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FEWO Committee Report

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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE SECOND REPORT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN

GENDER-BASED ANALYSIS: BUILDING BLOCKS FOR SUCCESS

INTRODUCTION
A GENDER EQUALITY STRATEGY

RECOMMENDATION 1 — EQUALITY LEGISLATION FOR SYSTEMATIC GENDER-BASED ANALYSIS
RECOMMENDATION 2 — EVALUATING EXISTING GBA ACCOUNTABILITY
RECOMMENDATION 3 — ENGAGING EQUALITY-SEEKING ORGANIZATIONS
A GBA ROLE FOR CENTRAL AGENCIES
  1. RECOMMENDATION 4 — FINANCE CANADA AND GENDER BUDGETING
  2. RECOMMENDATION 5 — THE PCO AND GBA ACCOUNTABILITY
  3. RECOMMENDATION 6PCO ENGAGING SENIOR OFFICIALS
RECOMMENDATION 7 — TREASURARY BOARD SECRETARIAT (TBS) AND GBA RESOURCES
RECOMMENDATION 8TBS AND GBA REPORTING
RECOMMENDATION 9 — THE RESPONSIBILITY OF INDIVIDUAL DEPARTMENTS FOR GBA

INTRODUCTION

The Government of Canada is pleased to present the following response to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) report entitled, Gender-Based Analysis: Building Blocks for Success, which was tabled in the House of Commons on April 19, 2005.

The FEWO is to be commended for having conducted such a thorough examination of the implementation of gender-based analysis (GBA) in federal government departments. The testimony presented to FEWO by invited federal departments provided the opportunity for FEWO, the government and the public to hear about the experiences of departments on three particular issues: 1) how GBA is implemented in their organizations; 2) emerging and ongoing challenges to the implementation; and, 3) the adequacy of current accountability for GBA.

Achieving gender equality is a complex challenge when many Canadians believe the work is done – that equality for all has been achieved, and that neither women nor men suffer any disadvantage based on gender. In other sectors, SWC has heard from stakeholders that there is a growing sense that the machinery created to ensure sustained progress on equality has been weakened. FEWO also heard similar views from some of the witnesses who made submissions. Pressure is also increasing that governments have coherent strategies in place to improve their accountability in order to truly address outstanding inequalities and achieve concrete results against the equality commitments they make internationally. SWC believes that to create effective public policy that will adequately respond to the different needs of women and men, in Canada, requires a policy environment that is innovative, responsive to stakeholders, and engages in dialogue and close collaboration with all orders of government, parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, communities, families and individuals. An ongoing part of doing good public policy that will resonate with all Canadians and their families is to continue to make GBA part of policy and program development in all social, economic, cultural and political areas.

A GENDER EQUALITY STRATEGY

Government action during the past ten years has paved the way for the increase in women's participation in the political, economic, cultural and social life of Canada. Initiatives such as: child support reforms, improvement to student loans, child benefits, compassionate care benefits, extended parental benefits, and a women's health strategy, are having a positive impact on women and their families. Since its first plan in 1975, following the groundbreaking United Nations World Conference on Women, to its last one embodied in the Agenda for Gender Equality, the Government of Canada has attempted to address critical gaps in a deliberate manner, expand opportunities for Canadian women, and more recently, reflect the diverse realities of women and men in government policies, programs and legislation through the application of GBA. All these past endeavors recognized the links between domestic and international activities and sought to ensure that women and men in Canada, especially those most affected by policy decisions, participate in the policy development process in a meaningful and sustained way.

A changing world and shifting demographics are exerting pressures on governments to plan ahead. Canada is no exception with its aging society, a shrinking labour force and increasing care needs. Many women are doing well but they have not achieved equality. Some are struggling to meet labour force demands while caring for children and others. In 1998, women performed one and a half (or 1.5) times the unpaid work of men. The low income rate among female-headed lone parent families was 38.4% in 2003, compared to a rate of 8.4% among all Canadian families. Women immigrating to Canada and women in the growing Aboriginal population also contribute much to our society and will be increasingly important in the coming years. Yet these women are among Canada's most persistently disadvantaged people. In 2001, compared to Canadian women overall, immigrant women had poverty rates five percentage points higher, and visible minority women's rates were almost double.

