Gender Equality Week Act

An Act to establish Gender Equality Week


Sven Spengemann  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the fourth week in September in each and every year as “Gender Equality Week”.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 1, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague, looking at gender equality week and all the things that we can do to promote women and young girls. I have listened to the gender equality budget, the quota system, being tokens, and being put on boards. I have to say that I and many women with whom I have had the honour of serving politically or in the private sector would suggest that teaching young girls that just because they are female they can get any position really is offensive to many, and certainly to me, who has really gone through the trials and tribulations in my life to get to where I am today. One has to make the sacrifices and to live those sacrifices to really understand what that journey looks like. To suggest that we have a token—that a person is a female so she gets this position, or she is female so she gets on this board, or they are a minority so they can have this—I think does considerable disservice to all of us. I really think it is incumbent on each and every one of us to do what we can do in terms of empowering people around us, especially young girls.

I go back to my time of almost a decade as mayor of the City of Surrey. Since 1996, we had a majority of women on council. We had a majority of women making decisions for the city. Was it a token position? No, it was not. Was it gender equity? No, it was not. It was because they wanted to participate, they wanted to be part of the community, and we wanted to encourage other women to join in having a say on the issues that were really relevant to our community. In that context, it really was self-empowering, in terms of what we were able to accomplish as a collective. If we are short on the quota, not having enough women in politics, or not having enough women on a board, then it is incumbent upon us to do a better job.

I have two daughters. I would never, from the day they were born, let them know that they were a quota, that they were a token, that they could get a position because they were female. That is not the way I brought up my daughters. I brought them up to be strong young women who were empowered. I taught them to make sure they empower the people around them, that we work collectively together, we go through trials, we go through tribulations, and we get to where we go because the journey is the lessons of where we get to.

That in itself gives me satisfaction, as a woman of my age. It demeans everything that I have done, everything that I have taught my daughters, when I sit there and I listen to people say we have to have a token representation here and a token representation there. That is totally offensive, and I do not think that is what we should be teaching our children.

Furthermore, I would just suggest that what we can do—because it is not about what we cannot do, but rather what we can do—is really come together as a community, as parents, mothers, fathers. There are single moms, single dads, and children who need to be brought up in a community that has resiliency. We need to make sure that they have all the tools, all the education, and all of those things; that we have resilient communities; that we have empowered children; that we ensure that our kids know that they need to look after and give their hand out to somebody who is less fortunate than themselves. That is where we make a difference, and that is where we have empowerment within our communities, within our families, and that is what makes us stronger.

While I honestly appreciate my colleague, and I sit on many committees with him and respect him to the utmost degree, I would suggest that when we do not have gender equality week will be a good day in this House.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.
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Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, achieving gender equality is non-negotiable. There is no doubt about it. That is one of the NDP's core principles, actually. It is always at the heart of our work on the ground and the legislative measures we put forward. Can the same be said of the government? Unfortunately not.

I have no doubt about the sponsor's intentions. I have been keeping tabs on his interventions in the status of women committee. However, if one truly believes in as fundamental a principle as gender equality, one must be consistent and non-partisan about it.

It is a shame that the sponsor of the bill before us voted against the NDP's Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, which was designed to increase the number of women in federal politics. It was actually an excellent and very well-documented bill.

How can anyone support gender equality and yet vote against a measure that would put more women in Parliament? I, for one, will be consistent and vote in favour of this bill. I do not think it goes far enough or actually does anything concrete, but I do think there is no such thing as paying too much attention to gender equality.

In addition, my NDP colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith will work tirelessly in committee to propose amendments in order to make this bill even more action-oriented, and I fully trust and support her.

When I first saw Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, I thought that we would finally see some real progress and concrete measures for women and girls. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This bill proposes declaring the first week of October gender equality week, but nothing more.

There are no measures to tackle economic disparity, there is no money to fund shelters for women and children, no action plan to end violence against women, no funding restored to organizations that work with women and girls and that, quite frankly, do an excellent job with very little funding, there are no measures to increase the number of women in the House, and I could go on.

What does the bill propose? Its preamble has 21 points. Here is an excerpt: “Whereas there is a wage gap between men and women in Canada”. What does the bill propose to address that problem? Does it include any actions, plans, or measures? Well, no, it proposes to establish a gender equality week.

No one here is against apple pie, but how will a gender equality week truly change anything for women and girls? If legislative measures are proposed, then action must follow. Unfortunately, this bill proposes no such action.

As the House probably knows, the disparity between men and women is glaring. For every dollar earned by a man, a Canadian woman earns only 74¢. That is unacceptable, and measures must be taken to address this gap.

Last March, Oxfam published a report on the measures taken by the Liberal government on gender parity. This government received the worst score for its policies on the work of women and pay equity. The Oxfam report noted that while the Liberal Party campaigned on a promise to improve the economic situation of women, this government has put very few measures in place to that effect.

In other words, once again there are more words than action. I feel like I have been saying that all day. Women need tangible measures from this government. Women have been waiting for pay equity for 40 years. It is all well and good to promote it, but proposing concrete measures is better, and women need these measures now, not later. This government must immediately draft proactive legislation on pay equity in order to reduce the wage gap and achieve economic equality for women.

Because this is 2017, we should do things differently. Because this is 2017, women should have equal pay for work of equal value. It is time for this government to back its claims that equality counts and to take immediate action.

Another point highlighted in the preamble is the following:

Whereas poverty and inequality disproportionately affect Canadian women, particularly elderly, disabled, transgender and visible minority women, leaving them isolated and vulnerable;

That is so true.

With respect to my Bill C-245 to establish a poverty reduction strategy, I heard many stakeholders, several organizations, and many women's groups talk about this reality. These organizations are waiting for real measures and actions to continue helping women.

Women's groups in my riding do extraordinary work. I am thinking, for example, of the Centre Ressources-Femmes de la région d'Acton; the Centre de femmes L'Autonomie en soiE; La Clé sur la porte, a shelter for victims of domestic violence; the Centre d'aide pour victimes d'agression sexuelle or CAVAS; Les 8 Marskoutaines , which organizes activities on March 8 every year; the Cercles de fermières in various communities; Afeas, which does work to raise awareness; the Syndicat des agricultrices de la région de Saint-Hyacinthe; and the Coalition des femmes de la MRC Les Maskoutains. These groups expect more. They expect better. They expect this government to walk the talk.

In our ridings, 63% of low-income seniors who live alone are women. The median income for seniors in Quebec is $20,200 for those aged 65 to 74, and for those 75 or over it is less than $20,000. There are real people behind the statistics. They need action and measures.

When women live in poverty, so do their children. That is completely unacceptable. By not dealing with this problem, the government is abandoning thousands of women, girls, and children who are in desperate need. How is a week of celebration going to help them to get out of poverty?

