News Article: Women's Rights Group Gives B.C. Government Poor Grades on Equality

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Travis Lupick, Georgia Straight, October 6, 2009

A women’s rights organization has given the B.C. Liberal government poor grades on gender equality. 

Today (October 6), in a report card assessing the province’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, The West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund assigned the government the overall grade of a D. 

The convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. Canada ratified the convention in 1981. The UN describes the document as an “international bill of rights for women”. 

Every four years, signatories to CEDAW must report to an international body of independent experts. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors states’ compliance and implementation of the treaty. 

Last year, the B.C. CEDAW Group, a coalition of women’s organizations, produced a shadow report on the situation of women in B.C. 

Working with these reports, West Coast LEAF has produced its first CEDAW Report Card, assessing B.C. on seven areas of gender equality. (Grades used in the assessment were A, B, C, D, and F.) 

West Coast LEAF’s report card notes that it focused on CEDAW obligations that fall within provincial jurisdiction. 

Here’s how West Coast LEAF graded the provincial government, in terms of how well it measures up on women’s equality: 

  • Women and social assistance: D (Very limited action; needs significant improvement)
  • Missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls: F (Total inaction or detrimental action)
  • Violence against women and girls: C (Some action taken; needs continued improvement)
  • Women and girls in prison: C
  • Access to childcare: D
  • Women and housing: D
  • Women and access to justice: F


The CEDAW committee considered Canada’s last reports on its progress in 2008. Two areas of significance in B.C. were singled out by the committee as being of particular concern: 

(1) establishing and monitoring minimum standards for the provision of funding to social assistance programs, and carrying out an impact assessment of social programs related to women’s rights;

(2) examining the failure to investigate the cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and to address those failures. 

The committee took the “unusual step” of asking Canada to report back on progress made in these areas in one year’s time, according to West Coast LEAF’s report card. 

The report card charges that despite positive steps, “there has been little progress on improving social assistance for women”. 

It notes that, at 21 percent, B.C. continues to have the highest overall poverty rate in Canada, which includes disproportionately high numbers of women, children, and aboriginal people. 

“With the economic crisis resulting in 47% more recipients of social assistance between September 2008 and May 2009, the government needs to work harder on ensuring equal access to sufficient assistance for women and marginalized people,” West Coast LEAF’s report states.