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Evidence of meeting #50 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 question.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Melinda Phuong  As an Individual
Victoria deJong  As an Individual
Estelle Ah-Kiow  As an Individual
Elinor McNamee-Annett  As an Individual
Audrey Paquet  As an Individual
Stéphanie Pitre  As an Individual
Jayden Wlasichuk  As an Individual
Janelle Hinds  As an Individual

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'd like to begin by thanking the witnesses, who are truly remarkable. I want to thank them for their presentations.

My question is about violence against women. I imagine you've heard about two teenage girls who committed suicide, Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons. Their mothers appeared before the committee in the fall.

My question pertains to cyber violence and is for all of you. How has the use of the Internet and communication technologies expanded the scope, nature, and impact of violence against Canadians, particularly young women and girls?

4:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Melinda Phuong

I didn't hear some of it.

Could you ask the question in English as well?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Yes.

We had the mothers of two girls who committed suicide after being intimidated through cyber-violence.

What do you think the government can do to prevent cases like that from happening?

4:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Melinda Phuong

Okay, thank you for your question.

I think the government can work together with schools and organizations to start promoting healthy relationships. It's the new way of looking at cyber-bullying. Instead of addressing ways to prevent cyber-bullying or ways to punish people who are aggressors, it focuses on healthy relationships early on, especially in schools. When we change that culture, we change much of how students treat each other. I think from that cultural shift, it will create more difference and bigger changes in the future.

Having that collaboration, having the open dialogue between government and organizations and school boards, and including teachers and students and the youth during this conversation, I think will go very far.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

At what age would you suggest that we have to teach young boys?

4:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Melinda Phuong

From as early as they can understand. It should start from the very beginning.

Cyber-bullying is one form of trauma, but if we go into talking about sexual violence and all of those things, they all tie into each other one way or another. It's the culture that needs to be shifted, and at an age at which the boys and girls can understand. This could be kindergarten or grade 1. Bringing these in and simplifying it for them to be able to process the information would be very critical. To hear it when you're in grade 8 or grade 9 might be too late, since you've been told over and over when you were younger that this type of behaviour is okay. If you start from the younger age, then by the time you get to grade 9, that won't be an issue anymore.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Excellent.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

You mean the concept of consent will be taught.

4:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Melinda Phuong

Yes, teaching consent and cyber-bullying, and how it's not right to.... It's a form of violence against women too. It's done online, but it's the same thing. It's calling women the “c” word, or any of those words. Yes, starting from that early age is how you shift the culture.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

All right.

We're at the end of our time for this particular session, so we're going to change the witnesses. Thank you very much to the witnesses who were here, and we'll have our next four.

We will suspend until we get our next four witnesses.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

All right, we're back in session.

We're happy to have with us for this panel, Janelle Hinds from Mississauga Centre; Jayden Wlasichuk from Swan River—Dauphin—Neepawa; Stéphanie Pitre from Manicouagan; and Audrey Paquet from Rimouski—Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Welcome, ladies. Each of you will have three minutes.

We'll begin with you, Audrey.

4:30 p.m.

Audrey Paquet As an Individual

I'm going to speak in French.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That's no problem; we have interpreters.

4:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Audrey Paquet

That's great.

I am currently finishing my master's degree in philosophy, politics, and college education. In philosophy, one in every three students is a woman, and one in every four professors is a woman. You can count on one hand the number of female thinkers taught in prerequisite courses. That number is even more abysmal when you take into account visible minorities and non-western thought. Yes, thinking that is female and non-white is taught in universities, at least at a very minimum level. It is, however, presented only as optional material, as though white men were the only ones to have had thoughts that mattered, as though the thoughts of women and marginalized people concerned only feminists and minorities. That is how our university students are taught. That is how our language, knowledge, ideas, and approach to philosophy and social science are forged. That is how our societies, institutions, and policies are forged.

In light of that, we should ask ourselves this question. What makes these people and these ideas so threatening that they are marginalized to such a degree?

The upside of philosophy and social science is that they are also self-critical. A considerable amount of research today focuses on, what we call in the field, epistemic injustices. That was actually the thesis topic of one of the speakers who was here yesterday, Dawn Lavell-Harvard.

I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage the members of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to consult the work Canadian women have done on the subject. You will see that women and marginalized people are challenging the status quo. We are the Daughters of the Vote. In Canada, we are also the daughters of all the history, culture, and institutions of our colonial ancestors. We must acknowledge that, as brave as they were, our ancestors were, for the most part, racist and sexist, especially those who forged our knowledge, culture, and institutions. The legacy of that domination is still alive today. You need only look to the growing social and economic disparity that is widening the gap between men and women, whites and minorities, rural and urban communities, east and west, and so on.

