House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firefighters.


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4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:55 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am hoping that the member from London can help me on this. I know she has worked hard on this issue and believes strongly in equality for women.

When it comes to women's issues or moving policy on women's issues it seems to be really difficult. When policy does get changed it gets changed so that it penalizes women, such as in the case of the EI program or moving forward with child care.

One area that has bothered me a lot is the area of the defence of provocation. This defence is used if a man is insulted or his honour is besmirched on the basis of an insult. We excuse the murder done to a woman because he was insulted. We are making excuses for anger when it comes to violence against women. It is in our laws. It is very symbolic. The law says that a man can react violently to what he perceives as a verbal insult. It is very discouraging to think that we cannot even make small changes like that.

There is another little thing I want to bring up, which is not little for the women involved. Everybody knows that Canada is a huge country with vast areas of isolated communities. The federal prenatal health program has just cut funding for women in Dawson City. They can no longer get any assistance to go to Whitehorse to give birth. They do not have a choice in this. They cannot stay in Dawson City to give birth. They have to spend at least two weeks in Whitehorse near the hospital but the funding to enable them to do that has been cut. Most of these women are not wealthy. They live on very fixed incomes and the accommodation is expensive. Why would something like that happen? It is just unbelievable.

I know the women members on the other side of the House are working hard to change things but why do we not have the changes that we need? Why do we have something like this? The amount of money we are talking about is only around $7,000. It is such a minuscule amount compared to our full budget. Why was it cut? It has a drastic effect on the lives of women at a time when they need help to give birth in a place that is safe. They do not have any other choice.

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4:55 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I respect the hon. member opposite. I also know she works very hard because I have had the pleasure of working on committees with her.

First I will address the question that she raised with respect to the provocation defence and the criminal justice system. I am sure the hon. member is also aware that this defence has been used successfully in the past with women who have been repeatedly attacked by their spouses in a situation where there was ongoing abuse.

That is one of the areas we have to look at when we make changes to the criminal justice system. On the one hand it is seen as an out, but in other circumstances there are real reasons it is used as a valid defence. I see a need to examine this area. I believe it is currently being examined in order to look at how we can better get at the goal without necessarily changing the exact section of the code she is referring to.

I also want to pay attention to the comments made earlier in her remarks about child care. I remember being part of a woman's caucus in 1993 when we on this side of the House had a minister who was very much prepared to go forward to the provinces with child care policies. There was no take-up from many of the provinces. That was at a time when there were deficits in a lot of the provinces.

Today, though, a child care agreement has recently been negotiated inside the health care agreement with the provinces and territories. Money would be available for those provinces to choose where they would put the resources and programs in relation to their populations. I believe in Ontario the dollar amount is $800 million.

Some of those provinces may in fact choose to go with child care. I understand that B.C. and perhaps the member's area, although I am not certain of the latter, may go with increased child care. However, other provinces may very well choose to spend those extra resources in areas where the resources are most needed. I understand that where fetal alcohol syndrome is more of a problem some of the provinces are looking at increased spending in that area.

I understand my own province has not given any indication, and I know there is a dire need. The women's programs in my city could use more beds every night in our shelters.

I understand I am out of time. I thank the hon. member opposite. On the health care, I am sorry, but I will have to take that at another time.

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5 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on this opposition day motion.

I want to begin by saying that the Government of Canada supports the World March of Women. As a member of the women's Liberal caucus, I offer support to the women of Canada as they make their demands and look for ways and means to better the lives of all women. As chair of the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, I see this march as being an important initiative that demonstrates the increasing level of global linkages being created by Canadian women, NGOs and other organizations.

Many of my constituents in Etobicoke—Lakeshore participated in this march for women. They too joined and they want the government to know that they are working to improve their lives and the lives of all women all across the country and the world.

I want to focus on the issue of family violence and take up from where the previous speaker, the hon. member for London West, left off. I will quote from a recent Canadian publication that is especially relevant to this world march. It states:

Violence against women knows no geographical, cultural or linguistic boundaries and it affects all women without regard to their level of income. For many women, poverty adds another dimension to the pain and suffering they experience as a result of violence. Poverty limits choices and access to the means to protect and free oneself from violence.

