Gender Equality Week Act

An Act to establish Gender Equality Week

Sponsor

Sven Spengemann  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Nov. 30, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-309.

Summary

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”.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

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

June 21st, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, 50 years ago this year, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women exposed widespread discrimination against women in Canada. Fifty years later, that promise of equality is still not realized.

Liberal and Conservative governments have ignored the commission's recommendations, and successive Liberal and Conservative governments have cut social spending. That has had a direct impact on women's equality. Since 1995, Canada has dropped from first on the UN gender equality list to 25. How long will the Liberal government fail to rectify 50 years of women's inequality?

I will not argue with gender equality week, which is the subject of the debate here, Bill C-309. The government has set a good tone. It has put a lot of women MPs on its front bench. I laud it for that. The Prime Minister talks a good talk on feminism. The tone change is welcome. What we are pushing for is action to match the feminist rhetoric.

Despite the Prime Minister's good words about gender equality, he has failed to act in the year and a half the government has been in power, and the United Nations is calling him on it. The United Nations committee to end discrimination against women told Canada in November to get to work on legal aid, abortion access, pay equity, child care, and indigenous women's safety. The list went on and on. This is a big list and it is a big deal. The UN only digs into countries' commitments around their pledge to end discrimination against women every five years, and this is an important road map for the government to follow.

The government says it cares about the United Nations, says it cares about women, yet the United Nations says that the Liberal government is failing to act.

In February, we saw hundreds of women's groups and human rights and labour organizations calling on the Prime Minister to heed the United Nations' demand and step up for women's equality. The month before, in January, thousands of Canadians marched for women's rights. New Democrats stood with them, but there were no Liberal cabinet ministers I am aware of, although they might have been there. All of us were urging the government to get to work, use the tools it has at hand, use the majority it has, uphold its election commitments, uphold human rights, and make gender equality a reality for all women.

New Democrats have very specific actions in mind, and many of them have been long in the making, but the Liberal government has failed to translate these words into action. We would have wanted to see the government voting for my colleague from Burnaby South's private member's bill, the gender equity act. It had a very specific mechanism that could have moved this Parliament beyond having just roughly 25% women as members.

Canada ranks very low on the world index around the proportion of women. The increments are suggested by Equal Voice, an NGO committed to increasing women's representation in elected positions. They say that at this rate, it is going to take 89 years to reach gender equality in the House. A specific tool would have been helpful, but the government voted against it. In fact, the sponsor of this private member's bill, which purports to represent gender equality, also voted against that bill. The government did not propose its own alternative solution, which was discouraging.

Second, along with the United Nations committee to end discrimination against women, we have been urging the government to adopt a national strategy to end violence against women. That is the commitment Canada made to the United Nations. The government says that it is going to do a much narrower federal strategy instead, which will focus on data collection and internal government operations. That is not the commitment that it made internationally, which was to a national strategy that would exercise federal leadership to coordinate provincial, territorial, and municipal responses around social services and policing so that women in different corners in the country would have equivalent access to justice and equivalent expectation of safety.

Again, that is something that the government still has not done.

A third action that would make a big difference to women on the ground would be to legislate pay equity. I was very glad to have the government support a motion the New Democrats and I brought to the House in February 2016. It agreed to add pay equity to its commitments to Canada. The all-party committee recommended a year ago that by June 2017 legislation be tabled in the House. The government is now saying maybe late 2018. There is no rationale for that. Not a single witness recommended anything later than June 2017. Women have been asked to wait more than long enough, and there is no rationale for ragging the puck on pay equity. It is, honestly, an international embarrassment. We are way behind the mark on this.

A fourth action that would make a real difference to women on the ground would be ensuring no woman or child is every turned away from a domestic violence shelter when they need it. About 500 women and children are turned away every night from domestic violence shelters in Canada. Imagine the danger they would have to feel themselves to be in for them to gather their children, leave their family home, and ask for help. It would be embarrassing, and scary to conger up that courage, and then to be turned away, being told there is no room at the inn. That is heartbreaking.

For indigenous women, we keep hearing again and again that domestic violence shelters on reserve are 100% a federal responsibility. Its commitment is to build five shelters over the next five years. That is just a single digit, while the organization Pauktuutit tells us 70% of Inuit women have no access to any domestic violence shelter anywhere. That is something that would make a difference to people's lives on the ground right now.

We could also support the proposal submitted by my colleague from London—Fanshawe regarding free prescription birth control. It could be included in a pharmacare program. It is very expensive for women, young women especially. Birth control access is a vital part of women's economy, and ability to control their family planning, so they can fully participate in the workforce. The costs of family planning fall disproportionately to women, and real action on this would make a difference.

However, the private member's bill we have before us is simply to celebrate gender equality week. We had urged at committee to tie the enactment of the bill to such a time as pay equity is implemented, then maybe we would have something to celebrate. When I made that proposal, the sponsor said the bill is more intended to give citizens an opportunity to protest for gender equality, to put pressure on the government, to which I said, “This government says it is a feminist government and the Prime Minister is a feminist prime minister, and therefore we do not need to protest. For goodness' sake, women have had decades of practising their protesting, and I really do not think they need to be given any more opportunities.”

Therefore, because no one should ever vote against something as motherhood as this, I am going to support it, and so are my fellow New Democrats. We voted for it at every stage, but let us put those good intentions into action. Let us move beyond these celebratory, emblematic gestures by the government and its members, and let us do the hard work of legislating, so that when this enlightened, feminist government is no longer in power, there will be a legislative framework that the women of Canada can count on to make sure whoever is in power and whatever their intentions, gender equality is guaranteed for women now and in generations to come.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2017 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week. I wish to thank and commend the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for presenting this bill to the House. This is an important matter that requires attention. This is one way, among many, to bring this matter the attention it deserves.

I would like to begin by thanking all those who have fought for the rights of women in particular. We have come a long way. However, we know that more work needs to be done. This bill recognizes that, and this government recognizes that.

I recall my own experience when I was at the University of Western Ontario Western Law School. I would walk up and down the hallways, and I noticed on the walls there were pictures of each graduating year. There was something about the picture from 1962 that got my attention. I remember the year clearly because it was the year I was born. What was different about that picture from 1962? It was the first picture of a graduating class that contained a woman.

I looked at the woman in that picture, and I had great appreciation and admiration for her. I thought to myself, what would it be like to be the only woman in a class with a completely male faculty, with only male student colleagues beside me, and what would it be like to get ready to embark upon a profession that was completely male-dominated? I knew at that time that I was in that place because that woman helped pave the way to get me there. I had great gratitude and appreciation for what that woman had done for me.

I am happy to say that my graduating class was almost 50% women. Has there been improvement? Absolutely. Was that a positive step? It sure was. However, in practice, the imbalance was still felt. There was more than one occasion when I was on the phone on files with lawyers, when they asked me to put the lawyer on the phone. I had to tell them that I was the lawyer.

