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Government Response to the Eighteenth Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women

The Impacts of Funding and Program Changes at Status of Women Canada

Standing Committee on the Status of Women
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Dear Chairperson:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to respond to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) report entitled, The Impacts of Funding and Program Changes at Status of Women Canada, which was tabled in the House of Commons on May 2, 2007.

Based on its meetings with witnesses and the briefs received on the funding and program changes at Status of Women Canada, the Committee report contains five recommendations which are mostly focused on the implications of the reduced operating budget at Status of Women Canada.

Our Government’s objective is to provide genuine results for Canadians. Toward that end, the changes brought to Status of Women Canada are designed to bring direct, measurable benefits to women across Canada, and to advance women’s full participation in the economic, social and cultural life of our country. The Government believes the responsibility to Canadian women lies with every department of the federal government. As such, this Government has already introduced measures that bring meaningful change to and remove barriers for key populations of women such as: increasing the Pension Income Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per year; working with First Nations to establish legislative solutions addressing gaps relating to matrimonial real property on reserves; preserving the Sisters in Spirit initiative as a continued instrument to address violence and promoting the safety of Aboriginal women; a one-time investment of $6 million for 2006-07 to address the immediate needs of existing shelters on-reserve and help First Nations communities improve family violence prevention programs and services; providing families with a universal child care benefit of $100 for each child under six and a child tax benefit for children up to age 18; introducing various justice initiatives, including increased security measures to protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking; establishing a vaccine program to protect women and girls against cervical cancer; and bringing forth a Tax Fairness Plan that will increase the age credit by $1,000 (from $4,066 to $5,066), effective this tax year.

A growing awareness of the complexity of the issues and the need for new approaches, new strategies and new methods is recognized. In 2005, the U. N. Commission on the Status of Women concluded in a major review exercise that no country has yet achieved equality and that new solutions have to be found for unresolved problems and new challenges alike. The UN praised Canada for the strides it has made in advancing the rights of women, but the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has recommended that it focus its efforts on attaining concrete results by bringing corrective action to the high rates of poverty among women, the unequal legal, social and economic situation of Aboriginal women, the slow progress in implementing Gender-Based Analysis across government and the lack of accountability in Canada’s government structure in order to track results.

The Government of Canada remains committed to advancing equality for women by taking a more focused approach, with the goal of making a direct impact on people’s lives and achieving real, measurable results.

In Budget 2007, the Government of Canada announced the investment of $10M a year for two years, or $20M, in Status of Women Canada including the $5M for 2007-08 announced earlier on March 7th, 2007, to enhance the activities of a refocused Women’s Program. This investment increases the Women’s Program budget by 40%, the highest level since the Program’s creation. The SWC budget, following these announcements, and taking into account previous allocations voted by Parliament, will rise to $29.9M overall – the highest level of funding ever seen by the Agency.

With this new funding, Status of Women Canada will assist in policy and program development and implementation, create strategic partnerships that will meet Canada’s international obligations, and achieve measurable results. Interventions and results will pertain to four priority populations of women, Aboriginal, immigrant and visible minorities, seniors and young women; and we will focus on two priority areas, economic security and violence against women.

As well, the Women’s Program now has two components: the Women’s Community Fund and the new Women’s Partnership Fund, which will increase the engagement of other levels of government through joint projects and investment programs and products designed to directly impact the situation of women.

Status of Women Canada will continue to play a role in supporting the application of a gender-based analysis with responsible departments; the coordination of policy where many departments are implicated and no other department has the lead; and assisting the central agencies on monitoring results that demonstrate a difference in the lives of women, their families and their communities.

Status of Women Canada will also continue to participate in and help meet Canada’s international obligations in collaboration with the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Department of Canadian Heritage and others.

The Women’s Program supports the implementation of this vision through its amended Terms and Conditions that will enable funds to be invested with regards to advancing women’s full participation and where there is a direct alignment with government priorities. The amendments introduced to the Women’s Program do not prevent women, men and organizations from advocating all levels of government.

In consolidating and streamlining key processes and operations, the Women’s Program will be providing cost-effective delivery and enhanced direct impact while improving accountability. For example: application forms are now available on-line including through Service Canada enabling greater access, especially to remote and rural communities; technical assistance is available to priority groups facing significant participation barriers (for example, Aboriginal women and immigrant women); toll-free telephone numbers are being set up where they do not already exist, to facilitate contact with the public; information about funding requirements, application processes, calls for proposals concerning the Women’s Community Fund and the Women’s Partnership Fund were posted on the Status of Women Canada website in June 2007.

This Government has kept its commitments to Canadians by ensuring accountability and value for tax dollars.

I look forward to working with the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in bringing about the full participation of women in every aspect of life in Canada.

Yours truly,

Josée Verner, P.C., M.P.