Much has been said here today, but I think one thing that is very clear to me and that was left with all of us is the fact that the Canadian Alliance has proved that it does not understand the issue of pay equity, which is a very important issue for women. As well, it believes in a one size fits all approach to equality. It should not speak to them about measures to address visible minority women, aboriginal women or women with disabilities. This is very sad. This march underscored the importance of those issues for women.

As well, I want the women in my riding and all women to know about the resources we have within the federal government to address the issue of family violence.

The quotes I mentioned earlier came from a document called “Breaking the Links between Poverty and Violence Against Women: A Resource Guide”. I think that report adequately reflects the perspective of the government.

The Government of Canada is committed to both ensuring that women are safe in their workplaces, their homes and their family situations and to reducing the toll that violence takes on Canadians. We are also committed to finding solutions to such problems as poverty, which affects the health and well-being of all Canadians.

Health Canada has some responsibility here. It is the lead ministry in co-ordinating the family violence initiative. As part of this initiative the Government of Canada continues to help individual Canadians and communities increase awareness and develop more effective ways to prevent and respond to the problem.

What have we done? Let me take this opportunity to go through a number of initiatives. We have allocated $7 million a year for a range of activities across seven federal departments and agencies, some of them very important, including Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, the Department of Justice, the RCMP, Statistics Canada and Status of Women Canada. The initiative entails collaboration with an additional six departments that are not funded through this initiative but act on the problem through their regular budgets.

The government has introduced a wide range of legislation, policies and programs dealing with violence. On this side of the House from time to time we draw attention to those programs and policy areas. They are managed through a variety of interdepartmental collaborative mechanisms, including, for example, the interdepartmental working group on family violence, the interdepartmental working group on crime prevention and community safety, and working groups dealing with related issues such as Canada's drug strategy.

There are other federal initiatives. The building healthy communities program provides crisis intervention services for aboriginal communities. Other initiatives deliver intervention and treatment programs to offenders in correctional institutions and other facilities. Those programs have an impact on family violence.

Through successive initiatives we have established a baseline of information on the nature and extent of family violence in Canada. We were able to share this with our international partners in this area. Research that is done in Canada is research that is up front and at the same time very progressive.

We have conducted research and provided data on such important areas as violence against women, children and older persons, and the utilization of transition houses and shelters. We have conducted ongoing research to evaluate the effectiveness of what we are doing and to address the gaps we have identified in the consultations we have had with the provinces, territories, frontline workers, and NGO and service agencies. We also provide research to policy makers and services providers to give them up to date information so that they can work on the ground and with communities to address family violence in the most effective way possible. We have the data. We have the research. We have the information.

As well as addressing this awareness and understanding of the problem, we see the issue of family violence addressed daily in the common media and in the multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral intergovernmental approaches to this very important issue.

Family violence is a long term problem that requires a long term collaborative response involving all sectors of Canadian society. I think all of us in the House recognize that this is not an easily solved problem. Frontline workers, community groups, members of the public, and all the others working together on this issue recognize the difficulties involved in dealing with family violence.

We also have had a special national campaign against violence. There are two phases. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters has been working with us in this regard. With $1 million coming from Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, Justice Canada, Solicitor General, Status of Women and National Defence, the CAB has provided approximately $20 million of airtime for a series of television and radio messages revolving around three themes: violence against women, violence against children and media literacy. We thus have partners in this endeavour.

Another example of partnership is an interdisciplinary project on family violence. It is a complicated issue. It is an issue that all of society has to deal with. The World March of Women highlighted the issue for us. The government is working assiduously with all departments and partners in this regard. We have provided handbooks. We are doing everything we can to ensure that the issue comes to the fore.

In conclusion, the government is cognizant of the issue. The women's march has highlighted it. We will continue to work. We will continue to provide the necessary resources to ensure that we fight violence against women and that families are safer places in which individuals can grow and develop.

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5:10 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I total the 13 demands it seems to me they would probably cost about $20 billion a year. These 13 demands are listed as immediate demands, so when these are paid for I presume there would be more demands.

It occurs to me, from my experience dealing with families and family counselling, that two of the greatest pressures in families that cause disruption, violence and loss are financial problems and loss of health by a member of the family.

Let us consider the amount of money Ottawa spends on interest payments. It is about three times what we spend on health care and education. We casually talk about this $33 billion surplus. This money came from taxpayers. I have difficulty understanding many elements of this argument. Why are we taking money from families when this is one of the greatest causes of stress and violence in families? Why can the government not see that it should reduce the tax level and leave money in families?