Let us be clear, this is not about forcing women to occupy certain positions, professions, or occupations. This is not about quotas or ideological thinking. This is about ensuring that every woman sees every opportunity, occupation, and profession as something that is available to her, so that she can pursue her dreams. This is about ensuring that every woman sees every position as something that is within reach. This clearly involves a commitment to education and change.

Having served in education for the past 20 years, I have witnessed first-hand its benefits. I have seen the amazing power that our youth possess. Our youth can clearly change the world. It is important to inform, educate, and encourage our youth to support all people, regardless of gender, in pursuing their dreams and goals. This is about ensuring that each person, no matter their gender identity, is able to recognize, and celebrate their gifts and pursue that which enables them to share their gifts with the world.

This bill would encourage schools to have open, full, and robust conversations about gender in the classroom. It would be in and through these conversations that students would more fully support the advancement and inclusion of all people. It would enable youth to consider trades and professions that they may not have believed available to them. It would encourage our young people to strive for justice. I know first-hand how important justice is to our young people. They make great sacrifices in order to ensure that justice is done. Once the educational piece is provided, it would encourage and facilitate active involvement of our youth.

Throughout my experience working as a chaplain in high schools, I have noticed there has been slow change over the last 20 years. For example, I saw more women signing up for the auto class during those past 20 years, and I know that the women have done fantastic in those classes. I have seen some now go on and occupy the position of a mechanic, and the most important thing is, they absolutely love the job.

Is there more that needs to be done? Absolutely, but I am proud of the work that this government has done thus far in terms of knowing what needs to be done and recognizing that. I want to provide an example from my beloved city, Hamilton. Both of our amazing post-secondary institutions, Mohawk College and McMaster University, teach engineering and engineering technology. I know that both of these great schools are working hard to encourage women to apply, but women are still significantly a minority in faculties and as students. We only have to look at the health sciences to see that a male dominated profession can successfully change its culture to open its doors to women.

I think that women start losing interest in science, technology, engineering and math in elementary school and in high school. In my experience, both as a chaplain and as a mother, there can be subtle and even subconscious bias in favour of young men. Perhaps it is as simple as subtly changing the way math is taught or presented in schools, or perhaps making sure that girls and women have also received positive reinforcement that is traditionally provided to young men versus young women in STEM classrooms.

All I know is that we can do much better at welcoming, and including women into the STEM disciplines to access the widest and deepest talent pool as we train data scientists, artificial intelligence experts, and system engineers of the future. I wish to acknowledge and commend the efforts of our Minister of Science who I know is working hard on this.

I know there are many on board on this issue. I know, for example, the Canadian building trades are doing what they need to do in order to encourage women to participate. I have seen presentations given at their meetings. I remember one particular slide that showed up at a presentation they had at their meeting, and the slide was of two people, a woman and a man. It showed the path to get to the successful end, and to succeed in the trade. The man's path was very straight, and there were no obstacles. The woman's path, on the other hand, curved, with obstacles on the way. There was a puddle, a hurdle, and a snake pit. It clearly demonstrated the difference that we need to do more in this area, but that they were working on that in order to make that a reality. There was a plea to be more open and more accepting.

I have met women who are working in the trades, and they are delighted to be bricklayers, pipefitters, or any other worthy trade. Rosie the riveter is alive and well in the Canadian building trades. Women in the trades are thrilled to participate, and are very conscious of their pioneering role. It is always very inspiring for me to speak with them, and hear the stories of them overcoming their challenges to achieve success.

Much work does remain to be done before we achieve gender equality in the workforce. Again, let me stress that gender equality week is not about putting women above men or excluding men from opportunity. Not at all, it is quite the opposite. Gender equality week is about creating an equal playing field, so people of different genders can feel free to participate in any aspect of Canadian society.

Gender equality week is about the fundamental Liberal belief that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and that each one of us deserves to be able to define our goals, and achieve them through hard work with no artificial bias or prejudice creating blocks and obstacles. Gender equality week is more about the freedom of all Canadians, because a society in which each person feels free to choose their future and participate is a confident society, a confident society that generates optimism, hard work, success and prosperity, because every citizen feels like their hard work may be rewarded.

This is the type of society I want to live in, and that is what the bill helps us achieve.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on the private member's bill introduced by the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore, Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week.

Before I begin, I would like to commend the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for the incredible work that he has done. He made a concerted effort to work with all members in a spirit of collegiality to reach a broad consensus on the need to pass Bill C-309, which is an important symbolic gesture for Canada and which will result in an extensive public awareness campaign.

Every year, we will spend a week marking the importance of achieving gender equality in Canada and throughout the world in order to put an end to the systemic discrimination that threatens women on many fronts.

Gender equality week will be a time to shed some light on the obstacles women constantly face in their daily lives and to let Canadians know what they can do to advance this cause.

I mentioned systemic discrimination, and I think everyone here is familiar with the obstacles and the various forms of discrimination that women face in their personal and professional lives. These obstacles are outlined in some detail in the bill's preamble, which describes the various types of challenges women face. It reads:

...in Canada, women are more likely than men to be victims of gender-based violence, including sexual assault and intimate partner violence;

Whereas Indigenous women, be they First Nation, Métis or Inuit, are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and sexual exploitation;

...Whereas Canadian women face barriers in pursuing and completing post-secondary education and pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics;

...Whereas Canadian women face challenges in being promoted to executive or board management positions, and those who do reach such positions are often paid less than men in similar positions;

Those are just some of the things that women in Canada and abroad experience. I thank the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for including them in this bill.

We know we have to raise people's awareness of these problems and tackle them by adopting pragmatic policies that position us to support women throughout their lives, to provide them with services that are flexible enough to adapt to the new professional and day-to-day realities facing Canadian women, to enable women to achieve their professional goals, whatever they might be, and to end violence against women. This bill was introduced by a male member of the Liberal caucus, which I see as a good sign. More men need to stand up for women's equality in Canada.

Awareness is key. We need to promote a cultural and ideological ideal. We need to build a society that fights for gender equality and does not perpetuate stereotypes and their preconceived notions of inferiority and natural tendency.

This is another step toward dismantling social concepts of masculinity and femininity that use poorly defined behavioural standards to restrict how people interact and participate in public and private spaces.

We know that every aspect of society benefits when different points of view are expressed. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women, of which I have the honour of being a member, heard many accounts describing the benefits of having women on boards of directors, in politics, and in every aspect of management in our businesses and public institutions.

Businesses are more successful and generally project a more positive image when they have many women on staff as well as in management positions. This is not a statistic, it is a fact, and yet women are often left out of positions where they might contribute to decision-making, which is unfortunate for society as a whole.