I am already at the end of my speech. We must adopt concrete measures to make gender equality a reality. Feminism means more than just believing in a philosophy and lofty principles; it means taking actions that are consistent with those principles. Appointing a gender-balanced cabinet and doing nothing else for the next four years is not enough. Dedicating a week to gender equality is not enough. This bill has to be the first of a great number of steps.

Oxfam gave this government the worst grade. New Democrats know that action is key to true gender equality. Words are not enough. We can never stop fighting for gender equality and women's rights, and we never will.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate on Bill C-309, a bill to establish a gender equality week in Canada each year.

I want to congratulate the hon. member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for his leadership in advancing gender equality in this country.

It is fitting that as we mark 150 years since our nation's founding, we are discussing a bill that asks Canadians to pause over the course of the week, reflect on the progress we have made toward gender equality, and recommit to taking actions that will help to make that equality a reality.

One of the key challenges we face is the myth that gender equality already exists and that feminism is no longer necessary. That is simply not true. That is why I want to underscore my strong support for the intent of the bill, because the more we do to advance equality, the more inclusive Canada will be and the better off all Canadians will be.

I also agree with the goal of the bill, which is to encourage all sectors of society to mark this week with events and initiatives that address the challenges that Canadian women, as well as individuals of minority gender identity and expression, continue to face. It is just as important that we encourage men and those who do not identify as women to become involved and remain engaged in achieving greater inclusiveness and full gender equality in Canada. These goals need to be pursued not just during gender equality week, but throughout the year.

I also want to take a moment to say that I agree with the amendment that was made in committee, which would have made this week occur in the fourth week of September rather than in October. It makes sense to me, because the month of October is already designated as Women's History Month in Canada, a time when Canadians celebrate the achievements of women and girls as trailblazers throughout our history.

In addition, Women's History Month includes two important commemorative dates for women and girls, the International Day of the Girl on October 11 and Persons Day on October 18, so holding gender equality week in September means it will not overlap with events that are part of Women's History Month. This will give Canadians an additional opportunity to understand gender equality in all its facets, help close the gender gaps that still remain, and increase awareness of some of the emerging issues.

The need to raise awareness is clear. Despite all of the progress we have seen among women and girls since Confederation, our journey toward equality is far from complete.

Consider these challenges. One area where action is needed is in closing the gender wage gap, and I will very much agree with my hon. colleague from the NDP. The fact is that women earn 87¢ for every dollar earned by men, largely as a result of wage inequality between women and men within the same occupation.

A record number of women, a total of 88, were elected in Canada's 2015 general election. This means that women held 26% of the seats at that time. We can be proud of the fact that four women were recently elected to this House, but we still have much work to do to achieve parity in this House.

The most recent statistics from the Board Diversity Council's 2015 report card indicate that women hold only 19.5% of FP500 board seats. I disagree respectfully with the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock that this status quo should remain. We need to be active on this front.

The bill before us today, by creating a gender equality week, will allow us to shine a bright light on the actions we must take to close these gaps. There is always more that we can do to make progress in creating a more inclusive country that benefits everyone, regardless of their gender identity. That is why I am proud of the fact that the Prime Minister is leading by example on the goal of gender equality. The Prime Minister recently broke new ground by appointing a special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues, who will advise him on the development and coordination of the Government of Canada's LGBTQ2 agenda. This will include working with organizations from across the country to promote equality for the community, protect the rights of its members, and address discrimination against them, both historical and current.

The Prime Minister appointed the first gender-balanced federal cabinet in history and the first ever minister fully dedicated to gender issues. Thanks to the commitment of the Prime Minister, we are having a renewed conversation about gender equality and feminism in this country at an elevated level and in many places around the world.

The federal government is also taking strong actions to help deliver on its commitment to equality, including developing a strategy to address gender-based violence, enhancing the gender-based analysis that the hon. member spoke about to ensure that decisions about policies, programs, and legislation advance gender equality, and many other measures.

We also cannot ignore the tremendous step forward that budget 2017 represents for openness and transparency by including a groundbreaking gender statement, something I mentioned earlier, not as an annex but as a full chapter in the budget itself. The gender statement raises the bar in our understanding of how public policies affect men and women differently.

These are all important actions, but as I said earlier, having a gender equality week on the calendar each year would help to accelerate our nation's journey toward equality through greater awareness, understanding, and action.

That is why I encourage all members to support the bill before us today. It will provide us with one more tool to mobilize support for gender equality by engaging the hearts and minds of all Canadians.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 7:05 p.m.
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Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak in support of Bill C-309, which would designate the fourth week in September as gender equality week.

Equity, social justice, and compassion for all individuals are core values shared by all Canadians. At every level of government, we as a nation have legislated gender equality, yet women and people of marginalized gender identities and expressions continue to be victims of violence, hate, and discrimination.

Their lived experiences speak to a very different reality than the ideals of gender equality we as Canadians aspire to achieve.

We know, for example, women are more likely to be among the poor. We know indigenous and aboriginal women are disproportionately represented in jails and prisons. We know there is unequal pay for women who do equal work, with equal education. These are just a few reasons why we all have a responsibility to address the challenges that women continue to face in our society.

Allow me to illustrate the importance of establishing gender equality week.

In my riding of Scarborough North, a one-of-a-kind shelter has been in operation for more than 25 years. Juliette's Place, also known as Homeward Family Shelter, provides temporary refuge for women and their children who are escaping from domestic violence. The women assisted by this wonderful organization often face multiple points of oppression. They are women of colour, as well as indigenous and aboriginal women. They are members of the LGBTQI2-S community. They include immigrants, as well as undocumented workers. They come from all backgrounds and socio-economic classes.

Regardless, Julliette's Place is there to help these women and their children, providing them a place to stay upon fleeing from horrific situations of domestic violence.

They also help the women secure longer-term housing, as well as find work, and access other social services. For those with children, Julliette's Place can provide resources for legal custody arrangements. The incredible staff, volunteers, and board members of the shelter serve to advocate for these women and their children.

Julliette's Place is the only shelter of its kind located in north Scarborough, but there are many such organizations in all parts of our country. This is unfortunate. I say it is unfortunate because there is, and continues to be, a need. All too often, organizations like Juliette's Place are just around the comer from where we live, yet they are deemed invisible, invisible until we find out a family member or friend is affected by domestic violence, or we find ourselves as victims.

Gender equality week is a designated time each year for us to highlight the reasons why organizations like Juliette's Place exist, to shine light on the work before us that is unfinished. As Canadians, we must talk about domestic violence, about the barriers to equality that women and people of marginalized gender identities and expressions continue to face.

