May 29, 2019

National coalition calls for federal leaders’ debate on women’s rights, gender equality

OTTAWA – Today, a coalition of prominent women’s rights and equality-seeking organizations in Canada has called on all federal political party leaders to participate in a national debate on women’s rights and gender equality.

With less than five months until the fall election, supporters of the 2019 Up for Debate campaign are also urging federal party leaders to make real commitments to end poverty, end gender-based violence, and support women’s rights and equality-seeking organizations.

“We are back once again to ask each federal party leader, ‘Are you up for debate?’” said Paulette Senior, President and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, speaking on behalf of the Up for Debate coalition, which includes Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress, Oxfam Canada and YWCA Canada. “While we have seen some positive steps towards advancing gender rights, women and gender diverse people are still more likely to live in poverty and experience violence. We are calling on all leaders to put women’s rights and gender equality front and centre of this year’s election campaign.”
The last time a debate focused on women took place was in the federal election of 1984.

Despite increased attention to women’s rights and gender equality in recent years, First Nations, Métis and Inuit women are still six times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women. Globally, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The Up for Debate coalition is calling on all federal political parties to commit to creating a National Action Plan to prevent and address all forms of violence against women, girls and gender diverse people, including Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

“As we witness a crackdown on abortion rights in the United States, we must remember that we are not immune to the erosion of reproductive rights here in Canada,” said Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. “Too many women and gender diverse people in Canada lack access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual health services, including abortion. We need every political party to make strong commitments to women’s health rights in their election platforms.”

Further, women and gender diverse people are more likely to live in poverty and experience social and economic inequality, including the gender wage gap and other barriers to participating in the labour force. The Up for Debate coalition is calling on federal party leaders to adopt platforms that include universal childcare, affordable housing, and progressive immigration policies. This must be coupled by a commitment to increase long-term, core funding for women’s rights and equality-seeking organizations.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have welcomed the Canadian government’s funding increases to women’s rights and gender equality causes over the past four years. But unfortunately, it’s not enough,” said Julie Delahanty, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada. “Women’s rights and feminist organizations are still left scrambling to provide services to women and gender diverse people.”


Media contact:

Lucy Scholey, Amnesty International Canada, 613-744-7667 ext. 236,

Organizations supporting Up for Debate 2019 include:

  • Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
  • Amnesty International Canada
  • Canada Without Poverty
  • Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Canadian Federation of University Women
  • Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action
  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • Campaign 2000
  • Child Care Now
  • DisAbled Women’s Association of Canada
  • KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
  • Oxfam Canada
  • Women Shelters Canada
  • YWCA Canada
  • West Coast Leaf
  • WomanACT