January 11, 2016

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Main Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Dear Premier:

It gives me great pleasure to report substantial progress towards achieving the key priorities outlined in your mandate letter to me. Since then, I have worked with my officials at the Ontario Women’s Directorate (OWD) towards achieving gender equality and ensuring that all women and girls are able to participate as full members of our society, exercise rights and enjoy fundamental freedoms in the social, economic and civil life of Ontario.

Working to End Violence Against Women

  • With your support, last March we launched It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment. This $41-million action plan includes measures to change attitudes, better support survivors and make workplaces and campuses safer. To inform this work and future initiatives to end violence against women, I have convened a permanent Roundtable on Violence Against Women. To date, the group has met five times and provided robust advice on initiatives being undertaken by ministries and on emerging gender-based violence issues.
  • Last November, as part of OWD's commitments under the action plan, we convened a high-profile Summit on Sexual Violence and Harassment, which featured over 150 international speakers presenting on best practices to end gender-based violence and support survivors. Response to the summit has been overwhelmingly positive. Over 700 delegates engaged in dialogue, exchanged knowledge and ideas and gained practical tools to better support survivors in their local communities. A formal survey of summit attendees is currently underway.
  • A key element of the action plan has been the incredible success of the innovative public education campaign to change public attitudes and behaviours on sexual violence and harassment. The television ad for phase one of the campaign, known widely through the hashtag #WhoWillYouHelp, has to date been seen by more than 84 million people, and has ONgov Facebook posts totalling more than 1.9 million — a record for government. It is also one of the 2015 top ten trending ads on YouTube. Phase two of the public education campaign, known by the hashtag #ItsNeverOkay, launched at the 2015 Ontario Summit on Sexual Violence and Harassment.
  • We also recently completed a proposal call and awarded $2.4 million in multi-year funding to the education sector for public education campaign initiatives that target sexual assault prevention.
  • My Parliamentary Assistant Harinder Malhi and I have hosted a series of roundtables as a community engagement strategy to discuss and raise awareness of the Action Plan. These roundtables have provided an opportunity to share the new initiatives and to hear more about the specific needs and perspectives of diverse communities — including youth, newcomer, Francophone, LGBTQ and women with disabilities and/or Deaf women, with particular emphasis on public education and prevention.
  • In October, we introduced the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, 2015 that, if passed, will make workplaces, campuses, and communities safer and provide more support for survivors of sexual violence, fulfilling the legislative commitments of the Action Plan.
  • Additionally, we have worked with our Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women to develop a long-term strategy to reduce violence against Aboriginal women. We have continued to support a call for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, and are looking forward to working collaboratively with the federal government as they begin to engage on the national public inquiry.

Working to Improve Women’s Economic Independence and Security

  • As you know, in 2014, Ontario became the first Canadian jurisdiction to introduce “comply or explain” regulations to increase gender diversity on corporate boards and in senior management. Companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange are now required to report publicly on their approach to increase the number of women on their boards.
  • As has been made clear, increasing the number of women on boards and senior management positions is good for the economy, good for business and critical for Ontario women seeking full workplace equality.
  • We have recently announced that I will be co-chairing, with Ontario’s Minister of Finance, a provincial steering committee that will work to improve the representation of women on boards and in senior executive positions. We will also be releasing an important report in 2016 on additional strategies to further promote women on boards.
  • I recently led a strategic engagement session with corporate executives on strategies to promote women, including Aboriginal women, in the mining industry. Moving forward, I will be leading roundtables focused on front-line workers and Aboriginal women in mining.
  • We have also continued to build on and support programs to improve economic security to help low-income and abused women gain new skills, new careers and new opportunities through programs under the Ontario Women’s Directorate.
    • The Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology training program is providing low-income women with the training they need to get better-paying jobs. This program provides pre-apprenticeship training in the skilled trades and training in information technology to low-income women.
    • The Employment Training for Abused and At-Risk Women program provides training for women who have experienced or are at risk of domestic violence, including specialized supports and services to help increase their employability and income-earning potential.
    • The Microlending for Women in Ontario program is helping low-income women build and grow their own businesses.

Collaborating on Shared Responsibilities Across Government

  • We have been working closely with the Ministry of Labour on steps towards developing a Gender Wage Gap Strategy for Ontario, including establishing a Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee, which is now carrying out stakeholder consultations to inform the future strategy.
  • Along with OWD staff, I have continued to ensure that a gender lens is brought to government strategies, policies and programs.

Future Initiatives

  • We have announced two funds which will be implemented in upcoming months - the Creative Engagement Fund and the Innovation Fund. The Creative Engagement Fund will support Ontario artists in developing and delivering projects that help raise awareness and change norms and attitudes regarding sexual violence and harassment, and encourage gender equality and healthy relationships. The Innovation Fund will provide funding for new or innovative service delivery approaches for survivors of sexual violence.
  • I am also looking at ways to preserve and enhance women’s fundamental freedoms in this province. Supporting legal interventions by the Government of Ontario, which protect a women’s ability to be fully engaged in society and with government, such as in the case of Ishaq vs. Canada, are critical to our collective success.
  • We are also very proud to be hosting the fifth National Aboriginal Women’s Summit in late 2016.

