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Evidence of meeting #28 for Status of Women in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was young.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Bonnie Brayton  National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada
Peggy Taillon  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Social Development
Jocelyne Wasacase-Merasty  Regional Manager, Prairie Region, National Centre for First Nations Governance
Paige Isaac  Coordinator, First Peoples' House

April 4th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I'd like to thank you both for the work you've done and for taking the time with us today.

I have seven minutes. I'm going to be as fast as possible and I'm going to share my time with Mylène.

I think what's really important is that we need to address the root problems. Actions do speak louder than words. We have undertaken this study. I think we need to identify root problems and find solutions, and I hope this comes out as a good report.

Poverty is really big. When the moms aren't doing well and the moms are poor, the children are poor. Education is very important.

Ms. Peggy Taillon, I wonder if you could expand on your experience? And I'd like to commend you for the work you've done and the research with the group.

3:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Social Development

Peggy Taillon

Thanks.

Poverty is a big issue. We have to create opportunities for kids, and if I had to give a hit list of things I would tackle, education is a biggie.

In Kenya, there are so many things that we could do, and we're doing a number of different things through my foundation. But the one thing that we know is a game-changer in our villages is access to education. So getting as many kids in a generation as possible a good quality education will increase the opportunities they have in front of them.

As DAWN said, you can get through the education system but if there are no meaningful, good quality jobs, what's the point? We know that youth unemployment is at its highest in the country in 10 years, so that is an issue.

When I talk about education, I'm also talking about financial literacy. I look at our demographics, our aging. I look at my parents and their generation. They were not given financial literacy, the fundamentals about planning for a future, building a cushion, etc. It's not found in our curriculum in a way that speaks to kids and gets kids excited about those opportunities. There is this sense that at some point somebody is always going to take care of them—that there is some program. So we need to create an awareness and some responsibility around some of those issues.

A big thing for girls is self-esteem. As I was saying to the previous member, you need to see yourself. If you believe there are opportunities for you in the community, you need to see that for yourself. If you've witnessed your mother and your grandmother isolated without any opportunities, living in cyclical poverty, sick because they've had poor living conditions, living in an abusive relationship, you don't see very many options for yourself.

So this is about community building. You cannot deal with kids without dealing with their families. You cannot deal with kids without supporting their parents, so dealing with poverty is a big one.

4 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

So if the federal government had a national child care strategy that would help moms pay for child care for their children, that would help.

If education wasn't so expensive.... Women earn 71 cents for every dollar a man does and if we fixed that also.... These are the steps I think we should be taking.

4 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Social Development

Peggy Taillon

Yes, early learning and child care, housing, and making sure that people have the best start because they're living in a safe and affordable environment. Nutrition, getting the—

4 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

A national food strategy.

4 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Social Development

Peggy Taillon

If you haven't eaten and you're going to school, it's very likely that you're not going to be successful. By midday you won't have the capacity to learn and take in any more information.

That's why I focused on the early years because if we don't give kids the right start, we're squandering the opportunity of several generations, the next generations of Canadians.

4 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Kids are our future, and I think we have to acknowledge that.

I'll just pass on to Mylène, really quickly. We don't have much time. I'm sorry.

4 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Thank you. Sorry. We're always short on time.

I have questions for Ms. Brayton. In 2010 the government announced that the long-form census was not going to be mandatory anymore. Obviously, experts argue that the data collected will no longer be statistically accurate, neither will it be representative, and therefore we can't really use it.

Can you speak to this committee about how this affects the way that you have been and will be able to advocate for disabled women, how it affects Status of Women's ability to consider disabled women in policy-making?

4 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

There are actually three things that Statistics Canada was doing that were really important. One of them was the long-form census. That's not as impactful on girls. The SLID data and PALS data sets were both really key. In terms of the studies that I'll send to the committee afterwards with our written brief, what they will show is that most of the best data I shared with you today comes from PALS and SLID. It's because of the particular orientation of those questions.

Certainly, I would say that the long-form census is another really important piece of data because, again, it tracks families with disabilities. We've heard a lot already today, and I'm sure you've heard ad infinitum the fact that poverty is a big piece of this. As you know from hearing from me so many times already, the poorest people in this country are people with disabilities. And if so, so are children with disabilities, and so are girls with disabilities and their families.

One of the social determinants of health that's not on the official list is on the list for people with disabilities. I will really underline this for you in terms of how you're going to make a difference for girls with disabilities. It is to understand that the transportation system in this country is a key piece for young women with disabilities. Access to education is not just the obvious. Access to education includes how you get there. It includes accessible housing on campuses. It includes a really critical thing here. Please take this back with you. It is being able to take your income support and leave your province to go to another province to go to school.

