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Canada introduced unprecedented relief measures in the early days of the pandemic to offset the huge losses resulting from necessary public health closures. Looking back, how did those measures stack up? Did they address the pandemic's heavy toll on women and other marginalized communities?
Canada's federal response to the gendered impacts of the pandemic was on par with other high-income countries. Roughly 30 per cent of programs introduced between March 2020 and June 2021 were “gender-sensitive” defined as measures that addressed, in full or in part, gendered risks associated with the pandemic including increased violence, low income and precarity, and heightened care demands. However, these programs represented just 13% of total pandemic spending.
Provincial gender responses were more mixed and much smaller in scale, ranging from a low in Alberta—Canada's wealthiest province—of $50 per capita, to a high in British Columbia of $844. The federal government covered the bulk of the cost—at $1,155 per capita.
There were significant policy gaps that neither provincial nor federal programming addressed, but the COVID-19 crisis definitively illustrated what’s possible with strong public leadership. The imperative now is to apply the lessons of COVID-19 in service of a more sustainable, resilient and gender-just future, ensuring that those who bore the brunt of the pandemic are not again left behind.