On International Women’s Day, LEAF commits to continue the struggle for women’s substantive equality, started by a brave group of women protesting unfair wages and working conditions in 1909. Since then, women have used this day to demand suffrage, protest militarization, end workplace discrimination, access education and political life, and end violence and discrimination. While much has been accomplished since 1909, the reality is that on this International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018, women in Canada and worldwide continue to face significant inequality in all areas of political, economic, social, and cultural life.

On this day, we commit ourselves to continue the long-fought struggle for progress on these important goals. We particularly call attention to the dramatic inequality of Indigenous women, who face severe inequality and discrimination and constitute one of the most marginalized groups in Canada.

Indigenous women experience disproportionate rates of violence and are significantly more likely to be physically and sexually abused, and murdered. In a context of inequality, discrimination, and racism, Statistics Canada reports that Indigenous women experience violent victimization at a rate 2.7 times that of non-Indigenous women, and while Indigenous people are only 4.3% of the Canadian population, Indigenous women represented 24% of Canadian murder victims in 2015. Further, Indigenous women and girls face over-criminalization and are disproportionately represented in Canada’s prison population, constituting 37% of incarcerated women despite representing only 4% of female Canadians.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is pay equity. In this area too, Indigenous women face compounding barriers to equality on the basis of sex and Indigeneity. Comparing male and female average annual earnings across Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Ontario, the data show that Indigenous women earn $23,000, on average, which is $31,000 a year less than non-Indigenous men.

The message is clear and pervades all areas of life: Indigenous women require action now. From access to housing, education, employment, political representation, cultural preservation and participation in public life, Indigenous women are denied equality. Recent events including the tragic deaths of Tina Fontaine, Cindy Gladue, and Angela Cardinal, among too many other Indigenous women, demonstrate that this crisis of inequality has reached a fever pitch.

On this International Women’s Day, LEAF stands in solidarity with Indigenous women in Canada and internationally, and invites all its supporters to join LEAF in the struggle for meaningful, substantive equality and dignity for all women.

About Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

Since April 17, 1985, when equality rights were enshrined in sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, LEAF has used litigation, law reform and public education to work toward equality for women and girls. LEAF intervenes in key cases to ensure that when courts interpret equality rights, there will be a systemic improvement in women’s lives. For more information about LEAF, visit www.leaf.ca.