Executive summary

Canada has a longstanding commitment to gender equality. Over the past three years, the federal government has developed institutions, policies, tools and accountability structures to promote gender equality and mainstreaming. The appointment of the first Cabinet-level Minister of Status of Women in 2015 was a significant step forward and ensures that gender equality and diversity considerations are brought to the Cabinet table. Another notable development was the creation of the Deputy Ministers' Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion to provide advice on advancing a feminist government. Improvements in the implementation of Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+), which encourages policy designers to undertake a critical analysis of the gender and other diversity-related dimensions of a proposed policy, have also been made in recent years.

Following the 2015 Report of the Office of the Auditor General on Implementing GBA+ and subsequent recommendations of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the government made GBA+ mandatory for all Cabinet and Treasury Board submissions. In 2016, GBA+ was integrated into the new Policy on Results, and gender budgeting was introduced by the Department of Finance. In 2017, the Minister of Finance advised departments that all budget proposals should be accompanied by a GBA+ assessment.

In 2018, Canada introduced a government-wide Gender Results Framework to track how the country is performing against key gender equality indicators, proposed to legislate for gender budgeting, created a Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics to ensure collection of disaggregated data relating to gender and other intersectional factors, and put Status of Women Canada (SWC) on a statutory footing as an official department. These advancements demonstrate Canada's sustained and ambitious commitment to gender equality.

This Review assesses five pillars of governance for gender equality. These pillars are tailored to Canada's specific needs and priorities and build on the provisions of the 2015 OECD Recommendation:

  1. The role of a government-wide gender equality strategy

  2. Canada's institutional approach to gender equality

  3. Policy tools to deliver gender equality results

  4. Openness, transparency and accountability in relation to gender equality

  5. Advancing gender budgeting in Canada

The OECD Review identifies Canadian strengths in each of these domains. Building on Canada's ambitious gender equality agenda, and to further boost and sustain the effectiveness of ongoing initiatives at the federal level, the Review highlights five key areas where further efforts could underpin improved gender equality results:

First, building on the recently introduced Gender Results Framework, it would be beneficial to develop an over-arching strategy for gender equality to help orient, co-ordinate and drive gender equality initiatives forward, both in the budget process and beyond, as part of Canada's results and delivery agenda. This strategy would provide an opportunity to bring ongoing initiatives by SWC, the Department of Finance (FIN) and the Privy Council Office (PCO) together under the same umbrella.

Second, in the context of formalising SWC as an official department, consideration could be given to scaling up the mandate to expand the focus from solely women and include the focus on broader issues related to gender equality, aligned with the scope of GBA+. This, together with appropriate resourcing, will help enable SWC to become the policy hub and "go-to institution" for issues of gender equality. In parallel, the Deputy Ministers' Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion may wish to reflect on how Canada’s institutional landscape might be strengthened to ensure a co-ordinated federal response to gender equality, diversity and inclusion, which are currently being addressed by a number of departments and agencies (e.g. SWC; Department of Canadian Heritage; PCO; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada).

Third, to maximise the impact of GBA+ on gender equality outcomes, there is room to continue to strengthen its application, scope, quality and rigour, as recognised by the commitment in Budget 2018 to improve the evidence base for GBA+. In doing so, criteria could be established for assessing the quality of GBA+. Such measures could include “results focus”, i.e. the extent to which it shows how a proposal will help achieve goals set out in the Gender Results Framework; timeliness, i.e., that the analysis is undertaken early enough to inform policy development; and impact i.e. that the analysis has influenced policy development. The quality of GBA+ can be further improved if there is greater transparency with regard to the GBA+ undertaken across government.

Fourth, accountability for government actions on gender could be strengthened if the Parliament of Canada and the Office of the Auditor General build on their successful interventions in the area of GBA+ by increasing the extent to which a gender perspective is incorporated in their own areas of work. Parliamentary committees should also establish a fixed “home” for scrutiny of gender equality-related content in the budget.

Finally, the Department of Finance can build on the steady progress it has made in gender budgeting efforts by continuing to develop the gender equality-related content presented in the budget and working with stakeholders to have a wide range of gender budgeting tools implemented across the budget cycle. Finance can also ensure that gender budgeting is resilient to political and economic shifts by following through on its proposal to give it legal foundations, continuing to strengthen the corpus of gender budgeting data, ensuring gender budgeting is open to critical perspectives and establishing a framework for measuring its impact.