across the country to deliver pre- and post-arrival settlement services, including targeted programming for women, to help newcomers successfully establish themselves and integrate into Canadian society. Under Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-based Violence (GBV), $1.5 million in funding from 2017 to 2022 has been used to implement a settlement sector strategy on GBV to support immigrants and refugees through a coordinated partnership of settlement and anti-violence sector organizations. The Gender-based Violence Strategy Partnership is continuing until 2026, with an additional $2 million in funding for 5 years, through Budget 2021 investments.

In addition, the Racialized Newcomer Women Pilot aimed to support the labour market access and advancement of racialized newcomer women who may face barriers to participating in the labour force such as gender and race-based discrimination, precarious or low-income employment, and lack of affordable childcare. In 2022-23, 1,432 participants received supports under the pilot. Participants were highly diverse, with clients having immigrated to Canada from approximately 128 countries. Most participants were of core working age (between the ages of 25 and 54) and recent immigrants (have lived in Canada for less than 5 years). The pilot ended in March 2023; however, recognizing that racialized newcomer women continue to show a demonstrable need for support, the Government extended select projects until 2025.

The Government of Canada is working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) 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 supports:

  • enabling parents, particularly mothers, to enter, re-enter, and remain in the workforce
  • improving graduation rates
  • promoting lifelong well-being
  • boosting lifetime earnings
  • increasing social equity

The Government of Canada funds and supports women's involvement in fields such as the environment, clean technology, intellectual property, agriculture, energy, and natural resources. Canada also eliminates barriers and promotes women's employment and participation in decision-making through skills, training, and mentorship initiatives, such as the Science Horizons Youth Internship Program.

The Gender Equity in Sport Strategy and funding support the participation and leadership development of women and girls. It strives to ensure that girls and women have access to quality sport activities and leadership opportunities through sport. It also recognizes the diversity of intersectional identities and the varied needs of women and girls in Canada including those who identify as Indigenous peoples, persons from Black, racialized, and religious minority communities, members of 2SLGBTQI+ communities, persons with a disability, and newcomers to Canada.

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 approximately 1,760 people appointed to administrative tribunals, agencies, boards, commissions, international organizations and Crown corporations. Of these appointees, approximately:

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

The Government of Canada is also working to foster diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the public service, including helping to advance gender equality. As of March 31, 2022, 3 of 4 employment equity designated groups were above workforce availability (WFA) in the executive ranks:

  • 52.3% identified as women (WFA: 48%)
  • 12.4% identified as visible minorities (WFA: 10.6%)
  • 4.4% identified as Indigenous peoples (WFA: 5.1%)
  • 5.6% identified as persons with disabilities (WFA: 5.3%)

The Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy supports social purpose organizations (charities, non-profits, social enterprises, co-operatives, businesses with a social mission) working to address complex socio-economic challenges Canadians, including women and girls, are facing, while contributing to building a sustainable and inclusive economy. Designed through a lens of social equity and inclusion to break down barriers to accessing capital, the Strategy provides these organizations, particularly those led by and serving equity deserving groups or led by women, with the tools and resources they need to scale and enhance their social and/or environmental impacts. One of the key initiatives of the Strategy, the Investment Readiness Program, has delivered $25 million dollars to 551 women-led social purpose organizations, across the country, since 2019. Another, the Social Finance Fund, is committing to invest a minimum of $100 million in social purpose organizations furthering gender equity.

What Canada is doing for gender equality abroad

Canada has been implementing a feminist foreign policy for the past 7 years across all international engagements, including through policies, programs, and initiatives such as Canada's Trade Diversification Strategy and its inclusive approach to trade, the Feminist International Assistance Policy, and the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Canada's feminist approach is based on the conviction that all people, regardless of their background, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or intersecting identities, should be empowered to fully contribute to and benefit from equal participation in economic, political, social and cultural life, to build a safer, more sustainable and prosperous world.

