Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning to you, Madam Chair, the vice-chairs and the honourable committee members.
My name is, as you know, Karen Jensen, and I am Canada's first federal pay equity commissioner. With me today is Jeff Willbond, director general of the proactive compliance branch of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging, with gratitude, the Algonquin Anishinabe nation, from whose traditional and unceded territory I am speaking today.
I'm honoured to be asked to speak with you today about why now is the right time for pay equity in Canada and to fill you in on the work that the pay equity division of the Canadian Human Rights Commission is doing to prepare for the coming into force of the Pay Equity Act.
Since being called to the bar in 1994, I have been involved in representing employees, unions and employers in lengthy, contentious and extremely costly pay equity litigation. I saw personally the toll that pay equity litigation took on all of those involved, and I believe, therefore, very strongly in the benefits of Canada's move to a proactive pay equity system. That's why I was deeply honoured to be appointed federal pay equity commissioner in October 2019. I truly believe that pay equity is an important building block for Canada as it moves to build back better from the pandemic.
As we know, COVID-19 has exposed our vulnerabilities and our inequalities. Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, especially racialized women, indigenous women, migrant women, women with low income, single mothers, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities or mental health issues.
Women workers in Canada were hit first by the pandemic and they've been feeling the impact the longest. In November of 2020 RBC Economics reported that the pandemic had rolled back the clock on about three decades' worth of women's progress in the labour market, setting Canada's economy up for a slower recovery than would otherwise be the case. Closing the gender pay gap is essential to our country's economic and social recovery, and it is essential for Canadian workers.
This is a painful time for our businesses. For those concerned about bringing in the Pay Equity Act at this time, it should be noted that there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates how paying women equally for work of equal value to men’s work is good for business. For example, the Harvard Business Review recently highlighted research showing that, in regions like North America, the most—