Evidence of meeting #81 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 going.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gina Wilson  Deputy Minister, Office of the Deputy Minister, Office of the Co-ordinator, Status of Women
Justine Akman  Director General, Policy and External Relations, 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 Director, Corporate Services, Office of the Co-ordinator, Status of Women
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Marie-Hélène Sauvé

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

We're developing a tool kit—

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I'm actually just looking for whether it was an agenda item and whether that intervention was successful.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

The gender-based violence strategy was an agenda item. I can provide the committee with a statement that came from the FPT meeting so that, if you haven't had a chance to see it, you can have a better sense of all the ways we talked about issues that affect women and girls.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Fantastic. Thank you, I would love to see that.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Sure thing.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

On another matter, the GBA report—this time I'm using the right word—our consensus report, which again your predecessor responded to, made a recommendation that the government introduce legislation by June 2017 to create the office of commissioner for gender equality, based on the model of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The response we got from your predecessor was, “I will consider that and I'll report to you in March 2018.”

Why not have a gender equality commissioner right now, and what are you going to do about it?

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Thank you, Sheila.

One of the first steps was having a minister devoted specifically to status of women, so that around the cabinet table and behind the scenes there is someone every single day spending every single hour advocating for all issues that can impede but also promote gender equality.

My predecessor did a wonderful job, and I was thrilled to pick up this work and continue it day in and day out.

I'm open to the idea of legislation on GBA+. I want to make sure it is successful. I want to make sure that years from now it continues; that we're not just focusing on a check mark next to “Was GBA+ done?” but are focusing on the quality. That work requires building capacity and the culture of making it be second nature to apply a GBA+ lens to everything. That work is happening. Come March 2018 we will be reporting back to this committee, as promised, on our plans for moving that forward. Rest assured that this is something we all care deeply about and are invested in.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

You've anticipated my third question, which is, when will you agree to the consensus recommendation of this committee that the government introduce legislation to make GBA mandatory? That way it's not an internal, private, cabinet matter; we all know how it's being done, it's legislated, and it's binding on future governments. All three parties agreed to that.

We asked for legislation to be tabled last June. You're saying you're open to it, so that is good, but still we would have hoped it would have happened earlier.

The question I asked a minute ago, though, was about legislation to create the office of the gender equality commissioner. Can you talk about that, please?

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Not too deeply right now, no, because it's part of a larger picture of not just putting in legislation, but making sure the legislation is enforced.

You're right. Right now, we have a Prime Minister who is a feminist, so he said to apply the lens, and we are, but we need to make sure this work continues long after we are gone. All of us around this table will continue with our lives, but the work of gender equality and the federal government's responsibility will continue.

When we provide an update and a report in March, we'll be as thoughtful as we can in how we're going to move ahead. As I said, I'm open to the possibility of legislation, but we need to make sure that it's thoughtful and that we have the capacity to deliver on what is being legislated. We need to have that conversation internally, but also with experts, and that work is going to happen.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much, Minister.

Now we're going to move to Sean Fraser, for his seven minutes.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and thank you, Minister, for being here.

I've been proud of a number of initiatives that the government has undertaken. At the top of the list is our effort to achieve gender equality, not just in spirit, but by backing it up with funding.

I sit here today, though, with some seriously mixed emotions. I see some important reforms going on in my own community about support for victims: some great initiatives with law reform with the appointment of sexual assault prosecutors in Nova Scotia, and some great work by local RCMP officers like Deepak Prasad in Antigonish, who is actually attending the women's resource centre's meetings on sexual assault.

At the same time, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that just days ago charges were laid at my alma mater, St. F.X., against two young men who allegedly committed sexual assault.

There is some great work going on in my community, but when it comes to the third pillar you mentioned—not just supporting victims and reforming the system, but the prevention effort—how is the national gender-based violence strategy going to specifically communicate the most simple message I can possibly imagine: that it is not okay, as a young man, to commit sexual assault against a woman on campus?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

My goodness, Sean, first, I don't know if the victims of those assaults are paying attention, but our thoughts are with them and their families. This violence doesn't just affect individuals but spills into families and communities. We all know that around this table and beyond.

The focus on prevention is what we heard and you heard clearly from the victims and survivors who had come forward hoping that this would be the result and that the cost of coming forward would be outweighed by the benefits of preventing it for someone else. It's the most effective intervention we can make.

The gender-based violence strategy does that in many ways. One of those ways is that the work isn't just being done out of Status of Women Canada. The work that is being done to prevent, to support survivors and families, and work on that justice and the legal systems you spoke of at the beginning of your question is happening across government.

