House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. minister have unanimous consent to put the motion?

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, in light of the interest of members of Parliament with respect to the section of the red book that refers to child care, I wonder if I could seek unanimous consent to at least have that placed on the permanent record of the House.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to put the motion?

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I will now rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Beaver River on Monday, March 4, 1996 concerning the alleged interference of an official of the Prime Minister's office in a request to the printing services of the House.

I want to thank the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House, the Chief Government Whip, the whip of the Reform Party and the hon. member for Mississauga-South for their comments on this question.

In her submission the hon. member argued that an employee of the Prime Minister's office had attempted to coerce, intimidate and incite the staff of the House of Commons to refuse a request for printing which she had made on February 28. This, she claimed, constituted a contempt of the House and she requested that I rule a prima facie case.

As hon. members know, I did rule on the matter of the printing of this document when it was first raised on February 28. As I noted at that time, the House staff erred by not complying with the request made by the hon. member for Beaver River, which was entirely in accordance with the guidelines of the Board of Internal Economy.

The document was subsequently printed and I, in the House, apologized to her for any inconvenience. I also met privately with the member and she was made aware of all the circumstances surrounding this matter.

The Chair takes very seriously any matter concerning the privileges of members, particularly any matter which may constitute a contempt of the House.

The hon. member for Beaver River is correct in pointing out that new forms of contempt may arise and the House should not be constrained in dealing with them.

In dealing with matters of privilege and contempt, it is the House which determines whether a breach of its privileges or a contempt has occurred. It is the role of the Chair, based on evidence presented by the member, to determine whether or not the alleged contempt is of such importance that the regular business of the House should be set aside to deal with the matter immediately; that is, whether or not the matter is prima facie.

Therefore it is the responsibility of any member in raising a question of privilege, particularly a possible contempt, to bring forth sufficient evidence to enable the Speaker to find that a prima facie case exists.

Beauchesne's, 6th Edition, Citation 117(1) states in part:

Once the claim of breach of privilege has been made, it is the duty of the Speaker to decide if a prima facie case can be established. The Speaker requires to be satisfied,-that privilege appears to be sufficiently involved to justify giving such precedence-

Since the original matter was raised on February 28 I have had further discussions with senior House officials. There is no doubt that House staff was responsible for the mismanagement of this printing request.

Since the official from the Prime Minister's office did not initiate the situation but rather reacted based on inquiry from House staff, it is difficult to conclude from the facts presented by the hon. member that the official coerced, intimidated or incited the staff of the House of Commons.

It appears to me that what occurred in this case was done inadvertently and that it represents an unfortunate but isolated incident.

I must find that the hon. member did not provide the Chair with sufficient evidence to allow it to find that a prima facie contempt had occurred.

I assure all members that the staff of the House of Commons continues to strive for a high standard of competence and professionalism in the services it officers. However, I do want to remind the staff as well as government officials that in dealing with members of Parliament confidentiality is key and that members must be able to rely on their complete discretion.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Beaver River for having raised this very serious issue and assure her, and all members of this Houses, that corrective steps have been put in place to ensure that such an occurrence does not take place again.

A message from His Excellency the Governor General transmitting Supplementary Estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1996, was presented by the Hon. the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker of the House.

Canadian Artists And Producers Professional Relations
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) and to section 61 of the Status of the Artist Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the first annual report of the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal.

Pursuant to Standing Order 32(5), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

March 8th, 1996 / 12:15 p.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 19 petitions presented during the first session.

International Women's Week
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, today is International Women's Day. It is a day when men and women around the world join together to mark the achievements of women and the struggles of women, to witness the tragedy of the many women who daily suffer poverty and violence silently and powerlessly. However, it is also a day to celebrate the courage of the world's women, to celebrate the gains they have made toward equality and to pledge support to them as they continue the inexorable march toward economic and social justice.

Today we applaud the remarkable Canadians who have made outstanding contributions toward that struggle for equality. I want to acknowledge one such remarkable individual, Senator Florence Bird, former head of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, journalist and activist.

Later today I will attend the first presentation of the annual Florence Bird award. This award honours the work of a communicator who has succeeded in sensitizing the public to the fact that women's rights are not special interest rights or marginal rights but basic human rights.

Through the efforts of Canadians like Senator Bird and today's award winner Karen Levine, executive producer of CBC Radio's "As it Happens", Canada has earned a reputation for excellence in advancing women's equality. Initiatives such as the Florence Bird award will ensure the important role of public awareness continues. However, public awareness alone will not ensure women's equality. It is only one part of many initiatives that will finally achieve our objective.