Almost every indicator shows that Aboriginal women face severe barriers to equality and inclusion. According to recent government statistics, Aboriginal women's life expectancy is over five years shorter than Canadian women in general and they are more likely to live in poverty - 36.4% compared to 17.7%. Aboriginal women are also over three times more likely to be assaulted by their spouse than Canadian women in general and eight times more likely to be killed by their spouse after a separation. Aboriginal women with status under the Indian Act, and who are between the ages of 25 and 44, are five times more likely to experience a violent death than other Canadian women in the same age category.

The Government of Canada, taking into consideration its particular achievements, challenges and gaps, since 1975, is now developing a new gender equality strategy.

This strategy will be built on the initial response provided below to the specific recommendations that FEWO has made on GBA.

EQUALITY LEGISLATION FOR SYSTEMATIC GENDER-BASED ANALYSIS

RECOMMENDATION 1

  • That the Government of Canada immediately initiate consultations, in time for the 2006-2007 budget, aimed at the development of legislation that would ensure the systematic application of gender-based analysis to all federal policy and program activities;
  • That the Privy Council Office (PCO) establish a secretariat with responsibility for ensuring the development and eventual implementation of effective gender equality legislation; and
  • That the PCO Secretariat table annually in Parliament a public report outlining progress toward the legislation.

The Privy Council Office (PCO) plays a policy-coordination role for departments bringing forward policy and program proposals to cabinet for approval. As a part of this role, PCO, together with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Finance, provides a challenge function to ensure that all relevant factors have been assessed, including those related to gender equality. The onus is on the lead department to ensure this assessment is full and complete.

Although GBA is ultimately the responsibility of lead departments bringing forward policy and program proposals, PCO is moving to strengthen its challenge-function in this regard. A PCO departmental representative sits on the SWC IDC on Gender Equlity; PCO has designated a senior official to act as a GBA champion; and PCO is seeking the assistance of SWC to provide GBA training to its officials.

The Government of Canada appointed on August 30, 2005, a three-person Panel of Experts to assist the government in identifying the best possible strategies to promote progress and ensure accountability on GBA. The Panel's work will be an important contribution as the government moves forward with a renewed gender equality strategy.

Any further action on the part of PCO will be considered in the context of the government's new gender equality strategy.

EVALUATING EXISTING GBA ACCOUNTABILITY

RECOMMENDATION 2

  • That Status of Women Canada (SWC) immediately re-activate the Interdepartmental Committee (IDC) on Gender-Based Analysis to provide a full assessment of existing accountability mechanisms for GBA;
  • That the IDC on GBA be expanded to have representation from all government departments;
  • That each department on the IDC on GBA provide an overview of their particular measures for ensuring accountability on GBA and provide an evaluation of the effectiveness of these measures, and that this information be communicated through each department's departmental performance report as well as through the departmental performance report of Status of Women Canada (SWC);
  • That SWC coordinate the production and distribution of information on the state of GBA accountability mechanisms on an annual basis; and
  • That SWC be allocated increased funding specifically for the evaluation of GBA accountability measures.

The government's commitment to GBA is deemed a shared responsibility between SWC playing a capacity-building role and individual departments responsible for determining which policies would have the potential to affect women and men differentially and would, therefore, be appropriate for a consistent application of a gender lens. Certain key departments distinguished themselves, their efforts acknowledged by FEWO, by taking the initiative to create their own training packages and infrastructure such as departmental policy, statements on GBA, integration of GBA in strategic and operational plans and departmental gender focal points or networks of gender specialists. The GBA IDC, in existence since 1999 as an information sharing forum, was converted in 2002 into a learning forum for ongoing and increased capacity-building that meets every three to four months. Departments will continue using the GBA IDC as a vehicle for exchanging best practices and can report on achievements through their Report on Planning and Priorities (RPP) and Departmental Performance Reports (DPR).

The IDC on Gender Equality, the interdepartmental committee of senior officials chaired by SWC, has been re-activated and will be involved throughout the development of the gender equality strategy. It can also serve as a forum for departments to share their experiences in implementing GBA.

