Shown below are the Articles from the Convention which are of particular interest to Interim readers, plus the legislation that has been put in place to bring Canada in line with the Convention and the excerpts from the 1983 Report. Many more examples of women’s rights legislation are available than are listed here. We have confined our examples to those given in Canada’s 1983 Report.
Noting that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the principle of the inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind including distinction based on sex,
Noting that States Parties to the International Covenant on Human Rights have the obligation to secure the equal rights of men and women to enjoy all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, …
Recalling that discrimination against women violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity, is an obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their countries, hampers the growth of the prosperity o society and the family, and makes more difficult the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity, …
Convinced that the establishment of the new international economic order based on equity and justice will contribute significantly towards the promotion of equality between men and women …
Bearing in mind the great contribution of women to the welfare of the family and to the development of society, so far not fully recognized, the social significance of maternity and the role of both parents in the family, and aware that the role of women in procreation should not be a basis for discrimination but that the upbringing of children requires a sharing of responsibility between men and women and society as a whole, …
Aware that a change in the traditional role of men as well as the role of women in society and in the family is needed to achieve full equality between men and women …
Articles and comments
- 1. Adoption by States Parties of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination as defined in this Convention, but shall in no way entail, as a consequence, the maintenance of unequal or separate standards; these measures shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality have been achieved.
- 2. Adoption by States Parties of special measures, including those measures contained in the present Convention, aimed at protecting maternity, shall not be considered discriminatory.
Article 4 – comment
The Federal Canada Employment and Immigration Commission has an Affirmative Action Directorate to “promote the adoption, on a voluntary basis, of affirmative action plans by private sector firms.” The Federal contracts Program, under the Directorate’s authority, promotes affirmative action at the Crown Corporation level and to industries benefiting from government contracts.
Amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act to confirm that special measures directed toward maternity are not discriminatory were introduced into parliament in December, 1982. Many feminists are now suggesting that maternity benefits will be ruled discriminatory under the equality sections of the Charter.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:
(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;
(b) To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.
Article 5 – comment
With reference to item (a), the report states, “Most governments in Canada have assigned to their Human Rights Commissions the duty of developing and conducting programs of public information and education designed to eliminate discriminatory practices based on sex (among other grounds). And, as noted earlier, the Human Rights Commissions also have the function of forwarding the principle of equality in dignity and rights and of furthering the principle of equality of opportunity.
Both the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Broadcasting Commission (CBC) have formed committees to ensure that “sex role stereotyping” is eliminated from media under their control.
Status of Women Canada has developed editorial guidelines to eliminate sexual stereotyping in federal government communications. These guidelines have been approved by cabinet and issued as an administrative policy to all federal departments/agencies.
Canada Employment and Immigration Commission has programmes to encourage women “to take employment in and training for non-traditional jobs as well as funding employers to hire and train women in non-traditional jobs.”
Item (b) is not addressed at length. The Report notes that the principle of the “interest of the child is paramount” is common policy in all Canadian jurisdiction curriculum guidelines set by Ministries of Education. While family education is not defined, the report notes that “The idea of joint parental responsibility is frequently introduced in schools in an attempt to help students redefine sex roles in relation to child-raising and home-making.”
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.
Article 6 – comment
According to the Report. “exploitation of prostitution” is prohibited in Canada. Relevant sections of the Criminal Code are printed to substantiate this.
It is interesting to note that, in the language of the Convention, it is the element of “exploitation” that appears distasteful. No reference is made to prostitution itself, and it could be inferred that prostitution is acceptable as a career for women as long as she is not exploited by a male pimp.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure, on equal terms with men, the right:
(a) To vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies;
(b) To participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;
(c) To participate in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.
Article 7 – comment
To comply with item (b), the government has set up three groups directed toward career opportunities for federally-employed women. They are:
- Office of Equal Opportunities for Women, Public Service Commission of Canada
- Office of Equal Opportunity, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Participation Programs Group, Human Resources Division Treasury Board
Under item (c), both the Native Women’s Programme and the Women’s Programme of the Department of the Secretary of State are in place to ensure equal participation for women in non-governmental organizations, etc. The Report indicates that five of the ‘more widely known organizations’ receive operational funding from the Women’s Programme. They are:
- The National Action Committee on the Status of Women
- The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
- National Association of Women and the Law
- Women’s Research Centre
- Canadian Congress on Learning Opportunities for Women
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education and in particular to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
(a) The same conditions for career and vocational guidance, for access to studies and for the achievement of diplomas in educational establishments of all categories in rural as well as urban areas; this equality shall be ensured in pre-school, general, technical, professional and higher technical education, as well as in all types of vocational training;
(b) Access to the same curricula, the same examinations, teaching staff with qualifications of the same standard and school premises and equipment of the same quality
(c) The elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducational and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods;
(d) The same opportunities to benefit from scholarships and other study grants;
(e) The same opportunities for access to programmes of continuing education, including adult and functional literacy programmes, particularly those aimed at reducing, at the earliest possible time, any gap in education existing between men and women;
(f) The reduction of female student drop-out rates and the organization of programmes for girls and women who have left school prematurely;
(g) The same opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education;
(h) Access to specific educational information to help ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning.
Article 10 – comment
The 1983 Report provides an overview of publicly-funded education and points out that this is, in the main, under the jurisdiction of provincial governments. The Report does not address items (c) or (h).
Clearly, the choice for parents to send their children to single-sex schools in the public system is eliminated if coeducational schools are made mandatory.
Item (b) is not addressed by the Report. References to the provision of information and advice on family planning appear under Article 16 (see below).
