Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out



									                                                                                      Country Papers

CANADA                                                             Canada


Introduction                                      living in poverty has been
                                                  steadily escalating; and recent     Contents
It has been almost two decades since Canada       government policies have con-
ratified the international Convention on the      tributed to this impoverish-        Introduction
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination        ment of women. There has
Against Women (CEDAW), in 1981. Since that        been no improvement in pov-         PART ONE:
time Canada has also undertaken a range of        erty rates of women since the       CEDAW and the Canadian
other international commitments relating to       Royal Commission on the Sta-        Government
women’s human rights, and has had a very          tus of Women in Canada re-
high profile in international fora as an advo-    leased its report 30 years ago.     •CEDAW Ratification
cate for women’s rights. At the domestic level,   Almost half of all women aged       •Canadian Government
women’s human rights are addressed in nu-         65 or older have low incomes.        CEDAW Reports
merous laws, including the Charter of Rights      Fifty-six per cent of women         •CEDAW and Canadian Law
and Freedoms, human rights statutes, and          heading single parent families
employment statutes. However, Canadian            have incomes below the pov-         PART TWO:
women’s non-governmental organisations            erty line, and most poor peo-           and Canadian
(NGOs) have become increasingly concerned         ple live thousands of dollars       Women’s NGOs
that these formal legal protections have not      below the poverty line.
been adequately implemented, and that ma-           Although there has been           •Introduction
terial conditions for women in Canada are         some progress in the last two       •1990 NAC Parallel Report
worsening.1                                       decades, violence against           1993 CACSW Monitoring
   Canadian women’s NGOs are also struggling      women is still a significant        Study
to find ways to engage with a political and       problem in our society.4 Over       •1996 OAITH Report
economic climate that has changed drastically     a quarter (29 per cent) of Ca-      •1997 Shadow Report
since CEDAW was ratified in 1981. Government      nadian women have been as-
restructuring and budget cutbacks, with en-       saulted by a spouse. 5 In           References to CEDAW in Other
suing cuts to funding and programs directed       Canada, four out of five peo-       Human Rights Reports
to women, are seriously undermining the           ple murdered by their spouses       •NAWL’s Report
gains the Canadian women’s movement has           are women murdered by men.6         •The People’s Report
made.2 It is in this context that Canadian        In six out of ten spousal mur-      •CRIAW Initiative
women’s NGOs have begun to look to CEDAW          ders, police had previous           •FAFIA Initiative
with increasing interest, in the hope that the    knowledge that violence char-       •IWRP CEDAW Strategies
international process can assist them in their    acterized the relationship. 7       Meeting
efforts to make the Canadian government ac-       Note that this study did not
countable for its numerous formal commit-         include the northern territories    Conclusion
ments to women’s equality.                        and hence is not reflective of
   A recent study3 indicates that women re-       systemic violence against Abo-      Endnotes
main among the poorest of the poor in             riginal women in Canada.
Canada. Nearly 19 per cent of adult women           Statistics Canada conducted
in Canada are poor. The percentage of women       their fourth Transition Home

                                                                                     The First CEDAW Impact Study 35
                    Survey in 1997/1998. Between April 1, 1997          ters Responsible for Human Rights. Also in-
                    and March 31, 1998, a total of 90, 792              cluded in these procedures is the agreement
                    women and children were admitted to 413             that federal, provincial and territorial gov-
                    shelters that responded to the survey ques-         ernments would undertake extensive consul-
                    tion. The majority of the women, who sought         tations prior to the ratification of any inter-
                    refuge in the shelters, were previously abused      national human rights instrument; and that
                    by their spouse or partner.8 However, it must       provincial and territorial governments would
                    be noted that under-reporting is endemic, and       be entitled to prepare their own reports on
                    the research conducted by feminist based            their own human rights activities, which
                    front line organisations such as rape crisis cen-   would be combined with the federal govern-
                    tres and women’s shelters would be more in-         ment’s own section to constitute Canada’s
                    structive of the situation of violence as expe-     reports. The Canadian federal government
                    rienced by Canadian women and children.             obtained the agreement of all other senior
                       Women’s roles as unpaid and underpaid            levels of government before ratifying CEDAW;
                    caregivers, contribute to the income gap be-        and prior to ratification all senior levels of
                    tween women and men.9 Current home care             government agreed to take the measures nec-
                    policies and practices, increase women’s risk       essary to implement the Convention in the
                    of becoming impoverished. Home care has             areas under their jurisdiction.
                    little public funding, which leads to barriers         Canada’s ratification of CEDAW was reported
                    in access to subsidised care due to eligibility     in two of the major daily newspapers, the
                    requirements, inadequate assessments of the         Winnipeg Free Press and the Montreal Ga-
                    hours needed for some clients, and limits of        zette.10 Both reports noted that the Canadian
                    hours and types of services. Some recipients,       United Nations Permanent Mission issued the
                    therefore, receive fewer hours of care than         statement that “ratification of the Conven-
                    are needed. The majority of those not receiv-       tion emphasizes the importance all levels of
                    ing the care they needed are women.                 government in Canada attach to improvement
                                                                        of the status of women in Canada”. The Win-
                                   PART ONE                             nipeg Free Press also quoted the federal Sec-
                                   CEDAW and the Canadian               retary of State as announcing that the federal
The Canadian federal               Government                           and provincial governments had agreed to
government obtained                                                     take “appropriate measures” to eliminate dis-
                                   CEDAW   Ratification                 crimination against women in employment
 the agreement of all                 Canada signed CEDAW on July       and other areas.
  other senior levels              17, 1980 at the World Confer-           The Canadian government attached the fol-
of government before               ence of the United Nations           lowing statement of understanding to the in-
                                   Decade for Women, and rati-          strument of ratification:
    ratifying CEDAW;               fied CEDAW the following year
  prior to ratification            on December 10, 1981. The              The Government of Canada states that
                                   decision to ratify was reached         the competent legislative authorities
    all senior levels              through the Continuing Fed-            within Canada have addressed the con-
    of government                  eral-Provincial-Territorial            cept of equal pay referred to in article
  agreed to take the               Committee of Officials Re-             11(1)(d) by legislation which requires the
                                   sponsible for Human Rights.            establishment of rates of remuneration
 measures necessary                The Continuing Committee               without discrimination on the basis of
   to implement the                was created in 1975, as part of        sex. The competent legislative authori-
                                   the procedures for ratifying,          ties within Canada will continue to im-
  Convention in the                implementing and reporting on          plement the object and purpose of arti-
   areas under their               international human rights in-         cle 11(1)(d) and to that end have devel-
      jurisdiction.                struments which were adopted           oped, and where appropriate will con-
                                   by the Federal-Provincial-Ter-         tinue to develop additional legislative and
                                   ritorial Conference of Minis-          other measures.

36 The First CEDAW Impact Study

  This statement was entered to facilitate         the federal government has legislative author-
  provincial consent to ratification. While        ity regarding banking, Indians, naturalisation
  pay equity legislation had been intro-           and aliens, marriage and divorce, and crimi-
  duced in several provinces by that time,         nal law. The provincial governments have leg-
  many provinces had no immediate plans            islative authority regarding hospitals and
  to pass such legislation. In 1986 the fed-
  eral government began discussions with
  the provinces about the possibility of
  withdrawing the statement. Canada was
                                                   charities, education, the solemnisation of mar-
                                                   riage, property and civil rights, and matters
                                                   of a merely local or private nature. Accord-
                                                   ing to the report, provincial powers regard-
  at that time taking a strong position in         ing property and civil rights, and local or pri-
  international fora against the entry of in-
  appropriate reservations to international
  human rights conventions, and there was
  some concern that Canada’s own state-
                                                   vate matters “have been interpreted broadly
                                                   by the courts so as to include such matters as
                                                   labour law, family law and anti-discrimina-
                                                   tion legislation.”12 In Canada international
  ment of understanding regarding CEDAW            treaties do not automatically become part of
  could be seen as undermining this posi-
  tion. Canada notified the United Nations
  Secretary-General of its decision to with-
  draw the statement on May 28, 1992.11
                                                   domestic law, so that implementation is de-
                                                   pendent upon legislation passed by the Ca-
                                                   nadian parliament and the provincial and
                                                   territorial legislatures, for matters that fall
                                                   under their jurisdictions.
Canada’s Reports to the CEDAW                         The report also indicated the government’s
Committee                                          assessment that CEDAW’s principles were al-
   Canada has submitted four reports to the        ready being implemented through domestic
CEDAW Committee since ratification in 1981,        law in Canada, and that these laws might not

and the fifth report was scheduled for sub-        require any further revision:
mission in 1999. Although the report is now
overdue, a new date for its submission has           All governments in Canada
not been formally announced. In the earlier          have undertaken to give ef-
reports, the Canadian government addressed           fect to the provisions of the
the question of how CEDAW would be imple-            Convention by amending do-              International
mented in Canada. Two points were stressed           mestic law to make it con-             treaties do not
in this regard. The first was that the constitu-     sistent with the convention if,
tional division of powers between the federal        after study, this proves to be
and provincial governments would shape               necessary. It should be noted,         become part of
CEDAW implementation, as the federal govern-         however, that most of the             domestic law, so
ment did not have jurisdiction regarding many        rights recognised in Articles
of the substantive areas in which CEDAW im-          1 to 16 of the Convention are      that implementation
poses obligations. Second, it was anticipated        already protected in Canada.        is dependent upon
that the primary means through which CEDAW           Even before the Convention
would be implemented is the application of           came into force in Canada,
                                                                                          legislation passed
existing domestic human rights entitlements          both levels of government             by the Canadian
relating to women, as found in the Charter           had, each within the ambit             parliament and
of Rights and Freedoms, human rights stat-           of its jurisdiction, singly or
utes, and employment statutes.                       in cooperation with each            the provincial and
   The first Canadian CEDAW report covered           other, taken steps to imple-      territorial legislatures,
the period 1980-82. In the report’s introduc-        ment the provisions of these
tion the Canadian government outlined its            articles and to protect these
                                                                                           for matters that
position on the effect the constitutional divi-      rights.13                              fall under their
sion of powers between levels of government                                                  jurisdictions.
has on CEDAW implementation in Canada.               In this regard the report also
According to the Constitution Act of 1982,         stated that “[t]he ‘practical re-