Juliette's Place also does important outreach work, speaking to businesses and faith groups, and running workshops in schools. It teaches children that violence in the family is unacceptable. This empowers students to approach their teachers and guidance counsellors to talk about abuse in their own homes. School social workers may then have an opportunity to provide specific information to families in need, linking them with supportive resources in their community.

Education can be a first step to prevent violence from occurring or recurring. That is why gender equality week is so important.

There remains much work for us to do with respect to gender equality, as women continue to face barriers in all facets of life.

With that said, some trends are indeed positive. For example, women today are achieving higher levels of education than ever before. Studies by Statistics Canada showed that in 1990, only 14% of women aged 25 to 54 held a university degree. By 2009, this figure had increased to 28%. In fact, today more women than men have earned a university degree.

The 2011 national household survey released by Statistics Canada said that 53.7% of university-educated Canadians aged 25 to 64 were women. Despite these trends, women continue to face tremendous barriers in the workplace.

Women are under-represented in certain fields, most notably in jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Not only are women under-represented, but their average earnings are also considerably lower compared to those of men. Achieving gender equality is a monumental task, one that requires all Canadians to have a better awareness and understanding of the issues at hand.

Indeed, our government is committed to growing the middle class, investing in Canadians, and creating a fair and just society. If we are to work toward achieving these goals, then we must also achieve gender equality. To effectively grow the middle class, we must eliminate the wage gap faced by women. To invest in the success of Canadians, we must address the reality that women and their children continue to be victims of domestic violence. To achieve a fair and just society, we must ensure that all women are treated fairly and justly.

The creation of gender equality week highlights the challenges before us to achieving a society free from violence, hate, and discrimination. It encourages all three levels of government to work together with stakeholders to achieve this goal, stakeholders like academia, the private sector, the media, not-for-profit organizations, and social service agencies like Julliette's Place.

Gender equality week compels us to think about the ways in which inequality affects not just women in general but especially women of colour, indigenous and aboriginal women, members of the LGBTQI2-S community, poor women, and women of minority faith groups.

It makes us realize that achieving gender equality is just as much about achieving social equality for everyone. I stand with women and people of all gender identities and expressions in the fight for equality for all Canadians. I stand in support of Bill C-309 as an important step in the right direction, knowing full well that change is neither quick nor easy, but it begins with courageous conversations.

Through gender equality week, I hope that all Canadians will take a moment to reflect on the progress we have made, the challenges before us, and the change we all want to see. This is a national conversation that we must have, one that recognizes the importance of furthering the project of gender equality for a fairer and more just society. I implore all my colleagues in this House to support this important legislation.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I must say I was really impressed with my colleague's comments on the issue.

Whether it is in the comments of my colleague or the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, the way they articulate the issue shows it is something which they genuinely believe in. In good part, there are issues that will come and go in terms of debate in this chamber, but there is a genuine appreciation that we can do much better on the file of gender equity. Over the years, we have seen significant progress.

Sharon Carstairs was a very important woman in my life, someone who was quite inspirational. I had a big decision to make back in the mid to late 1980s regarding the direction in which I was going to go and putting it in the perspective of a time frame. Sharon Carstairs played a significant role in my making the decision to get involved in politics. At the time I was in the military, trying to determine whether or not to go into politics. We had this wonderful leader who was elected for the Liberal Party in Manitoba. It was something very different. Back in 1988, Sharon Carstairs was the first female to be elected as leader of one of the three main parties, at the provincial or national level.

If we were to canvass members of the House for their opinions, we would find that all of us have had individuals who have impacted our lives.

When I look at this whole issue of gender equality and the amount of inequity that is out there, this is a very powerful motion that we are talking about today. Designating a week could lead to all sorts of things being talked about in classrooms, in the business community, at corporate tables, in union rooms, in different levels of government, in non-profit organizations, or in individual homes. There are many stories that need to be told.

I have talked about Sharon Carstairs because of the profound positive impact that she had on me, but there are other women in my life who have had a huge impact also. We owe it to all to move forward and advance the issue of gender equity.

I am very proud of the fact that we have a Prime Minister who is a feminist. The types of actions he has taken since the last federal election have been very significant. One of the first initiatives he announced was that he was going to have gender parity in the cabinet. That was a first in Canadian history. Governments around the world recognized that particular initiative.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women talked about that gender lens. Those are two words that we often use now. I have seen the term “gender lens” being used more in the last year than in the previous 20 years. There is a heightened sense of awareness when developing public policy, whether it is a budget or a piece of legislation, that we need to apply that gender lens.

I know our Prime Minister pushed heavily on this. We have seen the cabinet respond to that. The Minister of Finance, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women indicated, applied the gender lens to the most recent budget, which we have been debating for the last couple of months. That in itself will have a significant impact on the types of decisions we are making.

Quite often we hear criticisms about the government's appointments, from opposition members. I am actually quite happy with the way in which the appointments have been taking place. The other day, when I was responding to a question from the opposition in regard to appointments, I made reference to the fact that, of 122 appointments, 60% were females. I do not have at the top of my head the number of appointments and the actual gender breakdown with Stephen Harper's government, but I suspect we would find that, through this Prime Minister, this is yet another initiative that does not just talk about it but actually is a tangible action toward gender equity. We have the cabinet, we have the gender lens, and we have the appointment process. Through that appointment process, we talk about the importance of transparency and accountability; we talk about the level of expertise among the individuals who are out there. The government needs to make that extra effort in ensuring that we take down some of those barriers, because there are barriers in place. Some of them are more difficult to recognize than others, but the bottom line is that barriers are in place. I appreciate those individuals who have brought us to the point where we are today.

Now, my colleague brought in a motion that ultimately would see recognition being given on an annual basis for a duration of one week. The question I posed for him was in regard to how we can incorporate it into school classrooms, possibly. When we have awareness bills, resolutions, or motions that come to the floor, one of the primary reasons for them, I would argue, is that they allow for all the different stakeholders that we could possibly imagine to take advantage of the sort of leadership that is coming out of the House of Commons on an issue such as this and to actually utilize it. The example I used for my colleague is that a progressive teacher would say, “In Ottawa we have recognized a national gender equity week, and we want to talk about that in our classroom”. Those are the types of actions that I believe we will see take place.

I also believe that, as members, we will often talk about the different issues, and this is one of those issues on which we have the opportunity to do so, whether through ten percenters or householders or just discussions we have with our constituents, where we can actually promote some of the good work that is done inside the House of Commons. By doing that and by raising this around different individuals and groups whom we meet, we can in fact influence and ultimately, hopefully, raise the profile of the issue. The bottom line is that it is about education; it is about looking for barriers and coming up with creative ways to take down some of those barriers, so that there is a more equal playing field.