Our party has suggested a $10,000 tax exemption for any adult member who pays taxes and any adult dependant and $3,000 for each child. That would mean a family of four would pay no taxes on the first $26,000 of income. They would then pay at the rate of only 17%, except for the highest earners of over $100,000 who would pay at 25%.

Does the hon. member consider that some of the fundamental problems causing the difficulties we are discussing are in fact promoted by the government and its own policies?

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5:10 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how we can reduce any kind of discussion down to the issues of taxes and dollars and cents.

I spoke about the problem of violence against women and violence in families. It is a very difficult and complex issue. It is an issue we find all over the world in all classes in society and in all groups, racial, cultural, et cetera.

I spoke about what we are doing in Canada to address that issue, to bring it to the attention of the public, to work with partners and to ensure that Canada and Canadian women join with women across the world to resolve that problem.

The issue of taxes and putting more dollars in the pockets of individuals to resolve this is not the answer to violence. We know it happens in families who are millionaires. It happens to families who have big houses and who have lots of money in their banks and pockets. This is not a money issue.

I am not surprised that my colleague does not understand what this issue is all about.

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5:15 p.m.


Dennis Gruending NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague across the way for her remarks. I want to focus on one point because time is limited.

The women's march talked about the lack of housing as being a major cause and perhaps the effect of poverty among women. Today on the Hill there was another related event. The Canadian Association of Food Banks held a news conference to talk about two studies it had released. There are now 707 food banks in Canada and 726,000 people using those food banks, which is an increase in the last year. Many of those people live in very poor housing. That is one of the problems.

It talked about the fact that while we have a minister for homelessness in Canada, we have a lack of a national housing strategy. I am now paraphrasing from the remarks in the study this morning. It also indicated that the minister in charge of CMHC announced further research and consultation but that that was really not what we needed. We need funds committed to a national strategy and targets for the creation of affordable housing. So there is a link between poverty, particularly women's poverty and the lack of affordable housing.

I wonder if my colleague could tell me how we might attack this problem? There has been a retraction by the federal government on this issue. I wonder if she could tell us how we might get ourselves into a position where we have a decent strategy for housing?

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5:15 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you know from my background, I spent six years as the chair of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority which houses 125,000 people in what is called rent geared to income.

I know the situation of the lack of affordability. I know the linkages and the connections. If the member would remember what we did fairly recently in the area of homelessness, those people who are on the street either through eviction, psychiatric and other kinds of problems, and the work we have been doing with communities to alleviate those issues.

The issue of affordability is one we have to tackle. Despite what we have in terms of CMHC and the present RRAP funding, et cetera, I have to admit that we have to work on the issue of affordability.

Let us all join together. The issue of affordable housing is very important. All of us in the House have to find some ways to take responsibility for that issue.

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5:15 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing mine with the member for Québec.

I am very happy to rise today to speak on this motion put forward by the Bloc, of which I am especially proud. Last week, along with a thousand women from my riding, I walked in Trois-Pistoles, Cabano, Pohénégamook, in some neighbourhoods in Saint-Éleuthère, Sully, Estcourt, Rivière-du-Loup, Saint-Pascal and La Pocatière.

I felt very at ease because many of the issues raised by the women had already been supported by the Bloc Quebecois. The efforts made by the Bloc to improve EI were obviously considered very credible. The Bloc position on poverty, as explained by the hon. member for Québec throughout the province, also enjoys a lot of support.

I heard from a lot of people. For instance, after a speech I made at one of the demonstrations, a young mother told me “You talk about women and men living in poverty, but I would like you to talk about the children of these families who have to make due with what is put on the table”. That stuck in my mind. That is why I am reminding the House today that the 13 demands these women made to the federal government would also help to eliminate child poverty. There are no poor children without poor parents and especially poor women.

I also saw a young woman who came to talk to me because someone had said in a speech that it was sad that, on the 8th of each month, some people did not have any money left from their welfare cheque to pay for current expenses. A young woman came to me and said “I still have money left from my welfare cheque on the 8th of each month, but every day I have to make sacrifices to make sure my children will have what they need so we can get through the month, and I will give you examples”. She was very proud to tell me about the necessities she did without so that her children did not have to do without.

