Madam Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to speak to bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act regarding gender. The bill proposes replacing the words “thy sons” in the English version of the national anthem, with the words “all of us”, in order to make it gender neutral.
Before I continue, I would like to explain why I really wanted to discuss this important bill today. Originally, according to the Order Paper, today I was supposed to introduce my bill, Bill C-236, regarding credit card acceptance fees for Canadian businesses. Instead, my bill will be introduced for second reading on September 19, 2016.
It was really a no-brainer for me to give up my place for my colleague, the member for Ottawa—Vanier, as he courageously fights Lou Gherig's disease.
During the first hour of debate on Bill C-210, I was really disappointed by the lack of empathy shown by our colleagues in the official opposition, who chose not to drop the debate and instead to force a second hour of debate for clearly political reasons.
There are times when we must set politics aside and show some humanity, compassion, and openness.
The sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, has spent his entire career working tirelessly to promote justice for all, and I would like to highlight some of his remarkable achievements. His determination to introduce this bill yet again is just one example of his steadfast commitment to fairness.
A staunch defender of human rights and strong advocate for official languages, he inspires every one of us. I first met my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier when I became a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, and I had the great fortune to work alongside him. The status of official languages is an issue that matters very much to me too as the member for the Quebec riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.
My colleague elucidated the reasons that justify the change, which I wholeheartedly support. There must be no gender bias in our national anthem. This is a change we need and want because, yes, esteemed colleagues, it is 2016.
This bill holds personal meaning for me as the mother of four children, two boys and two girls. My children are the reason I became involved in politics. This is a dream I have always had for our country and my family. I want my girls to have the same opportunity to achieve their full potential as my boys.
In my opinion, the words in all thy sons command may have reflected Canadian society in 1913, but our society has evolved considerably in the past century.
When the lyrics of our national anthem were written, women could not vote for or against a bill. In fact, they could not vote at all. Before 1929, they were not considered persons. It is essential to modernize the words of our national anthem to reflect the social progress made by Canadian men and women. Again, this is 2016.
For decades, the Government of Canada has been committed to promoting gender equality here at home and abroad. Many bills have been introduced to recognize the contribution of women who, alone or in groups, contributed to making Canada the strong, creative, and inclusive country that it is today.
I am not saying that we have achieved perfect gender equality in Canada, but we have quite certainly improved things. Our government remains determined to build a country where our boys and girls will be equal participants in all aspects of society.
Allow me to mention some of the measures taken by the Government of Canada to recognize the vital role played by the women who contributed to building our Canada of today.
In budget 2016, our government announced investments that will increase capacity at Status of Women Canada. In fact, a $23.3-million investment over five years beginning in 2016-17 will support local organizations working in gender equality and women's issues. These new funds will also support the creation of a dedicated research and evaluation unit within the agency to provide evidence-based, innovative research on women's issues.
This year, we will be proudly celebrating the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote in Manitoba. This event gives us another opportunity to highlight the remarkable achievements of activists who have fought for women's equality and gender equality.
Canada's commitment to promoting gender equality and women's rights is central to our foreign policy and makes us proud. The Minister of Status of Women announced in March 2016 before the UN Commission on the Status of Women that Canada is running for a seat on the commission for the 2017-21 term. This would allow our country to play an even greater role in creating a better future for women and girls in Canada and around the world.
The amendment that my hon. colleague is proposing would change only two words, but this small change would be a significant gesture that would ensure that women are no longer excluded from our national anthem. That is why it is important for me to allow my colleague to take my place so that he can present his bill, which is so important to him.
As we prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, our support for Bill C-210 would give us an opportunity to ensure that this important national symbol continues to reflect our values and inspire pride and a sense of belonging in all Canadians. In 2017, at Canada's 150th birthday celebrations, I hope to hear a national anthem that reflects Canada's modern reality.
In closing, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for introducing this bill. By supporting it, we will send a clear message to Canadians and the entire world that we stand and will continue to stand for gender equality and that we value the significant contributions that women have made and continue to make to our country. It will serve as yet another example of the government’s resolve to promote the equality of all Canadians.
My dear colleague from Ottawa—Vanier, I thank you on behalf of my two sons and my two daughters.