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(Ottawa, November 18, 2016) In extensive Concluding Observations issued today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women calls on federal, provincial and territorial governments to establish a comprehensive National Gender Equality Plan that will address the structural factors that perpetuate women’s inequality in Canada. The Committee expresses serious concern that the rights of women set out in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women are not being fully implemented, and urges Canada to take immediate steps to address the gender wage gap, high rates of poverty, sex discrimination in the Indian Act, lack of sufficient affordable childcare, inadequate civil legal aid, and violence against women.

Shelagh Day, Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), said, “With a new federal government in place, the CEDAW Committee is telling Canada to make a fresh start and take women’s human rights seriously. It is time to make a national plan that can tackle entrenched issues of inequality and make a difference in women’s lives.”

Noting its continuing and urgent concerns about the poverty, poor health, inadequate housing, lack of access to safe water, low school completion rates, and high rates of violence and incarceration of Indigenous women and girls, the Committee calls on Canada to develop a specific strategy to address these poor socio-economic conditions.

Dr. Pam Palmater, Chair of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University said, “The CEDAW Committee recognizes that Indigenous women and girls in Canada face some of the world’s worst social and economic conditions. We welcome the Committee’s recommendations and need to see Canada act now.”

On murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls, the Committee calls on Canada to fully implement, without delay, all recommendations issued by the Committee in its 2015 inquiry report (CEDAW/C/OP.8/CAN/1). In addition, the Committee urges Canada to set up a mechanism for an independent review of cases where there are allegations of inadequate police investigation, and to ensure that the National Inquiry will include investigation of the role of police forces in all jurisdictions.

Francyne Joe, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) said, “We are actively tracking the progress of the National Inquiry and looking for results. The CEDAW Committee recognizes that stopping the violations of Indigenous women’s human rights must be a top priority for Canada.”

The Committee calls on Canada to abolish the use of solitary confinement in women’s prisons, and restrict any segregation. “The CEDAW Committee has added its voice to all those who are deeply critical of Canada’s treatment of criminalized women,” stated Diana Majury, President of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS). “The time has come to end the use of segregation for women, so now we look for change.”

The Committee requires Canada to provide a progress report within two years on the status of its full implementation of the CEDAW Inquiry recommendations and the development of a National Gender Equality Plan.

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Read the CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations here
Read the CEDAW Inquiry Report (CEDAW/C/OP.8/CAN/1) to Canada here

Access our submissions to the CEDAW Committee
FAFIA submission
CAEFS, Chair in Indigenous Governance and FAFIA joint submission
CASAC and FAFIA joint submission
NWAC and FAFIA joint submission

For Media Inquiries: please see in brackets expert issue areas

Amy Ede, Director of Communications, Native Women’s Association of Canada (Indigenous women, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls)
Tel: +1 613 722 3033 ext 100; email: aede@nwac.ca

Shelagh Day, Chair, Human Rights Committee, Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (Indian Act sex discrimination; women’s equality; violence against women)
Tel: +1 604 872 0750; email: shelagh.day@gmail.com

Dr. Pam Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University (violence against Indigenous women; Indigenous rights, title, sovereignty, socio-economic conditions, police violence and placements in care)
Email: ppalmater@politics.ryerson.ca

Diana Majury, President, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (women in detention)
Tel: +1 613 238 2422; email: diana_majury@carleton.ca