Policy on Gender-Based Analysis Plus: Applying an Intersectional Approach to Foster Inclusion and Address Inequities

Policy Statement and Application

Justice Canada (Justice) is dedicated to ensuring that its activities align with the Government of Canada’s commitments to Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) (Annex A). GBA Plus helps to ensure that federal government legislation, policies, programs and other initiatives are responsive, inclusive and reflective of diverse experiences and realities in order to address inequities and barriers. Justice officials in all parts of the Department, whether working on legal services, litigation, law reform, policy and program development, international agreements or programs, research, communications, evaluation, management or other areas, are to apply GBA Plus and ensure that their work considers and reflects the diverse needs of different groups of people. To enable this, GBA Plus training is mandatory for all Justice Canada officials.

What is GBA Plus?

GBA Plus is an analytical tool used in the federal context to support the development of responsive and inclusive initiatives, including legislation, policies, programs and services. GBA Plus is a process for understanding who is impacted by the issue being addressed and how; identifying how the initiative could be tailored to meet diverse needs of the people directly impacted; and discovering, anticipating and mitigating any barriers to accessing or benefitting from the initiative.

The “plus” in GBA Plus explicitly acknowledges that a rigorous GBA Plus assessment goes beyond gender and sex to include consideration of multiple identity factors such as age, disability, economic status, education, gender, sex and sexual orientation, geography, language, racialization and ethnicity and religion and spirituality. This list is not exhaustive and the factors cannot be considered in isolation. An intersectional approach requires consideration of how multiple overlapping factors shape legal, social, health and economic opportunities and outcomes, as well as barriers to accessing systems, programs or services. This intersectional approach informs GBA Plus and can help foster inclusion and address inequities.

In addition, GBA Plus involves the analysis of the context within which people live, including structural or systemic conditions that might create barriers for some, as well as opportunities for others. GBA Plus involves critical consideration of the historical, social, and political contexts and the systems of power, privilege,discrimination and oppression that create inequities as well as applying a meaningful approach to address them.

Please see Annex B for a Glossary of Key Terms.


Sex and gender
Sex and gender - Text version

This figure illustrates some of the factors which can intersect with sex and gender. Six oblong shapes of differing colours overlap and fan out. Each oblong has two identity factors written on it. The top oblong has "sex and gender" written in a larger font. Starting below sex and gender and going clockwise, the additional identities identified are: geography, culture, income, sexual orientation, education, ethnicity, ability, age, religion and language.

Renewal of the departmental Policy on GBA Plus (the Policy) supports the federal government’s ongoing commitments to GBA Plus, including making its implementation stronger across all departments. Conducting GBA Plus as required by this Policy enables a more comprehensive analysis and supports more informed decision-making and better public policy. It can be an effective way to help identify and mitigate policy and legal risks and it helps satisfy requirements of Memoranda to Cabinet (MC), Budget requests and Treasury Board (TB) Submissions.

Mandatory GBA Plus training will continue to help develop officials’ analytical competencies, increasing their awareness about the impacts that policies and programs can have on different segments of our population and help to ensure that analyses are grounded in theory, methodology and knowledge. The Introduction to GBA Plus online training offered by Women and Gender Equality Canada will satisfy the requirement. Additional training may be useful to some officials, depending on their specific responsibilities.

Guiding Principles

The following guiding principles are intended to support the integration of GBA Plus in Justice Canada’s work:

Intersectional, Integrated and Systematic Approach:

An intersectional GBA Plus assessment should be conducted routinely throughout key stages of the development of new and existing initiatives, from planning through to evaluation. It is mandatory to continue to integrate GBA Plus considerations throughout an initiatives development, and during the implementation and monitoring phase in particular, to ensure GBA Plus outcomes are achieved. GBA Plus is a mandatory component of Privy Council Office (PCO), Department of Finance Canada and Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) requirements for MCs, Budget requests and TB Submissions as well as departmental results frameworks. PCO’s Due-Diligence and Evidence-Based Analysis Tool enables systematic examination of gender and other important cross-cutting factors necessary for developing risk-informed and sound public policy.


GBA Plus should be evidence-based, relying on reputable statistics, disaggregated data and qualitative and quantitative research. It is important to seek out multiple sources, viewpoints and diverse perspectives, including those with lived experience, to better understand the potential impacts of federal initiatives. Identifying the experiences and needs of different groups is an iterative and interactive process, best done in consultation with people from various groups and positions in those groups to maximize the diversity and depth of perspectives and understanding. Recognizing that disaggregated data is not always available it is a best practice to note these data gaps and develop plans to address them, as feasible, through the monitoring and implementation phases of an initiative in particular as well as through collaboration with internal and external partners such as Justice Canada’s Research and Statistics Division, Statistics Canada, and Women and Gender Equality Canada.

