30 YEARS TOWARD
Impact Report 2019-2021
“Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it.”
The Canadian Women’s Foundation: 30 Years of Impact
2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Canadian Women’s Foundation by trailblazing women with the vision of a gender-equal Canada. They began the journey. Today, you continue to push their efforts forward at this most critical time.
The Foundation is a national leader in the movement for gender equality. Through funding, research, advocacy, and knowledge-sharing, we work to achieve systemic change. We support women, girls, and gender-diverse people to move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership. Since 1991, our generous donors and partners have contributed more than $150 million to fund over 2,500 life-transforming programs throughout Canada.
Meet Our Founding Feminist Trailblazers
Rosemary Brown was the first Black woman elected as a member of a provincial legislature in Canada. She was also the first woman in Canada to run for the leadership of a Canadian federal political party. Learn more about our Founding Mothers.
“I’ve learned that no matter how much commitment we have to the well-being of our mothers, sisters and daughters, it’s often funding that makes the crucial difference. That is why, for me, the Canadian Women’s Foundation is so essential. May the Foundation continue to give us its strength so that our strength can grow and our lives improve.”Learn more about our Founding Mothers
Dawn Elliot was actively involved in the early development of Lupus Canada, a national charity dedicated to improving the lives of people living with this autoimmune disease. She was also a president and board member of Ability Online. Learn more about our Founding Mothers
“The Foundation was founded to address historical, systemic disadvantage of women, arising from the patriarchy and its hierarchy of rights … I wish Canadian Women’s Foundation well, continuing to address disadvantage in ways that do not rely on hierarchies of any kind, ways that expand rights, not limit rights.” Learn more about our Founding Mothers.
Kay Sigurjonsson was the Associate Executive Director of the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario and founding member of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women in 1972. Learn more about our Founding Mothers
“For 30 years, the Foundation has played a critical role in advancing gender equality. Although overall economic progress for women has been uneven, never has that been more evident than during the pandemic where women’s roles as caregivers and the nature of traditional women’s work has resulted in nearly twice the rate of job loss than men.” Learn more about our Founding Mothers
“After 30 years, the Foundation still fights for equality rights, still supports and inspires girls and women, still leads progressive action in pursuit of social justice. Like you, I am proud of what the Foundation has achieved; its success is evidence of the need we knew existed 30 years ago. Seek new challenges – there is more to be done!” Learn more about our Founding Mothers
“The Foundation’s work is more important than ever, as demonstrated by the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women. Women’s job vulnerability, burden of unpaid care, and the surge in domestic violence have had a significant regressive effect on the status of women, with long-lasting consequences.” Learn more about our Founding Mothers
Our World Has Changed Radically Over the Past Year and a Half.
All of us have been touched by the impacts of gender injustice. And the issues interconnected to it reveal themselves every day, from climate emergencies, systemic racism, and poverty to colonization, health disparities, and a lack of access to social supports.
There is no turning back from here.
This is good in some ways. People like you clamour for community care and systemic change to benefit diverse women, girls, and Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people. You don’t want to only treat symptoms of our regional and national problems. You want systemic shifts to lift entire families and communities throughout the country.
Still, 2020 and 2021 have given me pause. Thirty years of gender equality gains are at stake in Canada. Inequities continue to undercut human dignity and quality of life in stunning ways. Where we go from here is up to us. Are we up to the challenge?
When we work together, we are. This tireless community is a force to be reckoned with. Your generosity and passion over the last year and a half has been nothing short of remarkable. You’ve proven that we can rise up in moments of crisis for both short-term relief and lasting change.
I take heart in the reality that, 30 years ago, the Canadian Women’s Foundation was founded by women who believed we can overcome immense challenges. Today, their conviction continues to ring true in you.
Thank you for pushing for gender justice, not in spite of the times, but because of them. You know it’s the key to unlocking a better future for us all.
