Evidence of meeting #103 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was funding.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Lisa Smylie  Director, Research and Evaluation, Office of the Co-ordinator, Status of Women
Nancy Gardiner  Senior Director General, Women’s Program and Regional Operations, Office of the Co-ordinator, Status of Women
Anik Lapointe  Chief Financial Officer and Executive Director, Corporate Services, Office of the Co-ordinator, Status of Women

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to welcome everybody to our 103rd meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. As a reminder, this meeting is being televised today.

Today, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), we're going to commence our study on the main estimates of 2018-19: votes 1 and 5 under the Office of the Co-ordinator, Status of Women, referred to the committee on April 17, 2018.

For this reason, we are pleased to have with us today the Honourable Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Status of Women. She is joined by Nancy Gardiner, Senior Director General, Women's Program and Regional Operations; and Anik Lapointe, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Director, Corporate Services.

Minister, I'm going to turn the floor over to you for the next 10 minutes.

May 24th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.

Peterborough—Kawartha Ontario

Liberal

Maryam Monsef LiberalMinister of Status of Women

Thank you, Madam Chair.

It is a privilege to be with you on this unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples, and on this particularly important day.

On May 24, 1918, I'm sure it seemed that the government of the day had finally recognized that women had a role to play in the government and the governance of this country, but there were more milestones to come. It would be another 12 years before the first woman was appointed to the Canadian Senate, thanks to the Famous Five. It was 22 more years before women in Quebec could vote in provincial elections. It was another 42 years, 1960, before indigenous women and men on reserves could vote in federal elections. It was another 97 years, 2015, before Canada saw its first gender-balanced cabinet.

Since then, you may have noticed, a lot of work has been done. A lot of work can be attributed to governments, but most of it I think is attributed to those whose tireless advocacy got governments like ours to listen.

I'm here to give you a summary of some of the work that's being done, and I'd be happy to take any questions afterwards.

Let's start with the main estimates.

The main estimates reflect this government's commitment to breaking down barriers to gender equality and to developing strategies to better prevent violence against women and girls. Our $62.3 million allocation in the 2018-19 estimates represents a nearly 60% increase in our overall spending over the previous year.

This increase is very important to us because our role has grown tremendously in the past year or two, and because we need to grow to keep up with the new demands on Status of Women Canada. There's an increased level, as you know, of public focus on the need to end gender bias in all parts of our society. We want and need to build on this momentum.

We will be using the increase in funds to improve the capacity at Status of Women Canada to handle new demands coming from cabinet, Parliament, parliamentary committees, Canadians, the profit sector, and the non-profit sector. Our new responsibilities on GBA+, for example, involve a great deal of coordination with other federal departments and agencies, as well as interactions with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments. In many instances, issues stretch across many departmental lines. We don't always own a particular file, so more effort is involved in making sure that the proper inputs are considered. We also need to strengthen our public policy capacity to establish the permanent corporate structures necessary to meet the needs of our clients, and to deliver on our ambitious government priorities.

On gender-based violence, a large part of our increase will directly address the high demand to focus more of our attention and resources on gender-based violence. We're funding many different projects on this issue at local, regional, and national levels, as well as in partnership with indigenous leaders living on and off reserve. The new gender-based violence program—this is the funding envelope—helps organizations in the development and implementation of promising practices in support of survivors of gender-based violence and their families, including underserved populations.

We're also making adjustments to the way we support organizations with potential extensions of project funding from three up to five years, an increase in grants of up to $1 million, and an expansion of eligible groups to include think tanks, organized labour, post-secondary institutions, and others. We're also providing funding for gender-based violence research, data analysis, and surveys to give us a deeper understanding of the true scope of the challenge.

On GBA+, as you know, all measures in budget 2018 were subject to a GBA+ analysis. The budget also included a new gender results framework to guide future decision-making while measuring our progress in creating an economy that works for everyone.

New GBA+ legislation will be introduced this fall to enshrine gender budgeting within the federal budget-making process. We will continue improving the use of GBA+ across the federal organizations that we're responsible for, so that an intersectional gender lens is carefully applied to the government's decision-making on policies, programs, and services. We will also host a national round table on GBA+ later this year to share the results and best practices of these efforts.

An important part of this initiative is making sure that federal employees have the necessary training to carry out GBA+. I am pleased to report that to date, we have been able to build on the GBA+ skills of over 100,000 public servants, parliamentarians, and staff. I thank all of you around this room who have taken the course and have your certificates to prove it.

We are also focusing, like you, on another issue that the committee has studied extensively, addressing the persistent barriers that create economic insecurity for far too many Canadian women every day. The statistics are all too familiar. The stories are familiar to this group as well, as I know you've studied it.

