Summary of recommendations

Recommendation 1: In the context of Canada's stated commitment to gender equality and its results and delivery agenda, the OECD suggests that Canada builds on positive steps it has taken recently by establishing a Gender Results Framework, and use this framework as a foundation for:

  • The development of an overarching gender equality strategy at the federal level, with specific targets, clear allocation of roles, resources and lines of accountability for the whole-of-government, and an accompanying implementation plan and a data strategy. “Anchoring” and aligning this strategy with the results and delivery agenda of the Government and each department (e.g. mandate letters, Results and Delivery Charters, departmental results frameworks) could maximise its effective implementation. (see Recommendation 9)

  • Engagement with Federal, Provincial and Territorial Governments to work towards a pan-Canadian approach and strategy to gender equality, and to support Canada in implementing its international commitments such as CEDAW and SDGs. The impact of such an approach could be boosted by aligning policy objectives developed at Federal, Provincial and Territorial (FPT) levels, while respecting the autonomy and flexibility of FPT governments in designing their own policies.

This twin-tracked approach clarifies the overarching gender equality objectives for government as well as civil society and allows Canada to address gender inequalities from a holistic and people-centred perspective. This in turn helps improve policy prioritisation as well as transparency and accountability. There is also the potential for enhanced dialogue between the FPT levels of government, facilitating improved policy coherence and a platform to share good practices.

Recommendation 2: In the context of formalising Status of Women Canada (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, and align with the broad nature of Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+). This, together with the appropriate resourcing, could help SWC to become the government’s policy hub and "go-to institution" on issues of gender equality and intersecting identity factors.

Recommendation 3: Canada may wish to reflect on ways to optimise the federal institutional design to allow for a coordinated and coherent response to gender equality, diversity and inclusion. The needs of citizens in these respects are currently being addressed by a number of departments and agencies (e.g., SWC; Department of Canadian Heritage; Privy Council Office (PCO); Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada).The Deputy Ministers' Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion could be an appropriate forum for this reflection.

Recommendation 4: Given Canada's ambitious commitment to improve progress in gender equality, authority and responsibility should be assigned at the Cabinet Committees level to further strengthen the consideration of gender equality and intersectionality issues within Cabinet decision-making.

Recommendation 5: In the context of Canada's new investments to strengthen gender and diversity data, SWC and Statistics Canada - in cooperation with line departments and central agencies - may consider developing a data strategy with an aim to:

  • Support the integration of gender indicators in the government’s results and delivery approach (see Recommendation 9);

  • Remove data related barriers to full implementation of GBA+ and gender-budgeting by the federal departments and agencies; and

  • Support the pursuit of progress under the Gender Results Framework and delivery of the proposed gender equality strategy (see Recommendation 1), and anticipate the information needed to track progress against targets in the strategy.

Recommendation 6: To maximise the impact of GBA+ on gender equality outcomes, consideration should be given to establishing criteria for assessing the quality of GBA+ which includes a measure of “results-focus”, i.e., the extent to which the GBA+ shows how it will advance progress towards overarching 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. A stronger role for central agencies and potentially SWC in reviewing GBA+ against these criteria for key submissions to Cabinet could be considered. The quality of GBA+ can be boosted if departmental officials provided with enhanced access to GBA+ undertaken across government for guidance and good practice examples.

Recommendation 7: Given Canada's efforts to further improve the quality and impact of GBA+, priority should be given to supporting departments to integrate GBA+ from the earliest stages of the policy cycle. To help this:

  • GBA+ and gender-budgeting should be promoted across the board as organically linked and mutually reinforcing to serve a common goal of improved decision-making and gender outcomes.

  • Deeper collaboration between federal departments, SWC and Statistics Canada will ensure that federal departments have sufficient data to develop and monitor gender-sensitive policies (see Recommendation 6).

  • Improved use of data at the earlier stages of policy discussions allows more complete GBA+ of policies and helps facilitate evidence-based policy-making.

  • Civil society organisations and academic institutions should be recognised as partners who can provide useful information about the impact of government policies. The quality and impact of GBA+ can be boosted if federal departments anchor gender policy development in needs based analysis drawing on consultation with civil society to identify gaps and challenges.

Recommendation 8: Departments should capitalise on existing momentum in relation to gender equality to integrate a "gender+" lens more systematically within all stages of the policy cycle, from design to implementation (including legislative drafting), monitoring and evaluation. The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) is already developing guidance for departments in this respect and would be well-placed to also assist departments in its implementation, together with PCO and SWC. To further enable this, on-going reforms should incorporate a gender perspective within departmental planning, sectoral data collection and analysis, and stakeholder engagement. Effective implementation underpins the cultural change required for gender considerations in policy development to go beyond a tick-box exercise.

Recommendation 9: The Gender Results Framework presented as part of Budget 2018 represents an important step forward and provides a useful basis from which gender dimensions can be further integrated into the performance and results framework. Further developments should focus on strengthening the Framework’s upstream linkages - to specific gender equality targets set out in a gender equality strategy for Canada – and its downstream linkages to departmental results and delivery frameworks.