The time has come to do away with the prejudices and concerns around hiring women that stem from preconceived notions. Bill C-309 can serve as a catalyst toward helping fulfill Canada's commitment to gender equality education and awareness.

Everyone knows that to achieve true gender equality and to lift countless women out of the cycle of poverty, discrimination, and marginalization, there needs to be a major cultural shift in how we recognize women's contribution to society, both in their public and private lives.

It is important that we recognize the work that goes into supporting the family unit. This work, often undervalued, continues to fall on women because traditional gender roles still result in women often being the ones to provide care. This prevents women from entering the workforce and permanently delays or degrades their economic potential and, by extension, the economic potential of the entire country, through loss of talent. We need to reverse this trend so that women can work in the same areas and have the same responsibilities as men, both at home and in the workplace, so they can be empowered, become independent and fully achieve their social and economic potential.

The federal government, with its many initiatives, is working to improve gender equality in Canada and around the world, including through the following investments: $7 billion over 10 years to create and maintain high-quality child care spaces; over $11.2 billion over 11 years for an inclusive national housing strategy; the new tax-free Canada child benefit, especially helpful for families headed by single mothers; a new $40-million fund from the Business Development Bank of Canada for technology companies headed by women, made up of venture capital and growth capital; and an additional $10 million for regional initiatives to help women start businesses.

This bill will support the commendable efforts already underway by officially institutionalizing gender equality. It will create an annual week recognizing women’s equality in Canada, so that gender equality will finally be recognized as a cultural norm. As well, by promoting women’s empowerment, the bill will ensure that we can finally see more women on corporate boards, more women in politics, and more women in science and technology. This will be the ideological centrepiece for a series of pragmatic, feminist policies.

In closing, I wish to point out that Bill C-309 is a very important step toward launching a comprehensive and extended awareness-raising campaign on gender equality. The only way to drive real change is to educate and raise awareness on this issue. I hope that my colleagues will vote in favour of this bill, with amendments, in order to support our ongoing efforts to achieve gender equality in Canada. The more we fight for this cause, the more Canadian women will benefit.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2017 / 6 p.m.
See context

Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-309, an act to establish a gender equality week in Canada.

One might ask why the bill so important. We are in 2017. There should be a standard notion that men, women, gender non-conforming individuals, and transgender people are all equal. We all know that is not the case. Although our government has taken quite a few steps to ensure we have risen the profile of women in our gender-paired cabinet, the number of women in caucus, and the number of women in the House, plenty of work still needs to be done.

I will give the House some examples from my life. In case members have not noticed, I am a black woman in the House of Commons. It is quite rare still have black women in this place. I am one of two black women in the House.

In my role, I stand on the shoulders of many who came before me. However, when we look at women in business and politics, statistics show that only 20% to 30% of them are in senior level positions, sit on boards, or in positions of power. Less than 10% of women with disabilities, indigenous women, racialized women, women of the LBTQ2, transgender, non-conforming, religious minorities are in these positions. Maybe 3% to 4% of individuals of these particular minority groups are on boards or are in positions of power. That needs to change.

The barriers these individuals face need to be removed. How do we start to do that? By first acknowledging the situation, which is women, especially minority women and vulnerable women, are not afforded the same opportunities as men.

I have two daughters and a son. It is interesting in my household. My son is a math and science guy but he is also a dancer. He does ballet, acro, and has just taken up jazz. My daughters are very focused. My eldest daughter is going off to law school. My middle daughter is very much into the arts but also very much math and science oriented. They have parents who really push education, who push the fact that they have the ability to do anything they want to do.

This bill would allow others who might not be afforded the same opportunities as my children to see those examples throughout a very targeted, very specific demonstration of the capability of women and girls. When they grow up, they will be able to choose what they want to do.

I want to speak specifically now to my role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development. In that role, we have made it very clear that we will put women and girls at the centre of everything we do. We know from various studies that if women are allowed to rise to their full potential, if we invest in women and girls with respect to sustainable development goals, education, health care, and reduce poverty, there can be a $12 trillion to $28 trillion injection into our global GDP.

What does this mean? It means that at the current pace, we are not tapping into the great potential women and girls bring to our economy.

It is not only about dollars and cents, but sometimes it is best to speak about dollars and cents. I am a business major, so I like to think of the return on the investments that we make in everything. When we make those investments in women and girls, it is important to know that most often it is the women who return that investment to their communities, sometimes in the fold of 80% to 90%.

They return that investment by making sure their children are okay, that their families are okay, and making sure that their communities are okay. In fact, oftentimes when lower-developed countries would make this investment in women, the women would take what little resources they had, and they would save it and then share it with other women to make sure that those other women had opportunities.

A gender equality week would allow us to profile the stories of these women. It would allow us to say that these are the things that women are doing around the world; women who have the means and the capabilities to make change, and women who are taking what little they have and making change. It is very important we highlight these opportunities that women can use to make their communities and countries better.

What have we done? I have explained that as a Black woman in this House, there is still a lot further that we need to go. This government has been very deliberate in taking a whole-of-government approach to looking at the issues around gender equality. We have made investments in child care and affordable housing. We have made investments in social infrastructure and transit, making sure that people, women in particular, can get to and from work. We have made investments in shelters to ensure that there is adequate space for women who are fleeing violence and particularly damaging situations. We have made investments in a gender-based violence strategy and the Minister of Status of Women had the opportunity to present that earlier this week. We have made investments in seniors in well.

All of these investments allow us to look at, through various lenses, the barriers that women face when they want to embark on a career, start a family, and make choices about what they want to do with their lives. This allows them to get some of those barriers out of the way. Again, a week focused on gender equality would give us an opportunity to highlight, and amplify some of the necessities to ensure that barriers that face women, barriers that face minority women, and barriers that are in front of various vulnerable groups of women are not only removed, but also that the time is taken to address and study them.

What this bill really encourages Canadians to do is to recognize there are issues in terms of gender equality in this country, and also to take the opportunity to recognize that rights of women are fundamental human rights. There is capacity for our government and for society to integrate women's issues into everything they do, and it is something that we take seriously as a government. We do it here domestically, and we are also putting it into our international development policy to ensure that women and girls stay front and centre, and that gender equality is a human rights issue as well.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in support of this bill because it reinforces what we are doing at home, as has been very well articulated by my colleague, but also what we are doing globally. As Canada pursues its progressive free trade agenda, it very much puts the well-being of women at the centre, as well as other marginalized groups, particularly those in the LGBTQ community or with disabilities. We are doing that because we know that women's welfare is at the heart of the strength of families and communities.

As I travel as the Parliamentary Secretary for International Trade around the world, I make it a point in every country I go to, to host a roundtable of women in international trade because I want them to understand that they are helping Canada to achieve its goals of equality for women. What I find is that whether I am in a strict Muslim country, or a communist country, or a country very similar to ours, our progressive trade agenda is being celebrated, and women are attaching to it, because they know the difference it makes when women are empowered and when women are thriving in business.

