Gender Equality Week: How Canada promotes equality for all newcomers

Edana Robitaille
Published: September 21, 2023

Canada is celebrating its fifth annual Gender Equality Week. 

The campaign takes place every year in September. This year the theme is United for Gender Equality: Stronger Together. It aims to increase awareness of the unique identities and to promote inclusivity of all people in Canada regardless of gender, sexual orientation, racial background, or level of education.

All government departments in Canada are meant to apply Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA) to new and existing policies and programs, both internally and externally. This means that they should be examined for how diverse groups of people will experience them and inequalities will be identified.

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The Government of Canada says that gender equality can only be achieved when people of all genders – women, men, trans and gender-diverse people – are equal in every sphere and can achieve their full potential in society.

This also applies to newcomers to Canada. Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) devotes significant funding and resources to programs that support women and gender-diverse people, as well as the 2SLGBTQ+ community of newcomers.

Settlement programs for women and gender-diverse newcomers

IRCC partners with more than 400 settlement organizations specifically for newcomer women in Canada. These organizations work to make newcomer women aware of their options if they are in an abusive situation and empower them to become financially and socially independent.

For example, in January 2023, IRCC announced it would allocate $5.8 million in support for 10 projects under the Racialized Women Newcomers Pilot Program. The program is designed to help racialized newcomer women develop the skills they need to find a job in Canada and navigate day-to-day life in a new country.

Additionally, to facilitate more women entering Canada’s labour force, the Government is working to make childcare accessible and affordable with an end goal of $10-a-day childcare across Canada by 2026.

It says the Early Learning and Childcare Infrastructure Fund will support childcare spaces for underserved communities, including in rural and remote regions, high-cost and low-income urban neighbourhoods, and communities that face barriers to access, such as racialized groups and newcomers.

Further, Canada partners with settlement organizations such as the Rainbow Railroad to help 2SLGBTQI+ refugee newcomers and their families, settle and thrive after they arrive in Canada.

Gender-based violence and newcomers

Eliminating gender-based violence in Canada is seen as a major component of creating equality.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation says that immigrant women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources. It also says that newcomers traumatized by war or oppressive governments are much less likely to report physical or sexual violence to authorities.

This is especially true if a woman is being sponsored by an abusive spouse or partner because many believe that they will be deported if they leave their sponsor.

It is true that, previously, some sponsored spouses or partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents had to live with their sponsor to keep permanent resident status. However, that condition no longer exists, and getting and maintaining permanent resident status no longer depends on living with a sponsor.

Any newcomer (regardless of gender identity) experiencing gender-based violence can leave their sponsor and may be eligible for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).

Eligibility requirements for a TRP include:

  • Applicants of the family class or spouse or common-law partner in Canada class (SCLPC class) who have either already left their sponsor, due to abuse, or not yet left their sponsor, due to fear of losing their immigration status
  • Those who cannot be assessed for permanent residence because their sponsor (abusive spouse or common law partner) has withdrawn their family class or SCLPC class sponsorship application
  • Anyone who has been misled and made to believe by an abusive partner that their family class or SCLPC class permanent residence application has been submitted and is in process when, in fact, no application has been submitted
  • Temporary residents intending to apply for permanent residence through a genuine relationship that has become abusive, but who may not yet have an application in process

With a TRP, IRCC says you may get coverage for trauma counselling and healthcare benefits. You may also apply for a fee-exempt work permit.

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