Recommendation 10: Recent improvements in government transparency can be further built on by making GBA+ reports available to the public in a manner that is respectful of Cabinet confidences and that does not interfere with the deliberative internal phase of government policy making. The commitment in Budget 2018 to publish GBA+ of all budget items starting in Budget 2019 marks an important step forward in this regard. Analysis should be presented in a way that is clear and easily understood by all stakeholders including SWC, federal departments, Parliament and civil society. The government should consider developing an online repository where gender based analysis can be filed for ease of access.

Recommendation 11: Canada can build on existing good examples of citizen consultation by engaging more systematically with relevant civil society organisations, including gender equality advocacy groups, to seek their views in relation to changes in gender governance and gender policy developments11. Civil society perspectives have the potential to enrich the quality and responsive character of gender-responsive, inclusive policy making. Future engagement should benefit from:

  • Granting stakeholders opportunities to be informed and consulted in all relevant phases of the policy-cycle. Involvement from the outset ensures stakeholders have genuine opportunities to build and shape gender-sensitive policies;

  • Dedicating particular effort to reaching out to the most relevant, vulnerable, underrepresented, or marginalised groups in society, while avoiding the risks of undue influence and policy capture;

  • Ensuring clear communication with stakeholders regarding the purpose, scope and process of engagement; and

  • Providing feedback to stakeholders on the extent to which the findings of the consultation process have been reflected in subsequent developments.

SWC may also wish to establish an advisory panel of experts from civil society, to help root its actions in local realities and foster trust in society that views and interests of diverse groups are respected.

Recommendation 12: The Parliament of Canada should consider giving the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) a strengthened mandate that includes scrutiny of the gender impact of legislative proposals (beyond those directly and explicitly linked to women’s issues). A strategic approach where FEWO focuses on legislation that is most significant and relevant would ensure that legislative proposals stand up to challenge for the extent to which they are gender-sensitive. The process would benefit from strong collaboration and coordination between FEWO and committees responsible for reviewing the bill, with FEWO feeding in its assessment in a timely manner (also see Recommendation 13).

Recommendation 13: The Canadian Parliament’s successful interventions in the area of GBA+ should be built upon through greater encouragement for parliamentary committees to mainstream gender considerations in their work (for example, through scrutinising the GBA+ assessment associated with legislative proposals they are examining). To undertake this role most effectively, committees would benefit from proactively engaging with relevant civil society organisations, striving for gender balance on witness lists and seeking to engage with underrepresented groups of society.

Recommendation 14: Building on the successful 2009 and 2015 audits, there is scope for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) to consider gender considerations in its performance audits, where relevant and practical. This would help the OAG deliver on its commitment to monitoring and supporting the implementation of the SDGs, including Goal 5 relating to Gender Equality.

Recommendation 15: The Department of Finance (FIN) can build on progress made in gendering the 2017 and 2018 budgets, through continuing to provide comprehensive gender equality-related content in budget, serving as a robust accountability tool to further gender equality. It can be strengthened through:

  • Delivering on the commitment to provide information on how all main budget measures, including cuts, are anticipated to impact gender equality.

  • Increased recognition, where possible, of intersectionality and how key budget measures might impact different groups of society, such as Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and different gender identities.

  • Presenting analysis showing how individual and aggregate tax and benefit measures in the budget are anticipated to affect different groups of women and men, how the budget impacts incentives for second earners to enter formal employment and the ability of different groups of men and women to access public services.

  • Developing capacity for budget tagging to highlight and monitor the total money disbursed through the budget in order to achieve gender equality goals.

Recommendation 16: FIN can work with government stakeholders to mobilise, coordinate and strengthen the wide range of gender budgeting tools being implemented across the budget cycle in Canada. A comprehensive approach to gender budgeting should include a rolling programme of gender budget baseline analysis and further incorporation of a gender perspective in ex post gender budgeting tools such as evaluations and spending review.

Recommendation 17: To facilitate parliamentary scrutiny of gender budgeting - opening the way for substantive engagement on policy priorities and progress - a fixed “home” for scrutiny of gender equality-related content in the budget should be established at parliament. The engagement of the FEWO Committee in scrutiny of the impact of Budget 2018 on women and girls is a positive step forward. In the longer term, a more robust accountability model may involve both the Finance and FEWO Committees holding a joint session to conduct scrutiny of gender equality-related content in the budget. Committee(s) would be expected to engage with the Finance Minister and the Minister for Status of Women, as well as gender equality advocacy groups, in undertaking this scrutiny.

Recommendation 18: The PBO’s independent authority and expertise would lend itself well to independent assessment of equality-related content in the budget. If the PBO is to engage in this area, a useful starting point could be the provision of independent distributional analysis on the extent to which gender equality is promoted through the tax and benefit policies in the budget proposal. Input in this respect has the potential to improve budget transparency and support broader parliamentary scrutiny of the budget.

Recommendation 19: FIN should continue to work with government stakeholders to build an effective and sustainable approach to gender budgeting, which is resilient to political and economic shifts, through:

  • Providing legal foundations for gender budgeting;

  • Acting as an advocate for gender budgeting;

  • Building a corpus of gender-disaggregated data;

  • Ensuring gender budgeting is open to critical perspectives; and

  • Measuring the impact of gender budgeting.

Recommendation 20: FIN and SWC could facilitate a coordinated approach to gender budgeting across different levels of government through convening a pan-Canadian working group on gender budgeting. This would aim to share best practice, and exchange insights on how policy goals might best be coordinated and sequenced among the Canadian community of policy makers.


← 1. See the 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government.