Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Colleagues, friends, guests, allies, it's a great privilege to be in this room with you, the same room in which I was sworn in. To be on this traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples is a reminder of the privileges we bring to this room but also the responsibility that comes with all that privilege.
For your introductions, Madam Chair and colleagues, and your welcome to the young women, who are part of a movement, I'd say, to make sure that the next generation of leaders who take up these seats have a good sense of what they're walking into.... To that end, I will do my best to be as well behaved as I can possibly be.
I'm also here with Meena Ballantyne, who is the head of Status of Women Canada, as well as Anik Lapointe, who's our chief financial officer. As you know, we have an incredible team at Status of Women. They have found all sorts of innovative and creative ways over the years to make sure that the women's movement and the commitment of the federal government is there, improving the lives of women and girls.
In my remarks, Madam Chair, I thought I'd talk about a few things. I will tell you a little bit about me, the values I bring to this work and why I'm even doing this work, given that this is a really important opportunity for us to build a relationship that is mutually beneficial for us but also for Canadians. I think that's really important. I'll talk a little bit about my mandate. Most importantly, what I'd like to leave this room with, if you all agree, is a better understanding of how we can work together and how we can better align the work of the committee with the work that I've been mandated to do. I will also, of course, answer any questions you might have.
What an honour it is to be the Minister of Status of Women in 2017. My predecessor Minister Hajdu has done excellent work. It's a privilege to follow her, to pick up where she left off, and to lead the rest of the agenda that this government has.
I know that this committee is a unique committee, and not just because the chair is a member of Her Majesty’s official opposition. I was watching you long before I actually became the minister on this file, and the way you work together is truly unique. I think there's a recognition amongst members around this table that the work of your committee—the issues that affect women and girls and people of different genders across the country—doesn't really fit into any partisan lines. I know that you've travelled through stories of individuals, especially survivors, and that those stories weigh heavily on all of us. We have a shared responsibility to honour them.
This unique committee and the way that you're structured, the way that you work well together, is one other reason why I'm particularly excited to be part of this work. The work that you've done around gender-based analysis, around ending violence against young women and girls, is critical to the work of the government. I thank you for tabling your report recently. It was nice to see all of you on the cover of The Globe and Mail, again illustrating what I just talked about, that it's a shared responsibility.
For me, I was raised by a single mom. I'm an immigrant to this country. I grew up on public transit and various public social safety nets that allowed me to understand the challenges that people in a country as wealthy as Canada experience. I come to this place with that humility and also with a deep belief that in this country, anything is possible. A single mom, given the right resources and supports, can raise three daughters in a community that welcomes them, and they can aspire to dream big and to make a difference in the lives of those who have helped them.
My work, like that of many millennials, has involved a range of initiatives that have made a deep and quick impact in my community of Peterborough—Kawartha.
The same organization that allowed my family a safe roof over our heads in Peterborough—Kawartha, the YWCA, ended up being an organization for which I became vice-president of the board. By being a part of that movement, the oldest and the largest women's organization in the country, I've benefited from a lot of the collective wisdom there. It was actually the YWCA that afforded me the opportunity to go to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2013. Events came full circle just a week ago when members of this committee joined me at the 61st session of the UNCSW in New York, and it was so wonderful and empowering to have a number of you there experiencing the highs and the heaviness of that gathering.
I've also had an opportunity to work with settlement agencies, so the issues of migrant women have a particularly special place in my heart. In university, I was very much interested in mental health and mental illness and changing the stigma and the conversation around mental health, and was part of an international movement of young people on campuses devoted to changing that conversation. That's some of what I bring to this work. I know each of us around this table has personal reasons that we're in politics and we do this work, and I think that's a strength.
In many ways, the goals that are laid out in my mandate letter are connected to what I've always believed in: that government policy, regulation, and legislation can be and has to be sensitive to the different impacts they can have on women and men and people with different genders. This is a goal that I know we can and have all come together to support. Much of the work that you've already undertaken, and I hope the work ahead, is in line with my mandate letter.
My work generally falls under three broad categories. The first is ending and preventing all forms of gender-based violence. Your report is an important aspect of that work.
Second, it's focused on women's economic empowerment. Whether it's closing the wage gap, ensuring that more women enter STEM fields and other fields where they're traditionally not represented, or ensuring more women entrepreneurs are leading the way, that's a critical part of my work.
Then the third part is leadership. It's making sure that there's more diversity in places like this, making sure that Canada's corporate boards have more women in those seats. We know that greater diversity brings more relevant and responsive decisions and more innovation.
Broadly, those are the three areas that I'm mandated to work on.
You saw in budget 2017 that there's a commitment and I would say a major step towards gender equality in our country in that document. It includes the first-ever gender statement as part of the federal budget and a gender-based analysis that has made a positive impact with over 60 different measures that the government prioritizes. It also builds on the work of 2016 by continuing to invest in actions that help reduce gender inequality including housing, child care, and addressing gender-based violence. It also makes those significant strides towards women's economic empowerment.
In total, $101 million over five years is what's invested in this budget to address and prevent gender-based violence. This funding will allow us to create a centre of excellence on these issues and add a new survey and a new set of resources and data to help us better understand the current needs of Canadians in the immediate term. We'll soon be announcing that strategy and the foundations that are going to make sure that we are successful.
This will require engagement with provinces and with territories. But I don't need to tell you about the importance of doing that work because we know that for lasting change to occur, we need to work with everyone and engage them as part of the solution.
I'll take the last 45 seconds to talk about the main estimates. Status of Women Canada has been provided with $38 million to carry out its activities, which are highlighted in the 2017-18 departmental plan. The majority of the agency's funds are targeted for grants and contributions focused on those three areas of addressing and preventing violence, women's economic empowerment, and empowering women in leadership and decision-making.
Being the Status of Women minister in Canada in 2017 and being part of a government that is focused on gender equality and proud to call itself a feminist government is an honour. With that honour comes a great deal of responsibility that I am well aware of, but I know that with the contributions and the dedication of people like the people around this table, we can further the agenda of gender equality. We can make sure that Canadian women and girls, and those of different intersecting identities feel more like they belong, and feel more like they can fully participate. Canada, as a result, I know will be strengthened.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I am happy to answer any questions colleagues may have.