                                                                                       The First CEDAW Impact Study 37
                alisation’ of the principle of the equality of    ter, and extensive reports prepared by the in-
                women and men is provided by the enforce-         dividual provinces. No initiatives undertaken
                ment measures contained in the Charter, the       for the express purpose of CEDAW implemen-
                Canadian and various provincial Bills of          tation were identified.
                Rights and the eleven human rights acts.”14          Heritage Canada is the federal government
                According to the report, human rights tribu-      department responsible for the preparation
                nals in Canada had adopted a definition of        of Canada’s reports to United Nations bod-
                “discrimination” that is comparable to the        ies, including the CEDAW Committee. To this
                definition provided by Article 1 of CEDAW.        end it co-ordinates the preparation of the fed-
                More importantly, sections 15 and 28 of the       eral, provincial and territorial sections of
                Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms           Canada’s reports. In addition, it organises
                embodied the principle of equality between        twice yearly meetings of the Federal-Provin-
                men and women in the constitution. Section        cial Committee of Officials Responsible for
                15 would not come into effect until 1985,         Human Rights. At these meetings matters
                and at the time the report was written all lev-   relating to all of the international human
                els of government were conducting reviews         rights treaties and conventions to which
                of their legislation to ensure Charter compli-    Canada is a signatory are discussed. The fed-
                ance, with many passing omnibus legislation       eral, provincial and territorial governments
                to amend multiple statutes at once. The re-       have independent responsibility for reporting
                port concluded its assessment of Canada’s         in the areas under their jurisdiction, and these
                compliance with Article 3 of CEDAW by stat-       meetings serve to provide information and the
                ing “it bears repeating that the passing of the   opportunity for consultation.
                Constitution Act, 1982 has placed the prin-          In addition to the implementation mecha-
                ciple of equality between the sexes squarely      nisms employed by Heritage Canada, the Sta-
                at the foundation of the nation’s legal, judi-    tus of Women Canada works collaboratively
                cial and social systems.”15                       with international organisations such as the
                                   At the outset of Canada’s      UN, to ensure that legislation, policies and
                                second report to the CEDAW        programs advance women’s equality.
                                Committee, the government            According to Heritage Canada, a procedure
                                again stressed that while the     for requesting NGO input into Canada’s re-
    A procedure for             federal government has exclu-     ports has recently been formalized.17 Since
requesting NGO input sive authority to enter into in-             1994, when any report under a human rights
into Canada’s reports ternational treaty obligations”             convention to the United Nations is in prepa-
                                many of these obligations can     ration, Heritage Canada has sent letters to
   has recently been            only be implemented by legis-     the NGOs it understands to be interested. These
  formalized. When              lation enacted by provincial      letters ask the NGOs to indicate the issues and
                                legislatures.”16 The position     concerns they feel should be addressed, while
   any report under             that the Charter of Rights and    emphasisng that the government retains com-
    a human rights              Freedoms and human rights         plete authority to determine the contents of
  convention to the             legislation were primary means    the report. The letters also state that the Ca-
                                of implementing CEDAW in          nadian government will forward any mate-
 United Nations is in Canada is also repeated. The                rial received from NGOs to the relevant United
preparation, Heritage third and fourth reports con-               Nations committee. Prior to 1994 these re-
                                tain much less in the way of      quests were also frequently made, and it ap-
    Canada has sent             explanatory material, but ap-     pears that an effort was made to contact
  letters to the NGOs           pear to proceed on the assump-    women’s NGOs in relation to Canada’s third
   it understands to            tions set out in the first two    report to the CEDAW Committee.
                                reports. These reports include       That report states:
     be interested.             extensive reviews of the juris-
                                prudence that was developing        Prior to the preparation of Canada’s third
                                under section 15 of the Char-       report on the Convention on the Elimi-

38 The First CEDAW Impact Study

  nation of All Forms of Discrimination            equality treats like cases alike and unlike cases
  Against Women, 42 national women’s               alike. Andrews affirmed that equality does
  organisations were invited to submit             not necessarily require equal treatment24 that
  comments related to the federal section          not every classification in legislation violates
  of the report. Responses have been re-           equality25; and that equality is a comparative
  ceived from three organisations and these
  are being sent with this report to the at-
  tention of the Committee on the Elimi-
  nation of All Forms of Discrimination
                                                      In Andrews, CEDAW and its definition of
                                                   “discrimination” was referred to by the Brit-
                                                   ish Columbia Court of Appeal,27 however,
  Against Women.18                                 CEDAW was not mentioned as an authority at

   According to Heritage Canada’s Senior Of-
ficer for International Instruments, such re-
quests made to NGOs for input into Canada’s
                                                   the Supreme Court of Canada. Furthermore,
                                                   the Women’s Legal Education and Action
                                                   Fund intervened at the Supreme Court of
                                                   Canada, to advance their own meaning and
reports usually generate a very low level of       scope of section 15 of the Charter.
response (requests relating to the Convention
on the Rights of the Child and the Conven-
tion on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
being exceptions to this general rule).19
                                                      In the 1995 decision of Chan v. Canada
                                                   (Ministry of Immigration and Employment),
                                                   the Supreme Court of Canada considered the
                                                   appeal of the Immigration and Refugee
                                                   Board’s dismissal of a Chinese man’s refugee
CEDAW    and Canadian Law                          claim.28 The claim was based, in part, on his
   Canada has not passed legislation for the       fear of sterilisation under China’s one-child
express purpose of implementing CEDAW. The         policy. The dissent in this decision referred
one place where reference to CEDAW is found        to CEDAW and other international instruments,

in Canadian law is in the decisions of courts      to conclude that the right to freely and re-
and human rights tribunals. It should be noted     sponsibly decide the number and spacing of
that in Canada courts and tribunals cannot         one’s children should be con-
enforce CEDAW directly as domestic legislation.    sidered a fundamental human
However they may use international human           right in the context of refugee
rights instruments such as CEDAW as aids to        determinations. However, the
interpretation where the precise meaning or        majority of the court dismissed
                                                                                          The one place where
scope of domestic legal protections is unclear.    the appeal on factual grounds.         reference to CEDAW is
CEDAW has occasionally been considered in this        In the 1998 decision of R. v.         found in Canadian
context by Canadian courts.                        Ewanchuk, the Alberta Court
   In the case of Andrews v. Law Society of        of Appeal heard the appeal of         law is in the decisions
British Columbia,20 the Supreme Court of           a sexual assault acquittal in          of courts and human
Canada upheld a challenge to the requirement       which the trial judge had found
that one must be a Canadian citizen to be a        there had been “implied con-
                                                                                              rights tribunals.
member of the bar in British Columbia. A           sent.” The majority dismissed
                                                          29                              Courts and tribunals
unanimous court concluded that this require-       the appeal, but the dissenting        may use international
ment infringed section 15 of the Charter,21 and    appeal court judge would have
a majority of the Court rejected the argument      allowed it. The dissenting judge             human rights
that it was justified under section 1. Andrews     took the position that the un-        instruments as aids to
clarified the meaning of “equality” for the        derstanding of implied consent
purposes of section 15 of the Charter. The         the trial judge utilised was no
                                                                                          interpretation where
Court rejected a formal approach to equal-         longer acceptable in Canadian         the meaning or scope
ity, and instead preferred a substantive model.    law. He stated that as a result           of domestic legal
The Court stated that the principle of formal      of the revision of the Criminal
equality is “seriously deficient”22 and it “does   Code’s provisions relating to         protections is unclear.
not afford a realistic test for a violation of     consent in 1992, courts should
equality rights.”23 The principle of formal        not presume that implied con-

