Evidence of meeting #27 for Status of Women in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was girls.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Tracy Redies  President and Chief Executive Officer, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union
  • Ellen Moore  Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada
  • Jocelyne Michelle Coulibaly  Representative for the Ottawa Region, Board of Representatives, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne
  • Geneviève Latour  Programming Manager, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

I wasn't expecting that, so I'm not sure what to ask yet.

On the Catalyst website, I saw that a lot of research has been done. I saw a certain pyramid graph that shows how staggeringly few women are in positions of upper management, which is really shocking and gives a clear image of the glass ceiling we're fighting against.

I wanted to ask you about the value of this research and this data specifically tailored to women in the workforce. How does this relate to our ability to advocate for best practices for women in business?

4:30 p.m.

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada

Ellen Moore

Is that to me?

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Yes.

4:30 p.m.

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada

Ellen Moore

I think what's even more compelling is that when you look at the census year over year or every several years, you see it's not getting any better, really. The census is also done in other countries. Canada actually is more flat, while the U.S. is actually going negative. In any case, it is pretty alarming.

As I mentioned in my opening comments, I think a lot of initiatives, both within government and within private industry, have stalled a little bit. We were making enough progress and we've plateaued. It is discouraging.

The Globe and Mail released the census for Catalyst on March 8, which was International Women's Day, and that was done on purpose. The article, for those of you who didn't have the opportunity to read it, suggested that more needs to be done and that while we're not ready to ask government for legislation that suggests diversity is a better way to run business and academia and government and so forth, it could be out there in the next few years.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Irene Mathyssen

Thank you very much.

I want to say thank you to both our guests, Ms. Redies and Ms. Moore, for contributing so much to our understanding of the things we need to do to promote the economic security and understanding of young women. I thank you.

We will suspend for a minute and allow our second panel to come to the table. Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Irene Mathyssen

I'd like the committee to reconvene, please.

I would like to welcome our guests from Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne. This afternoon we have Geneviève Latour, the programming manager, and Jocelyne Coulibaly, the representative for the Ottawa region.

Welcome to both of you. Thank you very much. You have 10 minutes for your presentation, and then we'll move to questions and answers.

4:35 p.m.

Jocelyne Michelle Coulibaly Representative for the Ottawa Region, Board of Representatives, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne

Good afternoon, everyone. I would first like to thank you for inviting us to appear before this committee. My name is Jocelyne Michelle Coulibaly and I am a grade 12 student at the Collège catholique Franco-Ouest in Ottawa. I am currently completing a specialist high skills major in justice, and I am also an elected member of the Conseil de représentation de la Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne, the FESFO. I would also like to introduce Geneviève Latour, who is the manager of the programming team at the FESFO and is in charge of social justice programs.

The FESFO was created in 1975 to call for Franco-Ontario youth to be given a place and resources. The FESFO is the representative organization for 25,000 francophone youth who attend one of the 92 French-language secondary schools in Ontario. It is led by a provincial youth council elected by students, and provides youth with information, raises their awareness and mobilizes them so their voices and needs are heard by the various decision-makers.

Every year, nearly 11,000 young leaders participate in a variety of training placements or cultural animation days in the schools organized by the FESFO. Some of the FESFO's activities are designed to help young people discover their Franco-Ontarian identity and combat assimilation, while providing young leaders from all over Ontario with the tools they need.

The FESFO takes a feminist approach, which is recognized as a winning practice by everyone who works with youth and women. In fact, the FESFO has been approached by the UN to develop a series of manuals as part of the "A World of Difference" project. The manuals deal with issues that include violence, sexism, racism, communication and conflict resolution.

As well, this inclusive and welcoming approach means that girls who belong to the FESFO feel involved, and participate in large numbers in cultural activities and benefit from the political opportunities offered by the federation. Girls represent 60 per cent of participants, on average, both at activities and events and in positions of responsibility within the federation.

