Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing forward Bill C-309, the bill on gender equality week. I want to say at the outset that I am absolutely and fundamentally opposed to discrimination on the basis of gender, and so I will be supporting this legislation.
The preamble in the bill is fairly long, but it lists a lot about the current state of our nation in terms of what women are facing. Today I want to focus on three of those areas: first, the violence that women are experiencing; second, poverty; and third, the continued discrimination that women face in Canada.
I am the chair of the status of women committee. Our committee is currently undertaking a study that looks at violence against women and young girls. We have heard absolutely horrific testimony, and the statistics that have come our way are really horrifying. We studied date rape on campuses in Canada. At campuses across our country, 29% of young women are sexually assaulted in the first eight weeks that they are at university. This is horrific. This is totally unacceptable. When we delved into the reasons for that, it was very disturbing to hear that among men ages 18 to 24, one-fifth of them think it is okay to force sex on a woman. This happening in our country today and at this time just shows the state of where we are at.
We heard testimony as well that, right here in Ottawa, 40% of women who show up to complain of sexual assault are turned away at the police station without even filing a report. That is unbelievable. Of the 60% who do file a report, 5% of them actually go to trial, and of those maybe 1% are successful. The penalties applied are measured in months, while the victims suffer for years.
The state of the nation in Canada in terms of violence against women and young girls is totally unacceptable.
The member talked about indigenous women. They are even more at risk of violence, and this is a huge issue. I really would encourage the government to move on this. With respect to the inquisition into murdered and missing aboriginal women that is going on, $14 million has been spent in the pre-consult and there will be another two years of consulting at a cost of $54 million, and there has been no action. We really need to move. We understand the issue. There are many reports with recommendations that we could start on. I would like to see action as well as consultation.
Another very vulnerable group is immigrant women. We did have testimony as well about women who come from South Asia and various other countries. Not only do they face violence but they face language barriers and all kinds of other issues, leaving them very vulnerable and in serious need of help.
We also heard about transgender people and the huge amount of violence that they are experiencing. We need to improve in this area. We need to get better quickly.
Looking at some of the statistics, women are four times more likely to be victims of intimate partner homicide, and half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since they were 16 years of age. Two-thirds of Canadians say they have personally known at least one woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse, and up to 80% of the perpetrators are men.
Gender inequality exists at all levels of our lives. From personal interactions to workplace practices, women are systematically on a different playing field.
The second thing I want to talk about has to do with poverty. We have heard people speak today about the wage gap that exists. I was fortunate enough to be on the pay equity committee that studied this issue, the special committee that was put together this last term. How disturbing it was to hear witness after witness before committee say that in 2004 the Bilson report was written and it was a very fulsome report, and to put it into effect would be the right thing to do.
Twelve years later, here we are, and women still make 73¢ for every dollar that men make. Canada is ranked 80th in the world. This is totally unacceptable for a country like Canada that is supposed to be the best country in the world. We need to do more.
I heard the member refer to the under-representation in science, technology, engineering, and math. I am passionate on this issue. I am always talking about women in engineering and the difficulties I faced personally. There were 13% women when I began and it is not much better now, maybe 25%, depending on the field. Therefore, there still is a wage gap, even in that high-paying field.
There are also barriers to promotions. The old boys' club is still alive and well. We have heard reference to the glass ceiling. These things are absolutely still true in our country. There are barriers to women being on boards. We saw an article in the paper just recently saying that although the federal government has done a fairly good job getting to gender parity, the crown corporations are still at 34% representation. We need to see activities happen there.
As for women in politics, I am very pleased to see 26% women in the House. The women in the House are bringing harmony, intelligence, and some great things, but I would like to see that number come to gender parity and gender equality. I know the minister has supported Equal Voice with an initiative to try to promote getting more women as candidates so we can have more women in the House. That is good.
We need to recognize that in our country there are people suffering in poverty, and disproportionately many of them are women. We are talking about elderly widows, single moms, and transgendered people. There are a number of demographics that are really suffering, and it is discriminatory. They have trouble getting a job. They have precarious work. In many cases, they did not work through their choice, and now their husbands have passed away, and there they are in poverty.
To get over poverty is a complex issue, but education is one of the keys. Mental health and getting over addictions is another key. Having well-paying jobs to go to is another key. There are lots of activities we can do to try to address the poverty issues we face in the country.
Gender equality week would bring women's poverty to the forefront. In Canada, more than 1.5 million women are living on low incomes. The Canadian Women's Association measures that 16% of single senior women, 28% of visible minority women, 33% of women with disabilities, and 37% of first nations women live in poverty. We need to do something about that.
Statistics Canada concluded that women spend more time on the care of children and the house than men. They also spend double the number of hours on child care, 30% more hours doing domestic work, and 50% more hours caring for seniors. We have talked about the wage gap. We need to do something to lift these women out of poverty and to address the continued discrimination that women feel in the country.
We heard testimony about the rape culture that exists. They described a rape pyramid, where at the top we see violence against women in all forms, but at the bottom of the pyramid we see all kinds of behaviours that women in our country are experiencing on a daily basis. Catcalling, harassment on the street, slut shaming, victim blaming, and all these things are happening and are commonplace. We are very normalized to them. We need to raise the bar on those. That is why I am very supportive of anything we can do to bring awareness to the issue of the problem we have with gender inequality in the country and the discrimination that people are facing.
There are lots of different types of events that can be done. Some members were on the Hill to participate in the Hope in High Heels event, which I did not participate in because I cannot walk in high heels. However, my staff was able to do it, and it certainly was a great event. There was lighting up the tower this week, on Tuesday, to stand in solidarity with women who have been victims of violence and abuse. These are all good things.
Gender equality week would be a great way to raise that awareness. It would happen in the middle of women's history month, where we have the day of the person, and the day of the girl. Why not gender equality week?
It is my pleasure to support Bill C-309, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to it today.