As COVID-19 ran its course for a second year, inequality exploded.
The level of crisis faced by the world as we enter the third year of the pandemic and, most likely, another year of record high temperatures and climate disasters, is overwhelming. Around the world, people are struggling to make ends meet and many governments do not have the resources to ensure no one is left behind. Meanwhile, the super-rich enjoy lives that are out of this world, accelerating climate change in the process. This level of inequality is dangerous, and it is starting to rip societies apart. People tired of losing out are on the streets demanding justice. Rage and hatred are driving a trans-national populist movement marked by racism, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry and violence.
Within this troubling context, Oxfam Canada is releasing its sixth annual edition of the Feminist Scorecard, assessing the Canadian government’s actions at home and around the world towards a feminist, green recovery. Feminist Scorecard 2022 provides a snapshot of the government’s actions from March 2021 to February 2022, looking at 10 policy areas: the care economy, representation and leadership, gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights, poverty, the rights of Indigenous women,
climate change and extractive industries, global development, conflict and crisis, work and pay equity and taxation.
There is no doubt this has been another challenging year for the government. The fall election provided the Liberals with another mandate to govern, but they fell short of a majority mandate. With a new cabinet in place and updated mandate letters, now is the time to close gaps and bring their unfinished business across the finish line. The world needs a feminist, green recovery now, and the government put forward several laudable initiatives this past year, which moved the needle towards that goal.
Budget 2021, the first federal budget presented by Canada’s first female finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, following consultations with feminist leaders, delivered historic investments to advance gender equality. The government also moved forward key initiatives in support of Indigenous and racialized women and 2SLGBTQ+ people.
But gaps remain, particularly for the most marginalized women and gender-diverse people who have been sliding deeper into poverty as a result of the pandemic.
- Various benefit measures to support those unable to work due to COVID-19 or those caring for others continued throughout the second year of the pandemic, but a large number of people continue to fall through the cracks. Major problems surfaced for some of the poorest who saw other critical income supports clawed back.
- While unprecedented investments in a pan-Canadian early learning and child care sector will drive women’s economic equality, a broader vision for the care economy is needed that invests in decent work for women and is a building block of a just transition.
- Canada invested significant resources towards global mechanisms to ensure vaccines reach poorer countries, but more is needed to remove structural barriers to vaccine production for a more equitable distribution.
- Canada doubled its international climate finance commitment over the next five years and promised to end public financing of fossil fuel expansion. However, devastating weather events in 2021 exposed how ill-prepared we are as a country to face the climate emergency. Underlying all of this is the need to tackle inequality. Promises have been made on this front, especially around fair taxation, that yet need to be fulfilled. Considering the windfall the richest have accumulated during the pandemic, the government should move quickly to establish a wealth tax in order to increase resources for public services that level the playing field for the most marginalized women and gender diverse people.
- Considering the progress the federal government has made towards advancing gender equality over the last six years, now is the time to home in on strengthening intersectional analysis (GBA+) and finding ways to engage more meaningfully with the feminist movement. They go hand-in-hand. The government has made a distinct effort to take an inclusive approach to policy making by setting up various advisory bodies and consultation processes. But the government should collaborate directly with the feminist movement as it drives forward huge public policy initiatives on housing, jobs and child care, among others. More meaningful engagement will provide the government with the insights needed to live up to its GBA+ obligations.
A feminist, green recovery is within reach – it is a matter of choices. And with the right data, analysis and engagement of civil society, the right choices will be made.
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