The mission of the FESFO is to ensure that Franco-Ontarian youth participate fully in the development of their community. To achieve this, young people have to be able to take advantage of opportunities that enable them to discover their identity; to realize the role that girls need to play in their community in order to define, evaluate and improve it; to have memorable positive experiences in French with other young people so they will be more open to the world; to play their role as francophones in their community; to engage in self-affirmation as Franco-Ontarians; and to take a position by engaging in self-affirming acts as francophones.

As well, and in particular when it comes to the status of women, the FESFO believes that investing in girls is investing in the economic and social well-being of society. Today, with the necessary skills, in their language, they are in a position to exercise leadership and to contribute to initiatives that are developed by and for them and that reflect their lives and their needs.

In 2004, for example, the FESFO created a tool to help girls position themselves and exercise leadership, after participating in a general assembly on the development of services in French relating to violence against women. One of the things the charter of rights for Franco-Ontarian students calls for is equality, the right of girls to be respected and to receive services in French. It also sets out, for example, the need to have and be an accessible model, the need to have access to self-affirmation workshops, and the need to know that boys are also part of the solution.

4:40 p.m.

Geneviève Latour Programming Manager, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne

To provide for the well-being of its members, the FESFO also organizes a number of activities in French on self-awareness, which help to create a safe environment at school and in the community. Workshops on subjects like self-affirmation or the need to talk to one another encourage an open and honest dialogue among students, and this leads to a healthy and positive community in the school.

The FESFO's statement of principle on violence against women cites the fact that young women face a variety of challenges. Without appropriate tools to overcome them, they can feel alone or inadequate.

This is the situation they may find themselves in, in dependent and unhealthy relationships that too often lead to violence. We have to work with them to create spaces where they can talk about choices, rights, decision-making and influences at this precise point in their lives. It is especially important that resources be offered to them in their language, in French, in our case.

The way they will succeed in having positive, healthy relationships, with everyone they meet, is if they are supported in making choices, informed about their rights and equipped with a network of friends who have a common vocabulary they can use to name, to try and to act.

While the federation's expertise lies in community and identity development for Franco-Ontarian youth, the FESFO sees a direct link between the well-being of girls, their relationships with their peers and their commitment and economic prosperity.

For 20 years, to support girls in their identity development and help them exercise leadership, the FESFO has offered awareness-raising workshops in French such as the one on self-affirmation, which was developed by and for Franco-Ontarian girls, and whose objective is to create a positive climate of trust that encourages discussions about the various things experienced by adolescents.

These workshops help participants to better determine and formulate their personal limits, by equipping them with various affirmation techniques, in addition to creating a network of young women who will be able to raise awareness among their friends and help to establish a helping culture. The workshops also validate the unique experiences of each participant, and provide them with resources for making concrete changes in their personal lives.

The workshops are led by facilitators from the network of facilitators who are experienced and sensitive to the issues involved in the status of women, including violence against women. These facilitators in fact provide accessible francophone models for the girls who take part in the workshops.

The girls who attend the self-affirmation workshops have quickly realized the need to work with boys to combat violence against women and ensure that there women have their fair place in society. To meet this need, the FESFO has developed workshops about the need to talk to one another, whose objective is to have students spend a day in a mixed group to discuss violence against women in their community and promote healthy, equal relationships between men and women.

The participants ultimately become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. They work together as a group to prepare a presentation for the other students in the school, to explain the challenge that violence in their environment presents and the possible solutions the group has identified over the course of the day. The workshop provides the boys and girls with an opportunity to discuss healthy relationships and meets the need to include boys in the discussion about girls exercising leadership.

4:45 p.m.

Representative for the Ottawa Region, Board of Representatives, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne

Jocelyne Michelle Coulibaly

In the activities described by Geneviève, the consultations and the general programming of the FESFO in recent years, certain messages have rung out clearly. These are the five recommendations that the FESFO is making to the committee today.

First, we have to provide a space for girls to come together. Those are the times when they have a chance to talk in confidence about the issues that matter to them, to share the challenges they encounter in their everyday lives, and to develop support networks they will be able to turn to later on.