                                                                                  The First CEDAW Impact Study 39
                    sent exists unless and until a woman overtly       tion, the term ‘discrimination against women’
                    signals her non-consent. He continued, to          shall mean any distinction, exclusion or re-
                    state that “the unfairness of this approach and    striction made on the basis of sex which has
                    its breach of women’s equality rights under        the effect or purpose of impairing or nullify-
                    the Charter and Canada’s international hu-         ing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of
                    man rights obligations cannot be seriously         women, irrespective of their marital status,
                    challenged: Convention on the Elimination          on a basis of equality of men and women, of
                    of All Forms of Discrimination Against             human rights and fundamental freedoms in
                    Women (CEDAW), December 18, 1979, Can              the political, economic, social, cultural, civil
                    T.S. 1982 No. 31; see also the Declaration         or any other field.”38
                    on the Elimination of Violence Against                In the 1987 decision of Schachter v. Canada
                    Women, February 23, 1994, 33 I.L.M.                et al.,39 the Federal Court of Canada dismissed
                    1049.”30                                           an application by the Canadian Human
                       On appeal, in the 1999 decision of R. v.        Rights Commission to intervene in an action
                    Ewanchuk, the Supreme Court of Canada al-          commenced by Schachter. Schachter sought
                    lowed the appeal of a sexual assault acquit-       to have certain provisions of the Unemploy-
                    tal in which the trial judge had found there       ment Insurance Act, 1971 declared unconsti-
                    had been “implied consent.”31 L’Heureux-           tutional as it allowed for mothers to receive
                    Dube J., asserted that this case was about         maternity benefits, but not fathers. Schachter
                    myths and stereotypes, stereotypes that “de-       also filed a complaint with the Commission
                    nies women’s sexual autonomy and implies           alleging discriminatory practice. The Court
                    that women are in a state of constant con-         held that the current state of the complaint
                    sent to sexual activity.”33 There were three       puts the Commission in an awkward posi-
                    intervenors in this case, and the Women’s          tion, thus, the Commission’s application was
                    Legal Education and Action Fund was among          denied for the time being. The Women’s Le-
                    them. CEDAW played a determinative role in         gal Education and Action Fund, however, was
                    this case and was referred to throughout the       given the authority to intervene.
                    Court’s judgment. The Court addressed the             In the 1991 decision of Gould v. Yukon
                    systemic problem of violence against women,        Order of Pioneers, the Supreme Court of the
                    and asserted that “violence against women is       Yukon Territory heard the appeal of a hu-
                    as much a matter of equality as it is an of-       man rights tribunal’s finding of discrimina-
                    fence against human dignity and a violation        tion on the basis of sex.40 The tribunal had
                    of human rights.”34 L’Heureux-Dube J. stated       found that the Yukon Order of Pioneers dis-
                    that Canada was indeed a party to CEDAW, and       criminated on the basis of sex by maintain-
                    highlighted Canada’s requirement to respect        ing a male-only membership rule. The Yukon
                    and observe the human rights of women. The         Status of Women Council was an intervener
                    Court refers to CEDAW’s definition of “discrimi-   in this case, and argued that the Court should
                    nation against women” and the measures re-         interpret the Human Rights Act in the light
                    quired by State Parties to fulfill the goal of     of the provisions of CEDAW. The Court recog-
                    eliminating discrimination against women.35        nised that reference to international human
                       In the 1990 decision of Leroux v. Co-op-        rights instruments may be made for the pur-
                    erators General Insurance Co.,36 The High          pose of interpretation, but stated: “while the
                    Court of Justice considered the definition of      objectives of the Human Rights Act and
                    “spouse” in a standard automobile insurance        CEDAW are entirely compatible, as an aid to
                    policy. “Spouse” was interpreted as includ-        interpretation I find CEDAW to be of little as-
                    ing a common law spouse. The Court referred        sistance.” 41 The Court set the tribunals’ deci-
                    to Article 1 of the International Convention       sion aside, and ordered a rehearing.42
                    on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimi-          Human rights tribunals have also made ref-
                    nation Against Women, cited in Bayefsky,           erence to CEDAW on occasion. CEDAW is relevant
                    “Defining Equality Rights,”37 which states         in this context not simply as a generally rec-
                    that “for the purposes of the present conven-      ognised aid to interpretation, but also because

40 The First CEDAW Impact Study

the preambles to many of Canada’s human           which have been released to date by Cana-
rights statutes mention Canada’s international    dian courts and human rights tribunals, CED-
human rights commitments. For example, the        AW had not played a determinative role in the
preamble to the Yukon Human Rights Act            result; and CEDAW has not been relied upon to
includes the following statement:                 expand the meaning and requirements of

  Recognising that respect for human
  rights is a fundamental part of Canada’s
                                                  women’s equality beyond the parameters pro-
                                                  vided by existing domestic human rights
                                                  standards. Reference to CEDAW is most fre-
                                                  quently made for the purpose of providing
                                                  further authority for conclusions that are al-
  That Canada is a party to the United Na-
  tions’ Universal Declaration of Human
  Rights and other international undertak-
  ings having as their object the improve-
                                                  ready adequately supported by domestic law.

                                                  PART TWO
                                                  CEDAW   and Canadian Women’s          NGOs
  ment of human rights in Canada and
  other nations of the world,

  That the Yukon Government has a re-
  sponsibility to encourage the understand-
                                                    Awareness of CEDAW within the Canadian
                                                  women’s movement has, until very recently,
                                                  been quite low.47 Certainly, not all women
  ing and recognition of human rights that        working at the grassroots level would recog-
  is consistent with Canada’s international       nize the term “CEDAW”; and for many mem-
  undertakings and with the initiatives           bers of the executives of Canadian women’s
  taken by Canada and the provinces, and          NGOs understanding of CEDAW is limited to the
                                                  fact of its existence as the international hu-

  That it is just and consistent with Cana-       man rights convention for women. Not all
  da’s international undertakings to recog-       members of the executives would be aware,
  nise and make special provision for the         for example, of the convention’s contents, of
  unique needs and cultural heritage of the       Canada’s obligations under CEDAW, or of the
  aboriginal peoples of the Yukon....43           reporting mechanism. However, among the
                                                  organisations contacted for this report, it
   An Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has,          would be usual for several members of the
for example, made reference to CEDAW in           executive to have a broader understanding
Roberts v. Ontario (Ministry of Health), as       of CEDAW, and to have begun thinking about
part of a survey of authorities which concep-     how CEDAW might be integrated into their or-
tualise affirmative action programmes as nec-     ganisation’s advocacy strategies. The Beijing
essary undertakings for the achievement of        Conference, as well as the other recent inter-
equality.44 A Quebec human rights tribunal        national women’s human rights conferences,
made reference to CEDAW in the course of de-      was identified by many women’s NGOs as hav-
termining whether common-law relationships        ing stimulated their interest in CEDAW. The
ought to be included within the definition of     work of committed Canadian women’s hu-
“civil status.”45 A federal human rights tri-     man rights activists, especially that of Shelagh
bunal has mentioned CEDAW in the course of        Day, was also identified as being crucially
determining a claim of sex discrimination in      important in the development of awareness
housing accommodation, as part of a review        and knowledge of CEDAW among women’s
of the history of the federal Indian Act.46 The   NGOs.
tribunal noted that the federal government’s        There has been a significant increase in
ratification of CEDAW demonstrated its inten-     women’s NGO interest in CEDAW over the past
tion to amend the Indian Act to eliminate its     several years. It is, for example, becoming
discriminatory provisions.                        more common for women’s NGOs to include
   With the exception of the Ewanchuk case,       reference to CEDAW as part of the relevant
it should be stressed that in the decisions       normative framework in their communica-

                                                                                      The First CEDAW Impact Study 41
                    tions with government, and a number of           that Quebec women were concerned the
                    women’s NGOs have decided to integrate           Meech Lake Constitutional Accord might be
                    CEDAW into specific actions and interventions    adopted in a form that would adversely af-
                    they are currently developing.48 One of the      fect women; and that despite the recent revi-
                    primary obstacles to women’s NGO engage-         sion of the Indian Act, discrimination con-
                    ment with CEDAW that activists have identi-      tinued in the government’s process for rein-
                    fied is a lack of understanding of how this      stating women as ‘Status Indians’. Other is-
                    international convention may be relevant to      sues raised by NAC in the parallel report in-
                    Canadian women’s domestic issues. For this       cluded: the treatment of female offenders in
                    reason, attention is now being focussed on       the prison system; the weak enforcement pro-
                    education—not just in terms of distributing      visions of the federal employment equity bill;
                    information about CEDAW, but also in terms       the inadequacy of legal measures directed at
                    of working with women’s NGOs to help them        prostitution; budget cuts to funding for wom-
                    make the links between Canada’s commit-          en’s NGOs; the effect that limitations to edu-
                    ments under CEDAW and their own domestic         cation opportunities and the restructuring of
                    priorities.                                      the Canadian economy were having on wom-
                       The pages that follow highlight some of the   en’s ability to freely choose their profession;
                    recent NGO engagements with CEDAW. Of par-       the failure to implement equal pay measures;
                    ticular interest is the work that the Canadian   proposed cuts to the unemployment insurance
                    Research Institute for the Advancement of        programme; lack of access to quality child
                    Women has done, to facilitate the creation of    care; continuing restrictions on access to abor-
                    a coalition of women’s NGOs that will develop    tion; conditions facing rural women; and the
                    strategies linking Canadian women’s imme-        failure to provide adequate funding for the
                    diate concerns with international conventions    provision of services to battered women.
                    and mechanisms.49                                   NAC stated its broader concerns in the par-
                                                                     allel report’s introduction, which focused on
                                  1990 NAC Parallel Report           the negative impact the Canadian govern-
                                     The National Action Com-        ment’s change in economic priorities was hav-
                                  mittee on the Status of Women      ing on Canadian women:
     Activists have               (NAC) submitted a parallel re-
  identified a lack of            port to the CEDAW Committee          The Canadian government’s diminishing
understanding of how              in January 1990, regarding           commitment to providing financial sup-
                                  Canada’s second CEDAW re-            port to Canadian women’s organizations–
   this international             port.50 NAC is the largest femi-     at both federal and provincial levels–is a
  convention may be               nist organisation in Canada,         serious failure to ensure that discrimina-
                                  with a membership of approxi-        tion in all its forms will be eliminated in
relevant to Canadian              mately 600 groups that in turn       Canada… Canadian women are just be-
   women’s domestic               has represented over three mil-      ginning to feel the adverse effects of the
  issues. Attention is            lion Canadians.                      government’s deficit reduction strategies
                                     The parallel report included      and an export-led economic adjustment
 now being focussed               statistical information on           plan which privileges the market and pro-
on education to help              women in Canada, and high-           poses that social programs are irrespon-
                                  lighted specific areas in which      sible spending. The federal 1989-90
 them make the links              the Canadian government had          Budget clarified the government’s inten-
   between Canada’s               failed to meet its obligations       tion to remove itself from its previous role
 commitments under                under CEDAW. For example, re-        as intervener in the social, regional and
                                  garding CEDAW article 2, the         infrastructure gaps and imbalances cre-
 CEDAW and their own              report noted: that the Cana-         ated by “the market.” This Budget has
  domestic priorities.            dian Human Rights Act did            precipitated changes in the economy
                                  not prohibit discrimination on       which will make it easier for some peo-
                                  the basis of sexual orientation;     ple to become wealthier and which will