Of course, there’s no vaccine for injustice. And what we do today reverberates for years to come. Your efforts to build gender justice in 2022 and beyond are more important than ever.
With tireless gratitude,
President and CEO
Canadian Women’s Foundation
Tireless Action, Now and Into the Future
1. Continued grantmaking to grassroots partners to run transformative programming in every province and territory
2. Thousands more women, girls, and gender-diverse people moving out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership
3. Refreshed strategic priorities and plans for the Foundation to meet Canada’s contemporary gender justice concerns
4. A strengthened and growing community of donors, partners, and supporters with more opportunities to take action
The Ongoing Journey for Decolonization and Ending Systemic Racism
The work of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and the organizations we support takes place on traditional First Nations, Métis, and Inuit territories. We are grateful for the opportunity to meet and work on this land. However, we recognize that land acknowledgments are not enough. We need to pursue truth, reconciliation, decolonization, and allyship in an ongoing effort to make right with all our relations.
- The Foundation is committed to supporting Indigenous-led efforts for systemic change and justice through community partnerships, grantmaking, and policy change initiatives.
- We have signed onto the The Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action, developed by The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
- The calls to action and justice from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inform our plans and work.
- We are implementing an organization-wide, multi-year operational plan to address systemic racism. It includes a specific focus on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism as well as measures to evaluate our progress.
Thank You From the Board of Directors
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks for all the ways you have helped women, girls, and gender-diverse people move out of poverty, out of violence, and into confidence and leadership.
More than ever, we must focus on what really matters: taking care of each other.
We’ve been confronted with a crisis that forced us to rethink our priorities and consider what is undervalued. The longstanding impacts of discrimination and social barriers on the most vulnerable women and communities could not be clearer.
I am thankful for the ways you’ve acted on the reality that advancing gender justice means pursuing a wide range of systemic changes that make Canada better for everyone.
You propel the movement.
Thank you for enabling the Foundation to play its unique role as Canada’s public foundation for gender equality and a national thought-leader for gender justice.
Chair of the Board of Directors
Canadian Women’s Foundation
In Memory of Sarah Robinson (1986-2021)
Sarah Robinson was a member of the Fort Nelson and Saulteau First Nations in Treaty 8 territory. She was a proud stepmother and auntie to many, a strong advocate for Indigenous women, and an educator. Sarah was a member of our Board for a short time. We wish we had more time to get to know this inspiring woman. Our deepest sympathies extend to her loved ones and communities. Read this CBC News profile of Sarah and watch her 2017 WalrusTalks presentation, Indigenous Women and the Story of Canada.
Thank You, Canadian Women’s Foundation Board of Directors
We are indebted to our brilliant Board Members, who channel their expertise from diverse sectors, industries, regions, and communities into our work. We also thank our many volunteer committee members, who steer our grantmaking forward.
Current Board Members
- Angela Johnson, Board Chair, former Vice-Chair; Director, Internal Communications and Strategic Relations, Nova Scotia Government
- Laurie Clarke, Board Vice-Chair; Fundraising Strategist and Consultant
- Dr. Ramona Lumpkin, Board Vice-Chair; President Emerita, Mount Saint Vincent University
- Lisa O’Connor, Board Treasurer; Vice President, Finance, Superior Plus
- Laurie Young, Board Secretary; Consultant/Instructor
- Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Director, First Peoples House, Trent University
- Jas Kaur Hothi, CPA, CA, Partner, National Enterprise Risk Leader, Ernst & Young LLP
Ernst & Young LLP
- Sarah Mariani, Girls on Boards Participant, G(irls)20; Senior Project Associate, Digital Projects at MaRS Discovery District
- Peggy Moss, Author, Writer
- Meenu Sikand, Executive Lead, EDI, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
- Olivia Sobey, Legal Counsel, Empire Company Limited/Sobeys Inc.
