Breaking down barriers for Indigenous women


More than 1.5 million women in Canada live in poverty. The intersectional nature of the barriers people means women that are Indigenous, racialized, 2SLGBTQI+, newcomers, and women living with disabilities are at a higher risk to be impoverished than the general population. The risk of poverty for women can be attributed to the many systemic barriers they face to obtain good employment, culminating in the idea that they are over-represented in low wage, precarious work. Removing barriers for women helps break the cycle of poverty for them, their children, dependents, and future generations to come. When women do well, the rest of society does well too.


Currently, women are burdened with a higher rate of unpaid work. On average, women spend 50% more time on unpaid work according to a Statistics Canada report from 2017. Many women effectively perform a “second shift” of unpaid work after their regular jobs, which impacts their earning potential and daily livelihoods. Therefore, to accommodate their domestic responsibilities, many women opt to work part-time, seasonal, temporary, or otherwise precarious jobs. In 2015, three-quarters of those working part-time in Canada were women. A lack of affordable childcare also plays a role in limiting the earning potential of women, as many are forced to stay at home to save on daily childcare costs. These problems are compounded by the intersectional nature of barriers facing racialized and Indigenous women.

Canada has a long history of ignoring the needs of Indigenous women, and this is evident in the blatant sex discrimination in the Indian Act. Sex discrimination in the Indian Act registration provisions denied Indian status and band membership to First Nations women and their children.

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December, 2021

Siri Ramaswamy

Univeristy of Toronto Policython