Under AGE, $20.5 million was allocated to SWC in yearly increments covering the period 2000-2005. The AGE was comprised of five components: 1) accelerating the implementation of GBA; 2) providing funding to women's and other equality-seeking organizations; 3) engaging Canadians in the public policy process; 4) meeting Canada's international commitments; and 5) engendering public policy, which was the only unfunded component. An ongoing allocation of $5 million received by SWC since 2002-2003 allows the continuation of AGE activities beyond 2005, such as the evaluation, production and distribution of information on issues such as accountability mechanisms. The pursuit of GBA activities by SWC and the work to be undertaken by the Panel Experts will permit the Government of Canada to adequately measure the effectiveness of not only current but future measures of accountability without the recommended additional funding.

ENGAGING EQUALITY-SEEKING ORGANIZATIONS

RECOMMENDATION 3

  • That SWC ensure that equality-seeking organizations are engaged in a thorough consultation on the equality goals for priority action in the 2005-2010 action plan on gender equality;
  • That the outcomes from such consultation be made public; and
  • That a one-time supplementary funding amount be allocated to SWC during this fiscal period to make such a consultation possible.

Consultation by SWC to engage civil society on the equality goals for priority action for the future strategy on gender equality is being planned for fall 2005. Additional funding will not be required for this consultation as resources from the sustained $5 million under the AGE will be used. Funding for a permanent engagement mechanism will be explored as part of the development of the new gender equality strategy. This will be dealt with further when the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for the Status of Women presents the new gender equality strategy to Cabinet for approval.

A GBA ROLE FOR CENTRAL AGENCIES

  1. FINANCE CANADA AND GENDER BUDGETING
  2. RECOMMENDATION 4
    • That the Department of Finance designate one senior official with clear responsibility for implementing a gender analysis process;
    • That the Department of Finance provide a written report to Parliament annually on the steps taken to implement gender budgeting; and
    • That the Department of Finance report to Parliament include examples of areas where gender analysis produced specific results and that this report be referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Departments bringing forward policy and program proposals to Cabinet for approval must ensure that all relevant factors have been assessed, including those related to gender equality. The onus is on the lead department to ensure this assessment is full and complete.

In this context, DOF has two functions: one that stems from its policy coordinating and challenge function role, where it receives and reviews proposals for spending from other government departments, and one that relates to its direct responsibility for developing the nation's budget and tax policy. With respect to the latter function, where appropriate, and, where data exists, individual branches within DOF (in particular those responsible for tax policy, financial markets and federal-provincial relations) may include GBA in the policy development process, in order to ensure that the consequences of proposed policy initiatives on various segments of the population are taken into consideration.

In keeping with other central agencies, DOF will strengthen its challenge function, in respect of GBA, by appointing a GBA Champion and undertaking discussions with SWC concerning the creation of a pilot project to train a group of analysts and managers in the application of GBA.

To continue addressing the commitment made by government in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, to "incorporate a gender perspective into the design, development, adoption and execution of all budgetary processes as appropriate", DOF will also continue to hold extensive pre-budget consultations, which are an important part of the GBA process and help assist the government in assuring that the consequences of proposed policy initiatives, for various segments of the population, including women, have been brought to the attention of the Department.

  1. THE PCO AND GBA ACCOUNTABILITY
  2. RECOMMENDATION 5
    • That the PCO immediately designate one senior official with clear responsibility for initiating and coordinating accountability on GBA;
    • That the PCO begin the coordinating process immediately;
    • That the PCO provide a written report to Parliament about any consultations on accountability and about the options within 120 days; and
    • That the options include measures to penalize departments that do not comply.

The Privy Council Office (PCO) plays a policy-coordination role for departments bringing forward policy and program proposals to cabinet for approval. As a part of this role, PCO, together with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Finance, provides a challenge function to ensure that all relevant factors have been assessed, including those related to gender equality. The onus is on the lead department to ensure this assessment is full and complete.

Although GBA is ultimately the responsibility of lead departments bringing forward policy and program proposals, PCO is moving to strengthen its challenge-function in this regard. A PCO departmental representative sits on the SWC IDC on Gender Equlity; PCO has designated a senior official to act as a GBA champion; and PCO is seeking the assistance of SWC to provide GBA training to its officials.

The Government of Canada has appointed a three-person Panel of Experts to assist the government in identifying the best possible strategies to promote progress and ensure accountability on GBA. The Panel's work will be an important contribution as the government moves forward with a renewed gender equality strategy.

Any further action on the part of PCO will be considered in the context of the government's new gender equality strategy.