I believe that our government's progressive agenda is actually suggesting to the world that women will be one of the greatest drivers of progress the world has ever seen, and the bill allows us to say that to Canadians, and as Canadians to take responsibility for that because who are we to travel around the world and suggest that what we think our progressive trade agenda is all about includes women everywhere else.

The current reality facing women globally is that we continue to be less represented in the workplaces of the world. We make less money than men. We do more menial jobs. We face discrimination at work, and we face discrimination when we access services. We are subject to violence because of our gender. We face barriers to education. We carry the lion's share of raising children. Frequently, we are denied the right to determine the fate of our own bodies.

Those statements sound quite bold, and maybe they sound like exaggerations, but they are not. From my perspective, the point of the bill is to allow us to say those things out loud, and to allow people to reflect on their experience as women or men, and ask themselves, have I stretched in order to ensure that women have the same opportunity as men do?

Increasing the participation of women in society improves the lives of women, families, and communities. With regard, for example, to the well-known micro-financing lender, the Grameen Bank, it came to the conclusion after several years that the best investment was to make micro-loans to women. About 97% of the world's largest micro-financing bank lends to women, and there are several concrete reasons and several concrete outcomes. One is, women pay it back. They are less of a risk. Second, when they have money, they invest first of all in their children; second, in their home; third, in their community; and fourth, in themselves. I forgot to mention that they also tend to bring other women with them, and share with them the opportunity.

We know that this has been very successful as it is highly documented. It is also well documented that when a corporate board is equally made up of women and men, the bottom line is that much stronger. I would suggest there are reasons related to the reasons I just gave for that, so what we are doing by not establishing this week, as one tool that we have, is that we are essentially saying we do not want to realize our full potential as a society. We do not want to extend to each and every Canadian equal opportunity. We cannot stand proudly on our progressive free trade agenda unless we are doing this equally at home.

In the times we face right now, the world looks at our progressive trade agenda as a beacon of hope that is very much needed. That is going to be powered by the women in Canada, and the women around the world who relate to the policies of our government. They are the ones who will be celebrated in the bill, and in this week that I certainly hope we will be celebrating this fall.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to gender equality.

The Government of Canada is committed to making gender equality a priority. Gender equality is about more than just equality between women and men. Indeed, every individual should enjoy the same rights and opportunities, regardless of their gender.

We are proud to support the creation of gender equality week, and we invite all Canadians to join us in this celebration.

Despite increased prosperity, women continue to face key barriers linked to gender inequality. Women with disabilities, indigenous women, senior women, and women who are members of visible minority groups are also particularly vulnerable to inequality. Furthermore, transgender and non-conforming individuals face further marginalization due to prevailing gender norms and attitudes within Canadian society.

The intention of gender equality week is to recognize aspects of Canadian society where women have not achieved equality and to promote awareness of these inequalities. The week would also serve to educate Canadians on opportunities to promote gender equality and actively address issues that may contribute to inequality.

Gender equality week would also serve to educate Canadians on the non-binary nature of gender and provide information on issues facing gender-diverse individuals.

From a public policy perspective, gender equality week would provide additional opportunity for the Government of Canada to underscore the importance of gender equality and the ongoing need for gender-based analysis in the development of government programs and services.

October is currently celebrated as Women’s History Month in Canada and includes International Day of the Girl on October 11 and Persons Day on October 18.

Recognizing gender equality week in September could be an opportunity to generate and sustain awareness on gender equality issues more broadly. There are no anticipated legal, financial or federal-provincial-territorial implications associated with this bill.

By the first week of October, educators and students will have settled into their fall routines. This presents an opportunity for thoughtful and robust engagement on the subject of gender equality in Canada. Bill C-309 also complements Women's History Month, in that it highlights the important work that remains ahead of us.

Canadians will have an opportunity to address these challenges, since the federal government cannot solve all of them alone. Bill C-309 encourages all levels of government, indigenous communities and organizations, academia, the private sector, not-for-profits, the media, and civil society at large to participate in a national conversation to raise collective awareness of these challenges and to identify constructive solutions.

In addition to national engagement on these issues, it is hoped that engagement in gender equality week will take on a local character through community-based activities ranging from town halls and research proposals to fundraising initiatives.

It will thereby serve as an effective vehicle for members of Parliament to build and strengthen relationships within their communities. This bill creates an annual platform that encourages all 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.

We intend for Bill C-309 to complement and work in tandem with our government's plan to address these challenges by building momentum around achieving true gender equality in Canadian society.

My party and I will certainly support such a worthwhile bill.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Northumberland—Peterborough South Ontario

Liberal

Kim Rudd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to talk about my hon. colleague's bill and the importance of recognizing that gender equality means so much. It is not just about men and women; it is about transgendered people, indigenous persons, persons with disability, and a recognition that education is one of the ways to spread this message.

I am a mother of two daughters: one is a lawyer and one is a teacher. I like to think that they have equality of opportunity. Part of the reason they have had more equality of opportunity than generations before us is, as my mother and grandmother, who both worked in trade unions said to me, “There were many women in generations before us who helped get us to where we are today.” It is part of my responsibility as a member of Parliament, as a woman, and as a concerned and engaged Canadian, when we talk about education, that we take the opportunity to educate the general public, and also employers, organizations, and those who would be in a position to provide that opportunity.

This is Pride Month. What a wonderful way to celebrate Pride Month, by acknowledging that gender equality and equality of opportunity are key to recognizing citizens in our country who do not always have the easiest path forward.

I look forward to working not just with the member opposite but with all members in this House to make sure that we are doing our part, not just to educate, but to celebrate the diversity that is our country, the opportunities that will allow my daughters and my granddaughter to be able to find ways to contribute in a way that recognizes that diversity, that we do not have a set of expectations that people should conform, that they should fit into a mould, but that there are opportunities that will allow us all to be the individuals we are.

This bill to support a gender equality week is something that I think all of us as MPs should and can get behind.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we conclude third reading of Bill C-309, I would like to take the opportunity to once again express my sincere thanks to my colleagues in this House, and to all those who have been involved in shaping and championing this bill, an act to establish gender equality week.

I would like to spend the final minutes of this debate acknowledging the work of three men in particular among all those who inspired my work on Bill C-309.

Our Prime Minister, who proudly and regularly describes himself as a feminist, has challenged men to do more to support women and Canadians of minority gender identity and expression in an effort to achieve gender equality. He leads by example, having appointed the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canada's history, and he empowers his ministers to systematically apply gender equality and equity considerations to both their domestic and international work.

