March 8, 2018/Toronto – Today, on International Women’s Day 2018, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants celebrates the strength, vision and creativity of our sisters who work and lead in Ontario’s immigrant and refugee-serving sector and allied sectors.
We celebrate the gains we have made in raising awareness and educating about violence against refugee and immigrant women and women with precarious immigration status.
We celebrate the result of years of advocacy to draw attention to the disproportionate disadvantage faced by racialized immigrant and refugee women in all aspects of life, including jobs, health, housing and more. It has resulted in a promised investment of $31.8 million over three years in the federal budget for a three-year pilot of labour market participation support for racialized newcomer women. We call on government to invest these funds in programming delivered by community organizations with on-the-ground experience and credibility in delivering services to racialized refugee and immigrant women, particularly ethno-racial women’s community organizations. It is critical that programming is developed and delivered within a racial and gender equity framework to avoid replicating the same structural disadvantages and discrimination that participants face in society.
We welcome the promise of additional funding support for the resettlement of refugee women and girls. We believe Canada can do much more. We urge the government to increase the total refugee resettlement numbers to at least 20,000 annually.
The promise to increase Legal Aid funding and Immigration and Refugee Board funding is encouraging, especially as more and more refugee claimants from the United States continue to seek safe haven in Canada. We are however deeply disappointed that the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States remains in place. The Agreement is a major barrier to refugee claimants, forcing many to risk life and limb to cross the border irregularly. We call on the government to withdraw from the Safe Third Country Agreement.
We are encouraged by the growing acknowledgement by the governments of Canada and Ontario of the urgent need to eliminate the gender pay gap. But while the gap is on average 30% for all women in Ontario it is 32% for racialized women, 39% for immigrant women and 57% for Indigenous women. A gender pay gap strategy must include racial equity lens, or it will not serve the most disadvantaged women workers.
We have a long way to go to eliminate gender inequalities, especially at the intersections of race and ethnicity, as well as disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, faith and religion and socio-economic status. We have a long struggle ahead of us to achieve equity, and also fairness in refugee protection and in immigration and citizenship laws.
As a start, we urge the government to reform the migrant caregiver program so all caregivers can gain permanent residence on arrival, which in one stroke can eliminate much of the abuse and exploitation they face. We urge the government to grant permanent resident status, or at least a pathway, to all precarious migrant women survivors of violence. We ask the government to reduce citizenship fees so low-income women can access this important mechanism.
International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come, and to re-commit to our ongoing efforts for equity and fairness.
Happy International Women’s Day!