In last week’s budget, the Government of Canada offered important incremental progress on a handful of equity issues but fails to allocate resources to get real work done.
We saw investments to make life more affordable for workers and their families, action on dental care for low-income children, efforts to increase housing affordability and that’s progress, but it’s not enough.
We need to aim higher and address inequities facing marginalized communities.
This budget fails to deliver any allocation for the robust mental health services that so many need. Despite a decent commitment to consult, this budget offers no funding transfers to provinces and territories.
In addition to the $227.6 million over 2 years for Indigenous communities, we want to see mental health care funding delivered via culturally safe and trauma informed community health, housing, and support for frontline workers.
Black federal public service workers who already feel left behind have been promised $3.7 million. While this may appear like a substantial sum, this is a fraction of the $100 million that the Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS) cited as necessary to make real, tangible, change.
Gender-based violence and harassment
Throughout the pandemic, the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence and harassment has only intensified and though Canada commits $600 million for a ‘National action plan’, real progress requires collaboration with community organizations, and clear action on sexual misconduct at the Department of National Defence. Both are lacking from this budget.
This failure to contend with a damaging workplace culture for uniform and civilian workers leaves Canada’s dedicated defence workers, behind.
Indigenous peoples and communities
Nearly $210 million is promised to support communities dealing with the devastating search for unmarked graves at former residential school sites. Funding will also support the construction of a National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. However, there is no indication of how the government plans to make up for historic funding injustices.
Despite an increase in promised funding to water and wastewater systems, 34 First Nations still lack water that’s safe enough to drink, and the food insecurity crisis in northern communities isn’t even addressed.
Dedicated funding to combat violence against Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people is also shamefully absent.
Equity initiatives and action plans
Budget 2022’s commitment to LGBTQ2+ organizations includes $100 million over five years and implementation of the Federal LGBTQ2 Action Plan. But it remains unclear whether this will create positive outcomes for LGBTQ2+ communities and those in crisis because the presence of stigmatization and discrimination is still a huge barrier to LGBTQ2+ communities when accessing essential health services.
After close to a 20-year delay by the government, funding has also been allocated to review the Employment Equity Act.
Additional support for an employment strategy for people with disabilities is welcome – providing it is accompanied by meaningful consultation with bargaining agents.
At first glance, $85 million for a new Anti-Racism Strategy and National Action Plan on Combatting Hate looks promising, but misses the mark on providing concrete access to resources, and adds yet another layer of bureaucracy. This is not how equity is achieved.
We’re pleased to see funding for a new Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia and a Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism; now PSAC expects to see specific anti-hate legislation to address increased hate and violence against religious minorities.
We welcome $625 million in new funding over five years to build new facilities and see it as a welcome start to creating urgently needed child care spaces.
While signed agreements with all provinces and territories aim to reduce fees to an average of $10 per day only by 2025-26, for many families, this wait is still far too long.
Temporary Foreign Workers Program
Predominantly racialized, workers in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) provide essential and chronically undervalued labour. Budget 2022 does little to end a two-tiered system that ties workers to employers and expands a program that creates vulnerabilities for already-vulnerable temporary, racialized workers. The time is long overdue for decent work, full immigration status, safe working conditions, fair wages, and benefits.
While this budget addresses some issues of inequity with increased funding, it is completely silent on others, and woefully underfunds many. We see some funding to much needed programs, but there remains lots to do to correct the inequities our communities face and to those brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic.
PSAC welcomes this progress and will continue to fight for better.