All of this helps girls to take a leadership role, by offering them an opportunity to understand the role they must play in their environment and providing them with support so they are better able to define, evaluate and improve it. It also ensures that the solutions and future avenues that are imagined are truly by and for the girls.

Second, it is important to present accessible models of women who can inspire girls to believe in themselves, to value the various aspects of the people they are, and to want to participate actively in the world around them. By being exposed to a variety of women who are active in various fields, showing how they exercise leadership and contribute to the well-being of society, girls can become aware of their potential by taking responsibility for their personal well-being, but also of their role as agents of change today.

Third, it is important to recognize that boys are part of the equation and the solution. While it is essential to have spaces that are set aside for girls, girls themselves recognize the need to know that the boys among their fellow students are part of the solution.

In the spirit of the Charte des droits des élèves franco-ontariennes, some authors said that there needed to be times for awareness-raising, discussion and joint action with boys. In fact, in the mixed workshops on healthy relationships, the girls are very glad to have an opportunity to talk about violence against women with the boys, to make them see how they feel and what they consider to be violence, and to find solutions together. It is important for them to talk about solutions by and for young people.

Fourth, in the many consultations the federation holds, Franco-Ontarian youth have reiterated the need for training about financial literacy in French. It is important for them to feel that they have the tools and they have access to the resources that will enable them to continue to contribute at their full potential outside the four wall of the school, and once they leave secondary school. They are aware that financial matters are crucial, to enable them to achieve full democratic, social and economic participation.

And last, it is essential to expand and develop programs to reduce sexual harassment. Full participation by girls in democratic, social and economic life is closely tied to their ability to exercise leadership and to the obstacles that violence against women creates.

To do that, it is important to recognize and—

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Irene Mathyssen

Thank you very much.

I would like to move to questions and answers now, but I appreciate the presentation very much. Perhaps we'll be able to get more information during the next question and answer session, but I thank both of you very much.

We go to Mr. Albas for seven minutes, please.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'd like to thank our guests for being here today to present on behalf of their organizations. Can Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne provide any insight into what unique challenges girls face with regard to economic participation, prosperity, and leadership?

4:45 p.m.

Programming Manager, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne

Geneviève Latour

There are comments that often come up when the members of the federation are consulted. Of course, there is violence against women. Sexual harassment and violence are often mentioned. So it is a matter of knowing what violence is and how to deal with it.

It is also a matter of recognizing that girls are the experts when it comes to their own situation. So when you want to make changes or integrate them into economic life, it is important for them to be part of the solution and that the solutions be by and for girls. So this means ensuring that they have opportunities to take a leadership role that are developed by and for them. That role has to be played by the girls. We often talk about youth as being in the future, but we forget to think about them in the present. I think this is another obstacle they may face.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Okay. Thank you, Madam Chair.

When the Girls Action Foundation appeared before us, their first recommendation was to provide mentorship and diverse role models for girls growing up. Number two was to educate boys and young men to think critically about their gender expectations and to promote equality between the sexes; number three was to implement and expand programs that reduce gender harassment, especially in educational institutions.

Since then, a number of witnesses have expressed support for these recommendations. I'd like your thoughts on this approach. Are there any other factors of these recommendations that your organization would find to be of value?

4:50 p.m.

Programming Manager, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne

Geneviève Latour

I wholeheartedly support the Girls Action Foundation: I think those are three necessary recommendations. It is important that there be diversity in the accessible mentor models presented. Of course, we are talking about girls' economic prosperity. But we have to be sure we understand that girls are not just a single body; really, we have to see that the body is made up of many individuals exhibiting a fantastic diversity.

As well, we have to be sure we also talk about francophone girls who can become models for Franco-Ontarian youth, in our case. At the same time, we have talked about diversity, culture, age, and so on. I think I expanded a little on that point.

We talk about integrating boys into the equation and the solution, and it is very important to believe in that. Like the Girls Action Foundation, we think it is still important to have spaces created by and for girls, places for discussion that are between them, a safe and healthy environment for girls.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Chair, how much time do I have left?