Day by day, much of the credit also goes to our amazing parliamentary staffers right here on Parliament Hill. My own executive and legislative assistant, Adrian Zita-Bennett, proudly hails from Mississauga—Lakeshore, and he has done a lot of the heavy lifting in the stakeholder consultations and in the drafting of the preambular paragraphs of Bill C-309. As a young professional, Adrian is passionate about social justice, and he has pledged himself to doing what he can to help bring full gender equality to our country.

The third man is Glen Canning. Members of this chamber will remember the Rehtaeh Parsons tragedy. Rehtaeh was a Nova Scotia teenager who was sexually assaulted by four males at a home near Halifax in November 2011. She took her own life on April 4, 2013, following months of bullying, cyber-abuse, and victim-blaming. Glen Canning is Rehtaeh's father. I had the honour of meeting him a short while ago at a fundraiser for Interim Place, which is a local women's shelter in Mississauga, where he told Rehtaeh's heartbreaking story. Today, four years after Rehtaeh's death, Mr. Canning is an activist and writer, courageous and tireless, who is doing what he can to stop sexual violence in Canada.

I spoke with him by telephone yesterday, and I asked him if there was a message that he would like to relay to this House and to Canadians. He told me that one of the most important goals is to equip young men with the right tools and knowledge to be able to stop acts of sexual violence or harassment against women and girls when they witness them. If Bill C-309 will help to ensure that every man and every boy in Canada knows about Rehtaeh Parsons' story, and other stories like hers, for that reason alone it will have done a great deal of good.

I wanted to highlight these three examples of men who have stepped up and are taking action because, in my view, it is very important that men in increasing numbers become champions of all aspects of gender equality: sexual and intimate partner violence; the gender wage gap; the continuing disparity of opportunities for women in the STEM careers and male-dominated fields such as law enforcement, aviation, or the armed forces; the plight of Canada's indigenous women; and numerous other areas, as outlined in Bill C-309's preambular paragraphs.

Women and Canadians of minority gender identity and expression simply cannot and should not do this work alone. Many men are already actively involved through the HeForShe campaign and through important community-based efforts across our country. These men, in turn, will inspire more men and boys to join them, as there is much more work to be done and more help needed.

It is my aspiration that Bill C-309, an act to establish Gender Equality Week, will serve as a platform to support this work through a focused national discussion each year, not only to raise awareness among Canadians and to take stock of the remaining challenges but also, through stories like Rehtaeh's, to emphasize that the status quo is simply untenable. We must continue to take action on gender equality.

I have had the great privilege of working on this bill with colleagues from all parties in this chamber over the past several months. I look forward to engaging with our colleagues in the other place in the months ahead.

Once again, I express my sincere thanks to all supporters of Bill C-309. I am grateful for everything they are doing to champion this very important cause.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

moved that Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise today to once again speak in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, as it is read a third time. I would like to thank my colleagues in this House for their interest in this bill, for their important contributions to the debate at second reading and at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and for their support. I would also like to thank once more 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 would like to thank the Strength in Stories team for the ideas and inspiration that helped bring us to where we are today.

Gender equality week would provide us with a critical opportunity to engage and address areas in which gender-based disparities persist. As my colleagues in this chamber are aware, my team and I elaborated on these disparities in the preamble of this bill.

Importantly, gender equality week is not an occasion to celebrate accomplishments, but, as reflected in the preambular paragraphs, it is an initiative that seeks to raise awareness of the most profound remaining challenges and it offers a platform to work collectively on concrete solutions.

The resounding vote of 287-1 in this House to send the bill to committee at second reading, in my view, revealed that acknowledgement of these challenges goes far beyond partisan affiliation. All of us bear individual and collective responsibility in a society that categorically and systematically treats and values genders differently.

In short, if we truly seek to address these challenges, the pivotal steps are to recognize them frankly and to ensure that they are understood. The federal government cannot solve these issues and problems by itself. Gender equality requires awareness and engagement on the part of all Canadians.

To be absolutely clear, I am very proud of what we are already doing to achieve gender equality and equity. I applaud the leadership of our Prime Minister and of the federal government, who are working to address systemic gender-based gaps that have permeated Canadian society since Confederation.

The Prime Minister formed Canada's first cabinet with female and male parity. He also appointed a woman to be the government House leader and a minister who would focus exclusively on gender issues. These were also firsts in Canadian history.

The Government of Canada also launched an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.

What is more, the Minister of Status of Women is developing a federal strategy against gender-based violence. The government also announced the implementation of gender-based analysis, or GBA+, in all federal government departments to ensure that gender issues are taken into account in all government policies and legislation.

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.

The Government of Canada introduced Bill C-16, which is currently before the Senate. It 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.

I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for Edmonton-Centre, and the special advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues for his tireless work as an advocate for Canadians of minority gender identity and expression.

As my colleagues know, in budget 2017, the federal government has committed to allocating $3.6 million over three years, starting this year, to establish a LGBTQ2 Secretariat within the Privy Council Office.

I believe that this initiative is important to the development and implementation of government-led initiatives for the LGBTQ2 community, and I hope that gender equality week can contribute to these efforts.

On the international stage, Canada has seized the opportunity to serve on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and is a strong supporter of the UN HeForShe campaign.

As a Canadian delegate at the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which was held in New York last March, and together with the representatives of such countries as Pakistan, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon, I committed to making the kind of efforts that Canada and parliamentarians have made to promote gender equality.

I was pleased to hear positive feedback on BillC-309 from representatives and other delegates. In Canada and abroad, there is definitely a will to eliminate the gender gap. I have no doubt that if we continue to work together to eliminate gender disparities in our respective societies, we can find constructive, long-term solutions.

Once again, I wish to acknowledge the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Government of Canada in promoting the equality of men and women.

Important as these and other actions are, more work remains ahead of us than behind us. To close the remaining gaps, the government will need the advocacy, support, and commitment of Canadians.

Bill C-309 recognizes this need and it 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 of all levels of government, young and established professionals, new Canadians, our indigenous peoples, Canadians in law enforcement and our armed forces, and seniors.

Involvement in gender equality week could take a wide range of forms, and some of these forms include town hall discussions, university and college colloquia, music, plays, literature, film projects, workplace round tables, formulation and presentation of academic research, public rallies, fundraisers, social media, radio and television events, and campaigns.

Our consultations with various groups, organizations, and levels of government helped us draft a substantive preamble that gives Canadians a clear idea of the challenges we face. Gender-based violence and the gender wage gap are particularly critical obstacles that we, as Canadians, must tackle and eliminate. Active engagement will lead to real progress on both those fronts.

Now that I have had the privilege of hearing different perspectives and working with colleagues from all parties in this chamber on Bill C-309 for the past several months, I look forward to engaging with our counterparts in the Senate in the months ahead.

I encourage fellow members to once again support this bill, as the time to act is now. Canadians want us, as parliamentarians, to address the most critical issues facing our country. Through gender equality week, we would build a platform through which we can generate momentum to resolve a major multi-faceted issue that faces our country today, gender inequality.

