Gender-based Analysis Plus in Canada

(Disponible en français  : L’analyse comparative entre les sexes plus au Canada)

From 29 May to 2 June 2017, the Government of Canada will hold its 6th annual Gender-based Analysis Plus Awareness Week.

The Government of Canada uses Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) to examine the impact of legislation, policies, programs and budgetary measures on diverse groups of women, men and gender-diverse people by taking into consideration sex, gender and other identity factors. The “plus” in GBA+ incorporates a range of intersecting identity factors; they include age, disability, education, language, sexual orientation, culture, geography, ethnicity, indigeneity, religion, social class and income.

Prior to 2013, the Government of Canada used Gender-based Analysis (GBA) – rather than GBA+ – to assess the different impacts of legislation, policies and programs on women and men. Internationally, this process is often referred to as gender mainstreaming.

More recently, stakeholders have promoted the use of intersectional analysis, which examines how relationships among different identity factors shape individuals’ experiences of inequality and discrimination.

Implementing GBA+ at the federal level

Status of Women Canada (SWC) takes the lead in promoting GBA+ across the federal government by providing guidance, facilitating knowledge transfer and developing tools and training. However, the application of GBA+ is a shared responsibility across all departments and agencies.

SWC stresses that GBA+ should be incorporated at “all stages of the policy cycle, from development, to implementation, to evaluation.”

Central agencies – the Office of the Prime Minister, the Privy Council Office (PCO), the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and the Department of Finance – exercise a “challenge” function by promoting the incorporation of GBA+ into decision-making processes.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is the only federal department with a legislative requirement (under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act) to conduct a GBA of the impact of the Act in an annual report to Parliament.

Evolution of GBA+ at the federal level

As a response to the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, the Government of Canada developed The Federal Plan for Gender Equality. The plan committed the federal government to implementing GBA throughout federal departments and agencies.

In April 2005, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) tabled a report outlining the uneven application of GBA by departments. In response, the Government of Canada appointed the Expert Panel on Accountability Mechanisms for Gender Equality. The panel’s report, issued in late 2005, recommended establishing legislation to enforce the “use of gender-based analysis, monitoring and reporting” by the federal government.

The 2009 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada (AG) included a chapter on GBA, which indicated that its application still varied significantly among departments.

Federal government and parliamentary initiatives under the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session

In a 2015 report on GBA+, the Auditor General concluded that:

  • Certain departments had not adequately performed GBA+ to inform government decisions; and
  • SWC, the PCO, and the TBS had made progress in supporting the implementation of GBA+ throughout the federal government by providing guidance and training to staff of departments and agencies.

To respond to the gaps identified in the AG’s report, SWC, PCO and TBS released an Action Plan on Gender-based Analysis covering the five-year period from 2016 to 2020.

Several parliamentary committees (the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, FEWO and the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights) have recently examined the implementation of GBA+.

FEWO’s June 2016 report recommended that the Government of Canada introduce legislation to create the Office of the Commissioner for Gender Equality. This individual would be an Agent of Parliament who would have the mandate to promote implementation of GBA+ in federal departments.

The 2015 and 2017 mandate letters for the Minister of the Status of Women prioritized efforts to strengthen the application of GBA+.

In March 2017, Budget 2017 included a GBA of the budget’s measures in the form of a Gender Statement.

Also in March 2017, SWC tabled an interim progress report on the implementation of GBA+ to the Public Accounts Committee, to be followed by a final report in 2018. This report noted that the federal government has made the application of GBA+ mandatory for all Memorandums to Cabinet and Treasury Board submissions.

International comparisons

Gender mainstreaming is a “globally accepted strategy for promoting gender equality”. It “involves ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities,” including policy development, research, legislation, resource allocation, and planning and implementing programs and projects.

Some international examples include:

  • Belgium’s Institute for the Equality of Women and Men supports the gender mainstreaming process in the Government of Belgium’s public policies, measures and actions, which includes support for the Gender Mainstreaming Act of 2007.
  • The European Parliament’s 2003 resolution committed to a gender mainstreaming approach in its work and its organization, assigning responsibility to the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. The Committee coordinates the Gender Mainstreaming Network, which is composed of parliamentarians from each parliamentary committee who are appointed to bring gender mainstreaming into their committee work.
  • The Ministry for Women, the Government of New Zealand’s department providing advice on improving the well-being of women in the country, has a formal program that establishes gender mainstreaming champions throughout departments.

Further reading

Author: Laura Munn-Rivard, Library of Parliament