Evidence of meeting #35 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 school.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Andrée Côté  Women's and Human Rights Officer, National Programs Section, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Ellen Dubé  Educational Counsellor, Rosalie-Jetté School
Stefanie Lomatski  Executive Director, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women
Bailey Reid  Chair, Public Engagement Committee, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

Thank you Ms. Dubé. I am sorry to have to interrupt you, but this round of questioning is now complete.

We go now to the Conservative side.

Mr. Albas, you have seven minutes.

May 16th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Thank you, Madam Chairman.

Thank you to our guests for being here today and for providing testimony.

I'd like to start with Madam Dubé.

My colleague, Madam Truppe, asked a very interesting question to Madam Côté that I'd like to hear your thoughts on. This is in regard to both men and boys and how Status of Women Canada can improve the economic prosperity prospects for Canadian girls.

How do we engage younger men and boys, from your perspective and experience, so that we help the economic condition of girls?

4:15 p.m.

Educational Counsellor, Rosalie-Jetté School

Ellen Dubé

I believe that, when you have a child, it is easier to achieve financial health as a couple. I am in favour of inviting the partner whenever possible, as long as the mother agrees, obviously. There are many reasons why the mother may or may not wish for her partner to be present. When a father comes to pick up his child at daycare, it is easy to see the tie that binds the child to him. We see that a unit has been created and that life is a little bit easier.

I was speaking about training to help young people manage their finances. Obviously, the fact that a couple is willing to participate in that training is positive. I believe that to achieve financial health at that age, these young people need all the help they can get. If the partner can help, then that is a good thing.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

I appreciate hearing about financial education. That is the same theme we've heard before.

What kinds of programs do you see, and what kinds of organizations do you think would work to provide these kinds of programs? What forms do you think they should take? You raised earlier issues of how to deal with credit cards responsibly, how to look at bank statements, how you understand how much money you have at the end of the month.

What kinds of structures do you think would fit into your situation at your school?

4:15 p.m.

Educational Counsellor, Rosalie-Jetté School

Ellen Dubé

We would have to start from scratch because we do not have any trainers who use that kind of approach. There would need to be funding to train people, implement a program, create evaluation methods, conduct a pilot project and then implement this training.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

You also said that you encourage having partners participate in certain functions at your school when the mother is in agreement. Do you think this is something they should do together, or is it on a case-by-case basis?

4:15 p.m.

Educational Counsellor, Rosalie-Jetté School

Ellen Dubé

When you say partners, who do you mean?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

You mentioned that whenever possible, and when the mother is in agreement, having the spouse or the father of the child participate in the activity supporting the mother—picking them up from daycare, etc. Do you think any kind of financial literacy should be done by them together, or do you think it should be on a case-by-case basis?

4:20 p.m.

Educational Counsellor, Rosalie-Jetté School

Ellen Dubé

I think that the fathers who are ready and willing to participate, should. However, in a group of a dozen young girls, there might be two fathers who are present. The other young girls do not have a spouse. In any event, I would include the fathers who want to participate in a course on personal finances.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

I appreciate your thoughts and feedback on that.

We heard recently from Action travail des femmes and learned that their organization, with the support of Status of Women Canada, provides information sessions on entering non-traditional occupations. This is something Madam Côté touched upon. I hope some day we don't have that label “non-traditional”.

Can you provide any insight into what might attract or cause someone to not move into non-traditional occupations, just the trades, from your experience?

4:20 p.m.

Educational Counsellor, Rosalie-Jetté School

Ellen Dubé

Today, in Montreal, in 2012, I would say it has to do with a conservative mindset, the fear of the unknown. Recently one of the young girls who decided to become a letter carrier unfortunately failed the courses that would allow her to access that training program. She will have to choose something else. Most of our young girls choose rather traditional jobs, that are quite female-oriented, such as esthetician or florist. Certainly, education on other possible jobs should be considered. The girls are very influenced—

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

Excuse me, Ms. Dubé, but I must interrupt you.

We will now move on to the Liberal side.

Ms. Murray, you have seven minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Merci beaucoup.