- Sandy Vander Ziel, Partner, Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP
Former Board Members
- Dr. Kristin Blakely, Former Board Chair and Co-Chair; Senior Fellow, Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, Course Director, Department of Sociology, Glendon College, York University
- Jody Johnson, Former Board Co-Chair and Vice-Chair; Associate General Counsel, TC Energy
- Paula J. Smith, CPA, CA, Former Board Secretary; Partner, National Director, EY Entrepreneur of the Year, Ernst & Young LLP
- Hafsah Asadullah, Girls on Boards Participant, G(irls)20; University Student
- Marilyn Roycroft, Former Board Secretary; Retired/Consultant
- Danielle Bisnar, Lawyer and Partner, Cavalluzzo LLP
- Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO, Actua
- Tammy Harkey, President, Native Education College
- Shawna Paris-Hoyte, QC, Lawyer, Social Worker, Dalhousie University
- Sarah Robinson, Principal and Founder, Rainwatch Consulting
You’re Pushing for a Gendered Recovery to Help Everyone
When the pandemic hit Canada in March 2020, its disproportionate impact on marginalized women and communities was clear almost immediately. Women-serving and gender justice grantees of the Canadian Women’s Foundation were overwhelmed by the influx of community needs. Their services were more vital than ever, but they struggled to keep its operations going.
Pandemic Struggles: In the Words of Grantee Partners
“Communities that were struggling before are just facing an abundance of issues now … My real concern is that we’re sitting on an explosion of people who are going to be in need, following the pandemic.”
“Anxiety levels in the shelter are very, very high, for residents and staff.”
“We need funds and resources to be able to pivot … And in a time when risk of harms has increased, we need to up those protective factors, not take them away.”
“Rural families may have to prioritize financial and work-from-home Internet use ahead of accessing services and making educational and social connections … Feeling isolated, trapped, and alone are all concerns we’ve heard locally.”
Donors and Partners Took Swift and Generous Action
Our supporters dug deep for the Tireless Together Fund in April 2020. In a matter of months, you generously donated over $600,000 to help gender equality programs continue to help women, girls, and gender-diverse people move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership.
Grantee partners throughout Canada expressed deep gratitude. As Julia Grady, Executive Director of 10C in Guelph, Ontario so aptly shared, your support filled a sudden financial gap and, “most importantly, gives us COURAGE to continue and support the work and social change.”
And with the partnership of the Government of Canada, emergency grants were distributed all over Canada to ensure local service providers could deal with the influx of need and continue to support women, girls, and gender-diverse people to move out of violence and poverty and into confidence and leadership in the pandemic.
Between April 2020 and August 2021, we distributed over $43 million in emergency response grants to gender justice programs and organizations.
Organizations that received this critical support include SOFIA House in Saskatchewan, HOPE Outreach in British Columbia, and South Asian Women’s Centre in Ontario, to name a few. And it made a huge impact. The Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, for example, experienced a 50-per-cent increase in calls during the pandemic. With the help of its grant, the Association increased its people power to help meet the need, offer more counselling and support services, and shorten their waiting list.
Gendered Impacts of the Pandemic in Canada
March 2020: Women account for 63% of the 1 million jobs lost and 70% of losses by workers aged 25 to 54 (Statistics Canada).
April 2020: 1 in 10 women reports being very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in the home. Women’s shelters and organizations sound alarms (Statistics Canada). Women’s labour force participation dips to 55% for the first time since the mid-80s (RBC Economics).
May 2020: University-educated immigrant women experience the largest unemployment rates, 7.3 percentage points higher than previous year (Statistics Canada).
June 2020: Calls for police service related to domestic disturbances increase by 12% between March and June (Statistics Canada).
July 2020: The gap between fathers and mothers going back to work goes from 0.8 to 7.3 percentage points for parents of school-aged children (Canadian Public Policy).
August 2020: 63% of people in Canada are concerned about women facing more exposure to COVID-19 due to work in high-risk service and care industries (Canadian Women’s Foundation).