  1. PCO ENGAGING SENIOR OFFICIALS
  2. RECOMMENDATION 6
    • That the PCO immediately establish a committee of deputy ministers responsible for analyzing all Memoranda to Cabinet and other Cabinet documents for GBA; and
    • That PCO officials and all deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers participate in workshops that provide training to assess GBA content.

A senior Interdepartmental Committee on Gender Equality already exists. In addition, initial discussions have been held between SWC and PCO regarding training in GBA to be provided to PCO analysts. An awareness-raising tool for senior officials being developed by SWC can be provided to all departmental senior officials as part of their implementation plan. By 2006-07 senior officials across the Government of Canada will have access to GBA in selected streams of executive training delivered by the Canada School of Public Service.

TREASURARY BOARD SECRETARIAT (TBS) AND GBA RESOURCES

RECOMMENDATION 7

  • That TBS designate a senior official to take responsibility for ensuring that GBA is included in policies, directives and regulations pertinent to the 2005-2010 action plan on gender equality which is currently being developed by SWC;
  • That all program expenditure proposals with respect to priority areas identified for the 2005-2010 action plan on gender equality include GBA analysis and implementation goals;
  • That TBS provide wide and clear communication to the general public, equality-seeking organizations and other government departments in order to ensure a high level of support for the expected equality goals;
  • That TBS support and participate in work to identify and, where necessary, develop indicators to measure progress toward the identified equality goals; and
  • That the TBS report annually to Parliament on progress toward GBA goals and the activities of departments and agencies, both in active measures to attain gender equality goals and in increasing their capacity to implement GBA to ensure that unintentional negative impacts of programs and policies do not hinder progress toward gender equality goals.

TBS has three roles: it sets the policies and standards for management across the Public Service; it oversees expenditure management and resource stewardship; and through negotiation or consultation, it also sets wages, working conditions, benefits and insurance plans for its employees and manages their pension plans. It is the Secretariat's position that primary responsibility rest with departments for ensuring new program proposals include adequate policy analysis (including GBA) and strategies for communicating their goals, and with PCO for challenging their adequacy. For its part, TBS is responsible for ensuring approved programs comply with management policy and include adequate financial analysis and measures of program effectiveness. From time to time, as priorities dictate and resources permit, the Secretariat does advise departments and horizontal initiatives on refining their program indicators. It does so, however, on the clear understanding that responsibility for having measures, delivering program results and reporting to Parliament on program performance rests with the program's Minister, Deputy Minister and department.

Currently, a representative of the TBS sits on the SWC IDC on Gender Equality. The TBS will appoint a champion to coordinate its contribution to the gender equality strategy and its internal activities related to gender equality and GBA.

The TBS will create a pilot project to train a group of its analysts in GBA and consult with SWC regarding its content.

As part of its contribution to development of the gender equality strategy, the TBS will review and provide comment to SWC on its drafts of the framework of accountability and performance measurement required of all such programs.

The TBS is currently engaged in an overhaul and streamlining of its own suite of management policies. The Secretariat will be screening its policies for possible unintended consequences on various segments of the Public Service and considering the application of more rigorous GBA where warranted. The Secretariat will consult with SWC on doing so.

Any further action on the part of the TBS would await the release of the new gender equality strategy.

TBS AND GBA REPORTING

RECOMMENDATION 8

  • That TBS establish clear criteria for reporting on GBA; and
  • That TBS ensure consistent annual reporting to Parliament on GBA in departmental reports on plans and priorities and performance reports.

The TBS's new Management Reporting and Results Structure (MRRS) Policy supports the development of a common, government-wide approach to the collection, management and reporting of financial and non-financial performance information. To the extent that programs are mandated to deliver gender specific outcomes, implementation of the MRRS Policy should improve departmental reporting to Parliament on their performance. Implementation of the policy will also support cross-governmental analysis of programs having similar gender specific goals.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF INDIVIDUAL DEPARTMENTS FOR GBA

RECOMMENDATION 9

  • That every federal department and agency immediately designate an assistant or associate deputy minister with responsibility for GBA;
  • That all departments and agencies ensure regular and active participation in the IDC on GBA;
  • That all federal departments and agencies develop a strategic framework for GBA and action plans for implementation;
  • That all federal departments and agencies provide additional resources for data needed for GBA and for staff to ensure that it is used;
  • That all legislative program and policy initiatives undergo GBA;
  • That senior level departmental policy and other committees within all federal departments and agencies require regular, at least annual, progress reports on GBA with particular focus on specific results; and
  • That federal departments and agencies make this information about GBA available to Parliament and to the public in their reports on plans and priorities and departmental performance reports.

