A Collaborative Response to the Green Paper on Social Security Reform

by CCLOW, Canadian Farm Women's Education Council, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, and National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada

The following article is a summary of the recommendations from a brief prepared by the above organizations.

Systemic barriers exclude women from training, jobs, and social programs. Visible minority women, immigrant women, women living in rural and remote areas, and women with disabilities generally face even greater barriers than other women. Any proposals for change to the current social security system must be informed by women's perspectives and contributions and must not create further disadvantages, nor result in further poverty for any group of women.

The full brief proposes a range of measures aimed at improving women's access to the labour marker, to social and income security, to a minimum standard of well-being, and to equality. Highlighted below are the main components of our recommendations.

Women's access to and success in completing any training program, including literacy, job skill, life skill or general scholastic upgrading, will only be achieved by recognizing that women face systemic barriers created by violence, social isolation and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, class, (dis)ability, and sexual orientation. For women living in rural, remote, northern and coastal areas, geographic isolation is often an insurmountable barrier. Specific accommodation for women with disabilities, including removal of physical barriers, is essential. Access to child care, financial assistance, transportation, woman-positive curricula and program services are key requirements for all women.

Any proposals
for change
must be
informed by
and must not
create further

We propose, therefore, as an alternative to the suggested Income Contingent Repayment Plan, the development of a student loan program which recognizes the needs of women in Canada for equitable access to post-secondary education and for non-punitive financial support for women who are: on social assistance, who experience interruptions in their education, who lack high-paying employment, or who require child care, counseling, or other non-tuition supports.

We also recommend that the voluntary nature of training be preserved: coercive measures are unacceptable. UI funds should not be used for training and social assistance should not be tied to training in any way. Training should be funded through Consolidated Revenues, and resource allocations should be restored to 1989 levels immediately.

Language Training, Accreditation and Immigration Policy
Many immigrant and refugee women are denied access to language training because of family pressures, or because of inadequate child care or other support services. Even where women are able to access language training, there are questions about the quality of the courses.

We recommend that appropriate supports for women's participation in literacy and language programs be guaranteed, including accommodation of the specific needs of women with disabilities, and immigrant, refugee and visible minority women regardless of citizenship or residency status. Prior Learning Assessment measures should be established for ensuring the portability and transferability of skills, knowledge and certification acquired in another province or outside of Canada.

The new Immigrant Policy must be closely examined for its potential impact on the economic and social security of immigrants and refugees.

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