September 2020: 71% of Canadian women report feeling more anxious, depressed, isolated, overworked or ill because of increased unpaid care work caused by COVID-19 (Oxfam).
October 2020: Shelters and transition houses experience a 61% increase in calls from June to October (Women’s Shelters Canada).
November 2020: A 55% jump is reported in the number of mothers who worked less than half their usual hours, when compared to the previous year. Childcare responsibilities are cited as a key reason (Statistics Canada).
December 2020: The unemployment rate for women of colour rises to 10.5% compared with 6.2% for white women (Statistics Canada).
January 2021: Women are more likely to report their mental health as bad or very bad, especially between the ages of 18- 34 (Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies).
February 2021: 10 times more women than men have fallen out of the labour force since last year (RBC Economics).
March 2021: Research shows 160 women and girls were killed by violence in 2020. More data is needed, but this rise from 2019 is a red flag (Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability).
April 2021: A disproportionate percentage of women (53.7%) are impacted by pandemic job losses because many work in the hard-hit services sector. Of the 2.7 million jobs lost in April 2020 relative to April 2019, for example, 75.6% were in the services sector (Statistics Canada).
May 2021: Almost half (46%) of mothers in Canada say they are reaching their breaking point after months of bearing disproportionate pandemic burdens. (Canadian Women’s Foundation).
June 2021: Employment among childcare workers fell sharply (-21%) during the pandemic, impacting a workforce made up of mostly women (97%), as well as immigrants (27%) and non-permanent residents (4%) (Statistics Canada).
July 2021: More than half of Canadian youth, and nearly two-thirds of young women, feel that their anxiety, depression, and stress levels are higher now than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (Prosperity Project).
August 2021: 67% of girls’ parents and 61% of boys’ parents are concerned that their children missed out on building healthy conflict resolution skills during the pandemic (Canadian Women’s Foundation).
As Canada grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, many want to return to “normal” as quickly as possible.
But “normal” is deeply flawed, especially for women, girls, and Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people.
The pandemic exposes hard truths.
It’s normal that the people getting harmed the most are those already facing the worst inequities, including women, vulnerable seniors, people living on low incomes, Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities, people with disabilities, and people who identify as 2SLGBTQI+, and people who are immigrants, migrants, and/or undocumented. It’s “normal” for people who experience the worst problems to have the least say in solving them. It’s “normal” to view equality as “nice to have” – but not an essential feature of a healthy society. It’s “normal” to give the most vulnerable people in society the
lowest priority for care.
It’s time to reset normal.
Read the Resetting Normal reports and recommendations
You Fuel Change
To make it through the pandemic, rebuild, and set Canada up for gender justice, we need robust support services to address critical issues and adapt to community needs.
Beyond direct program funding, we also work with our network of grassroots grantee organizations to evaluate and improve programming, share best practices, and develop priorities for systemic change and advocacy.
The Foundation’s grant programs focus on three important gender issues: ending gender-based violence, economic development for women and gender-diverse people, and girls’ empowerment. Our fourth area, inclusive leadership development, is incorporated into all granting areas.
Out of Violence
You support programs to prevent and intervene in situations of gender-based violence. They provide services such as emergency shelter, housing support, help to rebuild life after abuse, sexual assault and exploitation crisis support, child witness to violence programs, and healthy relationship education for teens. They do the complex work necessary to break the cycle of violence in families and communities.
- Teen Healthy Relationship grants enable young people of all genders to learn about dating violence, sexual assault, and how to build safe, healthy, and equal relationships
- Rebuilding Lives grants help survivors find safe housing, sexual violence support, counselling, legal support, and help children recover
Children staying at women’s shelters with their mothers or caregivers need specialized supports. At the Welcome Centre Shelter for Women & Families, funding from the Foundation has helped provide individual counselling and educational assessments for children. “The ability for them to have that one-on-one support to help during their shelter experience – combined with COVID and the struggles with their children – helped us see women through the pandemic without as many issues as we would have otherwise,” says Lady Laforet, Executive Director.
