Under Standing Order 108(1), the House of Commons may refer certain matters to the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women for examination and report. This Order also authorizes the committee to create subcommittees to focus on particular subjects. Under Standing Order 108(2), the committee has the broad authority to study the policies, programs, expenditures (budgetary estimates) and legislation of departments and agencies, including the Department for Women and Gender Equality, that conduct work related to the status of women and gender equality.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women was created for the first time in the 38th Parliament in 2004. To establish its initial work plan, the committee undertook a series of consultations with national and regional women’s organizations. During roundtable discussions in November and December 2004, four major themes were identified:
These priority issues helped the committee identify four initial subjects for study:
Although the Standing Committee on the Status of Women was first established in 2004, there was a precedent for having a separate committee to examine women’s issues. During the 34th Parliament, the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, Social Affairs, Seniors and the Status of Women struck a Subcommittee on the Status of Women. That subcommittee produced two important reports: a report on violence against women, entitled The War Against Women (1991), and a report on breast cancer, entitled Breast Cancer: Unanswered Questions (1992).
In the execution of its functions, each committee is normally assisted by a committee clerk, one or more analysts and a committee assistant. Occasional assistance is also provided by legislative clerks and lawyers from the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. These individuals are non-partisan and serve all members of the committee and representatives of all parties equally.
The clerk performs their duties and responsibilities under the direction of the committee and its Chair. As an expert in the rules of the House of Commons, the clerk may be requested to give advice to the Chair and members of the committee should a question of procedure arise. The clerk is the coordinator, organizer and liaison officer for the committee, and as such, will be in frequent contact with members’ staff. They are also responsible for inviting witnesses and dealing with all the details regarding their appearance before the committee.
The committee assistant provides a wide range of specialized administrative services for the organization of committee meetings and the publishing of documents on the committees’ Website. The committee assistant works with the clerk to meet the needs of committees.
The Library of Parliament’s analysts, who are subject-matter experts, provide authoritative, substantive, and timely research, analysis and information to all members of the committee. They are part of the committee’s institutional memory and are a unique resource for parliamentarians. Supported by research librarians, the analysts work individually or in multidisciplinary teams.
Analysts can prepare: briefing notes on the subjects being examined; detailed study plans; lists of proposed witnesses; analyses of an issue with a list of suggested questions; background papers; draft reports; news releases; and/or formal correspondence. Analysts with legal training can assist the committee regarding any substantive issues that may arise during the consideration of bills.
OTHER RESOURCES AVAILABLE AS REQUIRED
Within the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, parliamentary counsel (Legislation) are available to assist members who are not in cabinet with the preparation of private members’ bills or of amendments to government bills or others.
At various stages of the legislative process, members may propose amendments to bills. Amendments may first be proposed at the committee stage, during a committee’s clause-by-clause review of a bill. Amendments may also be proposed at the report stage, once a bill returns to the House.
Once a bill is sent to committee, the clerk of the committee provides the name of the parliamentary counsel (Legislation) responsible for the drafting of the amendments for a particular bill to the members.
The legislative clerk serves all members of the committee as a specialist of the process by which a bill becomes law. They are available to give, upon request from members and their staff, advice on the admissibility of amendments when bills are referred to committee. The legislative clerk organizes the amendments into packages for committee stage, reviews all the committee amendments for procedural admissibility and prepares draft rulings for the Chair. During clause-by-clause consideration of bills in committee, a legislative clerk is in attendance to assist the committee with any procedural issues that may arise. The legislative clerk can also provide members with advice regarding the procedural admissibility of report stage amendments. When a bill is sent to committee, the clerk of the committee provides to the members the name of the legislative clerk assigned to the bill.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO)
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) is an officer of Parliament created by the Parliament of Canada Act who supports Parliament by providing analysis, including analysis of macroeconomic and fiscal policy, for the purposes of raising the quality of parliamentary debate and promoting greater budget transparency and accountability.
The Parliament of Canada Act also provides the PBO with a mandate to, if requested by a committee, estimate the financial cost of any proposal over which Parliament has jurisdiction. Certain committees can also request research and analyses of the nation’s finances or economy, or of the estimates.
Further information on the PBO may be found at: http://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/en/
The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women studies issues related to the status of women and to gender equality. In the 42nd Parliament, for instance, the committee tabled substantive reports on the following themes: the implementation of gender-based analysis plus at the federal level; violence against women, sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces; shelters and transition houses available to women experiencing violence; women’s economic security; senior women’s experiences of poverty and vulnerability; Indigenous women’s experiences in the federal justice and correctional systems; and women’s representation in politics.
Two pieces of legislation were also referred to the committee in the 42nd Parliament: Bill C-309, An Act to Establish Gender Equality Week; and Bill C-337, An Act to Amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (Sexual Assault). As well, each fiscal year, the committee has examined the main estimates and the supplementary estimates of Women and Gender Equality Canada (formerly Status of Women Canada).
Summaries of the committee’s substantive studies from the 1st session of the 43rd Parliament and the 42nd Parliament are listed below:
43rd Parliament, 1st Session
Study of the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women
The committee heard testimony about the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women in Canada.
A Force for Change: Creating a Culture of Equality for Women in the Canadian Armed Forces
(Adopted by the Committee on June 11, 2019; Presented to the House on June 17, 2019)
The committee studied women’s experiences of workplace and sexual harassment in the Department of National Defence. The committee’s recommendations focused on effecting cultural change in the Canadian Armed Forces; improving the process for reporting incidents of sexual misconduct; providing better supports and services to victims and survivors of sexual misconduct; and increasing the recruitment and retention of women in the military.
A Lifetime of Dedication: Helping Senior Women Benefit from Their Lifelong Contributions to Canadian Society
(Adopted by the Committee on June 4, 2019; Presented to the House on June 17, 2019)
In this study, the committee examined factors contributing to senior women’s poverty and vulnerability in Canada and how these factors could be addressed. Contributing factors identified during the study included the gender pay gap; part-time and unpaid work, including caregiving; lack of affordable housing and transportation; the cost of medication and other health supports; and gender-based violence and social isolation.
Surviving Abuse and Building Resilience—A Study of Canada’s Systems of Shelters and Transition Houses Serving Women and Children Affected by Violence
(Adopted by the Committee on March 19, 2019; Presented to the House on May 1, 2019)
The committee undertook a study on the system of shelters and transition houses serving women and children affected by violence. The committee’s recommendations aimed to help address the gap between the supply and the demand for beds and services in shelters and transition houses serving women fleeing violence. The recommendations focused on ensuring that women and children across Canada living in urban, rural and remote communities have access to comparable levels of services; and on increasing women’s access to safe and affordable housing and supports.
Elect Her: A Roadmap for Improving the Representation of Women in Canadian Politics
(Adopted by the Committee on February 5, 2019; Presented to the House on April 10, 2019)
The committee studied women’s representation in politics and the factors that may deter women from running for elected office and how these issues can be addressed. The committee examined barriers such as gender stereotypes and discrimination; gender-biased media treatment; insufficient efforts to recruit women as candidates; difficulties in financing campaigns; the absence of family-friendly and gender-sensitive workplaces; and gender-based violence and harassment.
A Call to Action: Reconciliation with Indigenous Women in the Federal Justice and Correctional Systems
(Adopted by the Committee on May 31, 2018; Presented to the House on June 19, 2018)
This study explored Indigenous women’s experiences in the federal justice and correctional systems. In addition to seeking to understand Indigenous women’s experiences and treatment in the federal correctional system, the committee identified factors contributing to Indigenous women’s interactions with the criminal justice system, such as intergenerational trauma, disconnection from cultures and languages, and sexual violence. As well, the committee explored systemic problems in the federal justice system that have negative impacts on Indigenous women’s access to and treatment within that system, and how these problems could be addressed.
Women’s Economic Security: Securing the Future of Canada’s Economy
(Adopted by the Committee on May 29, 2018; Presented to the House on June 14, 2018)
The committee’s study focused on various factors contributing to women’s economic insecurity in Canada, measures to increase women’s economic security, and measures to increase women’s economic leadership. The measures suggested to address women’s economic insecurity included improving childcare, Employment Insurance, and maternity and parental leave; implementing pay equity; ensuring access to education; improving income, retirement and pension security; and conducting gender-sensitive economic policy-making.
Taking Action to End Violence Against Young Women and Girls in Canada
(Adopted by the Committee on March 9, 2017; Presented to the House on March 20, 2017)
In its study on violence against young women and girls in Canada, the committee examined themes such as factors contributing to this violence; harassment in public spaces, sexual violence on post-secondary campuses; cyberviolence; groups of young women and girls who may be particularly vulnerable to violence; and areas for action to address this violence.
Implementing Gender-Based Analysis Plus in the Government of Canada
(Adopted by the Committee on May 3, 2016; Presented to the House on June 15, 2016)