This House has the opportunity to send a powerful message to Canadians that their elected representatives in concert seek to engage and work with civil society to address gender-based disparities.

I look forward to continuing to work toward establishing a national annual gender equality week, and I look forward to working on this project with colleagues from this House and the Senate.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note that in the preamble of my hon. colleague's bill, there is the following statement:

Whereas Indigenous women, be they First Nation, Métis or Inuit, are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and sexual exploitation;

I commend my colleague for introducing Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week. It is clear from recent history that such a week is long overdue.

My hon. colleague obviously believes that Canada still has a long way to go to achieve gender equality and to achieve justice for indigenous women and girls.

Could my colleague tell us how we could best address and identify the underlying causes of violence toward women, especially indigenous women and girls?

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed an opportunity to look at the deeper causes, the root causes, of gender inequality and gender inequity across our country. To do that, we need to engage all Canadians. This bill is an opportunity to pivot to all of civil society, to leaders in our community and to Canadians who have never thought about this issue or about becoming involved. It would give them the opportunity and the platform to do that.

I made reference to a number of different forms in which gender equality week could manifest itself. One of those is in academic research. When we look at the sociology of root causes, gender equality week could direct national attention to that issue and really give us an opportunity to acknowledge the root causes and to then formulate solutions to address and resolve them.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there is a sense of awareness from designating a day, a week, or a month. On this particular issue, it would be wonderful, not only as the national government demonstrating leadership by designating the week but in how it could have an impact at different levels in our communities, such as in our schools. Using schools as an example, if teachers take an interest in what has been proposed by Ottawa, we would get a higher sense of gender equity, because the issue would be talked about more in our schools.

I wonder if my colleague could comment on the educational benefits of having a week of this nature.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned a group called Strength in Stories, which is a local organization in my riding. The very first conversations on this bill were exactly in the area my colleague points to, which is the field of education. The idea was to pull together a project that would address gender-based disparities or inequities at the level of education. The federal government cannot reach into other levels of government to prescribe educational programs. However, it could certainly offer this week as a platform for teachers to take advantage of it and to do the very important teaching not just at the graduate and post-graduate level, which would give us an opportunity for research and some data, but all the way down to the elementary level, where cultures and attitudes are shaped early on. We really look to education as probably the foundational opportunity for this week to manifest across the country.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for his speech and his leadership on this issue. I wonder if he would offer us a few reflections on the first gender statement in the budget we just passed and how this is consistent with the spirit of this private member's bill.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to gender analysis, of course it is fundamental to connect it to the budgetary process and to put our programming through a gender lens. In using gender-based analyses in the bureaucracy in the planning and execution of programs, the two really come together. I am very proud that this budget is the first budget developed in Canada with a gender-specific lens, and we look forward to much more along these lines in the years to come.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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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NDP

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.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

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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Liberal

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.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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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NDP

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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

Liberal

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:

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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Liberal

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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NDP

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.
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Liberal

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.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 7:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for his advocacy and commitment to gender equality and for his vision to bring forward this private member's bill.

I would love it if we had 52 weeks a year that were gender-equality weeks. However, it is a wonderful initiative to bring this forward so we do have a week where we can raise awareness about some of the issues we need to address in our society.

Having worked in investment banking, which was a non-traditional career, it is very important for us to encourage young women and girls to not only pursue but also stay in some of these more non-traditional careers.

I am very proud, as vice-chair of the status of women committee, our committee is embarking upon a study on the economic empowerment of women.

Could the hon. member speak to not only this wonderful initiative to recognize the importance of gender equality, but also the economic benefits of gender equality in our society?

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 7:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and hon. colleague, the member for Oakville North—Burlington, for her advocacy. I am very proud of the fact that she seconded the bill at first reading. I am grateful to her.

The economic argument is incredibly powerful. In fact, just last week, Christine Lagarde, who is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said, and I am quoting her loosely, that equal pay and equal economic opportunity for women and men was an economic no-brainer. The last part really is her language. She said that it was good for growth, it was good for diversification of the economy, it was good for reducing inequality and, from a micro point of view, it was also good for the bottom line of companies.

That really is the way we can bring men, who traditionally have dominated the sector that my hon. colleague was part of, into the equation. We can look to other institutions, like UBS management and the McKinsey Global Institute. If we look at this globally, the economic loss or, depending upon which way we look at it, economic output gain that would increase if we had gender-equality pay equity tomorrow would be in the trillions of dollars, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10 trillion.

In an economic environment globally where growth is hard to come by, this is an issue that we should pursue from an economic lens.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 7:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 8:05 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, we definitely need gender equality. There is no question. Canadian women earn only 74¢ for every dollar earned by men. Domestic and sexual violence cost our economy over $12 billion per year. There are 1.4 million women who report, and few report, having experienced forms of sexual violence in the last five years. One in four women in their lifetime will be affected by gender-based violence. Canada ranks 60th in the world when it comes to gender parity in our parliaments. We are behind Kazakhstan, South Sudan, and Iraq. Then we just had this very high-profile loss with the U.S. election of president where a lot of us are saying that a highly qualified woman lost to an under-qualified man. It is important to raise the profile of the contribution that Canadian women have made to the growth, development, and character of our country. There is no question.

Already this year, we have women on bank notes, we have a gender-balanced cabinet, and we have this bill being debated today to establish gender equality week. None of that makes a whit of difference in the lives of Canadian women on the ground. I suggest respectfully that the best way to honour women is by legislating real change on gender equality. After more than a year in power, the current Liberal government has failed to translate feminist rhetoric into real change, and it is far beyond time to put words into action.

New Democrats have a great list of actions that could be taken to make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

Number one on the list of actions is pay equity legislation now. Women make 74¢ on the dollar. Aboriginal women with a university degree earn 33% less, so the gap increases the more educated indigenous women are. Although the legislation was written 12 years ago when the previous Liberal government was in power, the government now says its target is late 2018. There is no excuse for that. Not a single witness recommended that kind of time lag. Women have waited 40 years for pay equity, and they should not have to wait any longer.

Another action is more women in Parliament. There are only 26% in this House. At this rate, it is going to take us 89 years to reach gender parity in Parliament. Because the Liberal government voted down the candidate gender equity act last month, which would have promoted a gender-balanced Parliament, we think that the government should introduce its own measure to actually get more women in these seats. Members of Parliament who voted against the candidate gender equity act include the sponsor of this bill and the Minister of Status of Women.