This is a group for youth who identify as nonbinary, gender non-conforming, gender diverse and are Black, Indigenous, or people of colour. For program coordinator Dinaly Tran (right), it’s been rewarding to see connections and rapport build among participants as they’ve met online during the pandemic.
“This is a space for participants to try out different pronouns or a new name if they want to … because we know that once we leave the space, we may be in situations that aren’t safe for us to do so.”
The Black Peer Education Network not only gets teens talking about tough topics like racism, consent, rape culture, and gender-based violence and healthy relationships, it also prepares them to lead their own educational workshops. “We’re there to offer guidance, but for the most part, we leave the door open for them to explore how they want to have these conversations,” says Program Manager Shenikqwa Phillip. It’s rewarding to see how planning workshop content and leading discussions boosts confidence, she says.
Participant Shetiephaa Williams (right) says she was nervous about delivering her session on gender-based violence, but proud of how it turned out, and wants to pursue peer education in the future. “Everything was on point – the people, the program itself, it made me feel safe to talk about anything and listen and not judge. I definitely recommend it!”
Out of Poverty
Your support enables Economic Development programs to reduce gendered poverty and build economic strength for those who need it most. These programs:
- provide “wrap-around support” to help participants break through barriers to access programs in the first place.
- help participants break into well-paying fields where women are traditionally underrepresented: construction, carpentry, electrical, auto mechanics, and technology.
- teach entrepreneurship
- help women learn employment skills and gain work experience in “social purpose” businesses operated by community-based non-profit organizations.
And through the Foundation’s Investment Readiness Program, made possible by the Government of Canada’s Social Innovation/Social Finance Strategy, women-led, women-serving organizations have been given funding and tools to join the social innovation and social finance ecosystem in Canada. It is proving important for the sustainability of gender equality organizations. In all, 41 organizations have been funded, nearly 70 per cent of which are led by the very communities they serve. A full 97 per cent reported an increase in knowledge about social finance, updated their strategic plans to include social enterprise strategies, and created stronger business models.
“The opportunity to work in Indigenous communities, and foster social innovation to support sustainable, cultural programming is an amazing opportunity and one that we do not take for granted.” – Candace Simon, Program Director
Imagine trying to start your own business without a working computer. Lack of basic tech gear is one of the barriers faced by women clients at SEED Winnipeg. “When I started the program, I needed guidance and mentorship from people who had business experience,” says Candace, a program participant (below). “By the time it finished, I came out with a better understanding of how to manage money and where to start with running a business.”
“Thanks to the program’s laptop lending program, I also came out with a working computer. As an Indigenous mother, I’m passionate about making Canada a better place for my son, my family, my community, and future generations.”
Northern Strategy Update
Bolstering gender justice efforts in the North begins with stronger community relationships and better understanding of the uniqueness of the region.
In partnership with MakeWay Foundation, we have been honoured to support the launch of a Northern Women and Girls Advisory Committee with representatives from Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut. This dynamic committee provides leadership in Northern grant-making and has already opened doors so the Foundation can support five excellent initiatives.
The Girls’ Fund supports programs that give girls and gender-diverse youth tools to develop into confident, resilient people, right when they need this support the most. It builds participants’ skills, provides them with mentorship opportunities, and deepens their self-esteem in safe spaces just for them.
Girls’ Fund programs offer:
- STEM education
- sports and physical activity
- media literacy
- Indigenous culture and connection
- mentorship and leadership
This program creates spaces for girls to build a sense of community, explore issues in their lives, and foster activism and leadership. “It’s been rewarding to see the girls build a safe community for themselves where they can turn to each other,” says Era Rana, Girls Leadership Coordinator. “Maybe someone was getting bullied, or tired of school, or just tired of being isolated, but for those two hours in the program, they are part of something positive.”