Our government will continue to do its part to promote equality, for it is a basic Canadian value. It is part of our national identity as well as a source of pride.

This government believes each and every individual group and community in Canada must be treated equally and with respect. As Secretary of State for the Status of Women, I have made the economic equality of women a priority. Women are today among the poorest in our society in Canada and in the world. Poverty of women has a negative impact on the well-being of children, on the economic viability of a nation and on its social structures.

Economic independence is the first step in eradicating poverty, violence and low health status. If women were economically independent, they would be able to create better lives for themselves and their families. They would be better able to contribute to the economy and to the life of a nation and the benefits would accrue to all of us. In the budget we put in place a number of measures that will improve the economic status of women in all stages of their lives: as mothers, workers, business owners, students and as seniors.

The budget demonstrates our commitment to the federal plan for gender equality which outlines our specific commitment to advance women's equality through the process of gender based analysis. Gender based analysis means that every new policy program and law must be critiqued to see whether it creates a disadvantage to men or women.

Women and men in general experience life differently, economically, socially and physiologically. We need public policy that recognizes those differences. The child support package does exactly that. It recognizes that the majority of custodial parents are women and that many children are poor because their mothers are poor. It will make child support predictable, consistent and fairer for all children and their parents.

The seniors benefit package has made adjustments not only to ensure that low and modest income seniors are better supported but it also recognizes through the splitting of cheques to couples that family income is not always shared equally.

I cannot think of a more appropriate time to announce the child support package and the seniors benefit than during International Women's Week. These initiatives illustrate how good public policy must take a closer look at the reality of men's and women's lives if it wishes to be relevant and effective.

Yet the principle of gender analysis should not be limited to government policy alone. It should be extended to the judicial system, education and health services. It should be a starting point for decision making throughout society, for each one of us has a role to play in creating equality, in building the Canada of tomorrow, a Canada of prosperity, security and hope, a Canada we will be proud to bequeath to our sons and especially to our daughters, a Canada that will continue to stand as a model to the world.

Today on International Women's Day we owe as much to the world's women, their husbands and their children.

International Women's Week
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this International Women's Day, I wish to honour women from all walks of life, from all occupations, from all cultures, from all faiths; mothers, single women, women with partners; in short, all women who make up our society.

The main purpose of International Women's Day is to take stock of women's progress toward equality and of what remains to be done.

The fourth international conference on women, which was held in Beijing earlier this year, was quite helpful in achieving this goal. An action plan was established, which participating countries vowed to implement at home.

As far as Canada is concerned, the Secretary of State for the Status of Women just gave us an overview of her government's efforts to achieve equality for women. This is very good, and I applaud her government's declared commitment to the issue of equality between men and women.

Before outlining some of her government's policies, the secretary of state paid tribute, and with good reason, to a great Canadian, Florence Bird. Needless to say, we wish to join in this tribute. As for myself, I would like to remind the House of the work done by a great Quebecer, Simonne Monet-Chartrand.

This staunch and tireless militant feminist was known throughout Quebec and Canada. Yesterday, the award created in her honour was given to Danielle Fournier, who has been involved with various community-based organizations over the past 16 years.

I would now like to come back to the Canadian policy on the status of women and raise a few questions about the impact it will have on women. The secretary of state said earlier that equality was a basic Canadian value. Very well.

However, this statement raises a few questions and comments as far as I am concerned. First, there is the cost issue. How much is the government prepared to pay to promote equality for women? Let me phrase the question differently: On this International Women's Day, will the government undertake to invest as much in helping women enter the job market as it has already invested and will invest in all its initiatives to promote Canadian unity? If indeed equality for women is a basic Canadian value, is it worth at least $14 million, or the amount the government plans to spend on propaganda this year?

Women's groups have seen their meagre grants cut by 31 per cent over the past six years, and would certainly be delighted to learn that they can expect to receive $14 million instead of the $8,165,000 currently allocated to them this year in Status of Women Canada's estimates. I agree with the principle, but what about the costs?

I have another question, on the same subject. How are equal rights to be interpreted and the sexual equality plan to be used in the context of the three budgets tabled to date by this government?

One might be tempted to adopt a cynical view and wonder if this right is not, in fact, a right to unemployment insurance, to poverty and to income supplements, given that the government did not propose any job creation initiative.

I remind the secretary of state that, in her speech, she referred to economic equality. This raises another issue: how can one achieve

economic equality when one does not have a job and must fight with the government to keep the few miserable dollars that one gets from it to survive? I am anxious to discuss this issue with the secretary of state.

