Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
Vicky Mochama: Liberals budget must pay women and girls what they're owed
Funding options for working families is huge, but the federal budget has to go beyond that and take a gendered approach to issues like sexual assault and Indigenous chid welfare, writes Vicky Mochama.
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Ahead of this year’s budget, which will be unveiled on Tuesday, there are a few priorities around gender, especially for women and girls, that I hope will be reflected.
Last year’s budget promised $100.9 million over five years for a national strategy to prevent gender-based violence; the majority of that investment — $77.5 million — created a centre of expertise via the Ministry for the Status of Women.
The Liberal government has indicated that the 2018 budget will have a decidedly feminist focus. One measure we know is coming, thanks to a Canadian Press report, is a five-week “use-it-or-lose-it” paternal leave intended to encourage new dads to take more time off for child-rearing and to encourage new moms to re-enter the workforce.
Women’s participation in the workforce is a focus of two government memos addressed to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and obtained by the Canadian Press. The documents suggest that ”raising the workforce participation rate of women by 4.5 percentage points by 2032 would lift Canada’s potential growth to about 1.9 per cent,” according to the CP report.
Clearly, women’s ability to work is essential to growing a sustainable economy. And providing funding so that families have a range of options that work for parents of all genders is a huge part of that. There are, however, some areas that require particular attention to women and girls.
As Metro reported, rape crisis centres in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area have been experiencing a doubling in waitlists for therapy and calls to emergency helplines over the last year. In Nova Scotia, nearly $6 million in provincial funding for support to survivors of sexual assault looks set to expire this March. Survivor support centres across the country report being over-burdened, owing in part to the #MeToo movement.
Last year’s budget cited the Globe and Mail’s “Unfounded” series, which revealed that police categorize one-fifth of sexual assault cases as “unfounded.” The series compelled police across the country to review their methods. While police and the courts change, it is essential to support survivors who are grappling with a long history of negligence and dismissal.
Similarly, on child welfare and housing, undoing a history of underfunding of Indigenous nations and communities requires providing material support for women and girls; there are obvious correlations between housing conditions and women’s health. According to insiders, the 2018 budget will include significant and direct investment for Inuit, Metis and First Nations housing. Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott has said that this budget will close the funding gap for Indigenous children on reserve, which has long hampered the welfare of women and families.
From pay equity to funding for entrepreneurs to immigration services, there are tons of areas where the government can provide long-needed support and relief. On the Liberals’ third budget, it’s time for women and girls to get the money they’re owed.