In Canada, gender inequality has persisted or worsened: study

On gender equality, Canada lags behind developing countries such as South Africa, Burundi and Nicaragua.

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014

A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says gender inequality in Canada has persisted or worsened in critical areas in the past five years.

A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says gender inequality in Canada has persisted or worsened in critical areas in the past five years.

A new report lays bare Canada’s lack of political will to achieve equality between men and women.

According to the report, in recent years, gender inequality has persisted or worsened in critical areas, including violence against women, economic security, political representation and access to social services.

The report also highlights “additional barriers” to human rights rights and equality faced by Aboriginal women and girls, racialized women, women with disabilities, and women from sexual minorities.

The report, Progress on Women’s Rights: Missing in Action (PDF), was released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The progressive think tank examined Canada’s progress in implementing the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action over the past five years. It gathered evidence from 35 individuals representing 30 civil society, academic, Aboriginal, and human rights organizations, representing over three million members from every region of the country.

Blame it on lack of political will.

“Currently, there is a lack of systematic gender-based analysis and research on gender inequality in Canada, resulting in policies and programmes that fail to meet the specific needs of women,” says Doris Mae Oulton, President of the Canadian Federation of University Women.

The report’s findings include:

  • The federal government does not have a stand-alone policy on intimate partner violence or sexual assault, nor does Canada have a national action plan to address violence against women.
  • Rates of sexual assault and intimate partner violence have remained persistently high in Canada, with 1.8 million Canadians reporting having experienced one of these forms of violence in the past five years. The issue of violence is particularly acute with respect to Aboriginal women and girls in Canada, with rates of violence that are at least three times higher than non-Aboriginal women and girls.
  • The last five years have seen little change in women’s poverty in Canada. Overall, 13.3% of women live in poverty, however Aboriginal women and single mothers experience even higher rates, at 30% and 36% respectively.
  • The Canadian gender pay gap is the eighth-largest among OECD countries.

“Twenty years ago Canada ranked first amongst nations in international measures of gender equality,” said Kate McInturff, Senior Researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “In 2014, Canada had fallen to nineteenth place in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index.”

The 2014 Global Gender Gap Report examined the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracked their progress over time. It measured gender equality in relation to health, education, economy and politics.

Canada is ranked 19th out of 142 countries, behind developing countries such as South Africa (18), Burundi (17), and Nicaragua (6).

Canada’s progress towards gender equity stalled especially after the Conservatives came to power in 2006. In 2006, the Global Gender Gap Report ranked Canada 14th. In the last seven years the average score has been 21. In 2008, Canada positioned 31.

Read the Canada country report HERE.

The Canadian workplace also remains hostile to gender equity. According to the Financial Post, corporate Canada is still dominated by the old boys’ club.

An earlier study by the CCPA argued that, without change in public policy, it’ll take Canada 228 years to close its yawning gender gap.

With political will, Canada can reverse course.

“The federal government has the potential to be a leader in progressive policies for women, nationally and internationally,” said McInturff. “By implementing its existing commitments and ensuring that all of its policies address the specific challenges faced by women, Canada could regain its reputation as one of the best places in the world to be a woman.”

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.