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 cooperation‑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
  • increasing global awareness of inclusive trade and the economic benefits of gender equality, and 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 World Trade Organization

The Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) prioritizes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as the most effective way to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world. Canada is the top Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked donor for the share of aid supporting gender equality, and among the top ranked for investments supporting women's rights organizations and ending violence against women and girls.

In line with its Feminist International Assistance Policy Canada's $5.3 billion international climate finance commitment (2021 to 2026) ensures that 80% of projects integrate gender equality considerations.

Canada established the Women's Voice and Leadership program with $150 million over 5 years (2018 to 2023) as a flagship initiative of the FIAP to support women's rights organizations (WROs) and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LBTQI+) groups working for women's rights and gender equality through: multi-year core funding; fast, responsive funding; support for organizational capacity strengthening; and networking and alliance building. Since its inception in 2018, the program has supported more than 1500 local WROs in over 30 countries. In April 2023, the Government of Canada announced $195 million over 5 years (2023 to 2028) and $43.3 million/year ongoing for the renewal and expansion of the program, including enhanced support for WROs and LBTQI+ organizations in crisis- and conflict-affected settings.

In 2019, Canada contributed $300 million to establish the Equality Fund, a global feminist platform for government, philanthropic, private sector and other donors to create a sustainable source of funding for women's organizations and movements in the Global South. The Equality Fund uses gender lens investment to create gender equality impacts while maintaining a growing and sustainable source of funding for women's organizations and movements. It provides core, multi-year, flexible funding to allow women's organizations and feminist funds to set their own agendas, responding to their specific needs and strategies. It also offers technical assistance, institutional strengthening and networking to women's organizations operating at local, national, regional and global levels.

Canada played a leadership role in the Generation Equality Forum that set a bold feminist agenda to tackle persistent barriers to gender equality, underpinned by the values of intersectionality, inclusivity and collaboration. Canada is co-leader of the Feminist Movements and Leadership Action Coalition (AC6) through which it helped establish and is currently one of the co-chairs of the Alliance for Feminist Movements. The Alliance focuses on ensuring more and better financial and political support for women's rights and feminist organizations and movements and currently includes over 350 members representing national governments, women's funds, feminist civil society organizations, philanthropic organizations and other allies.

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 also joined the Global Alliance for Care.

Canada has maintained its commitments to addressing the unacceptably high rates of SGBV, including harmful practices, experienced by women and girls. Since the launch of the FIAP in 2017, Canada has allocated more than $370 million in new project funding aiming, in part or in whole, to enhance prevention and response to SGBV. This represents a tripling of its annual investments in preventing and responding to SGBV between 2008 and 2021.

Canada strongly believes that women have the right to participate equally with men in decision-making, including in matters of peace and security. Canada is guided by the notion that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development. As such, the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is central to Canada's Feminist Foreign Policy and Feminist International Assistance Policy. Under the leadership of its Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, Canada implements the WPS agenda through its National Action Plan on WPS which guides its international and domestic efforts.

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

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

Canada is also committed to the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) enhanced Lima Work Programme on Gender and its Gender Action Plan and continues to champion diversity and inclusion in climate policy, both domestically and internationally. Canada encourages the participation of women in the UNFCCC process and climate negotiations whenever possible. For example, Canada has supported the delivery of capacity-building workshops for anglophone and francophone women negotiators from developing countries, in partnership with France and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and the Women's Environment and Development Organization. Canada also provides funding to support women negotiators' travel and participation in UNFCCC sessions.

Canada promotes gender-based initiatives tied to international frameworks, including the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees. For example, in 2021 and 2022, Canada was the Chair of the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Frameworks Support Platform supporting the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees in Central America. Canada's Chair theme of "Protection and Empowerment of Women and Girls on the Move" drew attention to the international protection and education needs of refugee women and girls, and the need to protect the human rights of displaced women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals in vulnerable situations.

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 are experiencing significant difficulties, such as harassment by local authorities or members of their own communities.

One of Canada's priorities as a Global Compact for Migration Champion country is encouraging a gender-responsive approach to migration management. As such, Canada supports several initiatives and projects that promote gender-responsive migration, including the Gender + Migration Hub project.

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