Canada's COVID-19 recovery plans take on a 'feminist lens'

Leaders are recognising how the crisis 'magnifies' disparities of the old order

Canada's COVID-19 recovery plans take on a 'feminist lens'

Half a century after Canada published the landmark report on the socio-economic realities that women face, inequality remains an obstacle for women and other gender-diverse communities.

The COVID-19 crisis “magnifies” the disparities of a pre-pandemic world even further – with issues such as the gender wage gap and gender discrimination coming to the fore, according to the federal agency Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

This week, the government reaffirmed its commitment to tackling “unacceptable disparities” during the observance of Gender Equality Week, and vowed to look at the crisis through a “feminist lens”.

In a pandemic, systemic issues such as the devaluation of care work and other female-dominated fields, alongside rising cases of gender-based violence, can leave women more vulnerable to economic hardship and therefore less likely to recover from crisis at the same rate as male peers.

Read more: The She-cession: How COVID-19 killed gender diversity

And, as more women are forced into difficult circumstances, a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence is also looming.

The issue has prompted the government to “act swiftly” by allocating $200m to combatting violence. More than $50m will go towards advocacy groups that aim to protect survivors of abuse.

“In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified gender inequalities that already exist in our society, especially for those who also face discrimination or hardship because of their race, sexual orientation, or disability,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“In particular, for women and LGBTQ2 people experiencing violence, the impacts of the virus have made things more difficult than ever. That is why we invested $40m in women’s shelters, sexual assault centres, and other organizations providing support and services for women and children escaping violence across the country,” Trudeau said.

Read more: How can employers improve gender diversity in leadership positions?

The government is also expanding support for working parents, particularly mothers, by investing in childcare support and a safe reopening of schools.

“The impacts we have experienced from COVID-19 put at risk hard-won gains towards gender equality, but we will not allow progress to stall. We owe it to all those who came before and who fought hard to advance gender equality to maintain and build on their legacy,” said Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality.

“As Canada continues to manage the pandemic and recovery, our government will apply an intersectional feminist lens to ensure that we rebuild our economy in way that’s inclusive and fair.”

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