To address this, and as part of our efforts where Status of Women specifically is leading, earlier this month in Alberta I announced $10 million in funding for projects to tackle the root causes of economic insecurity for women by improving their access to jobs and careers. For example, we are funding a project to encourage more women to get involved in aviation. Only 5% of pilots, by the way, are women. Another helps to remove barriers to the job market for those fleeing domestic violence. There are also projects aimed at increasing women's participation in STEM fields.

We also recognize that we are in an era of reconciliation. We need to do business differently, but we also need to work in respectful collaboration and partnership with the first peoples of this land. Last night it was an honour for me to join with colleagues and bring together the first indigenous women's circle to advise Status of Women Canada directly. We recognize that in this era of reconciliation, women hold the key to a lot of the solutions we need. We know there is a lot of strength and resiliency in those communities, and their wisdom will help guide the way for us as this is the most important relationship for our government.

You also are aware that Canada is leading the G7 this year, and gender-based analysis and that intersectional gendered lens is woven through all the important conversations that ministers and leaders will have in Charlevoix in two weeks, and that's an important milestone. Mainstreaming gender into this agenda has never happened before, and I'm grateful to the members of the Gender Equality Advisory Council, Women 7, Youth 7, and Labour 7, who came together, along with other ministerial colleagues, to ensure that the work of the G7 is going to address inequality and focus on equality as a driver for growth.

As we all are, I'm sure, I am proud that the legacy of those who fought for us to have the right to vote 100 years ago is in the hands of many across the country, including those of us who have the privilege of serving as parliamentarians. I am proud of our government's efforts to honour their legacy by continuing to build on the work they've done, and clearly all the work that remains to be seen.

I also appreciate and want to thank every one of you for the work you've done on this committee. I also know that you are tapped to do work on other committees because gender equality, of course, is not just an issue that Status of Women, neither the committee nor the agency, can do alone. Many thanks for the time you are offering me to be here with you today. Two great women from Status of Women Canada are here to provide any technical briefings that this group may wish.

Madam Chair, I am happy to take any questions colleagues may have.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

That's excellent; thank you.

We're going to begin our first round.

Bernadette Jordan, you have seven minutes.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you, Minister, for being here today.

I am going to start, as a member of Parliament for a large rural riding. We recently came back from the UN, where we had the international status of women meetings, and the theme this year was women and girls in the rural economy.

I'm just wondering what our government is doing to help women break down the barriers because there are many barriers for rural women particularly to participate in the economy.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

The Commission on the Status of Women, at which many colleagues around this table were present and thankful for that participation, was an important opportunity to share our best practices as Canadians on the work that is being done to further support women and girls living in rural and remote communities. It was also an important opportunity to learn from other countries. I think we went there with a lot of pride in what we're doing, but also humility, knowing that we have more work to do.

In our case in Canada when we talk about rural communities, we also need to include remote communities. In the Canadian context, the issue of indigenous communities is also part of this. First, the work that's being done to ensure that we apply that intersectional gender lens to all our policies also includes a rural lens being applied. I think that's really important so that this perspective is understood at the onset of the policy-making process and programs.

The second piece that I think is important is the investment in rural broadband. I have a mixed riding, rural and urban, and having that cellular and Internet access is not just important with regard to the economic realities that we know can be consequences of not having it, it's also important for access to resources like services. With regard to social issues like gender-based violence, I was touring some rural communities over the past summer, hearing from women's organizations. We know that those women's organizations are doing more than just supporting gender-based violence survivors and victims. They're employment agencies. They're youth counsel reps. They do all sorts of work. We know through our gender-based violence program, for example, that ensuring that those who serve under-represented groups, like those living in rural communities, need to be prioritized, and we are prioritizing them.

These are just some examples of the work that we're doing. As I said, that work continues. Our rural identity and our rural communities are essential to the well-being of Canada as a whole, especially the women and girls in those communities.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you, Minister.

I'm going to shift gears a bit here. One of the things we've heard a lot about—and we heard about it at the UN as well—is engaging men and boys in the conversation on gender-based violence. The problem that I've heard from groups in our communities is that women have fought so long and so hard for funding for their organizations and now we're funding men's organizations.

I'm just wondering if you'd like to address that.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

That's an excellent question. Thank you. As you know, we did receive funding, separately from the funding we've received for women's organizations, to engage Canadians in a conversation about how men and boys want to and can be agents for positive change in the conversation around gender equality.

