Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, colleagues.
As-salaam alaikum. Ramadan kareem to our Muslim colleagues observing Ramadan.
It's a tremendous privilege to be here, on traditional Algonquin territory.
I'll begin the conversation by talking about my three hats.
I am, proudly, the member for Peterborough—Kawartha. It shapes who I am and what I do and will connect the local aspects of the work we do here in Parliament to the international work we're doing, both in my capacity as minister for women, but more importantly for the purpose of this committee, as Minister of International Development.
"The world needs more Canada." We all cheered when we heard President Obama say that to us in the House of Commons three years ago. Why? He elaborated on it, but we need only to look at our communities to understand why. The people in my riding are kind, they're generous, they care about each other and they most certainly care about what happens to our neighbours around the world. Whether Irish refugees, Vietnamese boat people or more recently our Syrian neighbours, my community, much like the rest of Canada, has a proud tradition of opening its arms and growing because of the diversity of perspectives, but also because when somebody's in trouble, we step up.
Why is Canada so invested in international development? We can all agree that a strong middle class, support for those working hard to join it, smaller gaps between the rich and the poor, basic safety, choice, voice, opportunities are good things that lead to stronger economies and greater stability. That prosperity and stability are good for all of us. It's a good thing at home; it's a good thing abroad, and we all know that at its very basic, fundamental levels, we all want the same things for our kids and grandkids. We all want a better future for them. It's what my mom wanted for my sisters and me when she brought us to Canada 23 years ago; it's what I want for my nieces, Leila and Ellia, and I'm sure you feel the same way. For us in Canada, our international development efforts, our peace and security efforts, the work we do with trade and economic development are all intertwined.
Four years ago, we promised Canadians a government that would build an economy by investing in the middle class. Our approach was to take immediate and key policy choices, like the Canada child benefit, pay equity, parental leave, day care spaces—upwards of 40,000—to name a few, and all designed to provide Canadians with some breathing space so they could make the plans they needed to; so they could match their skills to available jobs and move into and upward within the Canadian economy. Three and a half short years later, the plan that Canadians have invested in has produced one million new jobs; 825,000 Canadians are lifted out of poverty. We have the lowest unemployment rate on record. Child poverty rates have been cut by 40%; that's 300,000 Canadian kids no longer going to bed hungry.
Starting at home, with a world-class public service who are here with me today, we implemented progressive economic and social policy and have achieved real results, not to mention that all of this happened in Canada while the rest of the world has decided to become more protectionist.
The progress we've made in Canada didn't happen easily; it didn't happen accidentally. It happened because we are building a strong and resilient Canada, and we're focused on a plan. We've embraced fact-based decision-making; we've unmuzzled our scientists; we focus on equality, and we are prospering because of it. Our plan is working because we are focused on Canadians and Canadians are working. More women are working now than ever before, more young people, more newcomers, more persons with disabilities, more youth and indigenous people. In a time where many throughout the world question the role of government, we need to only think about those 300,000 kids having decent meals every day, the clean water flowing through indigenous communities, the plan to fight climate change, to see that government policies matter.
Internationally, Canada's leadership on the global stage has perhaps never been more important. The coordination of our feminist international assistance policy; Canada's proud tradition of peacekeeping; our strong, secure and engaged military interventions; our focus on free and fair trade; and the focus on growing the middle class and supporting those working hard to join it are all part of the work Canada is doing around the world. Rules-based order, free and fair trade, protecting human rights and human dignity—that's what will grow the economy and build greater stability.
We have a strong team doing this. You've seen some of them here and you've seen many of them in your own daily doings: the Prime Minister; Chrystia Freeland; Jim Carr; Bill Morneau; Ralph Goodale; Karina Gould; Marie-Claude Bibeau, my predecessor, with whom I know you've had many conversations; Carolyn Bennett; Kirsty Duncan; Catherine McKenna; François-Philippe Champagne; Harjit Sajjan; Mary Ng; Navdeep Bains and Mélanie Joly. We are making a difference because it is a whole-of-government approach.