We're working with Health Canada, through their Public Health Agency, to ensure that we're intervening better through programs for parenting, or through teen-dating violence initiatives, for example, explaining and exemplifying what healthy dating for teens looks like.

Public Safety has a role. With Public Safety, it's about cyber-violence and making sure that some of the dollars are invested towards those measures.

We talked earlier about putting more focus into engaging men and boys. Terry is taking a significant lead on that, as are many members of our communities and colleagues.

The work that also needs to happen, as we've seen through the #MeToo campaign, is that there is a willingness and a need for Canadians to be part of the conversation. This isn't something that we can sweep under the rug anymore. Voices are amplified through social media. Let's leverage this tool as a way to engage everyone in this conversation and ensure that the cultural change that we can't legislate our way through happens through grassroots efforts moving up.

I can tell you that organizations across this country that we have the privilege of working with or of hearing from are doing this work. They have their ears to the ground and they're an important element of the change that we need to bring forward. At the end of it, we have to ensure that whatever we do is done with survivors at the heart of the efforts.

What I didn't get to finish with Sheila's question was that we are developing a tool kit based on all the best practices that we receive from programs that we have funded to other campuses across the country so that we can offer post-secondary institutions a tool kit to do this work. The willingness is there; the leadership is taking place across the country. We also know that our provincial and territorial counterparts, especially the provinces, whose jurisdiction this work really is, are particularly invested in being part of the solution.

I share your grief and your disappointment that this is still an issue, but I'm hopeful that we are in the process of creating and building relationships that will help advance the change that we need.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much.

To anyone listening at home, we know campus violence against women is endemic to the university and college atmosphere in Canada. I hope this particular case doesn't become about the impact the process may have on the alleged perpetrators. Don't forget the impact on the women who've been affected by this.

Turning to the questions earlier from my colleague Ms. Harder on the issue of the proposed tax changes, my understanding is essentially that our government does gender-based analysis on any piece of legislation. In terms of the income sprinkling test, GBA was applied, but because there was no legislation on passive investment, it hadn't been applied to that legislation. However, through the consultations, gender considerations were taken into account and that was reflected in some of the adjustments. For example, we'll let a business owner save up to $1 million before the passive investment piece affects them, to take care of the concerns that I actually heard on the trail as well when I did consultations, such as about maternity leave, taking care of a loved one, and so on. Is that a fair summary of what you were getting at?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Sean, thank you for outlining what actually happened and how things unfold.

Yes, GBA+ is applied to the consultation process to ensure that we're as inclusive as possible in the questions and the way we do our outreach so that we listen to all voices before developing policies. Once legislation is developed, there is another process that we go through around the cabinet table. There's more than one feminist around that table who raises issues such as those that you refer to.

I'm pleased to say that the changes that were introduced as a result of that consultation process have been met positively. Entrepreneurs in my own riding, professionals in my own riding, my stakeholders across the country are pleased that they were heard. It was a courageous conversation. As the chair mentioned, we need to have those conversations. If done right, those conversations lead to better outcomes such as lower taxes for small businesses.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you, Minister.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

We're now going to move to our second round, starting with Martin Shields for five minutes.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I thank the minister for being here today—

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

My pleasure.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

—and for the conversation.

Activism is interesting. Having been a university student in the U.S. in the late sixties, I'd say our activism now pales compared with what I experienced. This is mild stuff.

11:40 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

This is nothing, eh, Martin?

November 30th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Yes, university students got shot and killed in those days, and I lived through that.

Let me give a shout-out to Cantara Safe House in our community. It's an award-winning women's shelter. It has been recognized. The sad part about it, as the community says, is that it's too bad we have to have it. It is, however, an award-winning one, and people in our community have done an extremely good job of building a first-class facility.

I'm going to return to a process matter. Having been involved in process often with pieces of legislation, and having been involved in doctor recruitment for 15 years, this is a critical issue. In Alberta, outside of Edmonton and Calgary, everything is called “rural” by the government, and it's a challenge for the medical community, and for female doctors it presents a real challenge. It is my experience, in dealing with legislation through many levels, that you work very hard to find the unintended consequences before you run anything out. If you were sitting at a table, the unintended consequences of this were so loud and clear that it's unbelievable for me to see that somebody sitting there with a lens would not see this.

Where was that lens as this policy was developed?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Thank you very much, Martin, for your question and for your work on this committee.

I come from a rural-urban riding, and we work very hard to recruit and retain physicians in my area, especially because we're one of the aging communities across the country, and access to health care is a critical need for my constituents. That's the case also across the country.

In terms of consultations, the whole point—

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

No, no, it's policy development. I'm going back a step.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

The policy wasn't developed first. We could have just introduced a policy and thrown it out there—