The most important resource of a country is its people. To reach their full potential, citizens need an environment where they can grow as young people and mature within a safe, healthy, and secure environment and then be encouraged to participate fully in society.
Women make up over 50% of Canada’s population, the majority of seniors, and a disproportionate share of the people living in poverty in Canada. Pay inequity is still the rule. Women earn, on average, only 71 cents for every dollar earned by a man; women within visual minorities earn 64 cents and Aboriginal women earn only 46 cents. Lack of access to affordable housing, affordable post-secondary education, and affordable child care make the lives of women, who head the majority of single-parent households, much more difficult. Women under 30 earn less than women in that age group, when adjustments are made for inflation, than they did twenty years ago. Women make up only 25% of the MPs in Canada’s Parliament.
The Conservative government has pushed the clock backwards on women’s rights in Canada. It refused to accept the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force that calls for proactive pay equity legislation to bring Canada in line with its national and international human rights obligations. Instead, elimination of women’s pay equity rights was made part of the 2009 budget implementation bill. The Conservative government rolled back the commitment to establish a national affordable child care program. It removed the mandate for promoting women’s equality, and even stripped the quest for ‘women’s equality’ from the mandate of Status of Women Canada (SWC) and only reinserted it after public outcry.
The Greens will vigorously defend every hard-won victory for women’s rights and for women to advance forward towards full equality in Canada. Women’s equality is fundamental to a just society. Among the best ways to break down barriers and advance opportunities for women are through poverty eradication, national affordable child care, programs to eliminate the financial barriers to post-secondary education, programs for affordable housing, and the adoption of a Genuine Progress Indicator that includes measures of unpaid and voluntary work by women.
- Oppose any possible government move to diminish the right of a woman to a safe, legal abortion. We fully support a woman’s right to choose. We will also expand programs in reproductive rights and education to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and expand supports for low-income mothers;
- Launch a full inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
- Pass pay equity legislation, as recommended by the Pay Equity Task Force; immediately implement full pay equity for women employed in the federal sector and develop tax incentives for companies to meet the highest standards of gender and pay equity;
- Oppose the use of religious justice systems, such as Sharia Law, in Canada that run contrary to our existing rule of law and that specifically subjugate women and diminish the rights of women;
- Establish specific job re-entry programs for women with children who want to restart their working lives either part-time or full-time;
- Reestablish funding for Status of Women Canada and other organizations that fund non-profit women’s groups and advocate for women’s rights;
- Ensure that the criteria for new appointments to public boards and agencies include equal opportunity for women:
- Support greater engagement of women in the political life of Canada by advocating that all political parties nominate, train, and support more women candidates;
- Create better policies and programs to end violence against women;
Canadians with disabilities and their families live with disproportionate levels of poverty and exclusion. To better understand the underlying factors, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) commissioned the Caledon Institute of Social Policy to study the situation and propose solutions. It concluded that: Canadians with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty than other Canadians. Poverty is a result of both exclusion and lack of supports, and it contributes to further exclusion and vulnerability in a ‘vicious cycle’.
Children with disabilities are twice as likely as other children to live in households that rely on social assistance as a main source of income. Poverty rates of Canadians with disabilities result in large part from the lack of needed disability supports, which enable access to education, training, employment, and community participation. Canadians with disabilities are too often exiled to inadequate, stigmatizing, and ineffective systems of income support that were never designed to address the real income needs of Canadians with disabilities.
The federal government has a key role to play in addressing the poverty and income security needs of Canadians – they have done this through Employment Insurance, CPP/QPP, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the National Child Benefit, and Child Disability Benefit, and various tax measures.
The Caledon Institute proposes that the federal government invest in a new initiative, which they have called the Basic Income Program, to best provide the support that Canadians with disabilities desperately need. This program is a floor for the access to resources for people with disabilities; it is not a ceiling. With additional programs to break down barriers, people with disabilities have every right to be full, equal partners in Canadian society.
The Green Party of Canada believes it is time to treat Canadians with disabilities with dignity. We endorse the Basic Income Program proposed by the Caledon Institute, which asserts that, when all factors are taken into account, the program will actually save the government money. We urge the adoption of this income security program for people with disabilities as soon as possible as an interim measure until a full poverty eradication federal-provincial program is established to provide for income security for all Canadians.
- Work to create a Canada Disabilities Act (CDA) to express Canadians’ vision of a more equitable society rather than the current confusion resulting from the multiplicity of acts, standards, policies, and programs that prevail;
- Support a national equipment fund to provide equipment such as wheelchairs and accessibility tools to assist persons with disabilities with the tools needed to fully participate in work and community life (This can be a joint program with provinces – the concern is equal access and common standards.)
