VIII. Roles and responsibilities

The ground of family status raises wide-ranging and complex issues. It is clear from this consultation that individuals with caregiving responsibilities face a range of systemic barriers to full participation in employment, housing and services. The Commission heard that families cannot, on their own, resolve all of these barriers. Addressing them will require a coordinated approach from government, employers, housing providers, service providers, and the Commission itself.

1. Government

The Commission heard that the government has a key role to play in addressing systemic barriers for persons identified by family status. Employers, housing and service providers, left to their own devices, cannot provide complete solutions to these complex challenges; nor is it reasonable to expect them to do so. Only limited progress can be made on these issues unless government provides a solid foundation on which to build.

The Canadian government, as a signatory to numerous international conventions, has acknowledged these obligations. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to which Canada is a signatory, requires states parties to “encourage the provision of the necessary supporting services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life”.[87] The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires states parties to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and to ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.[88] The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified by Canada in 1976, requires states parties to take steps to ensure adequate housing for all.[89] The January 1997 Report on Canada of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women specifically urged the Canadian government to address the deepening poverty among lone mothers and recommended that social assistance programmes directed at women be restored to an adequate level.[90]

To meet these obligations, and ensure the removal of systemic barriers based on family status, government must provide appropriate supports for families with caregiving responsibilities. This includes ensuring appropriate supports are available for childcare, eldercare and persons with disabilities and their families; developing minimum legislated standards that support the ability of caregivers to participate in the workforce; ensuring that vulnerable families have access to adequate affordable housing; and ensuring that its own services are inclusive of the needs of persons with caregiving responsibilities and do not create barriers to participation.

2. Employers, Housing Providers and Service Providers

It is clear from this consultation that employers, housing providers and service providers lack awareness of their responsibilities under the Code with respect to family status. It is the Commission’s hope that this consultation will provide a solid foundation for efforts to improve awareness.

Employers, housing providers and service providers are all bound by the Code to take positive steps to ensure that caregivers are able to participate in, and receive full benefit from these key institutions, in an environment of dignity and respect. In particular, employers, housing providers and service providers have a responsibility to:

  • Take seriously issues related to discrimination based on family status;
  • Eliminate discriminatory attitudes and assumptions based on family status;
  • Ensure that their programs, policies, and practices are designed to include persons with caregiving responsibilities, and take steps to identify and remove existing barriers; and
  • Develop policies and procedures for accommodating the needs of persons identified by family status.

3. The Commission

The submissions received during this consultation emphasized the important role that the Commission must play in advancing the interpretation of the provisions of the Code related to family status; addressing the systemic issues affecting caregivers; and ensuring awareness among key stakeholders and the general public of rights and responsibilities related to family status.

Based on the foundation provided by this consultation, the Commission will continue to forward issues related to discrimination on the basis of family status through the broad range of its powers under section 29 of the Code.

  • As a starting point, the Commission will ensure that the results of this consultation are widely disseminated to all key stakeholders and to the broader community.
  • Discrimination on the basis of family status has significant intersectional implications. The Commission will continue to move forward in integrating an intersectional approach to all aspects of its work.
  • The Commission has committed to develop policies and guidelines related to discrimination on the basis of family status.
  • An urgent need has been identified for further work related to discrimination in the area of housing, and the Commission will move forward with public consultations and a policy development process on this issue.
  • The Commission’s work in the area of family status has revealed a widespread lack of awareness and understanding about this ground of the Code: the Commission has a central role in developing strategies and tools for raising awareness of the rights and responsibilities of all of the actors in society related to this ground of the Code.

[87]Supra, note 4, at Article 11
[88] 20 November 1989, GA Res. 44/25 (entered into force 02 September 1990) accession by Canada 12 January 1992, Article 18
[89]Supra, note 73 at Article 11(1)
[90] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Canada 12 August 1977, A/52/38/Rev. 1, paras. 306-343. Similar concerns were reiterated in 1998 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in 2003 by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

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