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SDG 5: Gender equality

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The environmental perspective

The impacts of climate change, biodiversity use and loss, and other environmental issues can be experienced differently by women, men, and gender-diverse people due to pre-existing social inequalities based on social identity factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical or mental disability, and many others. This chapter's focus on increasing Canadian women's participation in the environmental and clean technology sector to advance gender equality in decision making related to the environment and climate change supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere; 5.5: Ensure women's full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life; and 5.c: Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

In Canada, there are gendered differences in attitudes concerning the environment, biodiversity use and loss and climate change that can affect support for mitigation and adaptation efforts; substantial differences in participation in environmental governance and employment activities; and links between natural disasters and decreases in mental health, especially among women and gender-diverse people, and increases in gender-based violence.

Despite the gendered and intersectional impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, women in Canada and around the world are significantly underrepresented in decision-making processes related to the environment and climate action. Women are also often underrepresented in particular sectors of the economy and in government positions, including the environmental sector and occupations. For example:

  • in 2016, women accounted for less than one third (28.7%) of farm operators in Canada, and female farm operators on average also owned less land, borrowing more of their total farm land (71.3%) than their male counterparts who borrowed just over 50% of their total farm land
  • in 2016, women made up only 14% of the Canadian mining labour force
  • in 2017, women made up 26% of people employed in the energy sector in Canada
  • in 2019, women held 41% of jobs in the Canadian clean technology sector
  • in 2019, two thirds of Canadian post-secondary graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics were male, with an even greater disparity in engineering and computer science programs and skilled trades
  • in 2020, globally, women held 15% of top jobs as ministers of environmentally-related ministries

It is important to include diverse individuals and groups of people, especially those who have faced systemic inequality in environmental decision-making processes, as full, equal, and meaningful participants. Doing so will help to ensure diverse input and meaningful participation in climate and environmental action that will lead to more equitable and sustainable solutions.

Indigenous women in Canada

Indigenous women's physical, spiritual, and cultural relationship with the environment is unique and differs across First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation. The relationship between Indigenous women and the land is often characterized by a sense of responsibility ranging from acting as keepers and teachers of community-based ecological knowledge, to initiating action to defend the land, water, nature, and the environment.

Indigenous women have experienced the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and a changing environment for generations. For example, northern food insecurity disproportionately affects Inuit women, and women's cultural activities such as language, food harvesting and picking medicinal plants can be affected by loss of access to land. Many elders also express ecological grief associated with loss of their own knowledge and identity associated with “knowing the land,” and the loss of a cultural system of land-based knowledge that was passed on through generations.

Nevertheless, First Nations, Inuit and Métis women have been leaders in conserving the environment, and their knowledge and experiences in fighting climate change and biodiversity loss greatly contributes to community-led adaptation and mitigation initiatives. They continue leading these efforts despite the continued prevalence and impact of systemic violence on Indigenous women.

Where the Government of Canada is going

Mandate letters released in December 2021 outline the Government of Canada's direction and policy priorities. Selected commitments related to Sustainable Development Goal 5 are listed below.

  • Continue to support ministers working to advance gender equality, notably as it relates to economic participation and prosperity, including economic recovery, leadership and democratic participation, and poverty reduction, health and well-being (Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth).
  • Ensure that public policies are informed and developed through an intersectional lens, including applying frameworks such as Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) and the quality of life indicators in decision making (whole-of-government commitment).

How the Government of Canada contributes

Canada is taking domestic and international action to address systemic barriers to equality for all women, girls and gender-diverse people. This includes working to advance gender equality and diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and at all levels of decision making.

The Government of Canada's Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) tool is an analytical process for the assessment of systemic inequalities, as well as a means to ensure that an intersectional lens—one that considers biological (sexes) and socio-cultural (gender) differences, as well as other identity factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, mental or physical disability—is applied to all policies, programs, and initiatives, including those pertaining to the environment, to support diverse groups in Canada equitably. GBA Plus involves taking a gender- and diversity-sensitive approach to all work. In Budget 2018, the Government of Canada also introduced the Gender Results Framework, a whole-of-government tool designed to track how Canada is currently performing, define what is needed to achieve greater equality, and determine how progress will be measured.

The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and its Calls for Justice called upon the Government of Canada, provincial, territorial, Indigenous, and municipal governments and Indigenous partners to work together to develop a National Action Plan in response to the issues identified by the Inquiry. This led to the 2021 National Action Plan: Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People and the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.

Canada is working to strengthen its relationship with Indigenous women's organizations. Canada is finalizing and implementing whole-of-government agreements with 3 national Indigenous women's organizations: the Native Women's Association of Canada, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak. The agreements set out how the Government of Canada will work with these organizations to ensure that the voices of Indigenous women in Canada are heard. The government is also working with grassroots Indigenous women's and 2SLGBTQQIA+ organizations to help these organizations bring forward their priorities and perspectives to support the development of federal policy, as well as ensuring that their priorities, including those related to the environment, biodiversity loss, and climate change, are advanced.

Internationally, Canada supports a number of international instruments that advance gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls within the context of the environment. Canada continues to support implementation of the Gender Action Plan adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which aims to increase women's participation and leadership in climate action and to better integrate gender considerations in climate plans and policies.

Canada also established the first Group of Seven (G7) Gender Equality Advisory Council, which helps integrate gender equality and gender-based analysis across all G7 themes, and supports the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Gender Plan of Action. More recently, Canada supported actions to advance the consideration of gender perspectives in the process to develop the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Canada has also taken a leading role in advocating for including gender issues in implementing the CBD.

Canada's international climate finance commitment aligns with Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy, which targets gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. See chapter 17 for more details.

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2022-2026 FSDS

Draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2022-2026