COVID-19 has fundamentally changed Canada. 

“There is no question – the COVID-19 pandemic is going to hit women and their families the hardest. During times of crisis, it’s important to bolster support for Canada’s most vulnerable communities.” – Maya Roy, CEO, YWCA Canada

Globally, women, girls and gender-diverse people will be disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, and that will be the case in Canada as well. In times of uncertainty, existing inequality will be amplified. We are already seeing an increased need to address gender-based violence, improve access to economic security and invest in essential services.

If left unchecked, the COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate gender inequities and make it difficult for women, girls and gender-diverse people to survive, let alone thrive in society. To heal our nation from this current crisis and alleviate existing economic and social ills, we must take a feminist approach to our recovery.

A Feminist Approach to COVID-19 Needs to:

  1. Establish Paid Sick Leave for All Workers
  2. Fund Emergency Child Care for Essential Workers
  3. Take a Gendered Approach to Address Homelessness During the Pandemic
  4. Create a $10 Billion Emergency Fund for Charities and Non-Profits

Expand Paid Sick Leave for All Workers

We know that approximately half of Canada’s cases of COVID-19 are acquired due to community transmission. There are many reasons for this, but one of the ways to reduce the spread of infectious disease is to establish paid sick leave for all workers. Research shows that this an effective intervention. Canadian workers are less likely to have paid sick leave if they are precarious, part-time, temporary, and low-income workers. They are also disproportionately women and more likely to be essential workers such as cleaners, grocery store workers, health care workers and social service providers. We call on the government to immediately establish 21 days of paid job-protected sick leave for all federally regulated workers. In addition, the Federal government should leverage its leadership role and influence all provincial and territorial partners to follow suit.

Fund Emergency Child Care for Essential Workers

YWCA Canada is one of the largest providers of child care in the country. Some of our YWCAs continue to operate child care services so essential workers can address our national state of emergency. However, there is so much capacity that is currently being underutilized. We join Child Care Now and call on the government to provide federal funding to pay for emergency child care programs for children 0 to 12 and work with provinces and territories to sustain licensed child care programs.

Take a Gendered Approach to Address Homelessness During the Pandemic

YWCA Canada joins the Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network calling for a gendered approach to addressing homelessness during the pandemic. We have adopted the recommendations and call on all levels of the Canadian government to urgently enact the measures to equitably protect women, girls, children, and gender diverse peoples experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.

COVID-19 is a gendered crisis. While the virus itself does not discriminate, systemic inequities faced by women and gender diverse peoples means that our experience of this pandemic is unique. Responses to the pandemic need to take into consideration the path and profile of gendered homelessness.

Women’s homelessness in Canada was already a crisis prior to the arrival of COVID-19. Making up approximately half of the homeless population in Canada, our experience of homelessness is uniquely gendered. We disproportionately live in core housing need, head single-parent households, and bear the burden of childcare, putting us at risk of eviction when we face the impossible choice of paying the rent or feeding our kids.

For many women and gender diverse peoples, the directive to “stay at home” means we are trapped with partners or others who are abusive and violent. On the streets we fear not only exposure to COVID-19, but profound sexual and physical violence. Many of these challenges are magnified for those who face multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization, including Indigenous women, transwomen, newcomer women, 2SLGBTQ2+ people, women of colour, and women with disabilities. Gender diverse peoples face distinct and severe housing challenges as well. In the context of this pandemic, access to adequate and safe housing is the difference between life and death for many of us – whether we contract the virus or not. These realities demand a gender-informed response to COVID-19 that reflects the unique vulnerabilities of women, girls, and gender-diverse people who are homeless or precariously housed, and includes the broad continuum of ways that women and gender diverse people experience homelessness. This response must be shaped by people with lived expertise in diverse contexts.

Establish an $8 Billion Emergency Charitable and Non-Profit Sector Stabilization Fund

The government needs to backstop the sector and support community-based organizations such as local YWCAs to sustain operations, preserve infrastructure, enable essential service delivery and keep people employed during this pandemic. Based on financial modelling forecasts by IMAGINE Canada, we need to establish an $8-billion-dollar stabilization fund immediately. Over 70% of the charitable and non-profit sector is made up of women so safeguarding the sector will also protect women and gender equity.


$50 Million for Women's Shelters and Sexual Assault Centres
National Call for Emergency Funding for Charities and Non-Profits

Who We Are


YWCA Canada is a leading voice for women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender diverse people. For 150 years, we’ve been at the forefront of a movement: to fight gender-based violence, build affordable housing and advocate for workplace equity. We work to advance gender equity by responding to urgent needs in communities, through national advocacy and grassroots initiatives. Local YWCAs invest over $258 million annually to support over 330,000 individuals across the nation. Today, we engage young leaders, diverse communities, and corporate partners to achieve our vision of a safe and equitable Canada for all.


To provide an organizational endorsement, please email Anjum Sultana, National Director of Public Policy & Strategic Communications at YWCA Canada at asultana@ywcacanada.ca.



Elizabeth Fry Toronto

Welcome Centre Shelter for Women & Families