These are the testimonies I heard during a march where I felt a lot of enthusiasm. I would say I found in that march the first organized movement. All the men in Quebec, in Canada and, basically, in the world must be grateful to women for having taken the initiative to turn things around, to say that productivity and profit will no longer be the only things that matter, that other factors will have to be taken into account in developing policies.

And this was done by women from our own communities. They are real people who started marching from the Lower St. Lawrence area or from Matane on to La Pocatière, and then on to Montreal and Ottawa. This march reflects a reality. It was not a debate among intellectuals but concrete action which must be recognized. Those responsible deserve our thanks.

I also heard testimonies that did not necessarily relate to the issue of economic poverty. On that day there was much talk of domestic violence. One woman came to speak to us about the situation she had been through. This was a woman who did not necessarily have any financial problems, but she lived with a very controlling partner who subjected her to violence. This violence is something else we must fight against and eliminate from our society. When I listened to this woman speak, I was also listening as a father, because I have two daughters. I have a son and I want him to be able to grow up in a society in which we have done what is necessary to eliminate such behaviour.

Today, we are not living in a country with financial difficulties. We are living in a country which has resources, wealth. There is a major problem distributing this wealth. Today, I was expecting a much more open attitude from the government towards the demands that have been presented. I am very proud that the Bloc Quebecois has brought this debate to the House.

Last week, on our tour, I said to the women “You know what you are doing today”. When we had been walking for an hour, an hour and a half, and might have been a little tired, we said “What you are doing today will make it to the floor of the House of Commons and it is the Bloc Quebecois that will take it there. The Leader of the Bloc Quebecois has made a commitment to do this and if you listen to the debate on Monday, October 16, you will see that all your work has been for something, that the federal government will be called on this, and that there will be a vote”. This vote will take place tomorrow.

I think that we on this side are doing our job. At this time, we take great pride as MPs and as politicians in showing that we are behind the people from our community, behind the people who want to see more social equity in our society. Personally speaking, this has been my greatest source of pride since becoming an MP, that we were able to provide support to the women organizers of this march and the men who were in solidarity with it.

Some of the 13 demands I find particularly of interest and of particular appropriateness to my riding, among them the ones relating to female seniors living below the poverty line.

The Bloc Quebecois has a very concrete proposal that will affect not only older women living below the poverty line but also single men and couples, relating to providing these 506,000 people with $1,180 more a year, to increase their income by 11.6%. This would be for those who are truly below the poverty line and who need the money to make ends meet.

There are examples in all of our regions, in the little parishes where older ladies are living in small rooms or apartments and having trouble getting by. The same thing happens in our cities, and sometimes also in rural areas. There are more and more women living alone. Women are living longer, but they have not had the opportunity to pay into a retirement plan. They have to rely on the Canada pension plan. The fact that the CPP has not been improved the way it should have been is hurting women the most. We have a concrete proposal that would meet the demands of women while dealing with elderly men who live alone and are similarly poor.

Needless to say, there is a crying need for social housing. The Bloc Quebecois has raised this issue on numerous occasion. We are still doing it and will continue to do so. Statistics do not give the whole picture, we must stress the principle that people are entitled to decent, affordable housing.

When 25% or 30% of one's income goes to housing, there is enough left for other things. But when one has to spend 50% or 60% of one's monthly disposable income on housing, things go out of whack. Some people cannot afford food for the last week of the month. This in turn creates health problems, and problems across the whole system. I believe this is another concrete step the government should move on and take a different attitude from what we have been seeing here.

During that tour I discovered something. I discovered how women manage with next to nothing, often all they have is very little means and a lot of determination. This is why these women are first rate organizers, they have the right stuff to get something like the march of women off the ground. They are used to doing a lot with very little money, and they managed to do a lot with very little money. We have seen the demonstrations in Montreal and Ottawa, and we will see the one in New York.

I think the initiative taken by the women of Quebec five years ago in the bread and roses march, now repeated on the world stage, must be given real attention by all those involved in the distribution of wealth as elected representatives. This is the clearest and most specific message we have had on the fact that a society creating an enormous amount of wealth but unable to distribute it properly has no future.

This applies to the incomes of seniors who live alone, public housing, funding for groups of women to enable them to help their colleagues, so that when there are groups of people with problems of self esteem they my be supported, so that in the case of domestic violence, women may have support to get out of it, in order to realize their full potential.