Through her teens, the RISE Empowerment program has been there for Sabine Duknic (right). She joined as a participant at about 12, and now works with the program as a summer student at 17.
As a participant, she liked how the program got girls talking about the representation of women in media and music. “I got to see people like me and diverse people doing really positive things that I wouldn’t have seen in other forms of media.”
She also connected with other participants through the program’s outdoor activities, games, crafts, and discussions. “There were a lot of activities that involved team-building and communication. I met and continue to connect with a lot of friends that way, and that helped
boost my confidence.” Now that she works with the program, she’s applying the leadership skills she’s learned along the way.
Sabine says the program also offers a refuge for young people who might otherwise feel excluded.
“Often there’s no space at all for youth that don’t fit into the gender binary, and in the past couple of years, we’ve had a few that have come here as a safe space, to continue to just build their own skills in a way that they wouldn’t be able to in other places. It’s a place where you can relax and feel included.”
You Keep Gender Justice in the Spotlight
You enable “the long view” to understand trends, respond to evidence, and push for best practices to end gender injustice.
Resetting Normal Reports: A Pandemic Recovery Roadmap
These reports provide policy and decision-makers a roadmap for a gendered recovery. They address key issues such as women’s sector funding, the care
economy, gender-based violence, and building inclusive leadership. Read the reports
“Shock-proofing” Canada From Spikes in Gender-Based Violence
Risk of gender-based violence spiked in the pandemic. How can we prevent crisis related spikes, now and into the future? We’re coordinating essential research, policy recommendations, and action on this question with the support of the Government of Canada.
You help us do our part to improve national policy and decision-making for gender justice, and you take direct action yourself. With your enabling support, the Foundation sits on key advisory committees on gender-based violence, COVID-19 supplies and procurement, and the charitable sector. We also submitted papers to inform policy matters like the 2021 federal budget. Plus, you signed your names directly onto our online petition letters addressing pivotal concerns such as sexual assault training for judges, a national childcare plan, and the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence.
Digital Tools to Address Sexual Harassment
The Canadian Women’s Foundation and AfterMeToo are collaborating to build a first-of-its-kind online platform to help those who experience sexual harassment and assault in the workplace to navigate options for reporting and pursuing justice. It will break down legal jargon and procedures, offering plain-language information about relevant provincial and territorial laws in English and French. The launch is planned for early 2022.
“Alright, Now What?” Podcast
Since 2020, hundreds of listeners have joined our experts and guests biweekly to put an intersectional feminist lens on news stories that seem to keep resurfacing and making us wonder, “Why is this still happening?” We explore the systemic roots of these issues and strategies for change. Subscribe and listen today: canadianwomen.org/podcast
Annual Landsberg Award
Investigative journalism plays a key role in advancing gender justice. That’s why the Foundation co-presents the Landsberg Award with The Canadian Journalism Foundation to recognize outstanding journalism on gender equality. Congratulations to 2020 winner Elizabeth Renzetti (left) and 2021 winners Alyshah Hasham (centre) and Wendy Gillis (right).
The Violence at Home Signal for Help
The Signal for Help is a one-handed gesture you can make on a video call to communicate you need someone to safely check in with you.
Since we launched it in 2020, in response to increased risk of gender-based violence, the Signal has gone viral. The video PSA has been viewed on YouTube over one million times, and news about the Signal has been shared through hundreds of media stories. A 2020 poll found that about one in three people in Canada know of or have seen or used the Signal. And it has been shared in 44 countries including Japan, Italy, England, the US, Brazil, and France. Most recently, it been recognized by The One Club’s One Show, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and the 2021 Marketing Awards.
There’s more to come to make sure everyone in Canada supports those facing violence and does their part to be champions to end gender-based violence. Learn more about the Signal and how to respond to it.
FOREVER TIRELESS: Celebrating 30 Years of Impact for Gender Justice