When presenting multiple options for a Cabinet document or other purposes, GBA Plus considerations should be factored into each of the options going forward. Officials should document their GBA Plus assessment and how it has been integrated into their work. A report of the GBA Plus assessment may be required by senior management or central agencies and should be kept on file, in addition to the Due Diligence and Evidence-Based Analysis Tool, when used.

Recognize evolution of societal norms and deconstruct assumptions and biases:

A comprehensive GBA Plus assessment requires us to challenge assumptions that may affect a particular initiative. It is important to recognize that societal norms are constantly evolving and requires a consistent re-evaluation of assumptions, including individual or organizational assumptions or biases. Incorrect assumptions can lead to unintended impacts for diverse groups of people, including potential exclusion and harm.

Section 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act: “…all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals… and to have their needs accommodated… without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.”

For guidelines to apply GBA Plus, please see Annex C.

Responsibilities and Accountability

As established by this Policy, Justice officials of all levels are responsible for applying GBA Plus in their work.

Annex A: Summary of Government of Canada and Justice Canada GBA Plus Commitments

Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women
Creation of a Minister Responsible for the Status of Women
Government commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action outlined in the Federal Plan for Gender Equality
Department of Justice Policy on Gender Equality Analysis
Government adoption of the Agenda for Gender Equality
Mandatory GBA consideration in Treasury Board Submissions
Mandatory GBA consideration in MC’s
  • First Auditor General report on GBA implementation
  • Departmental Action Plan on GBA
  • Launch of annual GBA reporting to Parliament
GBA Unit at Justice Canada created
Status of Women Canada (SWC)-led Rebranding of GBA to GBA “plus”
  • Second Auditor General report on GBA implementation
  • Due Diligence Evidence-based Tool required for MC’s
  • SWC, PCO and TBS Action Plan on Gender-based Analysis (2016-2020) (commitment to further integrate GBA in government processes)
  • Release of the Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Implementing GBA+ in the Government of Canada
  • Government’s response to 2016 Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
  • Equal Opportunity: Federal Budget 2017’s Gender Statement
  • SWC, PCO and TBS Joint Progress Report on Implementing GBA+ in the Government of Canada submitted to Standing Committees on Public Accounts and Status of Women
  • Publication of the first Gender Report in the 2019 Federal Budget
  • Ministerial mandate letters include reference to the mandatory application of GBA Plus in decision-making
  • Publication of a GBA Plus Summary for the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Snapshot and November 2020 Fall Economic Statement
  • Supplementary mandate letters include the requirement that Ministers “apply Gender-based Analysis Plus in the decisions that you make and consider public policies through an intersectional lens in order to address systemic inequities”
  • Efforts to strengthen GBA Plus continue, including emphasis on an intersectional approach to contribute to increased diversity and inclusion in federal initiatives and a Women and Gender Equality Canada-led rebranding from “GBA+” to “GBA Plus”

Annex B: Glossary of Key Terms Related to GBA Plus

Please note that this glossary includes terms used in Justice Canada’s Policy on GBA Plus. For additional related terminology please consult: Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022, Glossary: Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada, Statistics Canada, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Women and Gender Equality Canada Compendium. As terminology evolves, the information contained in this Annex will be updated as required.

Bias (Explicit): Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

Bias (Unconscious/Implicit): Refers to the unconscious assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and
stereotypes about different groups. These learned mental shortcuts affect how we perceive and respond to people. Unconscious biases prevent us from seeing fairly and accurately the information or the people in front of us. Much research shows that unconscious biases systematically disadvantage already disadvantaged people and provide unearned advantages to those already advantaged.

Culture: Broadly described, culture can include economic systems; political ideologies and processes; ways of life and social mores; educational institutions; social programs; the environment, technological systems, recreational practices, customs and traditions; artistic and heritage activities; transportation and communication industries; and religious and spiritual activities.