42 The First CEDAW Impact Study

  ensure that many others, including mid-           mined women’s equality. The study raised
  dle class women, women with little edu-           concern that, despite this failure to meet its
  cation, or job skills, women of colour,           existing commitments, the Canadian govern-
  immigrant women and native women,                 ment continued to enter into international
  will find their lives much harder, more           agreements without it being clear that they
  violent, and poorer.51

The CACSW Monitoring Study
   The Canadian Advisory Council on the Sta-
                                                    would be implemented, and continued to play
                                                    a leadership role regarding women’s equality
                                                    on the international stage.
                                                       The study also noted a low level of CEDAW
tus of Women (CACSW) commissioned research          and FLS awareness on the part of both Cana-
on what the Canadian government had done
to fulfil its obligations under CEDAW and the
Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (FLS),
which was completed in 1993. The research
                                                    dian governments and women’s NGOs. On the
                                                    basis of the responses that were received from
                                                    the governments, it appeared that they had
                                                    considerable difficulty assembling the re-
was presented in a report entitled “Little But      quested information, and did not have inter-
Lip-Service: Assessing Canada’s Implementa-
tion of its International Obligations for Wom-
en’s Equality”, co-authored by Deborah
Stienstra and Barbara Roberts. The report
                                                    nal reporting mechanisms in place to keep
                                                    track of their obligations and actions in rela-
                                                    tion to CEDAW and the FLS . The study made
                                                    the assessment that “provincial and territo-
measured compliance by consulting with              rial governments may not all be aware of their
women’s NGOs regarding their perception of          obligations under these agreements, nor that
the progress the government had made on 14          they extend beyond what are sometimes nar-
priority issues selected for the study. These       rowly defined as ‘women’s issues’.”52 At the
issues were: women and decision-making,             same time, the study noted that “most of the

aboriginal women, child care, women with            (women’s) groups we contacted had not been
disabilities, women and the economy, women,         aware of the commitments made by Canada
education, and training, women and employ-          in CEDAW and the FLS.”53
ment, women and the environment, women                 A revised version of this re-
and health, women and the law, women and            port was published under the
peace, women and poverty, women and rac-            title “Strategies for the Year
ism, and violence against women. The fed-           2000: a Woman’s Hand-                    The study made
eral, provincial and territorial Ministers Re-      book,”and now includes sug-               the assessment
sponsible for the Status of Women were also         gestions as to how women’s
contacted, and asked to provide information         NGOs can use the book in their
                                                                                              that provincial
regarding their progress in these areas.            own work. It is advertised on             and territorial
   The study concluded that very few of the         CRIAW’s Post-Beijing web site as        governments may
government’s CEDAW and FLS commitments had          a guide for women’s NGOs re-
been fulfilled, or even partially fulfilled. As a   garding Canada’s international           not all be aware
general rule, Canadian governments were             commitments to women’s hu-             of their obligations
willing to recognize women’s right to equal-        man rights.54
ity, and were willing to sign on to a range of
                                                                                             under these
commitments to advance women’s equality,            The OAITH Brief                        agreements, nor
but they failed to understand the profound            In May 1996 the Ontario              that they extend
changes they would need to initiate in order        Association of Interval and
to implement these commitments. Worse,              Transition Houses (OAITH) pre-           beyond what
some governments, the federal government            sented a brief to the federal           are sometimes
in particular, had implemented policies such        government entitled “Crisis in
as reductions to unemployment insurance             Women’ Equality Rights in
                                                                                         narrowly defined as
coverage, cuts to funding for women’s pro-          Ontario.”55 OAITH is a network-       “women’s issues.”
grammes, and the termination of the Court           ing and lobbying organisation
Challenges Programme, that directly under-          that represents over 70 shelters

                                                                                       The First CEDAW Impact Study 43
                and services to abused women and children          nises state responsibility for violence against
                in Ontario. The brief was intended to make         women, including the abuse of women by
                clear to the federal government its own re-        intimate partners. The brief quoted Radhika
                sponsibility for and complicity in recent          Coomaraswamy, the Special Rapporteur on
                changes made to the funding and provision          Violence Against Women, on the subject of
                of services to abused women by the Ontario         state responsibility: “a state which tolerates
                provincial government, and to demand that          violence against women within families or
                the federal government take action.                communities and which does not take effec-
                   The brief described the effective destruc-      tive measures to prevent this violence or hold
                tion of decades of work by women’s advo-           accountable those who are responsible for the
                cates that had taken place in Ontario in the       violence is as guilty as the individual perpe-
                eleven months following the election of a pro-     trators.”56 The brief stated that there had been
                gressive conservative government. Social As-       absolutely no response from the federal gov-
                sistance rates in Ontario were reduced by 21.6     ernment to the Ontario provincial govern-
                per cent, with the result that shelters began      ment’s actions, and that a clear picture was
                receiving calls from women who were con-           emerging “of a Federal Government that
                sidering returning to violent partners, or giv-    makes commitments internationally to eradi-
                ing custody of their children to violent part-     cate violence against women, and then,
                ners, to make sure that their children would       through the federal structure of government,
                be fed. Second-stage shelters for abused           can abdicate its responsibilities with impu-
                women and their children were notified that        nity.”57 The brief also stressed that, in addi-
                funding for their counseling and support pro-      tion to its failure to engage in any way with
                grammes would be eliminated. Legal aid             the Ontario provincial government’s actions,
                funding was cut, with the result that access       the federal cuts to transfer payments had en-
                to legal representation in matters such as cus-    couraged provincial governments to cut all
                tody, restraining orders and access to assets      budget lines and especially those supporting
                                was drastically curtailed. Em-     the safety, freedom and equality of women
                                ployment equity was abolished      and children.
                                and pay equity was frozen. The        An expanded version of this brief, entitled
    “A state which              provincial government an-          “Home Truths: Exposing the False Face of
  tolerates violence            nounced that it intended to        Equality and Security Rights for Abused
    against women               “get out of the business of sub-   Women in Canada,”58 was submitted to the
                                sidised housing.”Women’s ad-       United Nations Special Rapporteur on Vio-
  within families or            vocates working in shelters and    lence Against Women in November 1996.
  communities and               other services reported receiv-    Again, the report focused on the impact of
                                ing threats that public opposi-    the cuts to social programmes in Ontario, in
    which does not              tion to the government would       the context of the federal government’s deci-
     take effective             lead to the elimination of their   sion to reduce social spending, its elimina-
 measures to prevent            funding.                           tion of national standards for the provision
                                   The brief reminded the fed-     of social assistance, and its commitments
   this violence or             eral government that it had        under international human rights instru-
  hold accountable              undertaken a positive obliga-      ments. The OAITH brief also informed the
                                tion to take action to eliminate   Shadow Report on Canada that was pre-
    those who are               violence against women, by         sented to the CEDAW Committee in 1997.59
 responsible for the            ratifying CEDAW and through its
 violence is as guilty          endorsement of other interna-      The 1997 Shadow Report
                                tional women’s human rights          In a meeting held at the University of To-
   as the individual            instruments. It noted that         ronto Faculty of Law’s International Human
    perpetrators.”              Canada is obliged to comply        Rights Programme in October 1996, Cana-
                                with the developing interna-       da’s pending fourth report to the CEDAW Com-
                                tional standard, which recog-      mittee came up for discussion, and the women

