Great, thanks a lot.
It's my pleasure to meet with the committee. I think this is incredibly important work that you're doing.
Today I'm going to speak to the notion of pay equity as required by Canada's commitment to equality, both at an international and domestic level.
I begin just by noting, as we all know already, that pay equity is a fundamental human right, so this makes the focus of this committee of the utmost importance.
Rights unavoidably signal three things. First, they are non-negotiable demands. They are demands that should get immediate attention. Second, rights obligate governance by definition, so the response to the claim of a right has to be legislative, mandating, and administrative implementation. Finally, rights demand what are called accountability mechanisms. These are things such as legislative timetables, clear outcome objectives, review procedures for compliance, and enforcement procedures for non-compliance.
Until on all three dimensions the federal government has fully and properly responded to its own recognition of pay equity as a human right, it is simply not in observance of this right.
On a political front, talk about gender equity, slogans like “it's 2015”, are purely empty rhetoric without such things in place as proper and full pay equity law. For a government that is committed to, that indeed has promised to, prioritize gender equality, pay equity reforms are essential.
I won't go over the data. I think we all know that it's dismal. The gender earning gap for women in full-time, full-year paid work is now larger than it was in 1995. Canada ranked 80th in wage equality in a recent survey by the World Economic Forum. Remedying these injustices, or this particular injustice, demands a comprehensive and effective set of pay equity measures.
My presentation has three parts, all of which flow from this recognition of the rights character of our obligation to ensure pay equity.
First, I want to talk briefly about Canada's international commitments and the recognition that Canada has failed under these international commitments with respect to pay equity. Second, I want to talk very briefly and on the surface about our domestic constitutional commitments that should oblige the government to pay equity legislation. Finally, I want to point the committee to some useful resources that are available online for clearer articulation of a strong feminist perspective on pay equity obligations.
With regard first to Canada's international obligations, it is clear that Canada is obligated under international human rights law and labour law to achieve pay equity. I'm going to detail a few of the sites of this obligation. Most critically, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guarantees, under article 7, the right of everyone to “equal remuneration for work of equal value”.
To go on, article 2 of the Equal Remuneration Convention, ratified by Canada in 1972, states that every member, so that is Canada:
...shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of [wage ], promote and...ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women...for work of equal value.
The convention goes on to detail the way that this can be done through laws or recognized national machinery, through collective agreements, or through a combination of these.
Again, to move to another site, article 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the CEDAW, or women's convention, adopted by Canada in 1981, mandates that “States...take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment”, in order to achieve the benefit, it further details, “of equal value”. The convention is clear that this is a positive obligation that the state party take all necessary measures to achieve pay equity.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—the articulation of these obligations—also provides the positive obligation placed on governments to guarantee the right of equal pay for work of equal value.
Article 2 of the discrimination convention, again from the ILO and ratified in1964, takes a parallel stance. It says that every member of the convention “undertakes to declare and pursue a national policy” designed to promote equality in employment.
It has not gone unnoticed in the international community that Canada has failed to meet these obligations. In March 2016, just last month, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights wrote that it was concerned about the gender wage gap in Canada.
In section 22 of its concluding observations for Canada's periodic review, it recommended that Canada develop and implement a comprehensive national gender equality policy that would include, specifically. implementation and improvement of legislation to achieve pay equity for women.
The previous year, that is in 2015, the human rights committee at the United Nations, doing a periodic review of Canada under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expressed a similar concern about persisting inequalities between men and women in employment. They were specifically alarmed by the pay gap in Canada for women, noting that it was more pronounced in particular provinces, that it disproportionately affects low-income women, particularly minority and indigenous women, and it recommended that Canada strengthen its efforts to guarantee equal pay for work of equal value to ensure, it went on to say specifically and precisely, that the pay equity task force recommendations were all implemented.
I conclude this first part of my presentation by repeating that there's strong messaging from the international human rights committees that we're failing on our international human rights obligations.