Evidence of meeting #31 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 students.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the 31st meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Today, we are continuing our study on improving economic prospects for Canadian girls. I am not sure whether our witness has arrived; I saw someone earlier on the screen. If not, I suggest that we take 15 minutes right away to deal with committee business. It's up to you.

If there are no objections, we will deal with committee business for 15 minutes, and then we will hear from our witness. Therefore, the committee will adjourn for 15 minutes.

Ms. Ashton, go ahead.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

As two of our witnesses are not here today, our schedule will be somewhat different. I would like to know why those witnesses have not shown up.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Two witnesses cancelled their appearance: the Stella organization and the Native Women Association of Canada.

Stella told us it had nothing specific to say on the topic of study. However, that witness can be summoned for a future study, if the committee is interested.

As for the Native Women Association of Canada, something came up and they had to cancel. We will try to invite them to a future meeting involving the same study on improving economic prospects for Canadian girls.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

I understand why the Native Women Association of Canada cancelled, as something came up. Did Stella's representatives submit a letter explaining why they could not appear? If so, could that letter be included in the committee's records?

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

I just asked the clerk about that. The letter will be translated and submitted to the committee. We will then see whether it can be incorporated into the study.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Could the committee members be provided with that letter at the next meeting?

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Yes, once it has been translated, the letter will be emailed to all members.

Ms. Day, do you have a question?

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Are people not obligated to appear when summoned to a committee meeting?

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Yes, further to the communication, the committee could strongly encourage the organization to appear. We will have to look into that later.

So I will adjourn the meeting for 15 minutes, during which time we will sit in camera to deal with committee business.

4:21 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

We are continuing our work related to the study on improving economic prospects for Canadian girls.

Our first witness, joining us by videoconference, is Anne-Marie Gammon, President of Femmes Équité Atlantique.

Ms. Gammon, can you hear me?

4:21 p.m.

Anne-Marie Gammon President, Femmes Équité Atlantique

I hear you. Can you hear me?

4:21 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Yes, I hear you very well, thank you.

We know that you've had an unexpected hitch today. We have managed to provide you with an additional 15 minutes with the other witness's agreement. So, you will be with us until 4:45 p.m. You will have 10 minutes for your presentation, and then we will move on to questions. Exceptionally, we will have slightly less time than usual.

Go ahead, Ms. Gammon.

4:21 p.m.

President, Femmes Équité Atlantique

Anne-Marie Gammon

Good afternoon.

The Femmes Équité Atlantique project was about bringing generations together and achieving socio-economic equity for francophone and Acadian women living in minority communities in Atlantic provinces. The project was titled “La rencontre des générations”. Girls and women of different ages attended meetings as part that project. Those meetings covered four aspects: girls' participation, skills, self-esteem and critical consciousness.

It is sometimes more difficult to get girls to participate. They often think that all the battles have been won, that everything is going well, but that really doesn't reflect the reality. Currently, when we discuss equality, equal wages and benefits girls may know they are lacking, we realize that, at the secondary and post-secondary levels, girls participate in debates in certain areas. However, their participation is low, if not inexistent, once they are out of university or community college.

I am currently the only woman and the only francophone on the Bathurst city council. If you think that the situation is good and that things are going well for women, I would like to welcome you to today's world. Young women must be given the opportunity to express their concerns and their perception of inequalities. However, depending on their family's economic situation—and in certain areas, the main preoccupation is surviving in this world—young women have difficulty deciding to participate more extensively in collective actions.

Some young women become involved in the Regroupement féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick—the province's feminist organization—but I would not say that, overall, they understand the issues and inequalities in society, especially when it comes to young francophone women. I don't know how those young women will be able to rise to the challenges that lie ahead. I often feel that our school system insufficiently prepares our girls for the future, that they are not educated about the inequalities. I am not sure the school system recognizes the importance of providing girls with the skills they need to succeed in this world.

That brings me to my second point—skills and knowledge development. The Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick, the province's francophone youth federation, contributes to building what is referred to as individual empowerment in girls and young women who become involved. Yet only a small minority of our young people get involved. That is perhaps due to the fact that parents fail to encourage girls and young women to become involved in the community or in issues that are of importance to women. It may also be due to anger.

At the secondary level, student councils are often chaired by young women. There are some young women even at the FAECUM, in Moncton. However, research shows that, once women leave the Université de Moncton—regardless of whether they become lawyers or pursue another career—they do not reach their full community potential. How can we help young women develop the inner passion that will drive them to become involved and to want to contribute to their community? That issue is a bit more specific and more difficult because the community does not provide those women with support.

I can share my own story with you. Had I not been a woman of character who was used to being on the city council, I don't know whether I would have decided to run again in the next election, simply because it's a man's world. We, the women, may be present in the media, but when it comes to day-to-day activities, it is very much a male-dominated and anglophone world. I apologize, but I am going through a difficult time, and my vision of the issue may be a bit subjective. If that is the case, I apologize.

Young women need the community and the people they know, especially boys and young men, to encourage them to reach their leadership potential and to show the community that they have something to contribute and the will to do it. However, that interest must be kindled.

That is somewhat similar to the seniors project I managed for a few months, which has two aspects. Women of all ages are encouraged to participate, but also to develop their desire to hold positions of responsibility and decision-making. That's very important. Women account for 50% of the population, but they do not occupy 50% of those positions. We must continue encouraging the work Status of Women Canada does to develop young women's desire to participate, to have enough confidence and self-esteem to tell themselves they can contribute and change things.

To do that, we need people like Aldéa Landry and Brigitte Sivret, who are not only making their voices heard, but are also remaining very visible in their community. That gives young women models to follow. They can say to themselves that, if Anne-Marie Gammon and Aldéa Landry can do it, so can they. That self-esteem must be built up, and we must set up more projects that help young women develop their understanding of the community and their desire to contribute to change. Those young women's internal locus of control must provide them with enough confidence to make changes in their community and their own lives.

In a 2008 article, Mr. Ninacs often mentions young women and—

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Thank you, Ms. Gammon. Unfortunately, your time is up.

We have about 15 minutes for questions. We will begin with the government side.

Ms. Truppe, you have seven minutes.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Madame Gammon. I appreciate your time and your comments on what you think should be done for young girls.

I visited your website, and it lists the Public Health Agency of Canada, Status of Women Canada, and Canadian Heritage as partner organizations.

How do you partner with Status of Women Canada, and how have they supported your efforts?