44 The First CEDAW Impact Study

at that meeting realised that Canadian wom-      of Canada.
en’s NGOs had not made any plans to present        Women in Canada appear to have for-
a Shadow Report. Susan Bazilli of the Metro      mal equality, given the constitutional
Action Committee on Violence Against             rights as guaranteed in the Charter of
Women and Children, agreed to co-ordinate        Rights and Freedoms, and much of the
the writing of a Shadow Report and quickly
contacted a number of women’s NGOs for in-
put, including the Disabled Women’s Net-
work, the Canadian Association of Sexual
                                                 legislation in Canada. However, the re-
                                                 ality is something very different. It is this
                                                 reality of women’s lives, and their mate-
                                                 rial conditions, that we want to convey
Assault Centres, the National Association of     to the CEDAW Committee in this brief re-
Women and the Law, the National Organisa-
tion of Immigrant and Visible Minority
Women of Canada, the Canadian Association
of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Action Ontarienne
                                                 port. We want the Committee to note the
                                                 impact on women of the decreasing re-
                                                 sponsibility and accountability of the Ca-
                                                 nadian government for social pro-
Contra la Violence Faites aux Femmes, and        grammes and economic well-being and
the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
   In January 1997 a group of Canadian
women who were already present at the
United Nations in New York for other rea-
                                                 the effects that cuts to social programmes
                                                 and national standards for such pro-
                                                 grammes are having on the lives of
sons came together to plan the Shadow Re-
port, which was written by Susan Bazilli,          In this context, the Shadow Report ad-
Shelagh Day, Gwen Brodsky and Lois              dressed the issues of women’s poverty, the
Chiang.60 NAC had agreed to endorse the re-     repeal of the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP),
port, which was then submitted to the CEDAW     conditions affecting aboriginal women, bias

Committee.61 The women who wrote the            in the justice system, legal aid, conditions af-
Shadow Report approached the Canadian           fecting women in prison, family law, condi-
government, asking for funding so that they     tions affecting refugee and im-
would be able to stay in New York long          migrant women, pay and em-
enough to attend the CEDAW Committee ses-       ployment equity, violence
sion at which Canada’s report would be con-     against women, prostitution
                                                                                           “We want the
sidered, but the government declined to fa-     and trafficking, racism, disabil-      Committee to note
cilitate their attendance.                      ity, sexual orientation, health,     the impact on women
   The introduction to the Shadow Report        the exclusion of women from
framed the problem of women’s equality in       the international treaty proc-           of the decreasing
Canada in the following way:                    ess, the federal Plan for Gen-           responsibility and
                                                der Equality, and the Beijing
  The United Nations Development Index          Platform for Action.
                                                                                      accountability of the
  for 1995 ranked Canada first for quality         The effect of the Canadian        Canadian government
  of life; but when women’s equality was        government’s recent economic         for social programmes
  considered, Canada’s ranking was              policies was a dominant theme
  dropped to ninth, noting that “inequal-       in the Shadow Report. It ex-           and the effects that
  ity (for women) is entrenched in every        plained that, with the repeal of            cuts to social
  facet of Canadian life.” Not only has         CAP and the creation of the new
  progress been too slow, but in the past       Canada Health and Social
                                                                                          programmes and
  few years the situation for women in          Transfer Tax (CHST), the federal        national standards
  Canada has been getting progressively         government had removed na-            for such programmes
  worse in all areas of social, economic and    tional standards and protec-
  political life. Every indicator shows that    tions regarding social assist-             are having on
  there has been a growth of women’s in-        ance and social services for per-      the lives of women.
  equality—as a direct result of policies and   sons in need. This dramatic
  political choices made by the government      policy change, as accompanied

                                                                                    The First CEDAW Impact Study 45
                    by other social and economic governmental           resources. It also did not provide any mecha-
                    measures, had a considerable negative impact        nisms for monitoring or enforcement.
                    on women because of the prevalence of pov-            The Shadow Report was highly critical of
                    erty among Canadian women and their reli-           the federal government’s failure to engage
                    ance on social assistance programs and serv-        with women’s NGOs in the CEDAW reporting
                    ices. Among the other economic measures the         process:
                    report criticised were: the failure to provide
                    funding to address Aboriginal women’s jus-            It is of particular concern that Canada
                    tice concerns; the failure to provide legal aid       has not adequately engaged Canadian
                    funding to adequately support women in-               women in the process of monitoring its
                    volved in civil and family law matters such           implementation of the CEDAW Conven-
                    as custody, child support and divorce; the im-        tion. Specifically, Canada has not invited
                    position of a $975 “head tax” on all immi-            the participation of Canadian women’s
                    grants and the devolution of direct delivery          NGOs in the process of preparing the Ca-
                    services to immigrants to the provincial gov-         nadian report to CEDAW or evaluating the
                    ernments; the cutting of funds for services,          adequacy of Canadian laws and prac-
                    programmes, education, prevention and jus-            tices, in light of the Convention, either
                    tice system initiatives regarding violence            prior to submission of the Canadian re-
                    against women, the reduction and elimina-             port to the committee or after the Com-
                    tion of funding for disabled women’s organi-          mittee has considered the report.63
                    sations; and massive reductions in health care
                    funding and devolution of responsibility to            The report also expressed concern that
                    the provincial governments at a time when           Canada’s support for women’s human rights
                    women’s health care needs were already be-          in the international arena had not been re-
                    ing inadequately addressed.                         flected in domestic law and policy:
                       Another dominant theme in the Shadow
                    Report, in addition to women’s rising mate-           The women of Canada continue to ex-
                    rial inequality in Canada, was the govern-            press outrage at Canada’s hypocrisy. In
                    ment’s failure to take action to support the          international fora, Canada is a vocal
                    commitments it had made on paper. The re-             advocate for women’s equality and is
                    port noted that despite decades of reports            considered a leader in the development
                    documenting the justice system’s bias against         of many international human rights
                    women, from women’s organisations, gov-               agreements. However, at home we expe-
                    ernment bodies, lawyers’ associations, aca-           rience silence on women’s equality issues,
                    demics, journalists and researchers, the gov-         and both a lack of effective action and
                    ernment had not implemented any real sys-             the introduction of measures that are
                    temic change. While the Charter of Rights             harmful to women.64
                    and Freedoms guaranteed women’s equality
                    rights, the federal and provincial governments        The Shadow Report concluded by noting
                    had repeatedly advocated narrow and re-             that although Canada had ratified CEDAW,
                    stricted interpretations of these equality rights   adopted the Forward Looking Strategies
                    in the courts, with the result that many wom-       agreement, adopted the Beijing Platform for
                    en’s equality rights claims had been defeated.      Action, as well as being a signatory to nu-
                    Pay equity had not been implemented in              merous other international agreements mak-
                    many Canadian jurisdictions, and federal            ing commitments to end systemic discrimi-
                    employment equity legislation was weak and          nation against women, there had been a gen-
                    did not have an effective enforcement mecha-        eral failure to implement. “Not only has
                    nism. The federal government’s gender equal-        Canada not lived up to any of the commit-
                    ity plan, which was released just prior to the      ments made in these international agreements
                    Beijing conference, did not contain any meas-       and instruments, it is our position that
                    urable objectives, time-lines or allocation of      Canada is also not in compliance with its own

46 The First CEDAW Impact Study

domestic human rights instruments, most           for failing to comply with the UN Covenant
particularly the Canadian Charter of Rights       on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
and Freedoms.”65                                  Canada had signed and agreed to this cov-
   Many of the issues identified in the Shadow    enant in 1976. The report made by the com-
report were raised by the CEDAW Committee         mittee received great publicity, which may
in its questioning of the Canadian government
delegation, and these concerns were also re-
flected in the Committee’s Concluding Com-
ments on Canada’s report. The Committee
                                                  lead to another opportunity to raise CEDAW
                                                  Committee’s position again. As reported in
                                                  the Toronto Star,66 the Committee found that
                                                  addressing budget deficits by slashing social
noted that economic restructuring appears to      expenditure, Canada has paid insufficient at-
have had a disproportionate effect on women,
and is threatening to seriously erode the
progress that has been achieved by Canadian
women. The Committee expressed its concern
                                                  tention to the adverse consequences for the
                                                  enjoyment of economic, social and cultural
                                                  rights by the Canadian population as a whole,
                                                  and by vulnerable groups in particular. The
that there seemed to be little understanding      Committee also expressed its concern about
of the impact economic restructuring can have
on women. The Committee also expressed
concerns about the privatisation of health
care, deepening poverty among women and
                                                  the inadequate legal protection in Canada of
                                                  women’s rights, which are guaranteed under
                                                  the Covenant, such as the absence of laws
                                                  requiring employers to pay equal remunera-
the weakening and withdrawal of social as-        tion for work of equal value in some prov-
sistance programmes, the limitations and          inces and territories.
weak enforcement of the federal Employment           Furthermore, the Committee expressed its
Equity Act, potential discrimination in pro-      concern with the Government of Ontario
grammes directed at aboriginal women, and         decision to cut 21.6 per cent of its social as-

the effect of budget cutbacks on women’s cri-     sistance in spite of claims that it would force
sis centres. Among the Committee’s sugges-        large numbers of people from their homes.
tions and recommendations were that social        As reported in The Globe and Mail,67 the
assistance programmes directed at women be        Committee suggested that Canada mandate
restored to an adequate level; that the federal   a federal program similar to the former
Plan for Gender Equality be given specific        Canada-Assistance Plan, which imposed na-
time-frames, measurable goals and specific        tional standards on provinces for welfare and
resource allocation; and that the government      postsecondary education.
should study and assess the impact of eco-           The concluding comments from the CEDAW
nomic changes on women’s employment, ex-          Committee, with regard to the last State re-
isting measures to combat violence against        port, were raised at the Committee on the
women, progress in closing the gap in pay         Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural
between men and women, the situation of           Rights.68 Hopefully this will increase public
aboriginal women and especially aboriginal        awareness of CEDAW and its commitment to
women in prison, and the value of women’s         women’s human rights.
unpaid work.
   Given the scarcity of resources in the Ca-     References to CEDAW in Other Human
nadian women’s movement at the time, little       Rights Reports
effort was made at the time to publicise the
comments, and no one is aware of any gov-         NAWL’s Reports
ernment efforts made in relation to them. It        The National Association of Women and
should be noted that some of the same issues,     the Law (NAWL) submitted two very thorough
including CAP, and the OAITH brief, were raised   and detailed reports to UN Committees on
by the United Nations Committee on Eco-           Canada’s violations of human rights. These
nomic, Social and Cultural Rights in Decem-       two reports,69 The Civil and Political Rights
ber of 1998.                                      of Canadian Women on the Occasion of the
    The United Nations condemned Canada           Consideration of Canada’s Fourth Report on

