Okay. Thank you.
At this time, Madam Chair, I would like to move a motion for consideration by the committee. This motion is being presented to the committee for the third time. Previous to this, it was voted down twice by the Liberal members of this committee.
The motion reads as follows:
That the Committee invite the Minister for Women and Gender Equality to brief the Committee on her new mandate, given that Status of Women Canada has changed to the Department for Women and Gender Equality, no later than Thursday, April 4, 2019, that this meeting be no less than one hour in length and be televised.
Madam Chair, the reason for this motion is described here. As of right now, the department, Status of Women, works in conjunction with this committee, but the department has changed. As of December 13, 2018, royal assent was given. With that, the mandate has changed.
Now, it was previously argued at this table by Liberal members that the mandate actually hasn't changed, that it remains the same, and that therefore there is no reason to bring the minister forward. But a number of weeks ago, we had the director for strategic policy, Ms. Danielle Bélanger, here at the table. I asked her if the mandate had expanded, and she confirmed that it had. She said this:
On December 13, 2018, the Department for Women and Gender Equality Act received royal assent, which transformed the former Status of Women Canada into the Department for Women and Gender Equality. This brought with it an expanded mandate for the new department for all matters relating to women and gender equality, including the advancement of social, economic and political equality, with respect to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
The department plays a central policy role in ensuring a more inclusive and equal society for all Canadians, and in the mainstreaming of the gender and diversity lens, also known as gender-based analysis plus, GBA+.
I asked her to expand on this, to confirm once again that it had indeed expanded, and Ms. Bélanger said:
The mandate has expanded.... [T]he mandate has expanded to sex and gender and looking at gender identity and gender expression, as well as sexual orientation.... I would say it's an evolution in some ways. We had been doing work with LGBTQ communities, to a certain extent, based on some of our programming, but we've also been doing work with girls. Girls weren't part of the original mandate of Status of Women Canada, so I think it's an evolution in that respect.
It would appear, then, that the mandate has in fact expanded. I went on to ask her if she felt it would be a good idea for us to be briefed on that expansion, and she confirmed that it would.
Further to that, interestingly enough, I have the minister's own words from October 29, 2018. I have a report here from the Government of Canada where the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women, issued the following statement on the introduction of the budget implementation act of 2018, which included legislation to create the Department for Women and Gender Equality. She said that her government recognized that it must include “a commitment to bring in legislation to transform Status of Women Canada from an agency to an official department in the Government of Canada”. She went on to explain that its mandate must be expanded “for gender equality to include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and promoting a greater understanding of the gender and diversity lens often known as Gender-based Analysis Plus”.
It is clear, based on the minister's own words as well as the words of the director for strategic policy, Ms. Bélanger, that the mandate of this committee actually has been expanded. Given that it's expanded, it would then seem appropriate for the minister to come to this committee and brief us on that expansion, which would therefore then give us an understanding of what is covered off at this table.
Now, I think that seems like a reasonable request, Madam Chair, but as we know, in the past—two times before—the current members have voted this down because they don't want their minister to come to this committee or to have to answer our questions. It's interesting, because we see this playing out in the government as a whole, where they want to cover for individuals within their caucus and not allow light to be shed on decisions that are being made.
We see this with the Prime Minister, where the Prime Minister actually withheld information from the Canadian public with regard to SNC-Lavalin and the former attorney general of Canada, and where the Prime Minister pressured her unduly and this information was attempted to be hidden.
The members of this committee might be interested to know what the Prime Minister stated in his mandate letters to all ministers. I'll refresh your memory. This is what he said to Ms. Monsef: “I am honoured that you have agreed to serve Canadians as Minister of Status of Women.” Interestingly enough, you'll note that it says “Status of Women”, because she hasn't received a new mandate letter, even though she supposedly has a new mandate. This letter is actually based from October 4, 2017, which begs the question, where is the minister's new mandate letter? If the Prime Minister is in fact inviting accountability from the Canadian public, then it would be appropriate to actually provide a new letter to the minister so that she might be held accountable based on the things outlined within that letter.
Nevertheless, I will continue based on the former letter, taking the Prime Minister at his word that these are in fact the things he hopes to do on behalf of the Canadian public. He says, “We promised Canadians real change—in both what we do and how we do it.” He sure did: lots more cover-ups. He goes on to say, “Canadians expect us to fulfill our commitments, and it is my expectation that you will do your part in delivering on those promises to Canadians.”
He also says, “I expect Canadians to hold us accountable”, which is interesting to me. Again, I've twice asked for the minister to come to this committee to understand her portfolio, now that it's changed. That would fit within that category of accountability, but interestingly enough, the Liberal members of this committee have twice shot down this motion. Further, to the current case that is in the national media with regard to the former attorney general and the Prime Minister wrongfully pressuring her or strong-arming her into doing his dirty work, it would appear that your party, the Prime Minister in particular, has absolutely no intention of being held accountable.
Nevertheless, these are the words of his letter:
I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments, and I expect all ministers to do their part—individually and collectively—to improve economic opportunity and security for Canadians.
It is my expectation that we will deliver real results and professional government to Canadians.
I have a different definition of “professional” than he does. Nevertheless, he goes on to say:
If we are to tackle the real challenges we face as a country...Canadians need to have faith in their government's honesty and willingness to listen.
That's another phrase worth highlighting—their “honesty”. The Prime Minister doesn't appear to abide by his own words. He goes on to say:
I expect you to report regularly on your progress toward fulfilling our commitments and to help develop effective measures that assess the impact of the organizations for which you are answerable.
I made a personal commitment to bring new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa.
This is the Prime Minister's personal commitment.
I would surmise, based on the evidence that has been presented within the House of Commons and in particular the justice committee yesterday, that the Prime Minister has failed in this regard. He has not been honest with Canadians. He has not invited accurate accountability. He has not brought a new tone to Ottawa—unless, of course, untruth is the tone he's going for.
He goes on to say, “We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government.” Sorry, but that's laughable. I was trying to hold it together on that one, but “openness and transparency”.... Meanwhile, behind a closed door, I'm trying to strong-arm the former attorney general into making a decision that directly benefits a company that is being charged with—