I want to talk about the focus we're bringing to equity through our government's focus on international assistance, which has an intersectional feminist lens applied to it. Through this policy, we have made immediate and deliberate policy choices that impact the health, education and socio-economic security of women and girls around the world. These investments in development are strategic. They're intended to make more effective use of every dollar to see women and girls be healthy, to be in control of their bodies, to have access to education, and to be safe and secure and prepared to lead their communities. When women and girls are doing well, their families are better off, their communities are stronger, their countries' economies are more stable and peace is more enduring. Gender equality matters because everyone benefits.
If we continue this focus on advancing gender equality, we are tapping into a $12-trillion economy over the next decade. If we do it right here in Canada, we could expect $150 billion of that right here over the next decade. Our approach should be no surprise. When she's healthy, when she controls her body, when she has access to education, something that can never be taken away, you see real change. These issues are borderless as basic human rights are borderless.
Let's talk about the work we're doing in Cox's Bazar. We're investing our international development dollars differently, as you know. One of the tangible ways in which we see our feminist international assistance policy at work is with the Rohingya situation. Many thanks go to Canadians who have gone there, including my own brilliant parliamentary secretary, who has just come back, and Bob Rae.
Canadians have invested $300 million over the next three years to help ease the challenges there. One of the things that our teams are doing is investing in 38 women-friendly spaces in the camp. What does this mean? It means that she has a safe haven to go to where she can receive support. It means that she can just be herself and not be on guard wondering how she's going to watch over her back. When we made this investment and when it started working, other countries stepped up, and the number has now increased to upwards of 70 safe spaces for women who are experiencing challenges. Remember, 85% of those in the camps are women and children. There are upwards of 70 spaces, half of which also provide psychological, social and counselling support for those who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence. I know that this committee knows how frequently those women and girls are abused en route to the camp and once they are trying to get their life back together.
In Venezuela this is making a difference. We're seeing that when we focus on women and girls, there is a difference. When we take a deeper look we see that Venezuelan migrants.... The world is having a hard time calling them refugees because they don't have the proper documentation. When Canada steps in with $50 million and says we are here to work with you with specific investments in neighbouring countries, those dollars are going far and ensuring that neighbouring countries don't feel overwhelmed by the sudden surge in arrivals within their new communities.
I have spoken with some folks in Washington from Colombia, and they are happy. They may not have much, they said, but they were happy to open their arms to their sisters and brothers because, if they were in trouble, they would want the same thing.
We're also doing something that very few do. About 2% of the world's ODA goes to women's organizations. We've invested $150 million—this is the first time we're doing this—to do that work because we know the most effective way to advance gender equality is by investing in organizations that are doing this work.
Just like our plan at home, our plan abroad is working. It's evidence-based. It's comprehensive. It's effective. It's what separates us from previous agendas and from some of our international colleagues.
In bringing my comments to a close, Mr. Chair, I want to speak to an issue that I expected to be discussing internationally but I'm astounded to find myself addressing domestically. As a starting point, in this country we settled the abortion debate 30 years ago. It's 2019. We can't afford to go back to politicizing women's bodies, and it's a regressive debate that I challenge us to shift away from.
If we care about women, let's focus on doubling the number of women entrepreneurs over the next two years. If we care about the women in Canada, let's increase by 100,000 the women in manufacturing over the next five years. If we care about women, let's make it so that another woman is not killed every two and a half days that go by, because that's what happens even here in Canada.
We can't afford to roll back on a woman's fundamental rights, because those fundamental rights—whether at home or abroad—are directly linked to her sense of self, her sense of worth, her dignity, the economy strength and the overall stability.
I thank you for the opportunity to be here today with all of you.
Mr. Chair, I'm happy to take any questions that colleagues may have.