                                                                                     The First CEDAW Impact Study 47
               the Implementation of the International Cov-         tling of social programs by the government
               enant on Civil and Political Rights, and Ca-         of Ontario, Canada, and the resulting under-
               nadian Women and the Social Deficit: A Pres-         mining of people’s rights. Again, these reports
               entation to the International Committee on           are based on the two other Covenants, above,
               Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, On the         but also refer to CEDAW and Canada’s com-
               Occasion of the Consideration of Canada’s            mitment.74
               Third Report on the Implementation of the
               International Covenant on Economic, Social           The CRIAW Initiative
               and Cultural Rights, outline the impact on              The Canadian Research Institute for the
               Canadian women of Canada’s failure to re-            Advancement of Women (CRIAW) organised
               alise the social, economic, civil and political      the first national Post-Beijing meeting on May
               rights as guaranteed by those two Covenants.         31 and June 1 of 1997. The meeting brought
                  These two reports detail the negative im-         together 45 women representing NGOs from
               pact on women of Federal/Provincial restruc-         across the country, and was intended to pro-
               turing of social programs with regard to:            vide the Canadian women’s movement with
               women’s poverty; the budget and the CHST;70          an opportunity to assess the progress that had
               increase in women’s unpaid work; women at            been made on the Beijing Platform for Ac-
               risk due to reductions of social programs;           tion since 1995. In addition, the meeting was
               reduced access to legal aid; effect on women         seen as an opportunity to provide Canadian
               with disabilities; stigmatisation of single          women’s NGOs with training on working with
               mothers on welfare; women’s equality and             United Nations documents, agreements and
               the deficit; working conditions of foreign           conventions.
               domestic workers; impact of globalisation;              Consensus was reached at this meeting on
               the right to secure housing; educational ac-         a number of points relating to engagement
               cess; protection from discrimination on the          with international human rights mechanisms
               basis of social conditions; immigrant wom-           and processes. The group agreed that Cana-
                              en’s rights; and aboriginal           dian women’s NGO s need to have greater in-
                              women’s rights to property and        put into the government positions that are
                              the right to culture.                 presented in international fora. There must
                                 While their focus is on the        be access to decision-making that extends
 Canadian women’s             two covenants as described            beyond responding to official government
  NGOs need to have           above, as well as the Charter         reports or serving as adjuncts to government
                              and domestic legislation, refer-      delegations. The group therefore called for
greater input into the ence is made to CEDAW and                    the establishment of a formal consultation
government positions Canada’s responsibility as a                   mechanism between government and wom-
                              signatory to CEDAW.71                 en’s NGO s on United Nations related matters.
       presented in                                                 The group also agreed that the shifting eco-
   international fora.            The People’s Reports              nomic and political climate in Canada has
There must be access                The Ontario People’s Report     made it imperative for women’s NGO s to do
                                  to the United Nations on Vio-     the work of linking their domestic strategies
  to decision-making              lations of the International      with international work: “We are coming to
 that extends beyond              Covenant on Economic, Social      a point where if we cannot figure out how to
                                  and Cultural Rights in the        do things at the international level we may
      responding to               Province of Ontario, Canada,72    not be able to help the women of Canada.”75
  government reports              and The Ontario People’s Re-         At the close of the meeting, an informal
or serving as adjuncts            port to the United Nations on     working group was created (the ‘Ginger
                                  Violations of the International   Group’), with the following mandate:
     to government                Covenant on Civil and Politi-
       delegations.               cal Rights in the Province of       1. To develop a set of principles which
                                  Ontario, Canada,73 are both re-     will form the basis of unity with a focus
                                  ports that detail the disman-       on resisting the current economic and

48 The First CEDAW Impact Study

  political agenda, as well as to develop a       effectively in United Nations fora and to en-
  frame of reference and a structure for          sure continuity and coherence in Canadian
  follow-up work; and                             womens’ NGO s international work. This sort
  2. To develop a proposal which will have        of education is also needed to develop wom-
  as its general objective to: a) organise        en’s NGOs ability to engage with Canada’s in-
  efforts to ensure that Canadian govern-
  ments live up to their international com-
  mitments; and b) to develop economic
  analyses that will focus on women in
                                                  ternational commitments at the domestic
                                                  level. A communications strategy must be de-
                                                  veloped. This strategy would be intended to
                                                  share information and resources among wom-
  Canada but make use of ideas/sources in         en’s NGOs, but also to improve communica-
  the international fora.76

   The Ginger Group then developed a pro-
posal, entitled “Making Connections: Cana-
                                                  tion with the general public around Canadian
                                                  international action on gender equality and
                                                  human rights. Finally, a consultation process
                                                  is required that would allow Canadian wom-
                                                  en’s NGOs to develop strategies regarding their

dian Women Act on Beijing”. This proposal
stresses that Beijing +5 (the five year evalua-   domestic and international gender equality
tion of progress made on the Platform for         work.
Action) must be understood as involving “the
advancement of the Platform for Action goals      FAFIA Initiative

in the fullest sense of the word, and in a wide      The NGO consultations process as described
variety of settings including the implementa-     in the proposal began with a National Con-
tion of all international human rights instru-    sultation meeting that was held in February
ments and agreements.”77 The proposal is in-      1999. At this meeting, representatives of
tended to ensure that Canadian women’s NGOs       women’s NGOs who work at the national, re-

have the knowledge and tools necessary to         gional and local levels agreed to provide di-
hold the Canadian government accountable          rection for Canadian women’s priorities re-
for the commitments it has made in the Plat-      garding the Platform for Ac-
form for Action and related international in-     tion for the “Beijing +5” proc-
struments. The two main objectives stated in      ess, as well as Canada’s other
“Making Connections” are:                         international gender equality
                                                  commitments. Issues specifi-          A communications
  1. To assist women to develop strategies,       cally relating to CEDAW will be
  methods of working, and means of co-            raised at this meeting, includ-        strategy must be
  ordinating their activism to strengthen         ing consideration of the sorts        developed to share
  the international dimension of the work         of domestic monitoring mecha-
  of women’s NGOs for gender equality.            nisms that should be devel-            information and
  2. To ensure women’s NGOs understand            oped, and of how education             resources among
  and insist on the links between interna-        can be provided to the wom-             women’s NGOs,
  tional agreements, and policy develop-          en’s movement regarding the
  ment and decision making in Canada.78           content of the Convention and        but also to improve
                                                  the international committee         communication with
  Several of the key components of the pro-       process. The development of
posal relate to means of engaging with Cana-      the Optional Protocol to CEDAW        the general public
da’s commitments under international human        will also be discussed, in the         around Canadian
rights conventions. The proposal states that      context of determining how           international action
a consultative mechanism must be devised for      Canadian women might would
interaction between women’s NGOs and gov-         make a contribution at the            on gender equality
ernment, so that a dialogue can take place        United Nations Committee on           and human rights.
regarding international gender equality work.     the Status of Women meeting
Education, training and capacity building are     that was held in March of
needed, to enable women’s NGOs to engage          1999. The Feminist Alliance