So-called marginalized people are not seen as holders of knowledge in their own right, having to pass instead for informers. Their ideas must therefore pass through the sons of the true knowledge holders and power wielders like you. In order to justify their position, the real scholars opt for reassuring paths within mainstream thought, paths that are very rare within marginalized communities. I would've liked to share some examples with you, but I'm afraid I would run out of time.

It is therefore important to recognize our assets, our privileges, and our lack of knowledge so that the different ideas and points of view of so-called marginalized people can be heard, understood, and reconciled. That way, we can sort out the causes and effects to genuinely address the various forms of suffering that all of our brothers and sisters experience. In so doing, we can take more specific action to deal with the suffering where it arises and where its effects can be mitigated.

This is 2017. There is no point staring at our own shadow in the depths of Plato's cave. Let us be courageous enough to scale its porous façade together to face the cruel light of day. Progress is not just for everyone else. Progress is social, it tackles suffering, and it affects each and every one of us in our individual realities. The time has come for soul-searching and a societal revolution.

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Thank you very much.

Next, we will be hearing from Stéphanie Pitre.

You have three minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Stéphanie Pitre As an Individual

Good afternoon.

My name is Stéphanie Pitre, and I represent the riding of Manicouagan.

I'd like to begin my presentation with the following question. Why, in the 21st century, do men still make 29% more than women in Canada?

Successful women have to navigate a dual constraint. On the one hand, they have to behave like men in a working world built by men, and, on the other, they must remain women. Despite a strong showing in higher education, women are just as under-represented in leadership positions.

In Quebec's National Assembly, women account for less than a third of the legislature's members. Furthermore, a 2016 Leger survey revealed that only 18% of senior management positions were held by women. The main barriers associated with their lack of ambition are a lack of opportunity, a lack of self-confidence, and family obligations. When women have small children, they tend to work part-time jobs or leave the workforce for motherhood.

The income women earn is still considered supplementary, and overall, women are paid less than men. In a context where one parent has to stay home to look after the children, it makes sense for the lowest earner to stay home. Irregular work schedules and distance make the work-life balance harder for women interested in entering traditionally male-dominated occupations.

On the north shore, where I'm from, the Plan Nord strategy is widening the wage gap by creating more jobs for men.

How is it that men earn 29% more than women in the 21st century?

A society that values gender equality should put in place measures to address the gender gap in the workplace. It is an artificial gap, created by society. On the one hand, young girls are given dolls to play with, so that they can acquire the skills to raise children and take care of a family. On the other hand, young boys are given trucks to play with, promoting skills associated with the mining industry.

In a society in which the gender divide dominates the workplace, pay equity is a utopian idea. That is why I urge the government to adopt the following measures to ensure equal access to development opportunities on the north shore.

First, paternity leave should be made mandatory, in order to put an end to gender-based norms associated with the care-taking of small children.

Second, gender equality in positions of power should be promoted in the workforce.

Third, funding grants should be established to encourage women to work in male-dominated occupations, and vice versa.

All of these measures would ensure that my community's socio-economic development took women's employment and work-life balance needs into account, so that they are not dependent on their spouses.

I turned 24 this week. The best gift I, as well as all the women we will be honouring tomorrow, could ever get would be to work together to change society and adopt measures to achieve equal pay for women.

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That was great.

Now we'll go to Jayden for three minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Jayden Wlasichuk As an Individual

Good afternoon. My name is Jayden Wlasichuk, and I'm here representing Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. I'm 19 years old and currently attend the University of Guelph, studying environmental governance and political science in my second year.

I'm here to talk about my experiences growing up as a woman in a non-traditional field, and the barriers that I faced, such as the gender roles and the expectations based on that, as well as our fear of judgment from stereotypes.

I had the opportunity to spend the last five years of my upbringing on a beef farm in rural Manitoba. I was on this farm with my two sisters and my dad for those five years. A lot of expectations, not only of myself but also of my sisters, were that we were the housekeepers. We were inside to cook, to clean, and to serve, not to work as equal members on the farm. However, that's not how my dad raised us. We were out on the farm and working with the livestock, and we got to participate fully. There were comments like, “You're going to make a great wife some day”, which weren't the most inspirational to any of the three of us.

It was my experiences growing up in the 4-H Beef Club that really inspired me to be who I am today. The 4-H motto is to learn by doing. That's something that they teach, not only to the males but to the female members of the club as well. We are equal to our male counterparts, and we're able to take on the roles that are typically seen as more masculine and physically demanding. We're able to do these tasks to the exact same standards as our male counterparts, and we get to do this from a very young age.