We have heard some statistics even in this evening's debate in terms of the percentages in education and the types of marks and different types of professions. Earlier today we heard the leader of the Conservative Party, a very bold leader who has done so much and no doubt has inspired many women to take hold of what has been accomplished, knowing full well that they can be just as engaged and that women play an absolutely critical role, an equal role, and some would argue, even a larger role. If members talk to my daughter, she will tell them about that.

I appreciate the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts on this important issue.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 7:25 p.m.
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Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing this incredibly important bill to the House. I had the privilege of sitting on the status of women committee when the bill came before our committee. I want to thank our colleagues on committee who worked hard on this as well.

When we talk about a gender equality week, what we are really talking about is bringing people together across the country, whether it is civil society, parliamentarians, researchers, or other groups to be able to multiply the conversation, to start a real engagement on gender equality in Canada.

We know from many studies that women and men in Canada are not equal today. We can see it here in the House where 27% of elected members are women. We see it in other kinds of leadership bodies and on corporate boards. I am very pleased at what our government is doing in Bill C-25 about women on corporate boards to make sure that companies have a comply or explain model. They have to have diversity policies.

I am particularly pleased at what the Minister of Science has done in the past week regarding women in research. Universities that do not have a diversity policy within the next two years and reach their targets will no longer get federal government research funding for Canada research chairs. We have tried many other ways. This is the kind of thing that is needed, because we have not seen significant increases in gender equality in Canada in several decades in many different fields.

We on the status of women committee right now are studying women's economic security. We have had a number of different groups come before us. We know that women in Canada today are not making the same amount of money as men do for the same kind of work.

I chaired the committee on pay equity. We came out with a very proactive report which calls for proactive pay equity legislation which recognizes that pay equity is a human right. I am very proud that our government has responded positively to our report and is going to be bringing in pay equity legislation. This is the kind of thing that will help in terms of people who are working in similar fields.

We also know that the wage gap includes a number of different factors that are not necessarily just about pay equity, for instance, precarious work. There are more women working in minimum wage jobs. There are more women working in part-time jobs. Today we heard in the status of women committee that in the bottom seven deciles, that is zero to $70,000, there are more women earning that amount and as soon as we get over $70,000 there are more men. It is clear that we have a long way to go, particularly when it comes to women in the STEM professions.

When it comes to the jobs that pay good money, when it comes to the kinds of good jobs that create Canadian prosperity, women are not choosing those jobs because of socialization or because of a lack of role models. There are a number of things we need to do to improve the situation for some of the young women in our communities.

I am very proud to have had the opportunity in my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean to meet with several girls in projects that allow girls to reach their full potential. I am speaking of projects like Girls World at the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, or the Girl Guides, whom I met with. It was quite inspiring. These young girls are so articulate. They believe that they can be anything and do anything. This is something we need to make not just an aspiration for these young women, but an actual reality.

Later, one of the young girls, a 12-year-old, wrote to me and asked if I could create a junior youth council. Apparently, when she is playing with her dolls at home, she pretends the dolls are in Parliament. This is the kind of thing we need to promote. A young 12-year-old girl is dreaming of being in government, of being a member of Parliament, but at what point is that aspiration lost? At what point does that young girl think it is not something for her? We still do not see as many women winning nominations and being elected to this place as we ought to see.

I will use myself as an example. When I was in grade 10, I joined the science club. I decided I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I did an entire report on how to become an astrophysicist. I signed up for calculus and all of the science courses, but somehow between grade 10 and grade 12, I lost my interest in science. I received my highest mark in math, but I was telling people at that point “I hate math. I am terrible at math.” It is something that I continued to repeat over and over for decades, that I am terrible at math. I saw my report card. I had 93% in grade 12 math.

Somewhere along the way, young girls are socialized to think that science is not something they want to do. I am very pleased to have studied history and to now be in politics, but we need to create a world where young girls and young women have the same opportunities. We need to ensure that the barriers are no longer there so they can achieve the kinds of things they dream about when they are 12 years old and that somehow, along the way, we see that inequality end.

When I talk to young students and tell them that men make $1 for every 73¢ a woman makes, they gasp. They look and me and ask how that is fair. Even young children know that it is not fair.

I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this incredibly important bill before the House. I hope it will receive support across all party lines, because this is an opportunity for us to really make sure we are doing something about the gender gap in Canada.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in the House today and to speak in favour of the important legislation of Bill C-309, which would establish a gender equality week in Canada. This would provide a week to reflect on the importance of gender equality and the ongoing need to advance the cause of equality in Canada.

I am proud that our government will support the passage of Bill C-309, with amendments that will be brought at committee. I would like to thank my friend the hon. member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing this important legislation forward.

This is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the work that still needs to be done to ensure greater gender equality.

We know that too many women are still facing systemic inequalities in the workplace. We need more women in politics, and we know that we need more women in the judiciary and more women in STEM professions.

We need to seriously address issues of sexual harassment in the workplace, and we have seen shocking examples recently of the harassment that women in public office face. It includes women in this chamber and women who have risen to become premiers of several provinces across this country, including mine. This is unacceptable, and we know that awareness and education are the most important tools in beginning to correct these issues. A gender equality week is a tool for spreading that awareness and bringing change in our country.

It is important to remember, as well, the importance of gender equality for our transgender community. As special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues, I can state unequivocally there is much work that needs to be done in this area.

Our government has been clear that equality of transgender Canadians is a priority for us because it is a priority for Canadians. Just this last week, I had the opportunity to hold round table conversations in five cities in our country; it is critical for our government to make sure that both houses pass Bill C-16, which would extend rights to transgendered persons. However, there is so much more to do, and I look forward to working with members of this House and continuing to listen to the trans and non-binary community about further steps that need to be taken. However, we do know that there is a serious need for greater awareness and education surrounding the challenges this community faces. Bill C-309 gives us that opportunity.

There are those who argue that the bill is not necessary. There are some who dismiss Bill C-309 as merely a symbolic gesture on which we should not spend any time. After all, they argue, symbols do not matter. I disagree. Symbols do matter. Symbols send powerful messages, particularly when we are discussing equality and human rights. They rally people to press forward, and they give hope and inspiration to those fighting for a better world.

We should take a look at the symbol of Angela Merkel, female Chancellor of Germany. How many girls have been inspired to rise to the top of their professions, due not only to her amazing work but to the symbol that she provides to the world?

We must not dismiss the importance and impact of symbols. It would be a mistake to pit symbol against substance rather than recognize that they are intertwined. Symbols give rise to substantive change, and substantive change leads to more symbols.

Symbols are influential; they are forces of change. Symbols provide the hope and resolve that mobilize crowds and drive people forward. Symbols unite us in pursuit of a better world.

When we set out to establish a gender equality week, when we speak up for inclusion and respect, when we march for LGBTQ2 pride, when we honour the differences, identities, and genders of every individual, we are actively and symbolically recommitting to supporting rights and equality for all.

When we discuss our gender-balanced cabinet, we know it is both a symbol of equality and a sign of substantial action. Symbols lead to substantive change; substantive change leads to more symbols; and we know that every young girl in this country will be able to point to the symbol of gender balance in our executive council and know that, some day, should they want to work hard for it, they could also have a place at that table. That will also ensure substantive action on the changes we need and the different perspectives we need to take in all elements of Canadian society.

Equality is not something that just happens. Repression and discrimination do not just end overnight. It takes the work of activists and trailblazers. It takes time and self-reflection and tough questions. It often takes the support and leadership of government.

It takes the initiative of members of Parliament to be bold, as my colleague has done. Canadians elected the members of our Liberal caucus to show that leadership, and this is one of the many ways that we are bringing real change to Canada and to all Canadians.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, usually this would be a time when I would welcome everyone back and wish them a happy new year in my first speech of this session. Instead, I stand in the House devastated by the violent events that occurred yesterday.

Members of our Muslim community were killed and many were wounded in their sacred space of worship in Quebec. These violent deaths have rocked me to my core, and they hit hard the foundation of my Canadian identity.

When I worked at an immigrant-serving agency, I assisted many families from across the world to join our Canadian family. In my new role, I continue to do this work in a new way. These people continuously reinvigorate my Canadian pride. Working with them as they prepare for Canadian citizenship, and watching them as they receive it, makes me so proud of this country. This is what I know.

In Canada, we have generations of Muslim Canadians who have helped build this country. I am deeply saddened today. I want to thank my constituents for the many emails I have already received. I thank them for their support and immediate call to action. We will stand together to say no to this violence. We will stand together because, as Dr. Christina Hubert said:

We must not sit idly by as injustices abound around us. We have a voice, and we must use it.... We must advocate for those who no longer have a voice. We must love greatly.

Many constituents have shared with me that we are living in scary times since the inauguration of President Trump. Now when we look at our televisions and social media, we see tens of thousands of people standing up against hate.

On January 21, I was proud to stand alongside many inspiring women and men. I want to thank the Comox Valley women's solidarity gathering for making the women's march on Washington such a resounding success.

This truly historic march drew an estimated worldwide participation of 4.8 million. After the march, officials behind the organization reported that 673 marches took place worldwide. In the United States, the protests were the largest political demonstrations since the anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here I am today speaking on Bill C-309, an act to establish a gender equality week; a bill in which the title says it all. The bill aims to establish the first week of October every year as gender equality week.

It is important to raise awareness of the significant and substantive contributions that Canadian women have made and continue to make to grow, develop, and add to the strong identity of Canada. The NDP has been at the forefront and will continue to champion real gender equality. I fully support the bill at second reading and want it to be studied at committee.

As a legislator who takes her responsibility very seriously, I have to offer a cautious assessment of the bill and of this government's attitude in dealing with gender equality. Once again, we have in front of us a bill filled with billowing symbolism. By no means am I condoning investments in matters symbolic; by no means am I reducing the possibilities this gender equality week could have on our movement; and I know that 673 marches took place across the world, which demonstrates a powerful fact: actions speak louder than words.

When words are not followed up by action, emblems become tokenism, and then sincerity is put into question. I do not doubt the genuineness of the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore in bringing the bill forward. For a responsible lawmaker, context matters.

After more than a year in power, the government has failed to translate feminist rhetoric into real change. The best way to honour women is by matching words with actions, none of which are included in the bill. How many statistics and figures must we repeat in the House for just a little movement on this very important issue?

Rather than sharing figures, I will share advice for future bills that would bring the significant, substantive changes required to improve the daily lives of Canadian women. Hopefully, my colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore can share them with the government.

How can women from coast to coast celebrate gender equality for a week when we know all too well that in a week they will earn only 74¢ for every dollar earned by men? This is both a chronic and a growing issue. The House sent the issue of pay equity to a special committee, which returned with facts that have been repeated many times in the House and in many other committees. Women are still being paid less money than men for the same work.

Then the government had the nerve to say this was something it would address in 2018. That is not good enough. How long do women have to wait? They have waited for 40 years and should not have to wait any longer.

Does the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore believe in a more gender-balanced Parliament? I am afraid he does not. He voted down the bill that would have done just that. The sad part is that he was not alone. Many Liberal MPs did the same thing, including the then minister for the status of women.

Increasing representation of women in Parliament would be in the type of bill we are looking for. These are the actions worth celebrating. These are the bills that would take words and transform them into real action.

How can we pay tribute when more than 500 women and children are turned away from shelters on a typical day? How can we pretend we have achieved gender equality when on any given day more than 4,000 women and more than 2,000 children will reside in a domestic violence shelter? The absence of a national action plan to end violence against women is making responses largely fragmented, often inaccessible, and inconsistent across Canada. New Democrats are pushing for more federal funding to support domestic violence shelter operations. I ask again. Where is the action?

High-quality and affordable early childhood education helps women seek employment or improve their job skills and pursue careers, and it eases families' financial stress. Delays in the creation of a national child care strategy will perpetuate socio-economic inequalities for people in Canada. The NDP believes that the federal government should start tackling its fundamental responsibility to reduce inequality between men and women. In the 2016 budget, the government missed multiple opportunities to respond equitably to the needs of women and girls and to fully support the realization of their economic and social potential.

This bill has a very lofty preamble. To be fair, it addresses a broad range of issues, including the fact that indigenous women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. If the bill were passed, the preamble would evaporate into thin air and what would remain is reality, a reality in which all aboriginal women employed full time earn 26% less than non-aboriginal men. Even more devastating is the reality that aboriginal women with a university degree earn 33% less. Yes, that is correct: the gap actually increases the more educated they are. There is so much more, such as shelters, safe drinking water, and education.

This bill aims to raise awareness, and I encourage it. That is why I will support it at second reading. It is time to get to work and address some long-standing issues that would make a major difference in women's rights.

I am so proud of the work and leadership of our critic for the status of women, the member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

We will be proposing amendments at committee stage, arranging that the bill not enter into force before the government implements proactive pay equity legislation and gender-based analysis legislation.

We should take real action to achieve gender equality. The NDP believes that, when women are no longer disproportionately affected by violence, inequality, and poverty, then we could legitimately have a celebratory week.

As the West Coast Leaf Association mentioned about the bill:

...legislation and other actions like Bill C-309...not only do very little to address inequality in the everyday lives of women in Canada, but they also create a risk of misleading the public into thinking that the federal government is taking substantive action when they have little potential to create meaningful change.

The women of Canada are looking for action. I hope we see it soon.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak to the bill brought forward by my colleague and fellow member from Mississauga—Lakeshore.

Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, addresses a very important issue. As the text of Bill C-309 states in its preamble, poverty and inequality disproportionately affect Canadian women, particularly the elderly, disabled, transgender, and visible minorities.

In Canada, women are more likely than men to be victims of gender-based violence, including sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Canadian women currently face barriers in pursuing and completing post-secondary education and pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There is currently a wage gap between men and women in Canada.

When I read all of these facts, I find it hard to believe that I am describing life in Canada in 2017. Even though our government has taken positive steps toward reducing gender inequality since being elected, the fact of the matter is gender inequality still exists in Canada and more awareness needs to be raised. It is for this reason that I urge all members of the House to support this bill.

The bill would not only raise awareness of the issue of gender inequality, it would also create a platform to educate Canadians on the non-binary nature of gender. The bill would also encourage Canadians to recognize gender equality as a fundamental human rights issue linked to other policy areas such as health care, crime, poverty, discrimination, and inequality.

Throughout my life, I have worked with many intelligent, strong, and passionate women who have excelled and become leaders in their fields. This has not changed since I have become a member of Parliament. Every day, whether it is working with my staff or with my hon. colleagues here in the House, I am reminded of the exceptional abilities of all women across the country. Women are an important part of the work we do here in the House of Commons. Every day we debate and discuss a wide range of policies covering a variety of different issues and topics, and due to this fact, we have to ensure that we are looking at these policies and topics from the widest lens possible. In order for this to be ensured, the House must be as diverse as possible. It is for this reason that women's viewpoints are so essential to the work we do here in the House.

If I reflect back, I can confidently say the most influential people in my life have been women, whether she was my grade 7 teacher, my mom and her sister, or all of my cousins who are as close to me as if they were my sisters. It just does not seem right to me that these individuals could or would be treated any differently from anyone else. A gender equality week would be a tribute to these women and women like them all across Canada. While this may not eliminate gender inequality, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

It was in 1918 that Canadian women became eligible to vote in federal elections, and 1929 when Canadian women were considered persons under the Canadian Constitution. It is hard to believe that in 2017 we are still discussing gender inequality issues.

I speak at local elementary schools quite often and discuss gender inequality. I hope that by the time the students I speak to are old enough to occupy these seats they will no longer have to discuss the same issue.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-309, but first I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore for the substantive work he has put into preparing the bill. It is always a pleasure to see such passionate effort directed toward the ongoing challenge of achieving real gender equality in Canada.

Since 1992, October has been recognized as Women's History Month. I believe this bill which would declare the first week of every October gender equality week could serve a vital and complementary function to Women's History Month.

Women’s History Month has long been used as a platform to recognize the contributions and efforts of women across the country and throughout our history to advance gender equality in Canada. It offers an opening for parents to teach young Canadians about the struggles of the Famous Five and many other remarkable Canadian historical figures.

Gender equality week would not only be a time to congratulate the women on whose shoulders we stand and who have accomplished so much, it would also be a call to action, an opportunity to take stock of how far we have come and how far we still need to go.

Gender equality week would be a time to acknowledge our ongoing struggles and the challenges that we still need to overcome, especially for women who are doubly marginalized. We know there is an intersectionality between gender and other identity factors, such as race, indigeneity, disability, sexual orientation, and others who still face double discrimination, higher instances of violence, and tangibly lower standards of living.

Gender equality week would be an opportunity to pause and to think about the work that we need to do today to ensure a better future.

We, here in this House, and all of our allies across the country still have so much work to do. Two-thirds of Canadians say they personally know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. One-fifth of men aged 18 to 24 do not fully understand the concept of consent. In 2014, a woman was murdered by her intimate partner every six days. As of last year, the rate of female intimate partner homicide remained unchanged. On any given night, more than 3,000 women seek shelter from an unsafe home.

Today there are still over 1,000 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. This state of affairs is an unforgivable injustice and not only does it carry a profound social and cultural cost, but it is estimated that dealing with the ongoing struggles of violence against women and its aftermath costs Canada billions each year.

While we have come far, today women still account for less than a quarter of jobs in science, in large part because many qualified, passionate women find themselves driven out of their field.

In my own field and those of the rest of us in this House, when it comes to women's political representation, Canada ranks 61st in the world. We trail behind countries like Sudan, Iraq, and Cuba. Women have never held more than 26% of the seats in this House, and women's representation at all levels of government has not increased significantly in over 20 years.

Across Canada women continue to attain higher levels of education and higher levels of job experience, and yet they continue to earn less than men. Across the country women make 73¢ on the dollar of what men make. This inequality is exacerbated in the cases of women who are visible minorities, women who are indigenous, and women with disabilities. Women are more likely to be compelled into extensive periods of unpaid labour, such as caring for children or senior family members.

Even when a couple is cognizant of the historical and ongoing social factors at play that pressure women to take on these traditional roles, a couple’s economic reality—the reality of the pay gap, of the various barriers women face in the workforce, and of the deficit of affordable alternatives—perpetuates the problem, too often making it the rational choice for the woman to forego her salary and job security to take on child care or other unpaid caregiving, rather than a male spouse.

To be clear, gender equality week would not be a time to wallow in doom and gloom, but rather to motivate both women and men to commit to do better. For my part, I am proud of work that has been done and continues to be done on all of these fronts.

This week the Standing Committee on the Status of Women will begin to draft its report on violence against young women and girls in Canada after hearing months of testimony. I am certain that this report will work in concert with the Minister of Status of Women's cross-Canada consultations to develop solutions to eliminate gender-based violence.

I was proud a few months ago that the Minister of Status of Women announced $90 million in funding for transitional women’s shelters. When I chaired the Special Committee on Pay Equity, all parties worked together to draft a substantive report with broad agreement on all the principle priorities. Pay equity is a human right.

To solve the issues that are so deeply rooted in our culture as misogyny and gender inequality requires more than legislation. It requires dialogue and the ability to share experiences across the country. Gender equality week would be a springboard for that dialogue. It would provide a logical opportunity for schools to introduce teachable moments, for governments to bring forward public awareness campaigns, and for our ongoing issues to enter public awareness and the popular dialogue. Gender equality week would be a stepping-off point for inclusive dialogue and a contemplative thematic preamble to Women's History Month's historical focus.

I am proud to be a member of this House alongside so many other strong women and men who call themselves feminists. I am proud that the Prime Minister is leading the way on gender equality, that we have a gender equal cabinet, and that we recently formed an all-party women’s caucus to move these issues forward. I am especially proud of my colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing this important bill to be debated today.

