Vancouver Ranked Fifth Best Canadian City for Women to Live In

Study by the CCPA does not have an “intersectional lens,” but its future work will

Co-chair of Women Transforming Cities, Ellen Woodsworth, delivering a speech at the Hot Pink Paper Campaign launch in 2014. (womentransformingcities.org)

Vancouver was declared the fifth best city in Canada for women to live in by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives this month, following Kingston, Hamilton, Gatineau, and Victoria, beating out over 20 other cities. It received the high ranking primarily for its health, security, and leadership rates among women, while the relevant economic security and education rates trailed behind.

Kate McInturff, the director of the CCPA’s initiative on gender equality and public policy called Making Women Count, compiled the report using data from Statistics Canada. In it, she states that “there are reasons yet to march, gaps yet to be closed.”

“This report provides not only the measure of those gaps, but also the signs of progress and the unquestionable strength of women working to make theirs the best city in Canada to be a woman,” she writes.

In the Vancouver section of the document, Women Transforming Cities is cited as “a project to increase women’s participation in local government” in Surrey and Vancouver. Co-chaired by ex-city councillor Ellen Woodsworth, the organisation led a campaign focused on having all political parties in the last municipal election agree on 11 local issues concerning women and girls.

Woodsworth says that she and her team will continue to push for equity in politics, and “have great respect for Kate’s work and for the CCPA,” but emphasizes that the report itself did not have the intersectional lens they feel it needed.

Co-chair of Women Transforming Cities Ellen Woodsworth. (Submitted)

“When I look at her statement around Vancouver being fifth in terms of violence against women or security, I don’t see reflected the fact that this is where Indigenous women have gone missing and murdered and continue to go missing on the Downtown Eastside,” says Woodsworth. “Without that intersectional lens, we’re not looking at the disaggregated data to look at how this would impact women who maybe are seniors, youth, Indigenous, immigrants, or refugees.”

Woodsworth questions the accuracy of the report, adding that Vancouver has only ever had a white, male mayor, and that the same applies for several cities in the Lower Mainland, among other area-specific issues.

“Right now, because of the housing crisis in Vancouver, so many aspects of Vancouver have gotten much worse for women,” she says. “Many women are being forced out of Vancouver because they can’t afford the rent.”

In response to Woodsworth’s concerns, McInturff says that she was “clear in the report that the data just isn’t available.”

“It isn’t possible to measure the indicators that I measure on an annual basis for different groups of women because Statistics Canada just doesn’t collect that data,” she says. “The only time you can really look at some of those economic indicators are in census years, so at the end of November this year we’ll have some of that data from the census, and then I’ll be able to write about different living standards for women in different cities.”

McInturff plans to release a more intersectional report once she has access to the relevant data. The CCPA is already examining different qualities of life for women among various Winnipeg neighbourhoods.

In defence of publishing the CCPA report prior to obtaining intersectional census data, McInturff says that only being able to conduct research every five years is “worse than trying to capture the gaps that can be captured with the annual data.”

“[Publishing more frequently] keeps the conversation alive and it keeps the conversation moving, and it also gives us a broad picture of which gaps are narrowing and which ones aren’t,” she says. “I think that’s worthwhile.”

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