Not only that, but the leadership within my club tended to lean more towards females. I had the opportunity to be one of the executive members of the club for three years, and it was during my three years on the executive that it was led mainly by females. That's something that I found not only empowering, but also inspiring. I knew that I could look back and see that those experiences would show the younger girls of the club that they could do whatever they set their minds to as well.

On top of that, my high school experience led me to be the only female in two of my courses. It was in these courses and in other experiences in my life that I was told that I was smart and successful and strong, for a girl. It took a lot of time and a lot of thinking and a lot of questioning before I was able to acknowledge that I am strong and I am successful and I am smart, regardless of my gender. Some of these experiences and the way I was raised showed me why that was possible.

Lastly, I want to talk about Skills Canada. This was an opportunity that showed me and other females my age in both secondary and post-secondary education that we can set our minds to and succeed in vocational areas across the board.

I'd like to end by saying that I was very privileged in the way I was raised and the opportunities I was presented with. I will leave you with this question: if I have been given these opportunities, and the success that I've had stems from these, what will become of girls from across Canada and across the world who don't have the privileges that I did?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

All right, now we'll go to Janelle for three minutes.

4:40 p.m.

Janelle Hinds As an Individual

Hi, my name is Janelle Hinds, and I'm the delegate representing Mississauga Centre. I'm honoured to have this opportunity to speak to the committee.

I feel I'm well positioned to talk about women in non-traditional fields, as I'm an engineer and entrepreneur. I did my degree in biomedical and electrical engineering at McMaster University and I'm also the founder of Helping Hands, which was a social enterprise to help youth at the high school level get engaged civically.

As an engineer, I wear my ring proudly, but I wear it because I have to. When I go to conferences and networking events that are geared toward technology or entrepreneurs, I am always assumed to be the administrative assistant, never the founder. I have been told countless times that I don't look like an engineer. Every time people say that, as a female and a person of colour, I feel I do not fit their stereotype of what an engineer is.

I have also worked at jobs where less technically qualified males were hired for positions and given a higher salary than mine.

Perceptions matter. I spend a lot of time reaching out to younger women to get them interested in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A lot of them just basically tell me they are not interested because they do not see role models and other people who look like them. These perceptions need to change. That's why I think initiatives like Minister Kirsty Duncan's choose science initiative should be expanded and developed further.

Women choose apprenticeships in fields like welding at a staggeringly low rate, but I believe these campaigns that show women the benefits of pursuing STEM by showcasing the impact they can make, while experiencing the economic security that these jobs provide, will help close the gender gap.

Barriers that women like me face in STEM are not limited to perception. For example, as a female and an entrepreneur, I face sexual harassment. I've had potential investors in my business make sexual overtures to me and drop all communication or harass me as soon as I resist, and this actually happened to me just last night.

At my alma mater I support women, many of whom have disclosed stories of sexual harassment and discrimination. It's hard for me to tell these women what course of action they should take. This is why one recommendation I have is that we start an initiative to show women, youth, and minorities what their rights are as workers.

I think the government should support more grassroots groups that support women in STEM and entrepreneurs, as well as encouraging businesses to get more involved with these organizations, because this will help create the trained, skilled workers whom companies will need to hire in the future, as well as closing the gender gap and helping women be self-sustainable and even thrive.

I call on the government to directly fund women through grants to start their businesses, with ongoing educational support. Women bring a different perspective into this field, and if Canada wants to have a strong economic future, women need to be involved more.

Thank you.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That's excellent. You had me at engineer.

Now we're going to go into our round of questioning.

Omar, because Janelle is from your riding, I'm going to give you the privilege, if you have a question.

March 7th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I haven't prepared a question, but first, it's a pleasure for me to be here to hear directly from our leaders in the community, as they provide us with an input we need to hear more often than we do currently. I learned a lot from the previous panel and this panel, and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

As someone who has also worked in start-ups, I'm very interested in hearing from entrepreneurs. Janelle, can you perhaps give us your thoughts and elaborate more about what you think government can do to help women entrepreneurs?

4:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Janelle Hinds

I think a lot of it starts with funding better social enterprises. Of the people I meet as a social enterprise, a lot of them are women, and we struggle because we do not fit the traditional moulds, so going to VCs or angel investors is very difficult. Banks still do discriminate against women, especially youth. I don't really have the ability to go to the bank and ask for funding.

I think more grants are needed, and right now there aren't a lot of grants that are actually directly trying to fund women. I think that needs to happen, along with educational support.

The government does a lot through campus accelerators and regional innovation centres, RICs, directly funding women. I think every single campus accelerator and every single RIC should have a program to support women and have that safe space where they can talk about their businesses.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

All right.

Martin, we'll go to you for a question.

Oh, it's Kelly. All right.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thanks very much, Madam Chair.

She's so pleased that you're an engineer because she is one herself. So there we go.