I could give you an example of a young woman I know who actually continued a relationship with her live-in caregiver simply so she could continue her education. If she had not agreed to have him move with her to the other province while she went to school, she would have missed her opportunity for an education.

The income supports for people with disabilities are not flexible, and this is a huge barrier in every aspect of their lives, and particularly for young women. This is something that will prevent them from having a post-secondary education, as will transportation, as will accessible housing on campuses. These are really critical for young women with disabilities.

4 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Irene Mathyssen

Thank you very much.

Ms. Bateman, for seven minutes, please.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you both for being here. I appreciate your comments. I was excited, Bonnie, when you said that post-secondary education for young women with disabilities has substantially increased. If you could include the details on that in your written brief, that would be awesome.

4:05 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

To be clear, in terms of where the data set comes from, it's from 1999 to 2006. I don't know what the new stats are because we don't have any new data.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

That's an interesting time period, because actually your colleague, Peggy.... I think I'm just going to call you Peggy; you can call me Joyce.

4:05 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

Peggy and Bonnie works for both of us, I'm sure.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

The Canadian Council on Social Development had a 2006 labour profile that stated the gender gap had actually reversed and the employment market had improved more for girls than for boys. I'm fascinated that we're hearing exactly the same thing from you.

Peggy, could you speak to that first? I'm definitely going to come back to you, Bonnie. I'm very interested in what that's attributable to. Those are concrete stats. You published them. Your organization stands behind them. What's it attributable to?

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Social Development

Peggy Taillon

I think there was a concerted focus on putting more resources into those particular areas.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

No, but it's employment for youth. It's the labour force profile of youth. Your report stated that the gender gap had reversed and that the employment market has improved more for girls than for boys. What is that attributable to?

We're here to find out how we help young women.

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Social Development

Peggy Taillon

I would guess it goes back to that gender lens that has been placed on social policy. If you think about some of the movements from academics and the research that started to point very concretely to where we needed to focus on creating those opportunities for young women.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Do you have concrete data on different industries that young women have gravitated to?

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Social Development

Peggy Taillon

We could certainly pull that out. I could get our head of research to provide it.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

I'd be really interested in that. To think that the gender gap has reversed for young women.... As a mother of a daughter—I have a son too—as you've both clearly stated, it can be different. I'd be very interested in seeing that and finding out whether it's different industries that they have been attracted to. Are they entering non-traditional industries, for example?

Then, the other critical piece—because I'm not just a mom of a daughter—what's happening with boys? Is there something going on that we're not aware of? We care about everybody here. Is there a piece that's missing?

Bonnie, you were clear that the girls are increasing—

4:05 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

Educational attainment at post-secondary levels has improved more for girls than boys. I think that's a reflection of a lot of things. I think that some of what Peggy said is very clearly part of this.

The feminist movement has been in place for several decades now. The impacts and understanding of gender and gender needs is reflected in a lot of institutions today—in educational institutions, in a lot of work. The reason we have the Status of Women committee today is because the feminist movement pushed forward at a time in our history when women were not equal, when employment opportunities, educational opportunities were not the same for men and women, and for boys and girls.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

I'd like to ask what you, as an organization, are doing to reach out.

At the last session of this committee we had two remarkable women who are leading their companies and making a difference in terms of inclusion, just doing the right thing in the workforce.

In fact one of them said she wasn't sure she could apply for a prize. They kept asking her to apply for it. They said they wanted to give it to her because of her stats, that she had such a significant number of women working for her. She said she wasn't sure because they didn't have all these committees and the infrastructure; they were just doing the right thing.

Are you reaching out to organizations like this? Are you reaching out to build bridges based on the stats that the gender gap is changing? How are you building the bridge between your world and the world where the jobs actually are?

4:10 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

In terms of an overall approach—I'll be very blunt, Joyce—my organization is very underfunded. In terms of how I do a lot of my work, I have to do it very creatively. One of the things that we did in DAWN as an approach is that we adopted a mantra that's really a strategic plan. Our mantra is leadership, partnership, and networking.

Coming back to what you're alluding to, there is absolutely no question in my mind that the way I'm going to move things forward for women and girls with disabilities in this country is by engaging people in leadership, including parliamentarians, in understanding their needs and issues, and in trying to provide input on the kinds of policies, strategies, and funding that will make impacts.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

What is your mantra again? Leadership—