I do not want to use International Women's Day as a pretext to give a negative report on the government. However, I want to stress the importance, in the current context, of solidarity between women, and also between men and women.

It is by working together that we will gradually eliminate the obstacles that still prevent women from enjoying true equality. These obstacles are violence, pornography, poverty, unemployment, pay inequity, sexual exploitation and genital mutilation, to mention just a few.

I believe a great deal of solidarity is required to build a just and fair society. Governments will have to promote that solidarity through every means at their disposal.

In conclusion, I want to remind the House of the conditions in which women from other countries live. This morning, Taslima Nasreen reminded us that, today, elsewhere, many women will be raped, sold, forced to engage in prostitution, repudiated, strangled by their husband, brutalized, disfigured or lapidated because they gave birth to a girl.

I would ask this House to observe one minute of silence for all these women.

International Women's Week
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Does the House agree?

International Women's Week
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

International Women's Week
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to have this opportunity to speak on International Women's Day. It gives me a chance to acknowledge the contributions of women across Canada, not only the professionals but all the women who have had a very positive influence on their families, friends and even on strangers.

It is a pleasure to respond to the comments of the Secretary of State for the Status of Women and Multiculturalism because I too want to talk about equality. The secretary of state said that equality is a fundamental Canadian value. She stated that equality is a right in this country, not a special right but a human right. She went on to state that her government has a strong belief that every person, every group and every community in this country is entitled to equality.

What she did not say is that in spite of its commitment to equality, the Liberal government has passed a great deal of legislation that will treat people differently based on their race, their ethnic background, their language, their physical abilities and their gender.

How can the secretary of state possibly say that the government is interested in equality when a person has to fill out a form about their ethnic background, their aboriginal status, their disabilities or their gender before it decides how they will be treated?

How can the government state that it believes in equality on one hand and then grant distinct society status to some Canadians on the other hand?

Equality is important in this country. Actually it is vital to the existence of this country. But it has to be true equality. It has to mean that all laws apply equally to all Canadians, regardless of race, creed, colour or gender. It has to mean that all Canadians have the same opportunities regardless of race, creed, colour or gender. Only then will this country achieve the true equality that is so essential and vital to the continued existence of our nation.

The secretary of state claims that economic equality is at the forefront of her objectives. She states that many of the issues that women face: poverty, violence and poor health are linked to economic inequity. Does she suggest that marginalizing women is a positive way to deal with and foster equality in Canadian society?

It is an interesting statement that the secretary makes. Is she suggesting that men are spared poverty? Is she suggesting that men are not victims of violent crime? Is she suggesting that men do not suffer from poor health? If she really believes that poor health is only an issue for women, how does she explain that the average Canadian male will only live to 74.5 years while the average Canadian female will live to be 81 years old.

There is no question that poverty, violence and poor health are issues that must concern the federal government. But I would like to think that any fair minded government would be concerned about these issues equally for all Canadians, not just a select group.

However, the government does not appear to be fair minded. Its response to these problems appears to be the creation of, and I quote "the federal plan for gender equality" which will see a gender based analysis of every new policy, program and law.

In other words, the government thinks it can solve the problem of the economic inequality that women face by having a bunch of highly paid bureaucrats sitting around discussing how everything the government does will impact on women.

If the government is really concerned about the economic situation of women, I will be happy to give them a piece of advice. Quit wasting the taxpayers' money so that women and men can have more money to spend on their families, on their children and on themselves instead of paying higher taxes and the high priced salaries of bureaucrats who are sitting around reviewing legislation for gender inequality.

Striving for equality is a noble pursuit but it has to be true equality. As a baby boomer, I have witnessed a great change in the role of Canadian women. There is no question that there was institutionalized discrimination against women in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

I have had my share of run-ins with male chauvinists who believe that a woman's place is in the home. I have also confronted a great number of females who share that belief. It is not something that only men believe. However, I am happy to say that the vast majority of men and women that I deal with truly believe that men and women should have equal opportunities and be treated equally.

The one noticeable exception is this Liberal government. It still seems to think that women need some form of government intervention to compete with men on an equal basis. I find it somewhat insulting that the government thinks that I need some form of assistance to compete equally with my male colleagues. That may be the case on that side of the House, but I assure you, Mr. Speaker, it is not the case on this side of the House.

If the government is really concerned about creating equality it should remember that to be truly effective, equality, like justice, must be blind. Every Canadian should have the same rights and privileges, as well as the same duties and responsibilities, regardless of their race, their creed, their colour or their gender.

International Women's Week
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to respond on behalf of the New Democratic Party to the ministerial statement.

International Women's Week
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?