This is my first time in this study. I'm very interested in the subject. I understand it's a committee that's working constructively in the public interest.

I just want to pick up on a couple of your comments.

We're talking about impacts that get in the way of economic success for girls and women. You talked about the federal government's role in ameliorating conditions, Madam Côté. Some of the organizations that have been de-funded make it more difficult. Some programs have been de-funded. You mentioned child care. So those are some direct impacts.

But I'm very interested in the advocacy side, which you also mentioned. The statistics from 2009 are pretty amazing on the charitable sector: $7.8 billion in charitable giving; 23% of families claim charitable deductions; 5.6 million donors; 161,000 organizations; and 6.5 million volunteers.

Does your organization partner with some of these 161,000 groups, and do they have an important role to play in some of the conditions that are in the way of girls' success, or to help facilitate girls' success?

4:20 p.m.

Women's and Human Rights Officer, National Programs Section, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Andrée Côté

Many of our members are certainly active in some of those charitable groups, as are many Canadians. We know that a lot of people give up their time to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society can eat and have access to housing, training, and mentoring. I think we rely very heavily on the charitable sector at this point. It's a good thing, but we shouldn't allow this to become a replacement for public services. I think there is a huge need for public services that are developed according to strong policy and research.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

I agree with you—and thank you for your comment—but I want to stay on the charitable sector.

4:25 p.m.

Women's and Human Rights Officer, National Programs Section, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Andrée Côté

We're concerned about the shutting down of the voice—the advocacy space for the charitable sector that we're seeing in this budget and in current initiatives federally. When David Suzuki feels he must resign from his very own foundation because he doesn't have the freedom to speak...I'm very concerned about where we're going in this society, as far as allowing those who actually know what they're talking about to educate the public and the government and to advocate for good law reform.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

We know that the federal government has put $8 million more into the Canada Revenue Agency specifically to audit charitable organizations, and it has threatened major changes. Do you see a chilling in the charitable sector?

4:25 p.m.

Women's and Human Rights Officer, National Programs Section, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Andrée Côté

There's absolutely a chilling effect going on in the charitable sector. People are afraid to talk. It's very sad, because they are often the people who know most about what is happening on the ground, where the problems are, and how we can remedy those problems. It's a very scary prospect when we're shutting down democratic dialogue, discussion, and the possibility of citizens, via their charitable organizations, participating in the promotion of good policy and good solutions.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Some of these organizations, like the Fraser Institute, are actually doing economic policy work for the current government. These are also charitable organizations that receive foreign funding. So we're not talking about only one kind of organization. Across the spectrum, I think all of the charitable organizations are starting to be concerned.

Is it helpful to the efforts to improve the economic prospects of Canadian girls if non-profit and charitable organizations are less able to have input into public policy in Canada? They're certainly telling me that's the case, with the intimidation that's happening right now.

4:25 p.m.

Women's and Human Rights Officer, National Programs Section, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Andrée Côté

I think the answer is obvious. This is not helpful for girls, women, or citizens in general. It's very worrisome. The unions are also currently facing an attack because of their charitable status. There's a current bill to examine in detail the financial...the functioning of the union. That will entail a huge amount of work for us and take a lot of our energy. Again, I think the objective is to have a chilling effect on what we do.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Some would call it silencing dissent.

I think everybody in the room is interested in a positive forward movement for the economic progress of girls, but in any of these areas of public policy there are going to be organizations that are advocating and will be criticizing a government, whatever the stripe of the government.

4:25 p.m.

Women's and Human Rights Officer, National Programs Section, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Andrée Côté

That's right.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

What is the outcome if organizations that are advocating for what they see is in the public interest are no longer able to raise issues that may be seen as critical of a government policy?

4:25 p.m.

Women's and Human Rights Officer, National Programs Section, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Andrée Côté

The outcome will be less good public policy, and policy that is more often influenced by the market, by business, and by private interests that have their own profit at heart, or possibly by other actors. But certainly it is not in the public interest to weaken the advocacy voice of the not-for-profit sector.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

You've talked about advocacy, you're—