Oxfam Response to CEDAW Concluding Observations and Recommendations

January 4, 2017

Oxfam welcomes today’s concluding observations and recommendations on Canada’s progress on women’s rights and gender equality from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the UN body responsible for upholding women’s human rights.  While the Committee recognizes that some progress has been made on the implementation of Canada’s women’s human rights obligations, and that there are numerous processes and commitments that are currently underway in Canada, the recommendations identify a number of areas where concerted action is required, including in areas of employment, child care, violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, justice, inclusion and participation. Particularly apparent in the recommendations was the urgent need to address the rights of Aboriginal women and girls, in a number of different areas, from education to employment, violence to the elimination of discrimination.

It is clear that the Committee considered the testimony provided by women’s rights advocates and organizations that made submissions. Though some recommendations could have been stronger and more specific, they nevertheless addressed a broad range of issues and actions required for promoting women’s equality. Oxfam welcomes the CEDAW committee’s substantial recommendations to Canada on employment issues affecting women, including those that would make progress on ensuring work is paid, equal and valued for women.

The Committee called on Canada to promote women’s access to non-traditional professions and eliminate the concentration of women in part-time and low-paid jobs, including through quotas. Measures such as these can have a substantial impact on women in the labour force as well as make contributions to inclusive growth. This must go hand in hand with the Committee’s recommendation to adopt a rights-based national childcare framework. Oxfam encourages the adoption of this framework accompanied by growing long term investments in child care funding, starting at $600 million in 2017/2018 and growing to $1.6 billion in 2018/2019 and $2.6 billion in 2019/2020.

Oxfam further urges the government to take quick and meaningful action towards the establishment of living wages to ensure all workers, including women, are earning decent and fair wages. Echoing the Committee, Oxfam further calls on Canada to repeal the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act, and establish pro-active pay equity legislation based on recommendations of the 2004 Federal Pay Equity Taskforce and the 2016 Report of the Special Committee on Pay Equity. These are necessary actions for ensuring women’s work is adequately paid, valued and equal in our economy and society and ensuring women equally benefit from economic growth.

Several processes are currently underway in Canada – among them plans to table proactive pay equity legislation, a National Framework on Childcare and a National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. While we wait for progressive outcomes from these processes, the Committee urged Canada to make meaningful progress now and ensure that the Federal government takes responsibility for CEDAW’s implementation, taking leadership ahead of other jurisdictions, and using conditional and targeted federal funding to ensure provincial/territorial compliance with CEDAW. This includes ensuring the government and Canadian women are familiar with their rights under the Convention and that there is legislation to give full effect to those rights.

The Committee requires Canada to report within two years on the status of progress towards implementation of these recommendations. Oxfam welcomes the opportunity to work closely with the Canadian government during that period, and welcomes fast and meaningful action on the recommendations of the Committee. It is time for this feminist government to set a new standard for action and implementation of the CEDAW Committee recommendations, and finally see significant progress on women’s human rights as guaranteed under the CEDAW Convention.

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