I look forward to joining with all of my honourable colleagues and with Canadians next October to celebrate gender equality week.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, welcome back to you and all of my colleagues. It is indeed an honour to speak on the first parliamentary day of 2017, the year of our 150th anniversary.

To start off, I would like to thank my colleagues in the House for their interest in Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, for their important contributions to the debate at second reading, and for their support. I would also like to thank the members of my incredible team for their tireless efforts, and the stakeholders, community organizations, and Canadians from all walks of life who shared their views with us. In particular, I want to thank Rachelle Bergen and the Strength in Stories team for their ideas that helped bring us to where we are today.

This effort is about building a more inclusive society. We think about gender equality week as an opportunity to rally all Canadians around a very important issue and to generate additional momentum for social change. It is not an occasion to celebrate accomplishments, but as reflected in the paragraphs in the preamble, gender equality week seeks to raise awareness of the most profound remaining challenges and offers a platform to work collaboratively on concrete solutions.

To be absolutely clear, I am very proud of what we as Canadians are already doing to achieve gender equality and equity. In November 2015, our Prime Minister formed Canada's first cabinet with female and male parity. Our government has launched an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal and indigenous women, and the Minister of Status of Women is developing a federal strategy against gender-based violence.

The Government of Canada introduced Bill C-16, which protects Canadians of minority gender identity and expression by adding gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In early December 2016, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Status of Women announced that Nova Scotia businesswoman and civil rights activist Viola Desmond will be the very first Canadian woman to be featured on a Canadian banknote. However, important as these and other actions are, there is more work ahead of us than there is behind us, and to close the remaining gaps, the government will need the advocacy, support, and commitment of Canadians.

Bill C-309 recognizes that need and issues a call to action to all Canadians to become involved: men, women, Canadians of minority gender identity and expression, children, students, educators, civil servants at all levels of government, young and established professionals, new Canadians, indigenous peoples, Canadians in law enforcement and our armed forces, and seniors. Involvement in gender equality week could take a wide range of forms, including town hall discussions, university and college colloquia, music, plays, literature, film projects, workplace round tables, the formulation and presentation of academic research, public rallies, fundraisers, and social media, radio, and television events and campaigns.

Our consultations with various groups, organizations, and different levels of government helped us develop a substantive preamble that gives Canadians a fuller perspective of the challenges that lie ahead. The challenges posed by gender-based violence and the gender wage gap were identified as particularly critical hurdles that we, as Canadians, must address and overcome. Through active engagement, Canadians can achieve real progress on these fronts.

I look forward to working on Bill C-309 with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle of the House in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I encourage my fellow members to support the bill, as the time to act is now. It is only through concerted, sustained action that real and lasting social change can become a reality.

Sitting ResumedGender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2017 / noon
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

There have been some consultations among the parties, and I believe you would find agreement for the following motion:


That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Statements by Ministers, pursuant to Standing Order 33, shall be taken up at 1:15 p.m., later this day, and that a representative of the Bloc Québécois and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands also be permitted to comment briefly thereon.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 7:35 p.m.
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Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

moved that Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to rise today to speak about my private member's bill, Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week.

First and foremost, a word of thanks to my incredible team, particularly to my legislative assistant, Adrian Zeta Bennett; to the amazing team of parliamentary legislative drafters, particularly Wendy Gordon; and to all who have contributed ideas, comments, and collective views over the past months, and especially the women in Mississauga—Lakeshore and in many other parts of our country who encouraged Adrian and me to push ahead with this project.

We connected with provincial and municipal governments, ministers, indigenous women's groups, local women's shelters and organizations, such as Armagh House, and the Mississauga and area chapter of the Congress of Black Women of Canada, the LGBTQ2 community, academia, advisory committees, and individual citizens.

Bill C-309 is truly a team effort, and I am very grateful for all the ideas, questions, and suggestions that have brought it to where it is today. The story began when my friend and former schoolmate, Rachelle Bergen, walked into my constituency office last spring. Rachelle is one of the founding members of Strength in Stories, a community-based organization that draws on the power and strength of storytelling to portray the experiences of Canadian women, including indigenous women and new immigrants, where they focus on resilience and the courage to overcome obstacles.

Education and awareness are at the core of what Strength in Stories is all about.

Rachelle and I then started looking at ways we could act at the federal level to promote social and political change with respect to the status of women and gender equality in general. When I talked to her about my opportunity to introduce a private member's bill, we realized that we could spur progress by proposing the designation of a nationally recognized week during which all Canadians would be encouraged to reflect on the promotion of gender equality.

In our decision to move forward with Bill C-309, there were two specific messages that Adrian and I took on board. The first is that men need to do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to working towards equality and equity between genders. The most compelling reasons are both socio-historical and economic in nature.

The second message is that government cannot do all of the required work alone. Academia, the private sector, not for profits, community activists, and individual citizens must be close partners in this effort.

This bill is way overdue. My team and I were actually surprised that the legislation was not already in place. Moreover, as we learned more about this issue, we quickly realized how many problems there still are and how big some of those problems are. Poverty, violence, isolation, racism, the wage gap, unequal access to education and justice, and lack of equal opportunity in the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, politics, and sports are some of the biggest obstacles mentioned in the preamble to Bill C-309.

I think that we have to start by acknowledging the existence of those obstacles before we can have a constructive conversation with Canadians about how to tackle them.

Along the way, such inspiration came from my former doctoral supervisor, Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as head of policy under former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and who now runs New America, a think tank and civic enterprise.

Anne-Marie Slaughter writes extensively on the issue of gender equity. Her works include a seminal article in the The Atlantic entitled, “Why Women Still Can't Have It All”, followed by the book, Unfinished Business, in which she sets out her vision of the care economy.

Her message is simple and compelling, that we must ensure that family care is given attention in the same manner as work, and that men are expected to function in roles related to family care in the same general sense as women.

International organizations are also becoming increasingly interested in the issue of gender equality. The Inter-Parliamentary Union, or IPU, an international organization that brings parliaments together, had its 135th annual assembly in Geneva last month, where it unanimously adopted a resolution entitled “The freedom of women to participate in political processes fully, safely and without interference: Building partnerships between men and women to achieve this objective”.

Among the 32 paragraphs of the preamble, article 3 of the resolution states:

3. Calls on men and women parliamentarians to work together and to take joint initiatives in parliament to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women at all levels of policy-making processes and decision-making positions;

At the IPU assembly, I was invited to take part in a gender-balanced debate on gender equality in politics, and I used that as an opportunity to tell my counterparts about Canada's new parliamentary code of conduct and the process for developing Bill C-309. Basically, the raison d'être for gender equality and equity as well as the demand for collective action are now crossing national borders without any problem.

Through its global gender gap index, the World Economic Forum has, since 2006, published annual reports to capture the full scope of gender-based disparities and efforts to address them, particularly in the areas of health, educational attainment, economic opportunities and participation, and political empowerment.

