Canada Must Re-Invest in Women, Groups tell United Nations in Geneva

OTTAWA – Today in Geneva, women’s organizations and other social justice groups from Canada will report on Canada’s disappointing performance under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The United Nations Committee is due to review Canada’s compliance under this Convention in the coming week.

FAFIA, a broad alliance of women’s organizations and human rights groups, and the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) are submitting a joint report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that demonstrates how past federal budgets have starved many crucial social programs between 1995 and 1998. As a result, welfare rates are at levels that the National Council on Welfare calls “punitive and cruel”, civil legal aid for family law and poverty law matters is in a state of crisis, and deep cuts have been made to front line services for women fleeing violence. Despite eight years of federal budget surpluses since then, monies for these programs have never been restored.

“1.9 million women continue to live below the poverty line in Canada, one of the wealthiest countries in the world” says Shelagh Day, who is traveling to Geneva for FAFIA and NAWL.

“The federal government must devote more of its resources to upholding the human rights of women and it must immediately address the on-going gender imbalance in the allocation of Canada’s resources. We are telling the UN that the time has come for Canada to invest these dollars, and we hope to see steps towards restoration in tomorrow’s federal budget”.

The FAFIA/NAWL submission also highlights the overt discrimination in law against Aboriginal women and its disastrous consequence on their economic, social and cultural rights; the discriminatory impact of immigration law on domestic workers, the impact on women of narrowed eligibility rules and reduced benefit rates for employment insurance and the insufficient maternity and parental benefits for women living outside of Québec.

In addition, it details the persistent lack of effective federal pay equity legislation for women in Canada; the ongoing discrimination against women in the labour market; the over-representation of racialized women in the low paid, precarious work sector as well as the need for better resources to support front-line services and anti-violence services, particularly in rural and remote areas.

The FAFIA/NAWL submission is available online at the following UN website: