December 3, 2010



On April 14, 2010, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts tabled its report regarding the Spring 2009 Report of the Auditor General and the Departmental Action Plan on Gender-Based Analysis (GBA Action Plan). The Committee's report puts forward five recommendations aimed at supplementing the work of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on gender-based analysis (GBA). In particular, the Committee asked that central agencies create more rigorous standards, that Government clarify its commitment to GBA, in addition to providing more direction to departments on their obligations in this regard, and that SWC report on the progress the government is making in implementing the GBA Action Plan with an interim status report and final update when implementation has been completed. It also suggested that SWC receive sufficient funds to promote and assess GBA effectiveness.

Since the tabling of the GBA Action Plan, SWC has been working with the federal organizations identified in the audit[1], and others who are pro-actively fulfilling the expectations regarding the application of GBA and the creation of GBA framework elements. The work corresponds in large part to the Committee's recommendations grouped under the broad categories of accountability, communications, reporting and resources.



The practice of GBA is a shared responsibility in which SWC plays a leadership role, while central agencies perform a challenge function and other federal organizations are responsible for achieving concrete results through the use of GBA. Central agencies are committed to exercising and improving their challenge function with regards to the practice of GBA, and fully support Status of Women Canada in its efforts to ensure that GBA becomes an integrated practice throughout the federal government. As such, the Privy Council Office (PCO), the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and the Department of Finance Canada (Finance)[2] continue to provide departments with guidance on the need to consider GBA, where appropriate, as they develop policy and program proposals, both as part of the early consultations and through the challenge function exercised prior to Cabinet's consideration of these proposals.

Both PCO and TBS continue to provide regular training to analysts to strengthen their ability to better communicate the government’s expectations to departments with respect to GBA. All three central agencies offered training in 2009 and 2010 to all relevant staff, including guidance to analysts on when and how to conduct GBA. For example, new analysts entering the Operations Branch at PCO participate in an orientation session that discusses GBA; similarly, new program analysts at TBS attend an orientation session where their GBA challenge function role is explained.

To assist analysts in the GBA challenge function role, all three central agencies have developed their own internal GBA guides/tools describing analysts’ roles and responsibilities, and providing guidance to help them perform their respective challenge functions. In consultation with SWC, PCO is developing a GBA Policy to clarify its roles and responsibilities with respect to GBA. The policy will provide guidance on the challenge function role, the incorporation of GBA into internally produced Memoranda to Cabinet and Treasury Board submissions, and PCO’s role in assisting departments to enhance their GBA capacity. TBS is currently updating its Guide on Preparing Treasury Board submissions and, on SWC’s advice, will look at clarifying the GBA challenge function that program analysts need to perform when reviewing all TB submissions.

Furthermore, PCO and TBS, in consultation with SWC, have conducted and will continue to hold informal consultations with federal organizations to discuss GBA challenges, identify support that may be required to address them, and agree on milestones for assessing and discussing results.

Over the past year, as part of the approach used to support federal organizations in implementing the GBA Action Plan, SWC, PCO and TBS participated in panel discussions[3]; more are planned to communicate GBA expectations. These tri-partite panel presentations were adapted to specific departmental requests and tailored to different audiences.  Some examples include:  sessions that combine the presentations with case study work where examples of departmental Memoranda to Cabinet and/or TB Submissions are reviewed through the application of GBA; sessions that bring together managers from policy and program areas, as well as those from Cabinet and Parliamentary Affairs. Departments report that these tri-partite panel presentations are valuable sources of information and allow people direct access to the Central Agencies for answers to specific concerns. Informal discussions and panel discussions will become key activities to be undertaken on a yearly basis by the Central Agencies and SWC as part of the ongoing guidance they provide to departments on how to develop policy and program proposals using GBA.

Clarifying and communicating expectations

As the federal organization with the recognized mandate to promote GBA, SWC works to inform and influence the actions of departments and stakeholders outside government to integrate GBA and implement change to achieve gender equality. To this end, SWC continues to provide advice and support to help departments complete or build their GBA frameworks, as well as strengthen

their practice of GBA. This includes facilitating the delivery of GBA training by offering

departments a pool of qualified, for-hire trainers, free training materials and helping departments develop the appropriate case studies necessary for the training.

In the past year, SWC targeted its support to those federal organizations involved in the 2008-2009 audit by assisting in the development of workplans and critical paths to complete or introduce GBA framework elements, as well as partnering in the identification of one appropriate initiative (policy, program or legislation) that would be developed using GBA. In addition to those departments and agencies involved in the audit, SWC provided information, advice and GBA support to around twenty other departments and agencies committed to learning how GBA is conducted and how the practice could be integrated into their organizational culture and work. The level of support varied depending on the stage at which the organizations were in terms of integrating GBA. Examples include one-on-one briefings and ongoing support in the form of telephone and e-mail exchanges.

In order to ensure that departments and agencies are fully aware of the requirements set out in the GBA Action Plan, SWC chairs the GBA Interdepartmental Committee (IDC) and its sub-working groups. The former acts as a learning and information exchange forum while the latter, such as the working groups on training and the development of GBA tools, provide opportunities for departments to participate in the design of products to be used to facilitate the integration of GBA government-wide. For example, a new iteration of the current GBA training package is being developed in collaboration with interested departments.[4] Building on all existing federal training packages on GBA and past evaluations from participants, this new training package will be a basic course on the theories and concepts, requirements and accountabilities, history and process of applying GBA to policies and programs and will be offered on-line through the Canada School of Public Service’s Campus Direct courses.  The expected launch date of this course is spring 2011. This GBA e-Basics Course will be the first online course provided of its kind to federal public servants, making it accessible to public servants across the country, enhancing the reach and impact of GBA across government.

The need to show evidence of GBA in government key decision-making documents such as Memoranda to Cabinet, Treasury Board Submissions and performance reports has also shifted the focus of training to reach a wider audience in order to advance the integration of GBA into a greater number of sectors and professional communities across the government. As a result, as an adjunct to the GBA e-Basics course, various primers, training materials and tools focusing on functional roles are also in the early stages of development.  While the GBA e-Basics course is aimed towards analysts in general as an introductory course, the functional specific training is being developed to focus on the integration of GBA to specific and more complex or highly technical functions, such as evaluation and research, which require more specialized information. The goal is to make GBA relevant to different categories of professionals in the public service.

In addition to evaluation and research, other functional specific training modules being planned over the course of the fiscal year include: policy analysis and development, and program design

and delivery. Senior officials and managers are also being targeted to improve their awareness of GBA with particular emphasis on their obligations and responsibilities. Consultations and discussions have occurred with a variety of managers from select departments to determine the appropriate content to be tailored to their needs and preferred methods of delivery. This could include joint presentations by the PCO and TBS GBA Champions and SWC Deputy Head in various fora, such as departmental executive committees, Armchair Discussions, and other possible events. 

Information dissemination and promotional activities also help to develop more profound knowledge of the mechanisms, concepts, and tools of GBA, as well as improve its quality. SWC is developing a more comprehensive GBA Guide that will address GBA commitments, expectations, requirements, accountability, available tools and support provided by SWC. Other tools have been or are in the process of being produced in collaboration with various departments of the GBA IDC such as: a self-assessment tool to be used by departments (already undertaken with the departments involved in the 2008-2009 audit) to provide a more accurate picture of the efficiency and effectiveness of GBA in policy and program development across government; and fact sheets and primers regarding the functional communities and their use of GBA.

Capacity is also being strengthened through proactive efforts undertaken by the GBA community of practice. Through regular sessions, they share information and best practices on such topics as research and statistics, GBA Policy development, accountability mechanisms, the role of GBA champions, integrating GBA into Memorandum to Cabinet and Treasury Board submission processes, the establishment of internal networks and outreach activities – all with the objective of accelerating the implementation of GBA in their organizations while making this practice sustainable over time.


Increased emphasis on accountability and results for Canadians provides further opportunities to demonstrate the quality and validity of GBA as a sound policy tool.

GBA Frameworks

Departments identified in the 2008-09 audit were asked to participate in a self-assessment exercise and report back to SWC on their experience in both implementing a GBA framework and applying GBA to the development of an initiative. SWC will include best practices and trends drawn from these reports, and will include these in its next Departmental Performance Report, as well as post relevant information on its website. The preliminary results show that the past year has generated enormous effort on behalf of the organizations’ involved, sparked great interest, and generated real results in the development of GBA frameworks, which is essential in making sustainable the practice of GBA over the long term.

The GBA Action Plan requires departments to have the following institutional elements: (a) a GBA departmental statement of intent or policy; (b) a responsibility centre to monitor the implementation of the framework and the practice of GBA; (c) guides, manuals or other

appropriate information for promoting GBA; (d) mandatory GBA training for all senior departmental officials, analysts and other appropriate staff; (e) reporting on progress in departmental Reports on Plans and Priorities and Performance Reports; (f) yearly self-assessments on the implementation of frameworks and the practice of GBA on specific initiatives. The preliminary results validate the relevance of these elements and how these assist departments in developing the internal capacity to understand the gendered nature of their work, as well as identifying opportunities for applying GBA. In line with expectations outlined in the Action Plan, federal organizations will have the opportunity to report on their GBA work, in particular through their Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports. Lessons learned so far are:

  • statements of intent assist organizations in communicating the necessity and importance of, and their commitment to, both practicing and sustaining GBA;
  • responsibility centres have a positive impact by leading, supporting and monitoring the implementation of GBA frameworks and the actual practice of it;
  • tools such as guides, best practices, check lists and promotional materials work best if they are adapted to the corporate culture of the organization; and
  • regular training offered at a minimum once a year and delivered by in-house experts greatly assists public servants in fulfilling their responsibility to conduct GBA.

The key to success for all elements seems to lie in adopting a “best fit” approach that respects organizational cultures. For example, there is a diversity of responsibility centres among departments ranging from individuals responsible for GBA to champions and intra-departmental groups. However, independent of the structure, the roles are comparable: promote, guide, co-ordinate GBA activities, increase awareness among senior management and engage in departmental processes such as the preparation of Memoranda to Cabinet or Treasury Board submissions.

Applying GBA to One Initiative

The audited departments were also asked to apply GBA to one initiative, ideally tied to a government priority, with particular attention to be paid to the stages of research, data collection and the development of options as key steps in ensuring that gender considerations are taken into account when developing a policy or program. The intent was to help departments put the theory into practice and provide a learning opportunity. Ideally, initiatives that are promoted as or considered to be, gender neutral and in the developmental stage provide the most flexibility and opportunity for integration of, and learning from GBA. This could also include follow-up initiatives, such as the renewal of a program, a second-stage project or implementation of a comprehensive strategy to address challenges encountered with former programs.

Departments with entrenched framework elements, or previous experience using GBA appeared to be better equipped to apply GBA to an initiative compared with those with less experience in using GBA. This also had an impact on the choice of an initiative. Those departments with developed internal capacity were able to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of some of the different gender-specific issues related to their mandate, whereas departments with less

foundation were at a disadvantage in assessing whether GBA may be useful in different initiatives.

All of the selected initiatives were tied to a government priority and addressed gender differences in areas such as employment, tax measures, or health. Initiatives varied in the stages where GBA was relevant and applied:

  • Research: In the research stage, in the majority of cases, departments drew on secondary research (i.e. academic or civil society sponsored) and quantitative data such as that obtained from Statistics Canada. In conducting their research, most departments’ considered not only the differences between women and men, but additional diversity factors such as age, ethnicity, region, family size, education, and others. In addition to the secondary research, some departments also used gender-disaggregated administrative or evaluation data to inform their research.
  • Development of Options: For those initiatives that led to the development of options, GBA influenced the way these options were presented.
  • Engagement: Some initiatives incorporated an engagement process, which occurred at various levels, including within departments, between departments, and in certain cases, external to Government.
  • Evaluation: An important aspect of GBA is ensuring that the development and implementation of an initiative can be measured for its success in being gender-sensitive. Some initiatives are projecting performance measurement that will include gender-sensitive indicators, which will also integrate other aspects of identity and diversity.


The Committee requested that the Government ensure that SWC has sufficient resources to promote and assess the implementation and effectiveness of the Government's GBA practices. The current resources for GBA at SWC are fully dedicated to meeting commitments made under the GBA Action Plan. This includes being a knowledge broker and providing expert advice, tools and support to departments and agencies, and monitoring overall progress with support from, and in collaboration with Central Agencies. Increasing pressure and demand for SWC's GBA expertise is anticipated as more departments and agencies, many of which are less experienced with GBA, adopt the GBA Action Plan over the coming years. SWC will continue to develop and strengthen its interdepartmental relationships beyond the current federal GBA community of practitioners, while examining options for how best to respond to increasing demands and expectations.


In 2009–2010, SWC, with TBS and PCO, began to oversee the phased-in implementation of the GBA Action Plan to enhance federal accountability for gender equality. Particular focus was placed on working toward the strengthening of GBA with the departments and agencies involved

in the 2008-2009 audit, ensuring they complete the introduction of key framework elements and

integrate the practice more systematically into the processes of developing public policy, programs, and service delivery. 

Preliminary results do indicate that some departments involved in the 2008 audit have rapidly become self-sufficient in performing and sustaining GBA, due in part to their longstanding

involvement in GBA activities. They are ready to serve as models to other organizations. Where a department’s capacity is not yet adequate to support a framework or apply GBA to an initiative, it would seem that it could benefit from a longer cycle of implementation, with a first 12-month period to create an institutional framework, followed by 6 to 12 months for applying GBA to an initiative. Allowing sufficient time for SWC and Central Agencies to provide adequate support and build strong capacity throughout the government and its different professional communities is also critical if the practice of GBA is to become sustainable. These insights will be used to inform the management of subsequent phases of the implementation of the GBA Action Plan.

The promotion of gender equality is a shared responsibility between SWC and other federal organizations. SWC will continue to enable a growing number of organizations and actors to integrate GBA more systematically into their work and decision-making processes. The true institutionalization of GBA will in turn result in better public policy that responds more effectively to the diverse needs of all Canadians.


Rona Ambrose                                                                        Suzanne Clément

Minister for Status of Women                                                Coordinator/Head of Agency

[1] The audited federal organizations include: Health Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada,

  Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Justice Canada, Transport Canada, and Veterans Affairs Canada. The three

  central agencies, including the Privy Council Office, Treasury Board Secretariat, and Finance Canada (as a

  department and a central agency) were also part of the audit.

[2] Finance has a dual function with regard to GBA.  As a central agency it exercises a challenge function similar to

  TBS and PCO; and as department, it creates taxation policy to which it also applies GBA where relevant and where

  data exists. The audit took this dual role into account.

[3] Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada and Veteran Affairs Canada.

[4] The project is co-led by SWC and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, with the participation of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Health Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and Justice Canada.