Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the organizers for the marches across the country and the world. A world women's march does not happen overnight. We are talking about days and months of organization. As a woman member of parliament, I want to thank them for everything they are doing.
I was part of the organization when we organized the national women's march against poverty in 1995 or 1996. I helped co-ordinate the march in New Brunswick which certainly brought awareness. Pay equity was one of the big issues.
After several courts, the Liberals finally decided to pay what was owed to mostly women who were federal government workers. Maybe to the Liberals it did not seem very important but it recognized that there was an inequity within salaries of federal employees. What the mostly women and some men did with that money was reinvest it in their communities. It also helped a lot of them to catch up.
I want to also recognize the work that was done by the members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. We have to thank them. We have to thank Nycole Turmel and the whole group who worked on this. Without their persistence and work I believe that women would not have won this very important justice that was owed to them.
Ten minutes is certainly not enough time to talk on all the issues but we have to touch on violence.
Violence against women is clearly unacceptable. There is certainly too much violence against women in this country.
Women's needs are not being met by our justice system. Too often women find themselves in dangerous situations. They ask the courts for help, but their spouse still manages to find them eventually, and we often see children who end up losing their mother.
Too often women live in shelters. This should not be happening. They should have the right to live in their own home, in their own environment, and feel safe. We must address this problem. Too many women live in fear and insecurity, afraid to leave the house or go to work, because they fear for their life.
Looking at the way the justice system works, it is obvious that the Liberal government has to do a lot better to correct the problem.
As my colleague mentioned a while ago, we certainly have to address the problem. Yes, I believe in prevention. I believe in a justice system. We need more prevention. We need prevention at home and, as mothers, we need to make sure that we address that with the our children. We need a society that talks about it and recognizes it. We need governments that address the problem. That is how we are going to fix this.
We also need shelters and we need to put a lot more money into them. We have the rural communities which are always disadvantaged. Shelters for battered women are much needed in our rural communities. We always have to scrape and scrape to try to get enough funds to operate shelters which are safe homes for women and their kids. They are safe homes that allow those moms to get out of a situation. They can get some counselling. They can reflect on their situation. They can get safety for their children. Then after they have had a time to rest, to feel safe and secure they can make those decisions. Those shelters work.
I used one quite a few years ago and it worked. There was counselling. Children were safe and the women could think. Unless we have those shelters for women who need them, they cannot get out of the environment. They cannot think straight. It does not matter how much prevention there is we will never solve all the problems. However, we need the shelters and we need to reinvested in them. All levels of government need to co-operate and address that. If we do not then we are not facing up to the problem.
Most children living in poverty are female. We have to look at the changes to the EI.
The changes to the employment insurance program have affected seasonal workers, of course, but women in particular. Did the Liberal government recognize that when it brought in these changes? The Liberals said that the changes to the employment insurance program would primarily affect women. Now they want to make changes to maternity leave.
It is very nice to tell women that they will get a one year maternity leave, but how many women can afford to take advantage of it with 55% of their $6 an hour salary? These women will spend a minimum amount of time at home with their children because they are forced to go back to work. They have no choice, because they cannot stay at home and live on 50% or 55%—the new amendments have not been adopted, and it looks like the government will not let them go through—of their salary. A woman cannot afford to stay at home with her children if she receives the equivalent of $3 an hour. It is simply not possible.
It is very nice to announce that a woman will be able to stay at home for a whole year with her children, but that only applies to women who earn big salaries. Those who are at the bottom end of the income scale will not have access to maternity leave, because they will not be able to afford it. We must also take a look at the child care program.
Child care is a big problem in this country. In August I released my report. On page 31, I recommended that we look at child care, especially in rural Canada. There are serious problems when it comes to child care. It is too expensive. A lot of women are working in fish plants or in tourism and are earning low salaries. They cannot afford child care. So where are the children going? The children are going where the moms and parents can afford afford to send them. Are they getting the best care? I am not too sure that they are. Is it the parents' fault? No, it is not the parents' fault.
We have to address child care in this country. It is not right and it is not fair that only people making high incomes can afford child care.
I do believe that Quebec has a good example in child care at $5 a day. We have to look at that. We have to look at it as a model and implement it across the country in different provinces where governments want it. I believe every provincial government should want an affordable child care program for parents. The children deserve it. If those governments do not care about the parents perhaps they should care about the children who are the ones suffering at the end of the day.
Let us look at breakfast programs. On the weekend I was talking to a director of a school of about 500 children. Two years ago he had to put in place a breakfast program, not twenty years ago but two years ago. He is feeding 20% of the kids in that school at least one meal a day, which is an awful shame. Why? Not because the parents are doing better, but because the parents are making less money and everything is going up. It may be gas, milk or bread, but everything is going up. Salaries are not going up. They are going down. Those are the issues that keep parents and children in poverty. That is not right.
How about part time workers? Who usually has a part time job? It is women. Which group was attacked most in the EI cuts? It was part time workers. They now pay into the fund but they cannot collect. Before when they used to pay they used to get at least a little bit but now they do not.
When the EI legislation was passed it was clear that women in particular were going to be targeted by it. The government passed it anyway. We need a system in place with policies that make sure there is not one group in particular being targeted. This Liberal government does not do that. The government speaks well today that it cares about women and poverty but I do not think it is really doing anything about it.
Violence and poverty among women has to be addressed. We are living in a very rich country. Every woman should feel safe in her home. Every child should have food in his stomach when he goes to school. Only by addressing poverty among parents can we ensure that. Single parents are usually women. This issue has to be addressed. Talking about it is not enough. We need sound policies that are going to address it once and for all.