Disability: The Accessible Canada Act defines disability as “any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment — or a functional limitation — whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society”. Please note the importance of a strength-based approach that recognizes the diversity of abilities within the disability community and the need to deconstruct ableism: a belief system, analogous to racism, sexism or ageism, that sees persons with disabilities as being less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and participate, or of less inherent value than others. Ableist attitudes are often based on the view that disability is an “anomaly to normalcy,” rather than an inherent and expected variation in the human condition. Incorporating accessibility by design in all initiatives will help to ensure all persons have barrier-free access to full and equal participation in society.

Disaggregated Data: Aggregated data refers to large-scale data summaries and reports. Disaggregated data is data that has been divided into categories, such as region, gender and ethnicity. Providing this type of data can reveal inequalities between different population groups that aggregated data cannot.

Discrimination: The denial of equal treatment and opportunity to individuals or groups because of personal characteristics and membership in specific groups, with respect to education, accommodation, health care, employment and access to services, goods and facilities. Behaviour that results from distinguishing people on that basis without regard to individual merit, resulting in unequal outcomes for persons who are perceived as different.

Diversity: A term used to encompass all the various national, racial, ethnic, religious and other backgrounds of people within a group, organization, or society. The dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to, ability, ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, and socioeconomic status.

Education: Organized and sustained communication designed to bring about learning.

Equality: While equality can mean treating individuals in the same way, it is important to note that in Canada, both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter)and human rights legislation aim to achieve “substantive” rather than “formal” equality. Whereas “formal equality” involves treating individuals the same way regardless of their differences, “substantive equality” means attending to differences in individual needs and circumstances, examining how those differences might result in different impacts from apparently neutral laws or practices, and, if appropriate, taking those differences into account with a view to avoiding unequal benefits or burdens. Equality rights in the Charter and human rights codes protect against discrimination based on certain personal characteristics, such as race, sex, and disability; in addition, GBA Plus assessments may also consider other personal characteristics, such as geographic location and socioeconomic status, that are relevant to public policy.

Equity: Fairness, impartiality, even-handedness. A distinct process of recognizing differences within groups of individuals, and using this understanding to achieve substantive equality in all aspects of a person’s life.

Ethnicity: Ethnicity is a broader term than race. The term is used to categorize groups of people according to their cultural expression and identification. Commonalities such as racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin may be used to describe someone’s ethnicity.

Gender: Socially-constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men and gender-diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, the distribution of power and resources in society, and people’s social, health and economic outcomes.

Gender expression: Gender expression refers to the various ways in which people express their gender identity. For example: clothes, voice, hair, or mannerisms. A person’s gender expression may not align with societal expectations of their gender. Accordingly, gender expression is not a reliable indicator of a person’s gender identity.

Gender identity: Gender identity is how people perceive themselves with respect to their gender. Gender identity is not confined to a binary (girl/woman, boy/man) nor is it static; it exists along a continuum and can change over time. There is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience and express gender through the roles they take on, the expectations placed on them, relations with others and the complex ways that gender is institutionalized in society.

Income: Revenue an individual receives from employment, social assistance, pension, investments or other sources.

Intersectionality: A theoretical approach that acknowledges that our lives are shaped by multiple, overlapping or intersecting identity factors (e.g., race, class, gender), which results in unique and complex lived experiences that impact how we experience federal policy, programs and legislation. Compounding discrimination based on identity factors can create barriers for some or opportunities for others

Prejudice: A state of mind; a set of attitudes held, consciously or unconsciously, often in the absence of legitimate or sufficient evidence.

Race: The concept of race is a "social construct." This means that society forms ideas of race based on perceived physical traits, as well as geographic, historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors, even though none of these can legitimately be used to classify groups of people.

Religion: Religion is a system of beliefs, practices and institutions, experienced both individually and/or as a community. Religion may be highly individualized beliefs and practices or ones experienced and housed in an institution. Religion helps to align individuals and communities in the experience of a reality created for the purpose of a transformative lived experience or inherited doctrine or ritual. Still for others, religion is about freely and deeply held personal convictions or beliefs connected to an individual’s spiritual faith and integrally linked to one’s self-definition and spiritual fulfilment.

Sex: Refers to a set of biological attributes. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. Sex is usually categorized as female or male, but there is variation in the biological attributes that comprise sex and how those attributes are expressed.

Sexual orientation: A term used to describe a person’s emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction.

Sources: Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022, Glossary: Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada, Statistics Canada, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Women and Gender Equality Canada Compendium.