We want an expanded strategy to end violence against women. We still do not have a national plan of action to promote the protection of women and girls despite the commitment made to the United Nations in 1995. Since then, many countries have adopted a national action plan. They include Belgium, Finland, France, and the United Kingdom. Australia is on its fourth plan, kind of breaking some stereotypes about Australia's cowboy mentality. Here in Canada, rates of violence against women have remained largely unchanged over 20 years, and the absence of a national action plan is resulting in fragmented approaches across the provinces and territories. We want the action plan scope that the minister is now undertaking to be expanded to include service delivery in areas of provincial responsibility. That is what a national plan is. That would mean that it includes education, policing, and the justice system, all key services that can help end violence against women.

We want well-funded women's domestic violence shelters. On any given day, more than 4,000 women and over 2,000 children reside in a domestic violence shelter, every day. More than 300 women and children are turned away from shelters on any given day. Three out of four cannot be accommodated, and those are the ones who come forward looking for help. There has been a 24% increase in phone calls at the Haven Society in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith. More and more women are asking for help. We need expanded services to be able to accommodate them. We are pushing hard for federal funding to support domestic violence shelter operations, and we note that in the mid-1990s the Chrétien government cut that operational funding, which was characterized as the most Draconian spending cuts in federal history.

New Democrats want domestic violence shelters for first nations, Métis, and Inuit women. According to Amnesty International, the scale and severity of violence faced by indigenous women and girls in Canada constitutes a national human rights crisis. Some 70% of Inuit communities do not have access to any domestic violence shelters.

Indigenous women face a violence rate of three times that of the rest of the Canadian population, and yet the Liberal budget funded only five new shelters on reserve over the next five years. That would result in a total of just 46 violence against women shelters on reserve across the country, and that is by 2022, well after the government's term is over. We also have to look much more thoughtfully at violence against women shelters off reserve.

Gender-based analysis is something that we need legislated in Canada. Gender equality can be exacerbated by policies and spending decisions if we do not have a legislated solution through which these kinds of decisions are made. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women, back in June, recommended that legislation be tabled in the House by June 2017. New Democrats recommended that it be tabled next month, because we need to get ahead of all of the policy changes and infrastructure spending that is about to roll out. However, the government's response was no timeline whatsoever. It thinks that in 2018 it might have a reaction to whether we need legislation at all. Therefore, there is no timetable for legislation.

We need child care in this country, high-quality, affordable child care, that helps women seek employment, improves their job skills and careers, and eases family financial stress. I was delighted to see this week that Premier Notley, the New Democrat premier in Alberta, is creating 1,000 new child care spaces and 230 new child care jobs. As Stephen Lewis has famously said, feminism is a vacant construct without a national child care system.

New Democrats want more federal appointments of women to crown corporations. Only 27% of members of boards of directors of federal crown corporations are women. This is a power that the government has to change, right now. The Canadian Dairy Commission, for example, has no women on it whatsoever. The Bank of Canada and CMHC have mostly male board members. In my community, the Nanaimo Port Authority has a majority of women on its board, and it is a fantastic board.

The federal government made commitments to real change in the mandate letter for the Minister of Status of Women, but no action has been taken yet. If none is taken, then I will encourage the government to support my bill, Bill C-220, which would move, over the next six years, gender parity on federal crown corporation boards and commissions.

There should be free prescription birth control. The costs of family planning fall disproportionately to women, and yet it is increasingly unaffordable. Liberals should work with the provinces to provide a framework for the full cost of prescription contraceptives to be covered.

Finally, the NDP wants the government to act on its fundamental responsibility by restoring the funding cut by the Conservative government to all of the under-funded social service organizations that support women, girls, and children in our communities. This is especially urgent for women with disabilities, women who are suffering poverty, aboriginal women, and women living in rural and remote areas.

In summary, we should take real action to achieve gender equality. We believe that, when women are no longer disproportionately affected by violence, inequality, and poverty, then we could legitimately have a celebratory week. I am going to vote in support of this bill, but New Democrats are going to propose at committee that this bill not enter into force before the government implements proactive pay equity legislation and gender-based analysis legislation.

After more than a year in power, the Trudeau government has failed to translate feminist intention into real change. It is far beyond time to put words into action. Together, let us create a gender equality week once we have something to celebrate.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 8:15 p.m.
See context

Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle Québec

Liberal

Anju Dhillon LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-309, An Act to Establish Gender Equality Week. I would like to begin by thanking the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for introducing Bill C-309, which would designate a gender equality week in Canada.

The bill would recognize aspects of Canadian society where women have not yet achieved equality, promote awareness of these inequalities, and educate Canadians on opportunities to advance these issues. Anything we can do as a society to increase opportunities for women and girls and bring gender parity closer to reality makes sense.

Why is more action needed to advance equality? Consider some of the challenges our country still faces. Women continue to advance in many sectors of the economy, yet a woman working full-time makes 73.5¢ for every dollar a man makes. A record number of 88 women were elected to Parliament in 2015. This represents an increase of only 1% from the last election in 2011, with women now holding 26% of the seats here, but we have much more work to do to achieve gender parity. The more recent statistics from the Canadian Board Diversity Council 2015 report card indicates that women hold 19.5% of board seats at Fortune 500 companies.

These persistent inequalities underscore how difficult it is to make change happen. Therefore, as we prepare to mark next year the 150 years since our nation's founding, we need to stay focused on the fact that the fight for equality is far from over. Designating a gender equality week would serve to remind everyone of this very, very important fact.

Our support for Bill C-309 also underscores the government's commitment to promoting gender equality and building an inclusive and prosperous society. I am proud to say that the Prime Minister is committed to leading by example on this priority. He appointed the first gender-balanced cabinet in the history of Canada and the first-ever minister fully dedicated to gender equality, the Minister of Status of Women.

The Prime Minister's commitment has fuelled the dialogue on equality and feminism across the country and around the world. We are adopting strong measures to promote equality. Gender-based violence continues to be a barrier to women and girls achieving their full potential, and some groups of Canadian women are more at risk.

In order to come up with solutions to the unacceptable level of violence, we launched a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The Minister of Status of Women also brought together key stakeholders nationwide to develop a federal strategy addressing gender-based violence.

During the consultations held in Canada last summer, we gathered the views of gender diverse Canadians. Many told personal stories of the violence and discrimination they endure.

Our government is committed to recognizing the rights of gender diverse Canadians and eliminating the barriers that can leave them vulnerable to violence and economic marginalization. We are committed to advancing explicit protections related to gender identity and gender expression within the Canadian Human Rights Act. Gender equality week would also serve to highlight the issues faced by transgender and gender non-conforming Canadians.

Our government also recognizes that increasing women's participation in leadership and decision-making roles is critical to building a healthy and inclusive society. For example, we have put in place a new merit-based, open, and transparent approach to selecting high-quality candidates for some 4,000 governor in council and ministerial appointments to commissions, boards, crown corporations, agencies, and tribunals across the country.

Last October, the Minister of Status of Women announced funding of over $8 million for approximately 45 community organizations to carry out a dozen projects. These projects will foster greater inclusion and increase women's participation and leadership in the democratic and public life of the country.

