Thank you, Madam Chair. Bonjour.
I am very pleased to be here to discuss the federal government's response to the standing committee's fourth report on the implementation of gender-based analysis, or as we fondly refer to it, GBA, in the Government of Canada, which was tabled on October 7.
Before I start, I'd like to introduce you to Lucie Desforges, our new senior director general of the women's program. We are very happy to have her. Of course, we have Justine Akman, who is the director general of policy, as well.
Let me first thank the standing committee for its excellent work studying this priority issue, as well as all of the witnesses for taking the time to make submissions and appear before your committee.
The federal government believes that gender-based analysis, also known as GBA+, is a critical tool to advance gender equality in Canada. It helps to ensure that government decisions about policies, programs, and legislation are made with a full understanding of their impacts on Canadian women and men in all of their diversity.
The government's commitment to equality including through the use of GBA was underscored as a priority in my mandate letter.
It was further reinforced by the increased investments announced in Budget 2016 to enhance the capacity of Status of Women Canada to support government-wide implementation of GBA.
The government response to your report highlights our commitment to enhancing the use of GBA. It signals our strong agreement with the overall intent of the committee's recommendations, identifies areas where we can enhance our actions, and several areas where more consideration can be given.
On November 1 2016, the Minister of Finance indicated that to ensure the government continues to deliver real and meaningful change for all Canadians, it will submit budget 2017 and all future budgets to more rigorous analysis by completing and publishing a gender-based analysis of budgetary measures.
This is a concrete demonstration of the government's commitment to use GBA to advance gender equality.
As the committee is aware, this spring we released a GBA action plan for 2016 to 2020. It sets out specific activities that the federal government, through my agency of Status of Women Canada, the Privy Council Office, and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, is undertaking to strengthen GBA implementation and accountability in response to the gaps identified by the Auditor General's fall 2015 report. I am pleased to note that the majority of the committee's recommendations align with the action plan, which confirms to me that our priorities and activities are on the right track.
Today, I would like to give you an update on some of the progress we have made in the last few months.
We all agree that training in basic GBA competencies is essential. Status of Women Canada's Introduction to GBA+ online course, which I commend you all for taking, provides a foundation for the common understanding of key concepts and steps of GBA process and is accessible to all public servants and the public.
One of the areas that the committee stressed is the importance of training House of Commons and Senate staff. In May, as part of GBA awareness week, I challenged my colleagues to take the online course. As a result, 588 parliamentarians and their staff have now completed the course. I have also contacted the government House leader and the government representative in the Senate to discuss mandatory GBA training for parliamentarians and parliamentary staff.
An increasing number of departments are making this course mandatory for some or all employees. To date, approximately 29,000 public servants have successfully completed the course. This includes almost 18,000 in the Canadian Armed Forces, Department of National Defence, where the course is being used to support the integration of gender considerations in operational planning, a commitment made by the chief of defence staff.
Status of Women Canada is working closely with the Department of National Defence as they develop more in-depth training tailored to their unique sector.
This is part of the action plan's broader strategic direction to expand training using a cluster approach. This means engaging groups of departments and specific sectors on the development of advanced GBA training and in-depth practical case studies relevant to that sector. Status of Women Canada has successfully piloted this approach with science, economic, and research departments. Training is currently being developed with seven agencies in the public safety and defence sector. We're going to continue to expand this approach in the coming years.
The agency is also reviewing the online course content based on the ongoing feedback that we received from participants. We will be doing a thorough refresh of the course in early 2017 to refine definitions and to incorporate new content, including that related to non-binary gender.
The committee's recommendations also focus on ensuring GBA training is mandatory.
I agree strongly that GBA can't be optional.
As noted in the government response, GBA is now a mandatory element in the new templates that support the development of proposals coming to cabinet, in particular, memoranda to cabinet and Treasury Board submissions. GBA is also required by the Department of Finance on initiatives submitted for budget consideration, and there are new commitments to make GBA of the budget public.
In cabinet discussion, there's an expectation by the Prime Minister that gender impacts have been considered, and that mitigation strategies are proposed where needed. I've been very vocal at the cabinet table to ensure that we are all being deliberate in asking questions, challenging assumptions, and identifying mitigation strategies to deal with intended and unintended consequences.
As a result, many departments are now seeking Status of Women Canada's support to ensure strong use of GBA. This has included engagement on the innovation strategy, the defence policy review, the national housing strategy, proposals related to apprenticeship and other employment programs, among many others.
The demand on my agency related to GBA has increased significantly over the past year. The agency is working with its partners to develop mechanisms to more systematically monitor overall progress in implementing GBA.
This summer a survey was sent to all deputy ministers to gather information on their internal GBA capacity and how GBA was integrated in specific proposals. We're going to continue this survey annually to track progress. Going forward, we will be closely monitoring the combined effects of increased training among officials, the new mandatory cabinet submission requirements, and greater engagement of Status of Women Canada in the development of initiatives. We will closely monitor the action plan's implementation and the impact of these enhanced measures on the rigour and quality of GBA.
In the meantime, we will continue to explore additional means to improve monitoring, oversight and accountability for GBA implementation, including the careful consideration of legislative and non-legislative approaches, and will report back to you by March 31, 2018.
Finally, before I turn to the supplementary estimates B), I want to again thank all committee members for their thoughtful work on this report, which has been helpful in pushing this agenda forward. I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the government's GBA commitments are met.
I'd like to talk to you about the funds provided through budget 2016 to Status of Women Canada. This represents a total new investment of $23.3 million over five years, $4.2 million in year one and $4.8 million each year thereafter. Supplementary estimates (B) confirm funding of $4.2 million, which was approved by Treasury Board on October 16, 2016, to increase the capacity at Status of Women Canada. These new funds are being used to achieve a number of goals, including ensuring more consistent gender-based analysis across the federal government, which I described earlier.
We're also enhancing the research and evaluation capabilities of the organization, including recent online surveys about priorities for the federal strategy against gender-based violence. Through a short questionnaire on gender-based violence, we engaged expert service providers and front-line workers and solicited their feedback on challenges and priorities.
A number of research papers were also commissioned, and we hosted a two-day panel discussion with experts on the prevention of violence against women and girls.
This enhanced research capacity underscores our commitment to listening to Canadians and taking an evidence-based approach to the design of policies, programs, and legislation. Over the past few months, we have begun to expand the regional presence of Status of Women Canada to better engage directly with local organizations, community groups, other federal departments, as well as provincial and territorial governments.
To ensure a presence for Status of Women Canada in all provinces and territories, we have established new full-time presence in Toronto and Vancouver, and a part-time presence in nine other locations across the country.
This enhanced regional presence will help us to better leverage the agency's investments through collaboration with partners at a local or regional level.
Now I'm happy to take your questions on both the government's response to the GBA report and the supplementary estimates.