- Invest in social housing adapted as necessary to meet particular needs, with both rental and purchase options. This is simply an expansion of our housing program recognizing particular needs;
- Provide federal health transfer payments to provinces and territories directed to rehabilitation for those who have become disabled, e.g. loss of limbs etc.;
- Enforce the Employment Equity Act to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal opportunity to long-term employment and advancement. Disabled people are generally the last to find employment and the first to be laid off;
Canada is a multicultural society with a strong history of welcoming immigrants and celebrating cultural diversity. Canada currently accepts about 300 000 new immigrants annually.
Opportunities for new immigrants, however, vary. Studies show that immigrants from some countries do a lot better than others in securing jobs with decent incomes and opportunities for advancement. Access to immigration itself varies, as well. The criteria for granting landed immigrant status to refugees and other immigrants seem at times arbitrary and the process is frustrating and stressful for many. The backlog of files is too long. Over-cautious security officials have in some cases put the civil liberties of new Canadians at risk.
The whole immigration and refugee regime has been subjected to transformational change. Laws and regulations change so rapidly that many prospective Canadians and their families are experiencing unacceptable delays and increased costs. Recent changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act have fostered a culture of fear and discrimination. Canadian citizens, like Maher Arar, have had their rights as Canadians discarded by allies who are too willing to break international law to fight a ‘war on terrorism.’ Our immigration policies must be revamped to ensure we stay true to our identity as a just, fair, and open country, and to be prepared for new challenges that are predicted to arise with increased numbers of environmental refugees seeking a safe new home in an increasingly perilous world.
Canada’s multicultural diversity is an essential part of our national identity. New Canadians are a source of incredible skills and potential for our country. Immigrants and refugees come to Canada in search of a safer, more fulfilling life for themselves and their
families, and to be full participants in Canadian society. We must make sure they are supported in achieving their hopes and ambitions as new Canadians. Our national tradition of welcoming newcomers and embracing social and ethnic differences gives us a unique opportunity to exert a positive influence on the rest of the world. Canada must embrace the energy and creativity of all our cultural communities and ensure genuine equality of opportunity and equal treatment of all Canadian citizens, regardless of their country of origin.
- Eliminate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and increase immigration where labour shortages are established;
- Lead a national discussion to define ‘environmental refugee’ and advocate for the inclusion of environmental refugees as a refugee category in Canada and accept an appropriate share of the world’s environmental refugees into Canada;
- Eliminate the valuation of foreign credentials for immigration purposes except in those cases where such credentials are recognized in Canada or a clear and expeditious path to Canadian accreditation is established, and instead establish realistic criteria for immigrants based on existing job opportunities for immigrants to Canada;
- Press professional societies to remove unnecessary barriers hindering the recognition of valid professional credentials of immigrants;
- Ensure professionals being considered for immigration will have the licensing requirements for their professions clearly explained before entry. Landed immigrants with professional qualifications will be supported and given the opportunity to obtain Canadian licenses consistent with public safety;
- Allocate much greater funding for training in official languages (ESL and FSL) for new immigrants, knowing that many new immigrants are not fluent in either official language, through earmarked transfers to the provinces for primary and secondary public school and free night school programs;
- Establish a program to deal with the estimated 200 000 people living in Canada without official status that leads to full landed immigrant status for those who have become contributing members of Canadian society;
- Work with municipalities and provinces to improve the integration of new Canadians into the multicultural fabric of our country;
- Support multicultural communities by assisting cultural organizations to obtain charitable status;
- Seek to have the regulations governing the practices of immigration consultants toughened and enforced and increase penalties in the Criminal Code for those convicted of human smuggling;
- Amend the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Public Safety Act to require that, after a reasonable length of time, formal charges be brought against all those detained;
- Repeal recent changes that encourage rapid deportation, ignoring rules of due process and natural justice;
- Open an investigation into allegations by the United Nations Human Rights Committee of Canadian officials cooperating with foreign agencies known to use torture;
Canadians believe in freedom from discrimination. This includes people having the right to live their lives without being discriminated against for their race, creed, ethnic background, political beliefs, or sexual orientation. A majority of Canadians applaud the fact that Canada was one of the first countries to sanction same-sex marriage. Existing legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms do prohibit discrimination.
However, we must be vigilant to ensure these laws are respected in practice and delivery. In 1996, the Green Party of Canada became the first federal party to officially support the inclusion of same-sex couples in civil marriage, and we are pleased that this issue is now settled. However, much prejudice and discrimination remains, and trans-gendered people are rarely even considered when laws and public policies are created. Our vision is of a world free from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, a world in which difference is accepted and even celebrated.
- Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to explicitly include gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds of discrimination;
- Amend the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression in the hate sentencing and hate propaganda provisions;
- Repeal s.159 of the Criminal Code;
- Support public education to end prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity;
- End the targeting by Canada Customs of LGBT bookstores and other LGBT businesses;
- Ensure Canada advocates internationally for an end to state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against LGBT people.