Premier, these are just the highlights of OWD’s efforts to implement the mandate priorities you assigned to me. Rest assured that the OWD will continue to deliver quality public services, and build opportunity.


Tracy MacCharles signature

Tracy MacCharles

Results achieved

Mandate Letter CommitmentProgress to Date
Play a key role in ensuring that every person who identifies as a woman or girl is able to participate as a full member of our society, exercise their rights — and enjoy their fundamental freedoms in the social, economic and civil life of our province; and promote gender equality in Ontario, reflecting the diversity of our communities by taking a comprehensive approach to addressing the social and economic conditions that create inequalities.
  • Launched a three year, $41 million provincial Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan.
  • Initial campaign #WhoWillYouHelp engaged over 84 million people and phase two, #ItsNeverOkay, launched last November at Provincial Summit on Sexual Violence and Harassment.
  • Legislation introduced last October and Minister’s Roundtable on Violence Against Women convened last March.
Continuing the important work of leading our government’s efforts to prevent gender-based violence, with the goal of an Ontario where all women live free from the threat, fear or experience of violence.
  • Coordinating with ministries to implement initiatives under the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan. The Parliamentary Assistant hosted five stakeholder roundtables on sexual violence and harassment prevention with diverse communities.
  • Introduced Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, 2015 last October, and hosted Provincial Summit on Sexual Violence and Harassment last November.
Continuing to address the particularly devastating consequences of violence for Aboriginal women, their families and communities. You will continue to support the National Aboriginal Organizations’ call to the federal government to hold a national public inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
  • Continuing to work with the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (MAA) and the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs (MIA) to support the Premier’s and minister’s participation at national (federal/provincial/territorial and provincial/territorial) meetings and events focused on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
  • Supporting the positions of the National Aboriginal Organizations and encouraging more federal engagement.
  • Engaging with the federal government and Aboriginal partners on the first phase of the national inquiry.
Ensuring that women enjoy economic opportunities equal to those of their fellow Ontarians and continue to play an important role in a healthy economy.
  • The Ontario Women’s Directorate’s (OWD) Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology Training Program has served more than 2,350 low-income women. For 2014-16, we are investing $4.8 million in this program.
  • The minister led a Strategic Engagement Session for Women in the Mining Industry last October with corporate executives, and will be leading roundtables including on front-line workers/Aboriginal women in mining.
Continuing our government’s efforts to reduce poverty, enhance child care, improve job and skills training, increase the minimum wage and support entrepreneurship for women.
  • Microlending for Women in Ontario Program is helping low-income women build and grow their own businesses.
  • The program is providing training to more than 1,400 low-income women. From 2012-16, we are investing $1.7 million in this program.
Continuing our government’s commitment to broaden gender diversity on the boards and in the senior management of organizations in the private and public sectors. You will also continue to identify ways to increase the representation of women in leadership positions.
  • "Comply or explain" regulations came into effect in December 2014.
  • Announcement made in the 2014 Fall Economic Statement that the minister, along with the Minister of Finance, will establish women on boards steering committee - membership will be announced in early 2016.
  • Catalyst Canada working on a government report to measure progress on regulation and provide recommendations to government.
Continuing to deliver training and skills development programs for low-income and at-risk women — and services offered through community-based women’s centres.
  • The Employment Training for Abused and At-Risk Women program has offered specialized supports and services to improve job and skills training to more than 3,200 low-income women since 2006.
  • Women’s centres have provided flexible programs to support violence prevention and economic security to approximately 5,300 women over the past year.
Collaborating with colleagues across government to ensure that a gender lens is brought to government strategies, policies and programs.
  • OWD reviews policies going to Cabinet and sits on interministerial committees to ensure gender considerations are integrated into policy-making.
  • OWD is also leading and supporting interministerial committees on specific policy issues that affect women.
Working with the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to deliver on our government’s commitment to support apprenticeships by introducing targeted strategies — and delivering employment, education and training programs for women and other key groups. This includes applying a gender lens to the integration of government-funded employment and training programs and services.
  • OWD is working with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) to apply a gender lens to the government’s employment and training services integration (ETSI), including an initiative to develop options to redesign MTCU’s three apprenticeship programs.
Collaborating with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to support the Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women — and continue to respond to the high rates of violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
  • Continued to co-chair a Joint Working Group on Violence against Aboriginal Women comprised of provincial ministries and Aboriginal organizations.
  • OWD and MAA are working with the Joint Working Group to develop a long-term strategy to address violence against Aboriginal women.
Continuing efforts to close the wage gap between men and women, which will strengthen our economy. Women make up an integral part of our economy and society, but on average still do not earn as much as men. You will support the Minister of Labour in the development of a wage gap strategy that will ensure Ontario continues to close the wage gap in the context of the 21st century economy.
  • OWD is working with the Ministry of Labour (MOL) on a provincial Gender Wage Gap (GWG) Strategy (planned for 2016). The GWG Steering Committee was convened and has been holding consultations since last  September and will continue until February 2016.
  • The committee is expected to report back to government with recommendations in May 2016.