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 / 6:20 p.m.
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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

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 p.m.
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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 / 5:50 p.m.
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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 / 5:40 p.m.
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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 / 5:30 p.m.
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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.

The House resumed from May 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, be read the third time and passed.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

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 / 6:55 p.m.
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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 / 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 / 6:40 p.m.
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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 / 6:30 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 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.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 24th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women concerning Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, which was read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

February 23rd, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Here's a suggestion from West Coast LEAF:

...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.

—meaning the gender equality week.

... West Coast LEAF strongly encourages the government to take more substantive action that will create meaningful change in the lives of women.

My amendment here recommending that there be a conference with all “provincial representatives and stakeholders”...“to review issues and actions taken that are related to achieving proactive pay equity and promoting gender-based analysis legislation” again creates that transparency, that measurability, and that ongoing review of real action towards achieving gender equality.