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Government of Canada: “Modernizing our understanding” of the definition of women

Updated: May 6, 2022

The Government of Canada says it is committed to creating equitable, diverse and inclusive workplaces to "help grow the middle class" and to "build a country where every Canadian has a real and fair chance to succeed and contribute to the economy."

To demonstrate this commitment, the government established a Task Force to conduct a review of the Employment Equity Act.

The aim of the Employment Equity Act is to remove systemic barriers in federally regulated workspaces for individuals in the four designated groups:

· women

· Indigenous peoples

· persons with disabilities, and

· members of visible minorities

An area of Task Force consideration is the definition of women. The Task Force asked:

Should the Employment Equity Act redefine and/or reflect the modern understandings of the current designated groups (for example, different sub-groups within the larger group) and consider adding more groups?

A public consultation period in support of this review opened on February 28, 2022 and closed on April 28, 2022.

The Employment Equity Act Review Consultation report will be released in Fall 2022. At that time, we should have a fairly good idea if the definition for women in Canada will be formalized to mean adult human females, or, all persons who “identify” as women.

The following excerpt from the submission to the Task Force from Canadian Women's Sex-Based Rights (caWsbar) emphasizes why our biological differences from men must continue to be acknowledged in society and accommodated by law:

Our position

For the reasons and examples noted above concerning the erosion and dismissal of women’s sex-based rights, and the possibility that a definition of “woman” will be legally formalized as a result of this review of the Employment Equity Act, we request that the Government of Canada observe, maintain and formalize the universally understood definition for woman, as per the Oxford English Dictionary and most other commonly referenced English dictionaries:

With specific regard to the purpose of the Employment Equity Act, the biological differences between men and women must be recognized. It is precisely because of these biological differences, and the distinct responsibilities and conditions that biology imparts upon women, that we base our insistence. Women, while some may wish to, cannot simply identify themselves out of their biological conditions of disadvantage, in comparison to men, in the workplace, or in society at large.

We note the stated purpose of the Employment Equity Act:

“Purpose of Act

The purpose of this Act is to achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability and, in the fulfilment of peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities by giving effect to the principle that employment equity means more than treating persons in the same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences.”

It is our differences that must continue to be acknowledged in the Employment Equity Act.

We categorically reject the definition for women that currently exists in a glossary on the Justice Canada web site: “All people who identify as women, whether they are cisgender or transgender women.”

We also reject the definition for women included in a 2021 report of the Ryerson University Diversity Institute, commissioned by the Standards Council of Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada: “Women refers to gender identity not biological sex.”


Women are adult female human beings.

We are not an identity. We are women.

We are distinct from males (regardless of how they see themselves, or wish others to see them) and must be recognized in law and public policy as such.

We assert the following:

· Sex -- as distinct from gender -- is a material, biological reality.

· "Gender identity and expression," are culturally-based, stereotypical degrees of “masculinity” and “femininity” (e.g., men like hockey, women like fashion).

· All Canadians are free to express and present themselves as they wish; however, the concept of "gender identity and expression" does not negate the material, biological reality of women.

· Women’s sex-based Charter rights must be strongly asserted and preserved in public policy, and must take precedence over any concept of gender.


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