We know that the social norms and the deeply entrenched systemic realities aren't just hurting women and girls. They're also hurting our sons, fathers, and brothers. This isn't about dividing the two. I think it's really important that we recognize that when we support women and girls, and when we talk about how men can be and are agents for positive change, it's also good for all Canadians. The money that we've set aside for the engagement with men and boys, which will take place through the leadership of the parliamentary secretary I'm blessed to work with, Terry Duguid, will begin this summer. The funding is separate and aside from the money that we are supporting women's organizations with.

I've worked with the YWCA. I understand that we're not there yet in fully supporting women's organizations. This is not taking anything away from them, and the women's movement can have that reassurance from me. Again, as we talk about all the ways that funding is required to advance this work, it's also important to be mindful of all of the things that don't cost money.

Men are great role models to other boys and other men, and our individual conduct as women and men and gender-diverse people is actually just as important as the work that we need to do that requires a financial investment.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Another question I have, Minister, is with regard to sexual assault on university or post-secondary campuses. We know that this is a major problem. I believe I saw a statistic that said that 40% of rapes in Canada happen on campuses. What's being done to address this? Is there anything Status of Women is doing or funding to address this problem?

It's a real concern for young people going off to university. It's a concern for society in general. That 40% is totally unacceptable, so I'm wondering if you'd like to address that.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

We know that over 40% of the reported cases of sexual violence are coming from students. It is absolutely an issue, not just for the students and the overall working and learning environment it creates, but also for parents, who expect that when their kids go off to this important stage in life, they will be safe.

We are working with provinces and territories through new investments in budget 2018. We are investing $5.5 million to come up with a coordinated strategy across post-secondary institutions to address this really important challenge, which is a significant barrier not only to our economy but also to the well-being of our communities. Our gender-based violence strategy as a whole—the first of its kind—also works to address some of these systemic barriers. We know, for example, that there are student unions across the country that have solutions. I've met with administrators across the country who want to be part of the solution. Working in partnership with them is going to be a critical component of our success.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you very much.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

We're now going to move on for seven minutes to Rachael Harder.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

Minister, you came to Canada from Iran. You understand that area of our world and some of the challenges that women face there. I've been to northern Iraq and to Jordan. I've talked with women and girls there and seen the atrocities they face in that area.

ISIS is targeting Yazidi women in particular. That's not all, but this group is definitely under persecution, so in June 2016, the UN actually declared what's taking place there a genocide. You'll recall that the Conservative members of the House brought forward a motion calling on the government to bring Yazidi women and girls over to Canada so that they could find a place of refuge here. That motion received unanimous consent. It's reported that the city in which the majority of these women and girls have resettled is the city of Toronto. Interestingly enough, Toronto is also where a known ISIS terrorist by the name of Abu Huzaifa resides. We're talking about a man who openly boasts about having beheaded individuals who were being held captive.

I'm wondering if you can tell us what your government is doing with regard to this in order to protect vulnerable Yazidi women and girls who are living next door, down the street, and within the same city.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

One moment please.

Pam.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Chair. I have a point of order.

We have the Minister here to discuss estimates as they reflect the status of women. While I'm sure she could give us a wonderful answer—because our government has been doing quite a number of things on this issue—I would welcome the member to come to the committee of the whole this evening, when the Minister of Immigration will be taking questions on this. I feel strongly that when we have the Minister for the Status of Women here, we should be dealing with the estimates and issues that are reflective of the status of women.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I appreciate that.

Prior to this committee, I confirmed with our clerk and others that when we're dealing with main estimates, we're dealing with anything under the government umbrella, not just specifically with the status of women.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

That's new. The clerk is saying that when a minister comes to committee, they're open to questions on anything the government is doing?

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I'm just going to remind Ms. Harder to bring this back to the estimates. It can be anything whole of government, but bring it back to a portion of that, please.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Minister, you stated in your opening remarks that you are putting in place promising practices with regard to cutting back on violence against women and girls.

Yazidi survivors of violence, who are in trepidation and who have been sold into sexual slavery, are being put next door to an ISIS terrorist who is boasting about his actions. How is that advocating for their safety and well-being?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

You're right. I was born an Afghan refugee in Iran. I've seen compassion from Canadians from all walks of life, devoted to ensuring that refugees come to welcoming communities in Canada and that the supports are there. That compassion continues to inspire me; it's an important part of who we are as Canadians, and it's to be applauded.

With respect to ISIS fighters, Canada's police and security agencies work to the highest professional standards every single day to keep Canadians safe. That's true in the case you're referring to and every other case.

With respect to terrorists returning to Canada—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Sorry—

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

—our priority is to investigate—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

With regard to my question—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Order.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

I'm answering—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Order. The chair has the floor.

I'm sorry, but this is the one thing with this. The time does go to the questioner. That is the protocol on this. I recognize that we don't want interruptions, but at the same time we want to make sure that it can come back.

Pam.