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House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women

I was invited to testify at the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women on July 8th on the gendered impacts of COVID 19.

I was the first speaker in a six-hour day in which parliamentarians were tasked to investigate and learn from experts in their fields on the impacts of COVID 19 on gender and specifically on women. This committee is an all-party committee and featured representatives from the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois and the NDP. I was given 10 minutes to share prepared remarks and was then faced with questions from each party member.

 

In a few weeks a report will be released publicly prepared by the Committee to share the findings and recommendations for action.

I focused my remarks on gender equality indicators and how we know that our country is still plagued by gender inequality and how each of these indicators across a variety of sectors during COVID 19 have worsened and exacerbated. They have been worsened by COVID 19, by some of the government’s responses to COVID 19, by the economic downturn prior to COVID 19 and then also compounded by the COVID 19 induced recession.

What I did not get to share due to time constraints were a number of recommendations in order to mitigate the inequalities on diverse groups of people due to COVID 19 and our emergency management to date. The recommendations outlined below include the YWCA Canada recommendations and go a bit further beyond.

Recommendations:

  1. Ensure the collection of diversity and gender disaggregated data in everything.
  2. Immediately apply a GBA+ lens to all decision-making, programs, policies and processes. This extends to ensuring that all emergency management agencies are doing this as well.
  3. Expand paid sick leave for all workers.
  4. Review and enhance mental health benefits for all workers.
  5. Fund emergency accessible and flexible Child Care for all (priority given to health care and emergency response workers, single parents and low-income parents).
  6. Take a gendered approach to address homelessness during the pandemic.
  7. Establish an $8B Emergency Charitable and Non-Profit Sector Stabilization Fund and funding to provide this sector with adequate training and PPE for their activities helping the most vulnerable on the frontlines of COVID 19.
  8. Establish permanent pay top-ups for professionals who work with people with disabilities, the elderly, those experiencing domestic violence and homelessness.
  9. Invest in gendered PPE to prepare for the next wave of COVID 19 and ensure all health care workers and those working on the frontlines are adequately prepared.
  10. Ensure more emergency shelter space, training on domestic violence for first responders, immediate removal of abusers from homes, helpline supports, and creative reporting protocols for survivors.
  11. Launch a campaign to disrupt biases and social norms – to prevent burdens being placed on women. This campaign will encourage both partners to share household activities, childcare, cleaning and home-schooling.
  12. Strongly encourage that workplaces examine their internal diversity to determine if groups of employees are experiencing COVID 19 impacts differently than others. Push workplaces to adopt measures to mitigate inequalities and to build back better to create more inclusive and equitable cultures for all.
  13. Create a plan to address the negative impacts on women of the CERB program to incentivize and/or to make it easier for women to return to the workforce during COVID 19 and post-COVID 19.
  14. Begin a study on the effects of the government’s COVID 19 relief programs on female entrepreneurs. The study should collect identity disaggregated data, identify barriers and immediately implement strategies and mitigation measures to assist this sector in recovery.

This plan aims to make it easier for women to stay in the workforce by continuing to provide childcare where it is needed, reducing the caregiving burdens being placed on them and increasing wages in sectors that are low paid that care for the most vulnerable. It will also help those sectors and women working on the frontlines to be better protected and at less risk of contracting COVID 19. The recommendations will also help Canada to build back better and build back stronger economically and at a much faster rate.

All statistics mentioned in the video and in this post are sourced from Statistics Canada, YWCA Canada, YWCA Edmonton, and the Vanier Institute of the Family Report on Women, Caregiving and Work in Canada.