Last September, our government introduced Bill C-25 to update in various ways the federal framework legislation on corporate governance. The main objective is to better target the representation of women on corporate boards and in senior management by using the comply or explain approach.

In November, as part of the government's plan to advance the middle class, the Minister of Finance stated that budget 2017 and all subsequent budgets will be subject to more rigorous analysis by carrying out and publishing a gender-based analysis of the impact of budget measures. That is a positive step that will result in inclusive budgets for Canada.

To help diminish the gender wage gap, the government is currently developing a framework on early learning and child care, promoting a Canadian poverty reduction strategy, launching the new Canada child benefit, and enhancing the use of gender-based analysis to ensure that any decisions concerning policy, programs, and legislation will advance gender equality.

Here are some further actions we have taken that will support many women in our country.

Budget 2016 announced changes to old age security and an increase in the guaranteed income supplement, a monthly non-taxable benefit for pension recipients who have a low income. We know that low-income seniors are most likely to be women living alone. We have also introduced legislation to enhance the Canada pension plan, which aims to reduce the share of families at risk of not having enough for retirement. It also includes enhancements to disability and survivor benefits. We believe these two actions in particular will improve the situation of Canadian families, help women, and get us closer to gender equality.

We are taking these bold actions for one simple reason: Canadians believe in equality, a fact that I believe is borne out by the debate we are having today on Bill C-309.

In October we celebrated Women's History Month, which includes important commemorative dates such as International Day of the Girl and Persons Day. To ensure that gender equality week is recognized and celebrated, a discussion about when such a week should occur would be beneficial. However, the reality is that we cannot rest as a society until all women and girls have equal opportunities to succeed and reach their full potential.

That is why I am pleased to support the bill before the House today, which would establish gender equality week in Canada.

That is why we are supporting this bill.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2016 / 8:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, gender equality is an extremely important issue for me. It should be one of our primary concerns, and we should take practical measures to do more in this area. I will therefore support this bill because it deals with an issue that is dear to me.

Then again, this bill, like other similar bills that talk about awareness, will not result in any real action. It is all well and good to dedicate days, weeks, or months to certain causes, but the fact remains that on every International Women's Day there are women who are sexually assaulted or beaten and on every International Day of the Girl there are girls somewhere in the world who are forced to marry men who are three or four times their age.

Talking about these issues is important, but so is taking action. Action is what allows us to forge ahead. Unfortunately, the government has missed opportunities to take meaningful action. My colleague from British Columbia introduced a bill to increase the number of female MPs by imposing financial penalties on parties that did not run enough female candidates. That would have been a practical way to get more women in Parliament.

However, the government chose not to support that bill and, worse still, did not even let it go to committee. It voted against a bill on an important issue that would have helped us achieve gender equality, which is shameful enough, but it did not even give the bill a chance to go to committee, where experts could have spoken to its value and suggested improvements that would have made it acceptable to everyone. By doing that, the government sent the message that it was not even worth the trouble of trying to come up with something that works for everyone. That is the saddest part.

For a member of the governing party to remain silent rather than tell his colleagues that the bill is worth looking at in committee is deplorable. Maybe he just does not have enough clout in his caucus. Either way, it is a little sad.

The Prime Minister talked about his balanced cabinet. However, among the six senior ministers, which include foreign affairs, national defence, finance, treasury board, and justice, although I am missing one, there is only one woman, the Minister of Justice. He could have appointed three women and three men to lead those key departments, but he did not ensure that balance from the beginning.

In addition, in a cabinet made up of 30 ministers, the five minister of state positions, which involve tasks of a lesser magnitude and no budget to manage, are all filled by women. Seats could have been a little more evenly distributed, but they were not. There is still work to be done.

Gender equality is not only about having the same number of men and women in one place. If there are 30 employees at a company, and there are 15 women and 15 men, that does not automatically mean equality. If the 15 men are executives and the 15 women sweep the floor, that is not equality. We have to go beyond the numbers. When it comes to gender, we must always choose measures that increase equality.

Year after year, women continue to be the ones to perform the majority of household chores. Now they often work, too, but still take care of the house and the children and manage everyone's schedules. They basically have two full-time jobs. This causes a great deal of stress, and yet they get very little support.

For example, we still do not have an accessible child care program for women. Sometimes friends help us find child care at a reasonable cost that meets our needs. Other times, however, that is not the case at all. Just today on the bus, I was talking about the daycare that I found for my daughter. I was saying that I was fortunate because, in my situation, I cannot use public child care and I had managed to find a private facility that charges $25 a day. A woman on the bus approached me and asked where this day care was located because she pays twice as much for her child. What this actually means is that women sometimes earn less than minimum wage when we calculate all the expenses they must incur, especially for their children, such as child care. Thus, there really is a lot to do.

Let us talk about access to contraception. Canada does not have universal pharmacare. In Quebec, we are fortunate to have a drug plan that covers those without private insurance. Unfortunately, people are sometimes forced to take the private insurance offered by their employer, which is very expensive, even more so than government insurance. I will not go into the details. As I was saying, in Quebec, most people have the benefit of some type of prescription drug coverage, or at least they have that option. That is not the case in other provinces.

When it comes to contraception, each woman should choose what is most appropriate for her. Quite often, contraception is the sole responsibility of the woman. We are supposed to have an egalitarian society; however, in terms of the couple, this is more often than not the responsibility of the woman. The exception is Quebec, where vasectomies are most popular. Elsewhere, women bear the responsibility for contraception.

Some devices might be clinically more appropriate for certain women, but they simply cannot afford them. A hormonal IUD costs roughly $300. Many women do not have an extra $300. The IUD lasts five years, but there is still no payment plan available for making monthly payments for an IUD. For many women who cannot afford anything else, the only option ends up being contraception that is contraindicated for them.

A lot of work remains to be done when it comes to violence. Tangible measures can be taken, including in the justice system, to make the process easier for victims, to give them the courage to report, all in the hopes of creating a more egalitarian society. We keep taking baby steps when it comes to the status of women. We are treading water.

Unfortunately, although I intend to support my colleague's bill, gender equality week is not a tangible measure that is going to fix these problems. Maybe we will talk about them, but I think we have already done that. In the absence of other, complementary measures, this bill will not really get us anywhere.

Gender Equality Week ActRoutine Proceedings

September 29th, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to introduce my private member's bill, an act to establish gender equality week. The bill aims to establish the first week of October every year as gender equality week.

After consulting with stakeholders, constituents of my riding of Mississauga—Lakeshore, and groups across the country, my team and I developed an additional opportunity to address the challenges Canadian women and individuals of minority gender identity and expression continue to face, and significantly, to underscore the role men need to play to establish a gender-equal society in Canada.

I look forward to elaborating on these points in later debate with my colleagues in the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)