'Small but mighty': Status of Women grows from federal agency to full department

This week's budget heaped cash on a variety of programs geared to helping women in the workforce, and it also gave the Status of Women agency a big boost. For the first time since it was created 42 years ago, it will become a full-fledged government department.

Minister Maryam Monsef says agency was underfunded and undermined under the Conservatives

The Liberal government has given Status of Women Canada a major role to play in its feminist agenda - and now the federal agency is set to grow into a full-size department. Minister Maryam Monsef is pictured in the Library of Parliament this week. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

This week's budget heaped cash on a variety of programs geared to helping women in the workforce, and it also gave the federal agency that promotes gender equality a big boost.

For the first time since it was created 42 years ago, Status of Women will become a full-fledged government department.

The minister in charge, Maryam Monsef, said the move signals the Liberal commitment to a feminist agenda.

"In the past 10 years it had been severely underfunded, it had been underestimated, and in some cases, undermined," she told CBC News in an interview.

She said under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Status of Women has been asked to do things it hadn't been tasked with before.

"It's just a recognition, too, that this agency, small but mighty agency, for the past four decades has been responsible for transformational change across the country."

The move was announced in this week's budget, the first one to have every spending item filtered through a gender equity lens.

The Liberals also promised in the document to table legislation requiring all future budgets to go through gender-based analysis. The same scrutiny will be extended to tax policy and federal transfers, according to the budget.

The budget also delivers millions of dollars to collect and analyze data related to gender analysis.

Data collection

Statistics Canada will get $6.7 million over five years to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics.

Asked whether the new federal department could be rebranded with a new name, Monsef said only that it's "a possibility."

The budget added $86 million over five years to the gender-based violence prevention strategy, and new cash to equip health professionals to support survivors of sexual assault.

Monsef said there are inconsistencies in access to treatment for sexual assault survivors across the country.

"We want to make sure that the experience that she or he goes through after experiencing such a trauma doesn't further the trauma ... that they get the best quality of care they need," she said.

The budget also signalled that colleges and universities will be required to put "best practices" in place to combat sexual harassment and violence on campus, or risk losing federal funding.

Monsef said parents should expect their kids to find a safe environment when they send them to post-secondary institutions.


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