                                                                                     The First CEDAW Impact Study 49
                    for International Action (FAFIA) is a national     Strategies for Implementation.”79
                    alliance of over 40 Canadian women’s non-             The “strategies” paper was extremely well
                    governmental organisations that resulted           received at the meeting, and formed the basis
                    from this process. FAFIA seeks to facilitate the   of productive exchanges. Some of the key
                    ability of Canadian women’s NGOs’s to nego-        suggestions regarding NGO engagement with
                    tiate effectively at the United Nations. The       CEDAW use are summarized here.
                    alliance wishes to hold the Canadian govern-          Regarding the analysis and work that Ca-
                    ment responsible to the international commit-      nadian women’s NGOs need to begin, the pa-
                    ments and obligations signed by Canada. FAFIA      per suggests that:
                    is particularly concerned with CEDAW, and             1. NGOs need to generate analyses of spe-
                    Canada’s commitment to CEDAW’s initiatives         cific Canadian laws and government policies
                    to protect women both through international        that determine whether and how they con-
                    mechanisms and domestic laws and policies.         travene Canada’s CEDAW commitments. These
                                                                       analyses could be part of the development of
                    The IWRP CEDAW Strategies Meeting                  a body of information that could be drawn
                       In conjunction with the preparation of this     on when Shadow Reports are written.
                    study, York University’s International Wom-           2. Canadian NGOs should seek to exchange
                    en’s Human Rights Project ( IWRP) facilitated      these analyses with women’s NGOs from other
                    the first “Canadian CEDAW Strategies Meet-         countries, to assist in the development of an
                    ing” on November 22-24, 1998, during which         international discourse regarding CEDAW ’s
                    the working paper on Canada for the CEDAW          meaning and application.
                    Impact Study was reviewed and suggestions             3. NGOs should explore the circumstances
                    were made. The meeting was attended by rep-        in which it would be useful to look at CEDAW
                    resentatives from the following Canadian           in conjunction with other international hu-
                    women’s organisations: Voice of Women, the         man rights instruments.
                    UN Platform for Action Committee, the North-          4. NGOs need to explore the question of
                    west Territories Status of Women Council,          monitoring: “What is monitoring? Does it re-
                    Table feministe francophone de concertation        quire establishing benchmarks for progress,
                    provinciale de l’Ontario, the National Action      thresholds for contravention? How should
                    Committee on the Status of Women, the Na-          monitoring be done—by governments, by
                    tional Association of Women and the Law,           women’s NGOs, by both but separately, by
                    the African Women’s Health Network, the            both co-operatively? What resources are
                    National Council of Women of Canada, the           available to support such monitoring? Will
                    Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Cen-        monitoring actually be useful to women?”
                    tres, the Canadian Research Institute for the         Regarding the organisational form Cana-
                    Advancement of Women, the Women’s Inter-           dian women’s NGO engagement with CEDAW
                    national League for Peace and Freedom, the         should take, the paper observes:
                    DisAbled Women’s Network, the Canadian
                    Federation of University Women, and the              Since for Canadian women’s NGO s that
                    Comite quebecois de suivi de Beijing. Presen-        have a domestic focus, international
                    tations were made by a number of experts on          work is relatively new, we have the op-
                    international human rights law, and by gov-          portunity to think hard about the model
                    ernment officials. Two afternoon sessions            of NGO participation we want to foster.
                    during the meeting were devoted to discus-           A model that is inclusive, that is rooted
                    sions among the NGO representatives about            in grassroots organisations and experi-
                    the ways in which women’s NGOs could be              ence, that ensures that the most disad-
                    using CEDAW to support their domestic politi-        vantaged women have a voice, that fos-
                    cal work. These discussions were preceded by         ters an egalitarian partnership between
                    a responsive to a paper commissioned by the          women’s NGOs and women based in
                    IWRP and written by Shelagh Day in collabo-          academia, and that does not make lack
                    ration with Andreé Côté, entitled “CEDAW:            of UN expertise and experience a bar to

50 The First CEDAW Impact Study

  participation, is essential.80                 ing about ways to ensure that CEDAW is im-
                                                 plemented. An ongoing process and ongoing
   Among the paper’s specific suggestions re-    engagement will be required to improve im-
garding organisational structure:                plementation. Perhaps Shadow Reports
   1. NGO s need to develop a co-operative       should not become the main focus, in the
model for international work.
   2. NGO s need to develop training resources
for women dealing with UN bodies and at-
tending UN meetings.
                                                 sense that women’s NGO s would be trying to
                                                 produce the best possible shadow reports.
                                                 These reports might be better approached as
                                                 tools, which can be used to help build the
   3. NGOs need a coordinated source of in-      necessary political will and stimulate the Ca-
formation on upcoming UN issues and events.
   4. NGO s need more popular education re-
garding international human rights instru-
ments and their implications for women.
                                                 nadian government to change. A shadow re-
                                                 port is one of a number of available ways to
                                                 embarrass the government about its record
                                                 on women’s issues as measured against its in-
   5. NGOs need improved methods of consul-      ternational commitments. Regarding the as-
tation with Status of Woman Canada, the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Interna-
tional Trade and other relevant departments
about the positions Canada takes on inter-
                                                 sembly and drafting of shadow reports, how
                                                 might women’s NGOs from across the coun-
                                                 try collaborate to assess Canada’s compli-
                                                 ance? The work of groups working at the
national issues.                                 provincial and territorial levels might be in-
   6. The Canadian government needs to pro-      tegrated into a national monitoring process,
vide women’s NGO s with resources to ad-         and other ways of delegating portions of the
equately support their international work.       work could also be explored. Mentoring
   7. The Canadian government needs to en-       would be an important consideration.

courage UN agencies and bodies to become           The problem of developing an appropriate
more accessible to NGOs.                         organisational structure for CEDAW related
   8. Canadian women’s NGOs need to engage       work in Canada was discussed at length. In-
in a dialogue with international NGO s about     dividual women’s NGOs do not have the re-
methods of work and substantive positions.       sources to do this work on their own. Fur-
   In the discussions which followed the pres-   thermore, there would be a need to coordi-
entation of the CEDAW strategies paper, a wide   nate different levels of intervention and spe-
range of questions and concerns were raised      cialisation. Channels of information should
about the way in which Canadian women’s          be established so that efforts would not be
NGOs should be approaching the use of CEDAW.     duplicated. It was noted that Canadian wom-
Some of the matters discussed are indicated      en’s NGO s have already begun to rely on net-
in the following paragraphs, but it should be    working as a response to government cuts to
noted that the group did not reach any for-      funding. Concern was raised about the way
mal conclusions or consensus at this meet-       in which different tasks and levels of involve-
ing.                                             ment might be allocated and integrated. It
   Regarding procedures for monitoring           would be important not to adopt a model that
Canada’s compliance with CEDAW, there is a       directed international work to the middle
need to ensure that women’s NGOs have input      class academics and professionals, and left
into the Canadian government’s reports to the    grassroots advocacy to working class women.
CEDAW Committee, as well as producing their      The process should be controlled by the wom-
own Shadow Reports. This raises the ques-        en’s NGO s themselves, and women’s NGOs
tion of which representatives from the wom-      should not be asked to hand their right to
en’s NGO community the government should         direct contact with the United Nations and
be consulting. Also, because cause and effect    the Canadian government over to academics
are difficult to establish regarding the CEDAW   and professionals acting as mediators. It was
reporting process, it would be important not     also felt that a widespread learning process
to focus too much on reporting when think-       about CEDAW would be required within the

                                                                                    The First CEDAW Impact Study 51
                    women’s movement, and care should be taken        Rights, New York, March 1999 and Cana-
                    that this learning not be restricted to the NGO   dian Women and the Social Deficit: A Pres-
                    executives—information must be distributed        entation to the International Committee on
                    to the NGO memberships. There is a pressing       Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, On the
                    need for popular education on CEDAW, and to       Occasion of the Consideration of Canada’s
                    organise women in relation to CEDAW locally.      Third Report on the Implementation of the
                    If a centralized body were to be developed        International Covenant on Economic, Social
                    its primary role might be to provide infor-       and Cultural Rights, Geneva, November
                    mation and co-ordination, and to allow strat-     1998. Both these reports were submitted by
                    egy to be centralised. What is needed is a cen-   the National Association of Women and the
                    tral depository and a central process that can    Law ( NAWL) and are available through the
                    help women’s NGOs develop connections be-         NAWL web site at
                    tween CEDAW and their domestic work.                Ibid. Also see The Ontario People’s Report
                                                                      to the United Nations on Violations of the
                    Conclusion                                        International Covenant on Economic, Social
                                                                      and Cultural Rights in the Province of On-
                      CEDAW has not yet played a significant role     tario, Canada, submitted by Josephine Grey
                    in the development of Canadian law and            and Low Income Families Together, (LIFT),
                    policy regarding women’s equality. To the         Geneva, November 1998 and The Ontario
                    extent that Canada is in compliance with its      People’s Report to the United Nations on
                    obligations under CEDAW, this is the effect of    Violations of the International Covenant on
                    work that has been done in relation to do-        Civil and Political Rights in the Province of
                    mestic human rights standards and guaran-         Ontario, Canada, New York, March 1999.
                    tees, including the equality rights provisions    Submitted by Amani Oakley and Vincent
                    of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How-       Pang.
                    ever, this situation seems to be poised for         Monica Townson, Canadian Women Among
                    change, as Canadian women’s NGO s look to         the Poorest of the Poor (based on A Report
                    CEDAW with increasing interest. Important         Card on Women and Poverty, produced for
                    initiatives are currently underway, exploring     the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives,
                    the questions of producing Shadow Reports         April 5, 2000.
                    to the CEDAW Committee, women’s NGO in-             Morris, M., J. Robinson, et al. The Chang-
                    volvement in the production of Canada’s re-       ing Nature of Home Care and Its Impact on
                    ports to the Committee, ways of monitoring        Women’s Vulnerability to Poverty (prepared
                    Canada’s CEDAW compliance, and providing          for the Canadian Research Institute for the
                    CEDAW education, training and mentoring to        Advancement of Women. Ottawa. Novem-
                    Canadian women’s NGOs. It can be antici-          ber 1999).
                    pated that CEDAW’s significance will increase       Status of Women Canada, Report by the
                    over the course of the next few years within      Government of Canada to the UN Commis-
                    the Canadian women’s movement, and                sion on Human Rights: Special Rapporteur
                    within Canada as a whole, as a result of these    on Violence Against Women, December 1998.
                    efforts.                                            Statistics Canada, Family Violence in
                                                                      Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Industry, 1999
                    Endnotes                                          at p. 18.
                                                                        Statistics Canada, “Homicide statistics
                     See the extremely detailed and thorough          1998”, The Daily, October 7, 1999.
                    analysis of the present situation of women in       Ibid.
                    Canada presented in Civil and Political             Statistics Canada. “Shelters for Abused
                    Rights of Canadian Women on the Occasion          Women”, The Daily, June 11, 1999.
                    of the Consideration of Canada’s Fourth              Winnipeg Free Press, December 11, 1989,
                    Report on the Implementation of the Inter-        p.15; The Montreal Gazette, December 11,
                    national Covenant on Civil and Political          1981, p.10.

