If you’ve been following the work of the YWCA movement in Canada over the last 12 months, you’ve seen our fierce focus on a #FeministRecovery to safeguard against the potential rollback of gender equity and human rights.
From British Columbia to Alberta to Northwest Territories to Ontario to Quebec to Nova Scotia and beyond, our YWCA colleagues across the country have been relentless in their desire for a gender-responsive approach to post-pandemic recovery.
(To learn more about their Pan-Canadian Advocacy in Action, be sure to check out this webinar from October 2020 that spotlights the work of our Member Associations.)
Because of our community of supporters from coast to coast to coast, our movement’s advocacy has made a difference.
- In September 2020, we saw an explicit mention of ‘a feminist, intersectional response to this pandemic and recovery’ in the Government of Canada’s Speech from the Throne
- In November 2020, we saw concrete investments in An Action Plan for Women in the Economy, Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care, and support for early childhood educators in the Government of Canada’s Fall Economic Statement
- In February 2021, Women and Gender Equality Canada established a $100 million Feminist Response and Recovery Fund to fuel systemic change
It is a promising start, but the work continues.
It’s been two years since the Federal government released a Budget, and the world has changed dramatically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is of top concern, but so is ensuring that whatever economic recovery comes forth is equitable and fair. We don’t want what economists are calling a ‘K-Recovery’ – we need a gender just recovery.
And it is within reach. Canada’s Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, is the first woman to hold the role. She has asserted in the past and now the importance of a feminist approach to policymaking.
So how do we achieve that? Platitudes are not enough.
For the YWCA movement, to craft a #FeministRecovery budget requires the inclusion of 3 key pillars:
- A National Early Learning and Child Care System
- Advancing Economic Justice
- Investing in the Charitable & Non-profit Sector and the Feminist Movement
A National Early Learning and Child Care System
As economist Armine Yalnizyan has asserted, ‘there can be no recovery without a she-covery; and there can be no she-covery without childcare’. That’s why funding child care is not only a matter of gender equality and children’s human rights but also a fundamental building block of our post-pandemic recovery.
YWCA Canada has joined Child Care Now to call for an affordable, accessible, universal early learning and childcare system that works for everyone. For several years, YWCA Canada has also been calling for the OECD benchmark that at least 1% of Canada’s GDP be invested in early learning and child care. We repeated the same recommendation in our work on a Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada alongside the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) at the University of Toronto.
Spending on child care should not be seen as an expense but rather a down payment on our future prosperity. It will create the conditions for inclusive growth, rolling back the losses in gender equality and be a super job creator not only in the social services but adjacent sectors as well.
As economist Jim Stanford’s 2020 report revealed, universal child care could ‘generate up to $29 billion a year in tax revenues’ as well as create over 200 000 direct jobs in child care centres, 100, 000 more jobs in industries that support and supply the ELCC sector and increase the labour market participation of over 725, 000 women in Canada.
Advancing Economic Justice
As we build back from the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t return to the status quo. As YWCA Canada has noted in the past, we need the Canadian labour market to ‘work for women’. Based on our Born to be Bold research on the employment needs of marginalized women, there are steps organizations can take to push for gainful employment like developing an organizational strategy, adopting long-term, flexible working arrangements, providing funding and training for reskilling and remote work as well as ensuring paid leave. The budget should ensure supports to make it easier for employers to offer such provisions.
On a more structural level, we need paid sick days for all that are financially adequate, easily accessible and robust in length. The Decent Work and Health Network has spoken about this extensively. Currently, more than half of workers in Canada don’t have any paid sick leave.
We also need to fight any forms of inequities in our current social safety measures that prevent everyone from benefiting from income security initiatives.
For example, the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) provides a financial boost for low-income families. However, discriminatory provisions in the Income Tax Act force eligibility based on immigration status. Currently, only citizens, permanent residents, convention refugees and temporary residents who have stayed in Canada for at least 18 months can access the CCB. Many people are excluded, such as refugee claimants and people with precarious immigration status. This means that sometimes low-income racialized women with precarious immigration status cannot access the CCB for their Canadian-born children.
That’s why the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC) has launched a constitutional challenge and advocacy campaign against this policy. YWCA Canada is supportive of this work.
Investing in the Charitable & Non-profit Sector and the Feminist Movement
As a 150-year-old pan-Canadian feminist movement, our history shows us that what matters more than anything is care and community in times of crisis. For a community to foster, we need to invest in the organizations that make it possible.
That means supporting charities and non-profits that have been hardest hit during this pandemic. Charities and non-profits provide essential services that communities rely on and are also vital employers of women, racialized communities, people with disabilities and other equity-seeking communities. That’s why YWCA Canada has joined United Way Centraide, YMCA Canada, National Association of Friendship Centres, Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada in calling for a Community Services COVID-19 Relief Fund. This campaign builds on our recent report alongside the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), Canadian Women’s Foundation, G(irls)20 and Oxfam Canada detailing the drastic impact on the women’s sector in Canada and the need for targeted supports.
The measures outlined above are by no means sufficient, but they are very much necessary to bring forward an intersectional feminist recovery. That’s what will enable a society that works for us all. We also need to ensure a human rights approach, as we have talked about with FAFIA.
This is just the beginning – through our national advocacy and community action we will continue to organize for a #FeministRecovery!
Join our community of advocates and tell a friend to take action today:
Anjum Sultana is the National Director of Public Policy & Strategic Communications at YWCA Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @AnjumSultana for tweets on all things gender equity, public health and civic engagement.