Annex C: Key Steps for Applying GBA Plus

1. Explore:

Before starting your GBA Plus assessment, familiarize yourself with the intersectional methodological approach and related concepts to enrich your understanding. Several sources of information and training tools are available on Women and Gender Equality Canada’s website or Justice Canada’s internal GBA Plus Community Digital Workspace. Keep GBA Plus in mind throughout your initiative or policy development process. Make sure to start your GBA Plus early to obtain the greatest benefit.

2. Ask:

Conducting a good GBA Plus assessment starts by asking a lot of probing questions. Good questions are those that challenge your bias or assumptions: Who may be affected by the initiative both directly and indirectly? Recognizing that there is diversity within groups, how will these groups be impacted? Will some groups be excluded from benefits and if so, why? What are some possible unintended or negative consequences? What are the anticipated socio-economic repercussions? How can existing or possible future barriers be mitigated? What are the root causes of these barriers and what options put forward could prevent or avoid perpetuating disparities? What are the existing structures/frameworks (e.g. legislation or access to services) that benefit or disadvantage certain groups? How can a strengths-based approach be used to build on the resilience and protective factors existing within diverse communities?

For a more thorough GBA Plus, be sure to ask/consult others, especially those with lived experience (if possible). This will likely yield a more complete and robust analysis. Remember to challenge any assumptions or bias throughout all stages of the GBA Plus assessment.

3. Gather:

Gather relevant disaggregated qualitative and quantitative data if available (e.g., reports, documentary analyses, statistics, etc.) for the purpose of: identifying the population(s) or group(s) targeted by your initiative; describing and measuring the possible impact of the project; and, answering your questions above in #2 (ASK). Consider how your research, monitoring and evaluation will ensure that disaggregated data is collected. Justice Canada’s Research and Statistics Division, Statistics Canada (for example, the Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics Hub) and Women and Gender Equality Canada (for example, the Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report) are excellent resources.

4. Analyze:

Assess the GBA Plus impact of your initiative by analyzing the gathered data and answers to your questions against the options and next steps you are considering. This analysis will enable you to discern if there are differential impacts on various groups of people, to explore the potential consequences and to consider recommendations to mitigate potential negative consequences, if any. Be sure to analyze all options put forward and to draw conclusions regarding the GBA Plus impacts of each.

5. Implement, monitor and evaluate:

It is important to consider GBA Plus throughout the implementation and evaluation phase. During this stage, GBA Plus involves analyzing if an initiative is being implemented in a way that is consistent with the intersectional nature of the issue being addressed and tracks how different groups access and experience the initiative in order to make continuous improvements. Is the initiative reaching or having impacts on those it was intended to? Are there any unintended impacts or barriers that need to be addressed? Analyzing available disaggregated data, and making efforts to collect new disaggregated data to fill data gaps, will help to better understand the initiatives’ impacts. The findings can then inform efforts to continuously improve the initiative and ensure that any barriers or inequities are addressed.

6. Document:

Document your process and your findings. Save records of the work you have performed for your GBA Plus, your findings and any data used (records could include, for example, documents analyzed, repercussions identified, mitigation options/strategies). Be prepared to share a report or the key points of your GBA Plus with senior officials.

7. Comply/Attest:

Complete and submit the Due Diligence and Evidence-based Analysis Tool, which is mandatory for all Justice-led and co-led MCs. This tool contains questions about factors to be considered systematically in policy and program development (e.g. gender, official languages, diversity, etc.) in order to enhance integrated decision-making and ensure good public policy. This information could be used to support Women and Gender Equality Canada-led annual reporting to Parliament.

Recognizing that there are various complementary ways to approach a GBA Plus assessment, in addition to the steps above, please also consult the Step-by-Step Guide released by Women and Gender Equality Canada.

The information contained in this Annex is subject to change as required.

Annex D: Justice Canada GBA Plus Impact Assessment

Justice Canada is dedicated to helping to foster fair outcomes for diverse groups of Canadians by applying GBA Plus as part of evidence-based policy development. To increase performance monitoring and reporting, and to support the application of the Policy on GBA Plus, Justice Canada has established GBA Plus impact assessments as an ongoing process. The impact assessments examine progress on the application of GBA Plus to Justice Canada initiatives by measuring: 1) the timeliness; and, 2) the meaningful influence of GBA Plus. Initiatives currently included are Justice-led MCs, TB Submissions and Budget Requests. The goal is for 85% of included initiatives to achieve a level of acceptable or higher performance for both indicators each fiscal year. Ongoing assessments and improvements will continue to ensure Justice Canada strengthens the timeliness and meaningfulness of the application of GBA Plus.