- 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
(a) The right to work as an inalienable right to all human beings;
(b) The right to the same employment opportunities, including the application of the same criteria for selection in matters of employment;
(c) The right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service and the right to receive vocational training and retraining, including apprenticeships, advanced vocational training and recurrent training;
(d) The right to equal remuneration, including benefits, and to equal treatment in respect of work of equal value, as well as equality of treatment in the revaluation of the quality of work;
(e) The right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave;
(f) The right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction.
- 2. In order to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage or maternity and to ensure their effective right to work, States Parties shall take appropriate measures :
(a) To prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissals on the grounds of pregnancy or of maternity leave and discrimination in dismissals on the basis of marital status;
(b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances;
(c) To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities;
(d) To provide special protection to women during pregnancy in types of work proved to be harmful to them.
- 3. Protective legislation relating to matters covered in this article shall be reviewed periodically in the light of scientific and technological knowledge and shall be revised, repealed or extended as necessary.
Article 11 – comment
Items (a), (b) and (d) refer to pregnant or new mothers’ guarantees of job protection. The Report notes that most provinces provide some level of protection in maternity leave benefits and/or unemployment benefits. Quebec is the only province (up to 1983) to have regulations to protect pregnant workers from workplace hazards, although other provinces at that time had provisions to safeguard against radiation.
Even Laurra Sabia, not exactly in sympathy with the pro-life movement on the whole, recently pointed out that special maternity protection in the marketplace may be ruled discriminatory under the Charter’s equality clauses. She said, “Both maternity leave benefits and health and safety precautions in the marketplace could be struck down by a judge on the grounds that they are illegal unless men get them too.”
Provision of child-care facilities, Item ©, is supported by the federal government to “help ensure the effective right of women to work.” The concept of Government-subsidized and controlled daycare centres has been criticized by many who have raised concerns that such a system is not always of great benefit to children. The Convention does not call for the “effective right for women to stay at home with their children” nor does the 1983 Canada Report suggest that government aid may be given to women who do stay at home.
- 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.
- 2. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 1 above, States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.
Article 12 – comment
The Report’s discussion of this article is confined to a description of provincial medicare plans. It points out that access to these plans, and access to health services, are equally available to men and women in Canada.
Although “family planning services” are referred to in this Article, they are not defined nor commented on in this section of the Report.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in other areas of economic and social life in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
(a) The right to family benefits;
(b) The right to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit;
(c) The right to participate in recreational activities, sports and in all aspects of cultural life.
Article 13 – comment
To promote equality of participation in cultural life, item (c), the Report notes that Studio D, of National Film Board of Canada, fulfills this requirement. “Its objective,” the Report says, “is to provide a forum for women filmmakers in order to bring a woman’s perspective to the production of films. The film, Abortion Stories North and South was produced by Studio D and it would appear that the only satisfactory “women’s perspective” in filmmaking, as in so many other areas, is pro-abortion and feminist.
- 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
(a) The same right to enter into marriage;
(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
(d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children. In all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;
(f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation. In all cases the interest of the children shall be paramount;
(g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;
(h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge of for a valuable consideration.
Article 16 – comment
Canada’s 1983 Report states that marriage is considered an equal partnership, with equal rights and responsibilities. “Every spouse has the obligation,” it says, “to provide support for her/himself and for the other spouse according to need and ability.” Discrimination in this regard, in favour of women, would appear to exist as the Report notes that S.197 (1) (b) of the Criminal Code requires the husband to provide the necessities of life.
“Marriage breakdown,” the Report states, “does not automatically create a right to maintenance. It is the responsibility of each spouse to try to become financially independent of the other spouse by taking reasonable steps to become self-supporting. Both spouses are equally responsible for supporting and maintaining their dependent children under the age of 18.” The Report does not note the enormous difficulties faced by an older woman on divorce, who, after many years out of the workforce, is faced with the necessity to become “financially independent.” While the Report states that the majority of maintenance orders are payable to the female spouse by the male spouse, it does not note that a great number of women face real difficulty in actually getting this support.
The Report does not discuss the rights and responsibilities of unwed parents as stated in item (d). Its brief description of legislation under this heading is confined to mention of Child Welfare, Family Relations or Family Services Acts. It refers to “outmoded social attitudes” that are still embodied in legislation. One example given is “Child Paternity and Support legislation designed to establish the paternal claims and obligations of unwed fathers.” The Report comments, “It may be assumed that these relatively minor inequalities between the rights of parents will be eliminated by the need to comply with Article 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Article 15 of the Charter is, of course, one of the equality clauses which has just come into effect.
Article 16.1 (e) is the part of the U.N. Convention most likely to alarm the pro-life movement. The 1983 Report uses this item to discuss “family planning” in Canada (note that this term is not even mentioned at this point in the Convention itself). The Report states that birth control programmes are not a major activity at any level of government. “The federal government,” it says, “supports improved family planning as the preferred method of birth control.”
The Report goes on to say that the federal government “does not view abortion as a form of birth control” and proceeds to record S.251 of the Criminal Code which legalizes abortion. It then notes that the 1977 Badgely Report concluded that “the procedures set out for the operation of the abortion law are not working equitably in Canada,” and says this is an issue of “federal/provincial relations.”
If, as the report says, the government does not consider abortion as a form of birth control, why was it discussed under this Article? A discussion on abortion could have been put under Article 123 which deals with health care and refers to family planning. As abortion is mentioned under Article 16, which deals with marriage and family relations, perhaps the Report’s authors wished to imply that abortion is only available to married women of Canada who are “spacing their children.”