OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants submitted a brief to the Ministry of the Status of Women consultation on Women's Economic Empowerment. The brief was a joint submission by OCASI and Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change (COP-COC)
The brief highlighted the fact that Indigenous women and women of colour in Ontario – particularly women of African descent – as well as refugee and immigrant women are over-represented among low-wage earners, those in precarious employment and those who are low-income. The intersectional identities of race and ethnicity, and immigration status combined, as well as gender identity, sexual orientation, age, (dis)ability and family status together to further exclude women and contribute to their income insecurity and economic instability.
OCASI and COP-COC made six recommendation as follows:
1. Employment Equity
Ontario must introduce mandatory employment equity legislation, such that the named groups (women, First Peoples, peoples of colour, persons with (dis)abilities, LGBTQ community members) benefit equitably from hiring and compensation, as well as retention and promotion; and have these mechanisms integrated into all public physical capital and social infrastructure investments (including public transit, roads and highways, housing, water and waste-water, hospitals, renewable energy, green economy, arts and culture, and more) through the creative use of conditional transfers, contract compliance, Community Benefits Agreements (CBA’s) and other appropriate legislative tools and program delivery mechanisms.
2. Disaggregated Data Collection
Implement disaggregated socio-demographic data collection across all government organizations and public institutions across the province so that we are better able to identify and plan for targeted labour market participation, ensure equitable participation in employment and income security programs, and identify policy gaps or inequities where women are excluded from such programs by factors such as immigration status.
3. Migrant Workers
Ontario should call on the federal government to introduce permanent resident status upon arrival for all migrant workers. In the interim, Ontario should call for the restoration of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to all otherwise eligible migrant workers to allow them access to pensions, parental benefits, EI and supports after workplace injuries even after they leave Canada. Additionally, in the interim all migrant workers should be allowed to convert to open work permits that allow them to maintain status even if they leave their employer of record.
The Ontario Provincial Nominee Program should be opened up to low-wage migrant workers in all sectors, and without the onerous requirements that would bar access for most low-wage workers.
4. Universal/Affordable Childcare
Provide universal and affordable childcare. It will benefit all women, but especially those from low-income and working poor families – who are disproportionately of racialized and/or refugee or immigrant backgrounds.
5. Homelessness and Poverty Reduction/Eradication
Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy must adopt "targeted univeralism" approach by incorporating effective measures to address disproportionate rates of poverty and homelessness among First Peoples, peoples of colour, single mothers, persons with (dis)abilities and immigrants and refugees.
Ontario must revamp current housing policies to accommodate extended and non-traditional family households in need of social housing, and review access to existing and new interventions to ensure that residents with precarious immigration status can access shelters and affordable housing programs and services, as well as related supports that will enable them to secure and retain housing such as information and legal representation to access tenant rights and emergency housing funds.
6. Equitable Program Access
Increase availability of English and French language classes and employment-oriented training programs, and increase access by providing onsite child-minding, and other supports such as bursaries for internationally-trained low-income immigrant and refugee women to pursue licensing and accreditation.