House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel a little uncomfortable about the motion put forward here today. I find it somewhat unfortunate the women are being used, International Women's Day is being used and women's issues are being used to try to make this an opposition day, when the Liberal Party knows full well that the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Conservatives will all vote against this motion. I think that was their goal here today, but I find their actions very pernicious.

While the motion raises issues that we defend wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, issues that we really care about, we nevertheless find ourselves compelled to vote against it. I find that especially unfortunate, considering that most of the women who have spoken so far are aware of what is at stake in terms of women's issues today. They know that the Conservatives made drastic cuts to all social programs for women. They also made significant cuts to both the court challenges program and the women's program.

When a party drafts such a motion and forces the opposition parties to vote against it, knowing full well that the members of those parties care about the issues identified by its premise, I think that is somewhat dishonest, especially since we know that the Liberal Party has recently been joining forces, almost openly, with the Conservative Party.

Refusing to vote against a budget and a throne speech is the same as adopting the positions of the party in power. In other words, one supports that party. If one does not vote against something, one is for it. And if one is for something, one supports the policies and positions of that party. Supporting the positions of the Conservative Party and then trying tacitly to denounce them is somewhat dubious as a position, I find.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to vote against this motion. I say unfortunately, because as a woman, I would like to tell my Liberal colleagues, my NDP colleagues and my Conservative colleagues—even though there are fewer women in that caucus—that the recent cuts, the adoption of Bill C-484 yesterday and the elimination of the court challenges program threaten all women in Quebec and many women in Canada. No matter what we said or did, the government boasted that 72% of women supported the adoption of Bill C-484. In my opinion, there was a huge amount of manipulation and disinformation with regard to this bill, and I think that is a shame.

We know that the member who introduced the bill had previously introduced bills designed to reopen the abortion issue. In addition, the e-mail that was received came from anglophones in English Canada, where the right has a much stronger presence. Most of these people are members of the pro-life movement. We did not receive any e-mail from women or other people in Quebec urging us to vote for this bill, because we know that it represents a direct attack on women's rights and a step backward in terms of women's freedom, independence and self-determination. I think that is a shame.

I think it is a shame that the Liberals are taking an opposition day so lightly when we have so few of them. Why waste them doing nothing? Why waste them on empty rhetoric? We cannot vote for this motion, especially since the Liberal Party is condemning the Conservative Party for what it has done, while in 2005, FAFIA, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, denounced the Liberal Party for the cuts it had made, which set women back significantly. Ten years of federal budgets: double whammy for women. That is what FAFIA said in 2005 about the period from 1995 to 2005.

We should add that the United Nations Human Rights Committee severely reprimanded Canada, on November 3, 2005, for its treatment of aboriginal and incarcerated women. That was before the last election, when the Liberals were still in power. It was not in 2006. However, we know that aboriginal and incarcerated women are not treated any better today.

We should not always blame the party in power. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and determine what we have done that was good and what was not so good, admit it and move on to other things.

This does not allow us to move on to other things nor to lend credibility to the file for which the Standing Committee on Status of Women is responsible. This gives absolutely no credibility to all the interventions made in this house to defend the cause of women. In fact, today's motion ridicules this cause.

Personally, I am very angry. I believe that women deserve better than a motion such as this one, which destroys all our attempts to advance the cause of women. It is already a difficult enough task with the Conservative Party. We have already taken enough steps backwards in the past year one political party is not aware of the potential impact of a motion on the entire Parliament and the outside groups following the debate.

When it comes to the cause of women, we should be united, not divided. There should be no partisanship. Otherwise we will make no progress and just spin our wheels. It is deplorable to use this cause for narrow political purposes.

I am getting worked up even though I know that the authors of this motion may not have realized its potential repercussions. If I get worked up it is because I sometimes find that there are too many leaders in a party, or not enough, that is to say that the actual leader is not doing his job.

Insofar as pay equity is concerned, I want to remind the House that women have been fighting for it for more than 20 years. It goes back not just to the Conservative government but to the Liberals as well. They try to cast blame on the Bloc Québécois and the NDP when all the Bloc members have done is to oppose any measures brought before this Parliament that did not seem right to them. That is the mandate we have adopted: to oppose any measures or programs that would be a setback to the status of women or injurious to anyone living in Quebec.

We cannot be blamed for doing our job. The day we stop doing it will be the day the voters throw us out. If some parties are losing their credibility and are being abandoned by some of their MPs and party members, it is not because the Bloc Québécois told the electors how to vote. It is because the party in question did not do its job, did not take the time to examine itself, make the necessary corrections, and admit its errors.

I must say, with all the humility I can muster, that I sincerely believe the voters will be as convincing in the next election as they were when they threw the Liberals out of Quebec. This time, though, the voters will be equally as convincing elsewhere. They will take into account the actions of the Conservative Party, which won only 36% of the vote, making it a minority government, but does whatever it wants regardless of what Parliament decides.

I doubt the voters will want to put this government back in power—at least, not out west or in the eastern provinces. Maybe in Alberta, because it gives them lots of money. Apart from that, though, the voters have not been fooled.

We should all work hard in this House for the well-being of our citizens and the people we represent. I hope we will have the courage and audacity to rise, oppose this motion and say what we think of it. If we pass motions like this in the House, we will only be diminishing ourselves as members of Parliament and representatives of the people.

My colleague from Laurentides—Labelle and I did a tour of Quebec in the spring and summer to meet with women’s groups and all the groups that could tell us what women were concerned about in their daily lives with respect to the legislation and the various programs created here.

We met a lot of women’s groups and they told us, without exception, how concerned they were about what this government was doing. All these groups, without exception, told us how happy they were that someone was finally showing genuine concern about their issues and preoccupations and how we could help them and work together with them to achieve as much as possible—under the circumstances, naturally.