According to its 2016 report released just last month, Canada is ranked 35th out of 144 participating countries, nestled in between the likes of Luxembourg and Cape Verde, but it is ranked highest in North America.

We as Canadians must recognize that we can do much more to close gender-based disparities and gaps that exist. We must recognize that the wage gap between women and men, as the 2005 Royal Bank report highlighted, has caused up to $126 billion in lost income potential for Canadian women each year.

We must also recognize, as a 2015 RCMP report outlined, that indigenous women make up just over 4% of our population, yet account for 16% of female homicides and 11% of missing Canadian women.

In addition to the problem of gender-based violence, we must recognize that Canadian women need and deserve better health outcomes. Gender equality week could raise much awareness of the work that lies ahead.

We see elsewhere just how increasingly untenable and unacceptable it is to allow current gender-based gaps to persist. Women in countries such as France and Iceland have recently made international headlines for their bold action to protest the existing wage gap in their respective countries. In the coming days and months we may well see similar protests in some of the Scandinavian countries.

There is a clear call to action for all of us, particularly men, to do more to ensure fair, just, and positive outcomes for everyone. That is why I am so proud that our current government under the leadership of our Prime Minister has been proactive in its commitment to do more to ensure a gender equal Canada. The attainment of gender parity in cabinet sent a clear message, not just to Canadians, but to people around the world, that anyone, regardless of gender, should have access to the opportunity to maximize her or his individual potential.

Indeed, the World Economic Forum has also acknowledged in its recent report that this measure “would clearly boost Canada's ranking” in future reports, as it helps the empowerment of Canadian women.

Along with the Minister of Status of Women's work to strengthen implementation of gender-based analysis across federal departments and to develop a federal strategy against gender-based violence, the federal government is taking critical steps to advance gender equality. Through its emphasis on fostering local community based dialogue on the challenges we face, gender equality week can serve to strengthen current federal initiatives in communities across our great country.

Our Prime Minister has repeatedly emphasized that reconciliation with our indigenous communities is a key aspect of his and our government's agenda, which is why the launching of the public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls was so significant.

I hope that gender equality week will also raise awareness on the prevalence of gender-based violence and inadequate health outcomes for indigenous women in Canada. The conversations that my team and I had over the spring and summer with indigenous groups as we developed the bill underscored that gender equality week could function effectively toward this end.

I envision gender equality week as a uniquely Canadian platform through which additional momentum for social change can be generated. Some of my colleagues may wonder, quite appropriately, what exactly an annual gender equality week would look like. As elected representatives in our respective communities, we as parliamentarians will be able to use this designated week to build and strengthen relationships with community advocates and organizers, with students, with directors of women's shelters, indigenous leaders, corporate executives, researchers and many others who take this issue seriously and are willing to work hard toward a more inclusive society.

Most importantly, gender equality week can inspire all Canadians—girls, boys, men, women, and those of minority gender identity and expression—to foster and participate in an ongoing constructive dialogue on how to best tackle and solve such challenges, including the wage gap between women and men; gender-based violence against women, particularly indigenous women; the lack of equitable access by women to legal recourse in cases of abuse; the barriers inhibiting women from attaining careers in the STEM fields, senior management roles, or representation on various elected bodies; and the obstacles faced by women who are newcomers to Canada in terms of employment, language, training, and professional accreditation. For Canadians of minority gender identity and expression, these challenges often present themselves in an even more profound manner.

My bill encourages federal, provincial, municipal, and indigenous governments; not-for-profits; academia; indigenous communities and organizations; the private sector; sports organizations; first responders; our armed forces; the media; and civil society at large to participate in an ongoing conversation, and then, during gender equality week, raise collective awareness of these challenges and identify constructive solutions.

This effort could take the form of community town halls and debates, research proposals, plays, television and social media reports, fundraising initiatives, marches, art and music, and many other forms of advocacy. In other words, gender equality week would create an opportunity for Canadians to become engaged in and champion the issue of gender equality in as many different ways as are reflected in the needs and aspirations of our local communities, and thereby strengthen national awareness of existing inequalities.

There will truly be room for everyone: children, students, established professionals, new Canadians, and seniors. There will be some who are going to argue that we do not really need gender equality week, and others who may claim that it does not go far enough.

Very few people will deny the very real challenges facing our society, such as gender-based violence, including violence against indigenous women, or the obstacles faced by women in predominantly male occupations, including our armed forces, and police and fire services. There is still discrimination. Those of minority gender identity and expression face challenges every day. Older women feel isolated. Others bear the brunt of the wage gap's social and economic impact. We need to do more for these individuals, for these Canadians. Gender equality week will give us the opportunity to do more.

Above all, gender equality week would advance inclusiveness from coast to coast to coast in this great country. Canada is already known around the world for its diversity, for its protection of individual and collective rights and freedoms, and for its tolerance. We take great pride in not merely accepting but appreciating and celebrating the multitude of different cultures, ethnicities, perspectives, and approaches of our fellow Canadians. We hold ourselves to a higher standard in the treatment of others, and we are resolute in our belief that better is always possible. Therefore, we know that more work does indeed remain ahead of us.

It is my hope that as it moves forward, Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, will inspire members of the House and all Canadians to do more, to engage in our local communities on the challenges we know to exist, and to work together to achieve true gender equality across our country.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 7:50 p.m.
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Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for introducing his bill and for his speech in the House today.

I think this is an interesting and great idea. It is important that we promote awareness. However, this seems to be more of a celebratory piece of legislation, and I think that what we need is something concrete.

We know that 12 years ago we had the pay equity task force that submitted a report. About 12 years ago, there was a report by the standing committee requesting that we move forward on proactive pay equity. That was in 2005.

I wonder if my colleague who has presented this legislation would lobby his government to move pay equity legislation in the House of Commons by the end of 2016 so we can put an end to this discrimination for Canadians.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 7:50 p.m.
See context


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for that very important question.

The issue of pay equity is indeed probably the elephant in the room in addition to the issue of gender-based violence. Pay equity is as much an economic issue as it is a socio-historical issue.

When my colleague says that the bill is celebratory, I would like to just reposition that. The bill was aimed, specifically, at being not celebratory but evocative of the concrete challenges that we face today in Canada. If my colleagues takes a look at the preambles, they actually outline, in quite frank language and in quite a level of detail, all those things we need to overcome.

What the bill hopes to do, instead of just being government-centric in terms of the efforts to champion gender equality and pay equity, is to engage civil society. This is not something government can do alone. There are culture changes that are required. particularly in the corporate sector and in those sectors that are traditionally male dominated.

We hope to get Canadians to our side. I very much agree with the member that pay equity is a fundamental issue.