As an agency with a horizontal, vertical and enabling mandate on GBA, SWC works strategically to inform and influence the actions of other departments to integrate GBA and implement change to achieve gender equality.

SWC chairs an Interdepartmental Committee on GBA made up of 13 departments (Health Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development, Social Development, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Department of National Defense, Canadian Heritage, Agriculture and AgriFoods, Justice, Canadian International Development Agency, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Statistics Canada, and Infrastructure Canada).

Initially, the IDC served as an information-sharing forum on best practices but its mandate was modified, in 2002-2003, to serve more as a learning forum to assist in the creation, facilitation, and support of GBA activities across federal government departments. This arrangement better reflects the shared responsibility for the implementation of GBA between SWC playing a capacity-building role and individual departments responsible for determining which policies would have the potential to affect women and men differentially and would, therefore, be appropriate for a consistent application of a gender lens.

Certain key departments such as the former HRDC, Health Canada, the Department of Justice, Indian and Northern Affairs, Citizenship and Immigration, and the Canadian International Development Agency distinguished themselves by taking the initiative to create their own training packages and infrastructure such as departmental policy statements on GBA, integration of GBA in strategic and operational plans, and departmental gender focal points or networks of gender specialists.

Countries around the world are facing an increasing pressure to improve accountability for the gender equality commitments, including the practice of GBA, which they have made.

Some federal government departments have undertaken focused efforts to creating integrated organizational structures to respond to the need for accountability. For example:

  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is accountable to Parliament under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Action Act (IRPA) (94.2(f)) for undertaking GBA of the impact of the Act, a requirement that is unprecedented in federal statutes. In order to comply, CIC has introduced a Five-Year Strategic Framework for GBA (2005-2010) which sets out the department's objectives, principles, activities and reporting steps tied to branch GBA plans;
  • At Health Canada, GBA is formalized in the Women's Health Strategy (1999) and the Gender-Based Analysis Policy (2000), which requires bi-annual reports to the Departmental Executive Committee. The Gender-Based Analysis Implementation Strategy (2003) aims to advance GBA into the substantive work of the department, including daily planning and operations. The Strategy consists of: capacity-building through training and other educational events; tool and resource development, including health research and indicators; infrastructure with a departmental GBA Committee representing all regions and branches; GBA implementation in policy and program development; and monitoring and evaluation;
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's Women's Issues and Gender Equality (WIGE) Directorate coordinates the implementation of that department's Gender Equality Analysis Policy by ensuring that it is reflected throughout the department's business lines across headquarters and regional offices. For example, the department requires that all Memoranda to Cabinet reflect the application of GBA. The WIGE Directorate is supported by a network of Gender Equality Analysis representatives or GEARS in all branches and regions of the department;
  • Canadian Heritage is putting into place a comprehensive implementation strategy that includes the appointment of a champion, the creation of an intra-departmental senior management committee and working group, and the development of an action plan with objectives and timelines. Its implementation plan includes the creation of a Gender Equality Network, the drafting of a Policy and Research Statement, participation in a pilot project with SWC, developing internal tools in collaboration with SWC, receiving GBA training from SWC, and creating an accountability framework;
  • The Canadian International Development Agency created a framework entitled CIDA's Framework for Assessing Gender Equality Results. This framework was developed to provide a means to undertake a corporate-level assessment of CIDA's performance on implementing gender equality as a cross-cutting theme. It supports CIDA's results-based approach by providing feedback related to the Agency's accountability for development results and by identifying lessons intended to strengthen management for results. In 2004, pilots were undertaken to assess the utility, practicality and validity of the approach proposed and to make necessary modifications for its release in 2005.

The Privy Council Office, Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Finance have agreed to designate GBA champions. All other agencies and departments are encouraged to put in place GBA mechanisms and name champions as appropriate to each organization's culture and mandate and be prepared to report on achievements as soon as possible. The government will look at further accountability mechanisms in the development of the new gender equality strategy.

As part of the new gender equality strategy, consideration will be given to reporting to Parliament on progress being made of the implementation of GBA actions within the government.