CUPE is calling out the federal government’s recent National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence for not going far enough to address violence at work or monitor outcomes.  

On November 9, provincial and territorial governments endorsed Canada’s new plan. CUPE has long joined feminist organizations in calling for a robust, long-term, fully funded plan. We advocated for a plan that invests in public services that keep victims and survivors safe, meaningfully addresses violence and harassment in the world of work and has strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. What the government released falls short on all three fronts.

“Plan” just a list of suggestions and options

First, the Plan is not really a plan at all. It has suggested actions for provinces and territories in five areas: support for survivors and their families, violence prevention, the justice system, Indigenous-led approaches to ending violence, and service provision.

Many of the Plan’s suggested actions are positive. But there are no mechanisms compelling governments to implement them, and no guidance on timelines or priorities. The suggested actions are just a menu of options for governments to consider.

CUPE supports the calls from Women’s Shelters Canada and others to develop clear requirements for provinces and territories, as well as timeframes to meet them. The calls are outlined in the organizations’ roadmap to a National Action Plan.

Even worse, none of the Plan’s recommended actions come with new funding. The federal government says it will negotiate bilateral agreements with provinces and territories in the coming months, and that is when funding details will be revealed. It is difficult to assess the announcement as an action plan without knowing how much is allocated, or for what.

CUPE urges the federal, provincial and territorial governments to significantly increase funding to social services for people affected by violence, and to ensure that transition house workers and other service providers have good working conditions and fair wages.

Key global treaty not mentioned

Second, the Plan acknowledges that gender-based violence and harassment often happen in the workplace. CUPE welcomes the recommended actions to address workplace violence and harassment. These include creating awareness campaigns about gender-based violence at work and promoting care that meets the needs of people exposed to workplace gender-based violence.

However, the Plan makes no mention of International Labour Organization Convention No. 190 – the first global treaty on violence and harassment in the world of work. The Convention sets out clear, gender-responsive policies for governments and employers to implement and compels signatory states to enact strong enforcement mechanisms.

Twenty countries have ratified C-190. It is shameful that Canada is not among them. If the government was serious about tackling workplace violence, it would ratify C-190 immediately as part of the National Action Plan.

Weak monitoring and accountability

Finally, the Plan does not lay out a robust monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (MEAL) framework, as called for in the roadmap. Instead, it acknowledges that reporting and monitoring are important, and that there needs to be a coordinated approach between governments to collect data and develop progress indicators.

The United Nations organization UN Women says early investment in monitoring and evaluation is critical to successful implementation of national action plans on gender-based violence. Too many initiatives intended to tackle violence in other countries have failed to measure progress or hold governments, employers and institutions accountable when they don’t meet their commitments. In Australia, for example, there were multiple three-year National Action Plans. Early iterations appeared to have little effect and experts have identified the lack of monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning as a key reason for this. 

Gender-based violence is a crisis in Canada. We desperately need strong government action to prevent violence and keep women, girls, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people safe. What the federal government announced is a first step – not a plan.