Employment Equity Act

In 1995, the federal government repealed the Canada Assistance Plan Act (CAP) and replaced it with the Canadian Health and Social Transfer by means of the Budget Implementation Act (1995) and the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (1985). There are many problems inherent with the replacement of the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) by the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), as legislated by the Budget Implementation Act (Wilson Report, 1998).

The Budget Implementation Act (1995) cut approximately six billion dollars from the money transferred by the federal government to the provinces for health, post-secondary education and social assistance and social services, adversely affecting women first. This was a reduction in payments of 35. 1 percent between 1996 and 1999 (Townson, 2000; Vogel, 2000). The federal government eliminated key rights ended 50-50 cost-sharing for social assistance and social services.

While it rolled funds for health care, post-secondary education, social assistance and key social services into one undifferentiated block transfer; and cut the total amount of the transfer from the federal government to the provincial governments (Budget Implementation Act, 1995; Townson, 2000; Wilson Report, 1998). Under the Canada Assistance Plan provinces were required to respect and protect certain rights as a condition of receiving federal funds (Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, 1985c).

These rights included the right of any person in need to receive welfare, the right to an amount of welfare sufficient to meet basic needs, the right to appeal when social assistance is denied, and the right not to have to work for welfare (Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, 1985c; Budget Implementation Act, 1995). Of the national guarantees imposed under CAP, only one residual prohibition against provincial residency requirements remains in force under the CHST (Wilson Report, 1998).

These were essential rights that women relied on because of their vulnerability to poverty (Day, Young and Won, 1998). They were Canada's most explicit guarantees in domestic law of economic and social rights, and were of particular importance to women, given women's high poverty rates (Day, Young and Won, 1998). The federal government no longer provided 50 percent of the real cost to provinces of providing welfare, legal aid for family and non-criminal matters, and designated social services (Budget Implementation Act, 1995).

Now, all of the services traditionally funded under CAP compete for provincial funding priority, along with health care and post-secondary education (Budget Implementation Act, 1995). The federal government transfers money in one block fund to the provinces for all of these social programs to be spent however each province chooses (Budget Implementation Act, 1995). This directly affects training funds many women need to access to participate on an equal footing in the labour market (Torjman, 1995; Vogel, 2000).

The government has not implemented mandatory employment equity requirements in the public service and in the broader public sector, including private companies that receive government subsidies and contracts (Vogel, 2000). In addition, financial and other supports have not been made available to women and other equality-seeking groups pursuing training and education in non-traditional fields (Torjman, 1995; Townson, 2000; Vogel, 2000).

The welfare-related services that were designated under CAP for cost-sharing included: attendant services for people with disabilities; child care services; services to unemployed people to assist them to enter the workforce; child welfare services to assist children who are neglected or abused; shelters and other services for women fleeing male violence; respite services to assist parents caring at home for children with severe disabilities or an ailing elder (Budget Implementation Act, 1995; Torjman, 1995; Townson, 2000). While some provinces will continue to provide some of these services, there is no certainty.

Under 50-50 cost-sharing, for every dollar they spent on these designated services, provinces (with some exceptions) were able to recover 50 cents from the federal government (Torjman, 1995). Now, actual provincial spending has no effect on the amount of federal transfer. This important incentive for enhanced provincial service levels was removed by the federal government (Torjman, 1995). Instead of the previous cost-sharing scheme in use under CAP, the federal government now uses a block-funding formula (Budget Implementation Act, 1995).

Federal monies are transferred to the provincial governments in block grants, with no stipulation as to what the money must be spent on. Thus, more stigmatized social programs, such as income assistance, compete for funding out of the same general pool of money with more popular programs such as health care and post-secondary education (Wilson Report, 1998; Townson, 2000). In establishing such a funding formula, the federal government has relinquished its influence over provincial spending on health, social service and post secondary education (Day, Young and Won, 1998; Vogel, 2000).

Women's persistent poverty and economic inequality are caused by a number of factors and ameloirated by governmetns residual approach to policy. "The social assignment to women of the unpaid role of caregiver and nurturer for children, men, and old people" (Townson, 1999), the fact that in the paid labour force women perform the majority of the work in the "caring occupations" and this "women's work" is lower paid than "men's work" (Townson, 2000).

The lack of affordable, safe child care; the lack of adequate recognition and support for child care and parenting responsibilities that either constrains women's participation in the labour force or doubles the burden they carry (Vogel, 2000). In her newly issued Report Card on Women and Poverty, economist Monica Townson finds that there has been virtually no improvement in poverty rates of Canadian women since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women issued its Report some 30 years ago (2000).

Given these realities, it is clear that the equality rights of women can only be recognized when the gendered nature of poverty and economic inequality are acknowledged and addressed through commitment to policy. To summarize, this paper illustrated that there are many barriers still preventing women from full and equal participation in the Canadian economy and in particular the labour market. Many of these barriers are premised on women's unequal burden in relation to homemaking, childcare and community care responsibilities.

Women's struggles, especially those whom do not live privileged lives due to poverty, racism, ageism, and ableism, must be viewed in relation to the gendered practices of governmental policy and how it plays a central role in the changing relationship between women, the state, and the economy. The individualistic and instrumental perspectives of policy approaches to employment equity also direct attention away from issues of race, gender and class, while simultaneously reinforcing inequalities based on these differences.

Upon review this paper supports my contention that relative poverty among women is evidence of Canada's residual approach to Employment Equity. Having offered this proof, I conclude in suggesting the review and modification (with the full and equal participation of women) of economic and social policies with a view to achieving the objective of the employment equity. Women's poverty and economic inequality are not only evidence of Canada's residual commitment and gendered approach to the Employment Equity Act. This is also evident violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights Freedoms, under which it is regulated.

Bibliography:

Budget Implementation Act 1995, S. C. 1995c. Ottawa: Queen's Printers, 1996. Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Work in Progress: Tracking Women's Equality in Canada. Canada.

Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1994. Day, S. , Young, M and Won, N., Canadian Women's Civil and Political Rights submitted to: National Association of Women and the Law, November 1998. Employment Equity Act and the Employment Equity Regulations (1995; 1996), Ottawa: Queen's Printer, October 24, 1996. Fawcett, G. , Living with a Disability in Canada: An Economic Portrait, Ottawa: Human Resources Development Canada, 1996. Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, R. S. C. 1985c.