Canada is falling behind the developed world in women's equality, as poverty rates climb for elderly single women and for single-parent families headed by women, says an internal report by Status of Women Canada.
According to the report, this country is in the bottom ranks in terms of the pay gap between men and women; support for child care and parental leave is well below average; the country registers 57th for gender equality in Parliament's elected members; and it lacks a national strategy to halt violence against women.
"Canada has no comprehensive national strategy to address violence against women, lagging behind several comparable countries, including the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand," says the draft document marked "secret."
The candid assessment, never intended for public release, is dated Feb. 10 this year and was ordered by the Privy Council Office to alert deputy ministers across many departments about issues facing women and girls in Canada.
A copy of the 35-page presentation — with five pages of "policy implications" blacked out entirely as "advice" — was obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.
Minister declines comment
An expert on the ways women are affected by public policy said she was surprised by the accuracy and completeness of the analysis, given the federal government's "limited approach to gender issues."
"I'm really disappointed that this document didn't make it into the public sphere," said Kathleen Lahey, law professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.
A spokesman for Kellie Leitch, the minister responsible for Status of Women, said Leitch "doesn't comment on draft slideshows."
"This was prepared by public servants for a committee of public servants and not shared with the minister's office," Andrew McGrath, Leitch's director of communications, said in an email. He declined further comment.
The report's assertion that Canada has no national strategy on violence against women appears contrary to Leitch's announcement on Sept. 15, 2014, of an "action plan" to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls.
However, a spokeswoman for Status of Women Canada said the $25-million announcement was targeted to respond specifically to violence against indigenous women and girls. "On the broader issue of violence against women and girls, the government has taken a broad range of actions," Leonie Roux said, without elaborating.
The document does note some positives: Canadian women are better educated, and are entering the work force in greater numbers. But men are paid 20 per cent more than their female colleagues, a "pay gap" that puts Canada fourth from the bottom of 34 OECD countries, with only South Korea, Japan and Germany scoring worse.
"When it comes to the salary gap between the sexes, women have hit a brick wall," says the report.
And "while rates of male-on-male violence in Canada have diminished over time, rates of violence against women have not, and reporting has not increased." Rural, immigrant and indigenous women are cited as particularly vulnerable.
Fallout from recession
The report notes that poverty rates rose slightly between 2009 and 2011 for one-parent families headed by women, and for unattached elderly females, likely fallout from the 2008-09 global recession. (Figures for 2012 and beyond were not available.)
"A huge number of women have just been washed out of the whole safety net and pushed into part-time, self-employment [and] contract work," said Lahey, in validating the findings.
"And the two groups that have really taken it the hardest are single parents and older women."
The Status of Women spokeswoman called the report a "diagnostic document" intended to "facilitate discussion."
"As in all societies, we can always find areas for improvement such as addressing violence against women," said Roux. "All levels of government have a responsibility for, and are working on, addressing women's labour market participation, including salary gaps where they exist, and addressing violence against women."
Plans for a women's-issues debate in the current federal election campaign collapsed after Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined to participate and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair later chose not to participate without Harper's attendance.
Organizers instead plan one-on-one recorded interviews with leaders of the NDP, Liberals, Greens and Bloc. They are expected to air on Sept. 21.
Also on HuffPost:
Yes, really. Only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership positions at S&P 500 companies are held by women.
According to The Washington Post, Congress is 80 percent male and 80 percent white. The number of women in Congress is at an all-time high. Also, 0 percent of U.S. Presidents have been women. Infographic by The Washington Post.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 5 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 7 men. At least one-third of women murdered in the U.S. over a 9-year period were killed by their male partners. While no person should have to experience domestic violence, the fact that women are overwhelmingly the victims is troubling. Infographic by Frankie Rendón for the University of New England's Online School of Social Work.
According to the National Women's Law Center: "Poverty is a women’s issue. Nearly six in ten poor adults are women, and nearly six in ten poor children live in families headed by women. Poverty rates are especially high for single mothers, women of color, and elderly women living alone."
According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 71 men. We need to put an end to all sexual assault -- and understanding the gender discrepancy in the victims is one step towards elimination.
A 2014 study showed that the gender pay gap is alive and well in all 50 states. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make approximately 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. The wage gap is even larger for women of color: African-American women earn 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes, and Latina women earn a mere 56 cents. Illustration by Tri Vo, Mic.
Of course, no person should be the victim of stalking. But according to the CDC, 1 in 7 women and "have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed," compared to 1 in 18 men.