52 The First CEDAW Impact Study

   Telephone interview: Monique Charlebois,      Freedoms (1985), p.10
former director of legal policy, Status of          ibid. at p. 652 of Leroux.
Women Canada.                                       14 F.T.R. 239.
12                                               40
   Canada, Convention on the Elimination of         (1991), 14 C.H.R.R., D/176
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:          Ibid., at p. D/189.

First Report of Canada, 1983, at p. xi.             For further references to CEDAW by Cana-
   Ibid.                                         dian courts, see: Andrews v. Law Society of
   Ibid., at p. 8.                               British Columbia [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143., aff’g
   Ibid. at p. 42.                               2 B.C.L.R. (2d) 305; Schachter v. Canada
   Canada, Convention on the Elimination of      (1988), 52 D.L.R. (4th ) 525 (F.C.T.D.); and
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:
Second Report of Canada, 1988, at p.1.
   Telephone interview: Normand Duern, Sen-
ior Officer, International Instruments, Cana-
                                                 Leroux v. Co-operators General Insurance
                                                 Co. (1990), 65 D.L.R. (4 th) 702 (Ont.H.C.J.)
                                                    Human Rights Act, S.Y. 1987, c.3. See also:
                                                 references to the Universal Declaration of
dian Heritage.                                   Human Rights in the preambles to Ontario’s

   Canada, Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:
Third Report of Canada, at p. 35.
   The Senior Officer offered the opinion that
                                                 Human Rights Code, Manitoba’s Human
                                                 Rights Code, the Northwest Territories’ Fair
                                                 Practices Act, Nova Scotia’s Human Rights
                                                 Act, and Prince Edward Island’s Human
the low level of response might have to do       Rights Act.
with the timing of the requests, which are          (1989), 10 C.H.R.R., D/6353.
made in the early stages of a report’s prepa-       (1992), 19 C.H.R.R., D/97.
ration. Each report takes approximately one         (1995), 23 C.H.R.R., D/259; Indian Act,
year to assemble, and because of backlogs at     R.S.C. 1970, c.I-6.

the United Nations Committees it may not            The information that follows regarding NGO
be heard until several years after submission;   awareness of CEDAW was provided by tel-
whereas, in his opinion, NGO interest in Cana-   ephone interviews with: the Ontario Associa-
da’s reports is greatest just before the Com-    tion of Interval and Transition Houses, the
mittees hear them.                               National Association of Women and the Law,
   [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143., aff’g 2 B.C.L.R. (2d)   Voice of Women, the Women’s International
305[hereinafter Andrews].                        League for Peace and Freedom, the DisAbled
   Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,      Women’s Network, the African Women’s
Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being      Health Network, the Canadian Research In-
schedule B of the Canada Act 1982, c. 11.        stitute for the Advancement of Women,
   Supra note 19 at 166.                         Mothers Are Women, Table feministe
   Supra note 19 at 167.                         francophone de concertation provinciale de
   Supra note 19 at 164.                         l’Ontario, the Canadian Association of Eliza-
   Supra note 19 at 168.                         beth Fry Societies, and the National Council
   Supra note 23.                                of Women of Canada.
27                                               48
   Supra note 19 at 315 (Appeal level).             See for example: work in development by
   (1995), 128 D.L.R. (4th) 213.                 the African Women’s Health Network regard-
   (1998), 13 C.R. (5th) 324.                    ing the restriction and denial of healthcare to
   Ibid., at p. 335                              refugee women, by the Canadian Association
   [1999] 1 S.C.R. 330.                          of Elizabeth Fry Societies regarding women’s
   Ibid., at p. 335.                             segregation units in male maximum security
   Ibid., at p. 362.                             units, and by Mothers Are Women regarding
   Ibid.                                         remuneration and benefits for women’s un-
   Ibid., at p.362-363.                          paid work in connection with Beverly Smith’s
   (1990), 71 O.R. (2d) 641.                     complaint to the Commission on the Status
   Bayefsky and Eberts eds., Equality Rights     of Women.
and the Canadian Charter of Rights and             The Canadian Institute for the Advancement

                                                                                    The First CEDAW Impact Study 53
                    of Women is at the forefront of this work. It      were a copy of the OAITH brief, a report writ-
                    should also be noted that Voice of Women is        ten by Lee Lakeman for by CASAC on the pro-
                    in the process of developing a proposal for        vision of services to victims of sexual assault,
                    providing training to women’s NGOs on United       and a paper on affirmative action written by
                    Nations mechanisms and international wom-          Shelagh Day which had been presented at a
                    en’s human rights instruments.                     recent IWRAW meeting.
                       A copy of the NAC parallel report is attached   62
                                                                          National Action Committee on the Status
                    to this paper.                                     of Women, Canada: Alternative Report to
                       National Action Committee on the Status         CEDAW, January 1997, at p. 1.
                    of Women, Parallel Report to the Second Re-        63
                                                                          Ibid., at p.7.
                    port of Canada to the U.N. Committee on            64
                    the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimina-        65
                                                                          Ibid., at p. 8.
                    tion Against Women, January 1990, p. 1.            66
                                                                          “U.N. Committee Finds Us Lacking.” The
                       Deborah Stienstra and Barbara Roberts,          Toronto Star, December 8, 1998.
                    Little But Lip Service: Assessing Canada’s         67
                                                                          “UN Committee lambastes Canada on hu-
                    Implementation of its International Obliga-        man rights. Ottawa urged to target homeless-
                    tions for Women’s Equality (prepared for the       ness, reassert national standards on welfare
                    Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of         and education.” The Globe and Mail, Decem-
                    Women, June 1993), at p. 6.                        ber 5, 1998: 7.
                       Deborah Stienstra and Barbara Roberts,          68
                                                                          Shelagh Day, one of the key authors of the
                    Strategies for the Year 2000: A Woman’s            Shadow Report, had also submitted a report
                    Handbook (Halifax, Fernwood Publishing,            to this Committee on behalf of NAWL.
                    1995), at p. 9.                                    69
                                                                          Op cit. Note 1.
                       It should be noted that the Lip-Service re-     70
                                                                          The Budget Implementation Act and the
                    port was not released by CACSW, and its find-      Canada Health and Social Transfer
                    ings and conclusions were not significantly        71
                                                                          For details, see the 2 reports, op cit. 1.
                    incorporated into the 1994 report CACSW did        72
                                                                          Josephine Grey and Low Income Families
                    publish on women’s equality in Canada. The         Together, (LIFT), Geneva, November 1998
                    federal government disbanded CACSW soon            73
                                                                          Amani Oakley and Vincent Pang, New
                    after the completion of the report. A revised      York, March 1999.
                    version of Lip-Service was published by            74
                                                                          Op. Cit. 73 and 74.
                    Fernwood Publishing in 1995, under the title       75
                                                                          Canadian Research Institute for the Ad-
                    Strategies for the Year 2000: A Woman’s            vancement of Women, Report from the First
                    Handbook.                                          Post-Beijing National Meeting: from Beijing
                       Ontario Association of Interval and Transi-     to the Millenium, May 1997, at p. 8.
                    tion Houses, “Crisis in Women’s Equality           76
                                                                          Ibid., at p. 9.
                    Rights in Ontario: a Brief Concerning Cana-        77
                                                                          Canadian Research Institute for the Ad-
                    da’s Responsibilities to Abused Women and          vancement of Women (CRIAW), Making Con-
                    their Children,” May 1996.                         nections: Canadian Women Act on Beijing,
                       Ibid., at p. 3.                                 1998, at p. 1.
                       Ibid., at p. 4.                                 78
                       OAITH, November 1996. To obtain a copy          79
                                                                          Shelagh Day, “CEDAW: Strategies for Imple-
                    of the report, email:               mentation.” Paper presented at the Canadian
                       A copy of the OAITH brief was also included     CEDAW Strategies Meeting, York University,
                    with the National Association of Women and         Toronto, Canada, November 1998, at p. 10.
                    the Law’s recent submissions to the United         80
                                                                          Ibid, at p. 18.
                    Nations Committee on Economic, Social and
                    Cultural Rights.
                       A copy of the 1997 Shadow report is at-
                    tached to this paper.
                       Submitted along with the Shadow report

54 The First CEDAW Impact Study

To top