All these women’s groups were also opposed to the cuts the government had made, especially to the court challenges program, the women’s program and social housing. When the government cuts social housing programs, it has a real, immediate impact on the lives of women.

The CMHC has made huge profits. It has a surplus of over $11 billion. And not one penny of that is going towards building social housing or affordable housing, so that single mothers and their children can live in a safe environment.

Absolutely nothing is being done to help these women return to the labour force with more pride and dignity. In fact, access to EI has been cut for women. The various programs have been getting cut for several years now. There were several billion dollars in the EI account, but programs were still cut.

Unfortunately, such a motion reminds us that there are a number of problems surrounding the challenges facing women. It reminds us that there are also many problems concerning everything that women must do and can do to be able to move forward and gain more freedom. It also reminds us that there is pettiness in politics, and there is never room for pettiness. It should never exist, especially not on March 6, two days before March 8, International Women's Day, whose theme is “Strong Women, Strong World”.

Where are the strong women in the Liberal Party who could have prevented this motion? Where are they? Strong women are women who would dare rise, speak, and tell their colleagues how they feel about something as low as what was introduced today. That is a strong woman. I am ashamed to know that today, there are women in this Parliament who have not shown their strength.

They let themselves be manipulated and tempted by a remote political objective, and I am disappointed.

I see that it is now time for question period. Mr. Speaker, if you tell me how much time I have left, I would be happy to—

Opposition Motion--Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member will have five minutes after question period to continue her remarks.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 23(3) of the Auditor General Act , the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons for the year 2008.

This document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Rights of the Unborn
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canada is known as a country in which we have laws that protect all equally and where citizens are compassionate and caring. However, one important change is needed to preserve that reputation. Canadians are surprised to know that in Canada a woman who has chosen to have a child gets no help from the law in protecting her unborn child.

The member of Parliament for Edmonton—Sherwood Park has introduce Bill C-484 to address this gap in the law. His unborn victims of crime act recognizes that a woman who has chosen to have her child and to give it birth has a right to protection for her child as well as for herself. Seventy-two per cent of Canadians support this legislation. I hope MPs here continue to support it as it works its way through committee and on to third reading.

Let us support the choice of the woman and the child she has chosen to keep.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

March 6th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recently returned from the global forum on anti-Semitism attended by some 300 delegates from over 45 countries, including a significant number of parliamentarians, where the generic theme was, “We are witnessing today an old/new, escalating, sophisticated, global, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism”.

In its common form, it refers to escalating anti-Semitic hate, Holocaust denial, boycotts, conspiracy theories and the singling out of Israel and the Jewish people for discriminatory treatment in the international arena. In its lethal form, it refers to state sanctioned global anti-Semitism and the racist anti-Semitic terror targeting Jews.

Silence is not an option. The time has come not only to sound the alarm but to act. For as history has taught us only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews. Anti-Semitism is the canary in the mine shaft of evil.

Accordingly, I joined with U.K. parliamentarian John Mann to establish an international coalition to combat anti-Semitism, a coalition of scholars and activists, parliamentarians and civil society to monitor and combat this longest and most danger of hatreds. I trust colleagues will join us in this common cause.

Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec is outraged by CBC's affront to Quebec artists, particularly to Claude Dubois, who was invited to receive an honorary plaque for his work from English Canada at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala broadcast on Monday night. All the francophone artists were cut from the televised broadcast. Nothing can justify this insult to Quebeckers and francophones.

The author of Femmes de rêve had accepted this invitation to receive this honour because he was assured that the event would be apolitical. It was so apolitical that only one of the two solitudes ended up being seen by television viewers. And yet, Claude Dubois gave Quebec the distinction of having one of the best record sales in Canada, selling 250,000 copies of Duos Dubois.

This is a prime example of how important Quebec is to the rest of Canada. That is how much the Quebec nation matters.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that we learned earlier that, despite massive support from many groups and individuals in his community, Mr. Kulenthiran Amirthalingan will be deported this evening to his country of birth, Malaysia.

Kulen called Montreal home and felt welcome in our country, which made no fuss about his sexual orientation, although unfortunately that is not the current situation in his country of origin.

Amnesty International tells us that homosexual acts are illegal in Malaysia, that for simply being who he is, Kulen could, under section 377 of the Malaysian penal code, be sentenced to whipping and to imprisonment for up to 20 years. Yet the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada has refused to stop the deportation.

The masks are truly off. Kulenthiran Amirthalingam could become a victim of the Conservative government's indifference because of his sexual orientation and because of his ethnic origin.

As a Canadian who believes we can and must do better, I am ashamed.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, order. The hon. member for Macleod.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, order. The hon. member for Macleod has the floor.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Outremont should control himself immediately.

The hon. member for Macleod.

Order of Canada
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I congratulate Ms. Irene Pfeiffer and Dr. Robert H.A. Haslam, two constituents of mine who were recently appointed Members of the Order of Canada.

Ms. Pfeiffer received her award in December for her volunteer contributions with health, women and community organizations.

Dr. Haslam received his award in February for his leadership in pediatric neurology.

Ms. Pfeiffer's and Dr. Haslam's commitment, hard work and enthusiasm have made a significant and lasting impact on the countless lives within my riding, province and our great country.

In light of their lifetime of distinguished service, I think it is entirely fitting that they be awarded one of the highest honours that a citizen of this country can receive. They are truly an inspiration to Canadians everywhere.

Please join me in congratulating Ms. Pfeiffer, Dr. Haslam, and all the other Canadians who have been awarded the Order of Canada.