Thank you. I am very pleased to be here today and to have an opportunity to speak to you about the work being done at the Policy and External Relations branch.
Advancing gender equality is a shared responsibility, and we promote gender as a cross-cutting theme that needs to be looked at by all federal organizations.
The work in my directorate is generally divided into the areas of strategic policy advice, leadership and guidance on gender-based analysis, and international external relations.
The bulk of the work on the policy front is to advise federal organizations on longstanding and emerging issues, opportunities, and best practices for advancing gender equality and responding to the particular and diverse needs of women and girls.
We participate actively in the interdepartmental working group and consultations, including when memoranda to cabinet are being developed. In our work, as you can see on the slide at page 4, we engage with multiple partners and stakeholders, such as the provinces and territories.
I'm skipping to page 5.
With the next slide, I would like to discuss two key projects that we have supported and that are intended to provide useful information to federal institutions. First, in December 2011, we completed the most recent update of the Women in Canada publication, in partnership with Statistics Canada and 18 federal agencies. Women in Canada is the largest compilation of gender-disaggregated data. It also contains some age-disaggregated data, helping to further our understanding of issues that affect girls. Women in Canada is an important publication because not only does it show areas where the status of women has improved, but more importantly, it sheds light on those areas where more work is needed to advance equality.
The second project you see on the slide is currently under way. It is a collaboration between our federal-provincial-territorial forum on the status of women and other federal partners. The project will help make up-to-date data and indicators available, as well as help identify trends in violence against women in Canada. This collection of indicators will also provide valuable data on the status of girls.
I'm skipping to page 6.
Another key area of responsibility and expertise for my directorate is to promote the government-wide and sustainable use of gender-based analysis that you will often hear referred to as GBA, or ACS, en français, analyse comparative entre les sexes. GBA is the tool the government uses to advance gender equality in Canada, and the work we do on GBA is not different from what the corporate sector does when it goes about understanding its market or audience. Gender and age are, for example, key elements that auto insurance companies will consider when they establish insurance premiums. We know, for example, and for those who have sons, that young single men face the highest insurance rates because of their increased likelihood of being in an accident.
GBA is exactly about analyzing a specific issue using gender as the main starting point. It involves asking key questions and looking at data about how women and men, girls and boys, would experience or benefit from legislation, policy, and program initiatives.
One of the main principles behind GBA is that there is no such thing as a typical Canadian citizen, that the realities and experiences of women and men in all their diversity are not the same. GBA reminds us—and it is important to flag—that males are often treated as the default population and that policies and programs are designed around their realities and needs. Although gender is the entry point, it's also important to stress that GBA goes beyond gender. We know that women and men, girls and boys, are not homogeneous groups, and GBA brings us to look at the diversity within these groups.
In the context of your current study, you will be paying attention, as Suzanne mentioned, to how gender interacts with age to shape realities and experiences of girls.
Let's go to slide number 7.
With this slide I wanted to remind you that GBA is not new to government. The Government of Canada committed to its application on legislation, programs, and policies in 1995, but our current efforts are guided by what we call the departmental action plan on gender-based analysis, which we developed in collaboration with the Privy Council Office and Treasury Board Secretariat following a report tabled by the Auditor General in 2009. This particular audit found uneven implementation of GBA and little evidence of its influence on decision-making. So this GBA action plan provides a framework to strengthen the capacity of federal organizations to apply GBA, and, most important, the action makes clear that the commitment to GBA is a shared responsibility across all federal organizations.
Our main role at Status of Women Canada, as you can see in the box below, is to support federal organizations through providing advice, training, and tools. You may be interested in hearing that we are currently working on a new online training tool. The central agencies also play a very important challenge function and are there to ensure GBA is captured in memoranda to cabinet and Treasury Board submissions.
While the Department of Finance, on its side, includes GBA in its budget development process, departments and agencies are ultimately responsible and accountable for building a sustainable GBA capacity, using GBA, and showing how it impacts decision-making.