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Status of Womens Citizenship and Democratic Politics in Canada Jane Jenson Département de science politique Université de Montréal

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Presentation on theme: "Status of Womens Citizenship and Democratic Politics in Canada Jane Jenson Département de science politique Université de Montréal"— Presentation transcript:

1 Status of Womens Citizenship and Democratic Politics in Canada Jane Jenson Département de science politique Université de Montréal Inter-American Commission of Women Second Hemispheric Forum Womens Full Citizenship for Democracy 18-21 July 2012 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

2 outline 1.Citizenship regimes – a conceptual approach 2.Canadas citizenship regime – a gender- based assessment on three dimensions Access Rights Belonging

3 Citizenship regimes Moving beyond T. H. Marshall – more than rights Practices of access and the quality of political democracy Rights & their distribution – the quality of social and economic democracy Patterns of belonging – intercultural relations


5 Access to political democracy Canada had relatively early enfranchisement. 1982 constitutional guarantee : Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein. Women have embraced electoral democracy – a positive gender gap in voting behaviour exists since the 1980s. BUT Formal rights do not provide equal access to elected office in these first-past-the-post systems. Canada is only #40 on the Inter- parliamentary Unions ranking. Still no critical mass at any level of government. Very few practices of quota.

6 Democratic politics – the numbers % female House of Commons, 201125% Provincial legislatures, 2010 25% Municipal politics 24% Assessment …women experience nearly equivalent levels of underrepresentation at all three levels of government* *E. Tolley, Do Women Do Better in Municipal Politics? Canadian Journal of Political Science, 44: 3, 2011. Federal Cabinet26% Provincial Cabinets30%

7 Why this under-representation? Less a problem of leaders … Cabinets generally over- represent the percentage of women in the legislative caucus. Than the result of institutional practices of nomination and the turnover patterns … success rates of men significantly higher than women, as the party draws closer to power OR slides into trouble (with the exception of the New Democratic Party). The main cause: the very decentralised institutional arrangements for nominations. This is a clear limit set by the electoral system. Coupled with the declining interest of the womens movement in electoral politics.

8 But what about all those party leaders and prime ministers? 3 provincial Premiers; 1 Territorial leader; 4 Leaders of the Opposition. BUT, nonetheless … The phenomenon of the sacrificial lamb or lost-cause candidate has been displaced towards the leadership of parties. As leaders, women are often set up to fail. The closer to power, the smaller the likelihood the party will call on a woman to lead.


10 Significant guarantees of civil rights and anti-discrimination exist Section 15 of the Canadian Constitution: (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. (2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

11 But in reality, limited capacity to enjoy these rights Example of a significant democratic deficit: control over reproduction: a civil right but little real access 1988 Supreme Court decision struck down law setting conditions on therapeutic abortions. In the name of security of the person. But standoff between federal government (funder) and the provincial governments which refuse to guarantee this medically necessary service. Result is only 1 in 6 hospitals provide services and many regions have no service at all. And this despite public opinion… A 2011 poll: 52% say I support the right of women to make choices about their own body 18% personally opposed to abortion BUT recognize the right of individuals to make their own choices. Only 8% want abortion to be illegal.

12 Despite a right to non-discrimination A 21% gender-based income gap. The Conference Board of Canada: The principle of equality of opportunity is one of the basic tenets of human development. … research shows that, despite decades of anti- discrimination legislation and equal rights provisions … there is still a significant income gap between men and women. Due to both retirement incomes and earnings.

13 Approach to social care is a major gap in the Canadian citizenship regime Child care The labour force participation rate of mothers with children under 6 had more than doubled since 1976. 2 of every 3 mothers with children under age 3 are employed. 70% of those with children aged 3 to 5 are employed. In international comparisons, Canada has fallen farther and farther behind most other affluent countries, ranking – according to UNICEFs 10 benchmarks – at the very bottom.* *Childcare Resource and Research Unit. 2009. Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada 2008. Toronto. Quebec is an exception For women, limited access to ECEC means: Part-time work Informal care, and worries about quality High-cost care, and inability to pay. Globe & Mail 4 July 2012 Today's modern parent: Daycare poor, with little to save

14 Social care for the vulnerable elderly is a gendered story The good story – rising life expectancy and closing gap between women and men (as men catch up). But all these years are not problem-free. WomenMen Life-expectancy 82.076.9 Years of good health 70.868.3

15 Canadian public policy for social care Relies heavily on informal care provided by family and friends to meet the needs of seniors living with health vulnerabilities, often spouse or other family members. The policy focus is on providing incentives for those caring informally more than to increase formal services, whether in the public or voluntary sector. Threats to womens well-being – carers as well as those needing care are multiple. Women are taking on new and extra work, even when they are elderly themselves, providing nursing and other care to their elderly spouse. Daughters and daughters-in-law are often juggling paid work and elder care, sometimes with child care responsibilities as well. Absence of respite services as well as inadequate supplies of home care and services is taking a toll on many womens health and well- being as well as their current earnings and future income.


17 Aboriginal women. Doubly disadvantaged Indian Act, which grants status, incarnated patriarchy. Long-standing discrimination on the basis of gender – loss of status due to out marriage (women) and a break in the patrilineal succession (their children). Aboriginal women marrying out became white. Provision finally overturned by court decision in 1985, after intervention of the United Nations Human Rights Committee finding Canada in violation of the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. After 1985, +/- 100,000 reclaimed community rights. Nonetheless, could not fully overturn the patriarchy encouraged by the Indian Act and its century of effects.

18 Marginalisation continues in Aboriginal communities – poverty, inadequate housing, tainted water, ill-health, suicide, etc. In particular, there is an on- going crisis of the missing women and violence in general: Self-reported violent victimisation among Aboriginal women was almost three times higher than the rate of violence reported by non-Aboriginal women. March 2012 Native Womens Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, calling for a national inquiry into the disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada by the Government of Canada.

19 Reasonable accommodation – an on-going debate among women Concerns about how to recognise cultural difference in societies committed – simultaneously – to gender equality and multicultural values. Courts have established principle of reasonable accommodation. But issues remain, for feminists and the broader society: 2003 – religious arbitration in Ontario 2007-08 – Bouchard-Taylor Commission in Quebec

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