CWP and the CEDAW

The United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979. States that have ratified CEDAW are required to bring gender equality provisions into their constitutional and legislative frameworks; for example, by ensuring equal access to health care, property ownership, employment parity, and preventing gender-based violence.

Article 17 of the Convention established the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which is mandated is to oversee the implementation of the treaty and periodically review states that have ratified the treaty. Canada ratified CEDAW in 2002.

In October 2016, Canada was reviewed under the 65th session of CEDAW. CWP participated in the review, first by submitting a report outlining the current experiences of women experiencing poverty in Canada and providing recommendations for improvements. CWP also outlined a pressing need to address the treatment of Indigenous women in Canada, as they experience the highest levels of poverty. We also called for a cohesive poverty reduction plan through a human rights-based and gendered approach by explicitly referencing human rights to ensure that government commitments are legally binding obligations rather than mere promises. Click here to read CWP’s full submission.

Other major recommendations by CWP include:

  • A national anti-poverty strategy in collaboration with provinces and territories, Inuit Organizations, First Nations, Métis governments, and civil society organizations
  • National and subnational wage standards to ensure minimum wages are consistent with international human rights
  • Pay equity legislation to address the gender wage gaps
  • Job creation to ensure women have greater access to stable, full-time jobs with social benefits that pay adequate living wages
  • A comprehensive human rights and education training program for those individuals exercising government authority in social policy development and implementation so that policymakers understand Canada’s human rights obligations
  • Improved child care and education programs
  • Increased transfer payments to provincial and territorial governments for social assistance contingent on the recognition of human rights obligations
  • Protection against minimum residency requirements for refugees to improve access to social security benefits prior to determining status
  • Improved national homelessness and housing policies to protect women’s rights
  • Steps to change women’s disproportionate experience of food insecurity, especially in Northern and rural communities.

The Concluding Observations released by the CEDAW Committee recognize the pressing issues and includes a series of recommendations to address the treatment of women in Canada. Some recommendations include a shared concern for “creating opportunities for women to gain access to employment”, and “developing a comprehensive national gender strategy, policy, and action plan that addresses structural factors causing persistent inequalities, including intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls.” Additionally, the Committee recommends that Canada “ensure that the National Poverty Reduction Strategy and National Housing Strategy protect the rights of all women, with a focus on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, by integrating a human rights and gender-based approach.”