The last demand involves the whole issue of maternity leave. In Quebec, we have a parental leave program that meets needs, that is a full complement to the family policy of the Government of Quebec, and the federal government in an effort to ensure its own visibility is refusing to act on it. I find that totally unacceptable.

I will conclude by pointing out to the Liberal government that the demands made by Canadian women include recognition of Quebec's right to opt out to be able to fund these activities according to its own criteria. Canadian women, in my opinion, are 100 years ahead of the current Liberal government. They already recognize that Quebec is a distinct society. There are already existing models and the government should accept the model developed, it should allow Quebec to develop at a different pace from the rest of Canada, it should avoid coast to coast standards. This is an improvement compared to all the positions taken by the government in the past.

There is a strong movement, a movement that has drawn the attention of the Quebec government, the federal government and the international authorities. An effort must be made at all levels. There is room for additional effort by all levels of government or organizations.

Five or ten years from now, we must not be facing the same situation regarding child poverty and we must not come to the conclusion that, as parliamentarians, even though we were not there 10 years earlier, we did not do our job.

But the Bloc Quebecois will definitely have done its job. We presented a motion on this issue, here in the House. There is now a debate and a vote will follow. Again, I say to all the women who took part in the World March of Women that the Bloc Quebecois is very proud to have worked so that this vote can take place.

In conclusion, no more violence, no more poverty.

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5:30 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member will know that the Government of Canada spends about $340 million a year on housing in Quebec, most of which supports the 140,000 low income families in Quebec.

As I understand it, and maybe the member can clarify it, Quebec's main concern is that it is not being offered its fair share of social housing assistance based on the current share of Canadians with housing needs. Quebec, like other provinces, is being offered federal money to cover the cost of the shared national portfolio of social housing. In Quebec's case this is lower than a province's share of current housing needs. Quebec in fact is getting proportionately more of the current investment in social housing.

I also want to comment very briefly on the member's issue with regard to maternity and parental leave. It is an issue that is very important to me. It was Bill C-204 that brought it to the House and which was incorporated in the throne speech and budget 2000. I am pleased to say that it will to be implemented on January 1, 2001 so that families can have up to one full year of maternity and parental leave to provide direct parental care to their children. Therefore it is in fact happening notwithstanding that the member said that it should happen.

I raise those issues for the member simply for his comment.

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5:30 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would like to point out is that this is not the federal government's money. It is taxpayers' money.

The federal government is not some Santa Claus who gives us presents. This is our money. The $32 billion surplus in the EI fund did not come from the federal government. It came from employers and employees. It is this money that the federal government would like to hand out. This is unacceptable.

It is paternalistic of the federal government and Quebecers no longer want any part of it. It is an approach women no longer want. They no longer want to be treated by the Liberal government as though they were being given a gift. It is unacceptable.

As for social housing, original approaches are being developed in Quebec. There are ways of funding what we need. And the little boxes of the federal government have no place in it. It is a pity, and because we do not fit into your little boxes, we are not entitled to the money which is rightfully ours? I think that we must take another approach and make sure that we get adequate assistance.

With regard to maternity leave, I challenge the hon. member. If a woman now earning $7 an hour gets 55% of her salary, that makes $3.50 an hour. If she works 40 hours at $3.50 an hour, she will wind up with $150 to live on. Even if her maternity leave went on for ten years, there is nothing in it for her. What is needed is flexible maternity leave entitling people to an adequate amount for a certain number of weeks.

It is this demand from the women of Quebec and of Canada that the federal government is unable to satisfy.

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5:30 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, responding to the member's concern about the affordability of housing, I would raise the issue of affordability for seniors' housing.

A lady who owns a very modest house on a very modest piece of property phoned me. She was in part dependent upon $13,000 that she and her husband had managed to put in the bank while they were working. They had a little bit of extra income to go with their old age pension. When he died she did not have the money, because of the taxes she paid, to pay the taxes on her house.

The question I am raising is, would it not be better for those people who think it is so great for the government to collect money and then decide who to give it back to, to just leave the money in the hands of those people who are at the bottom end?

We have a policy in our party to take about 1.5 million people off the tax roles. Would that not be preferable to taking the money away and then saying that there is not enough to give back so Canadians can pay their taxes?

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5:35 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, we all want tax reductions, but the hon. member did not talk about the thousands of people who do not pay taxes and still do not have enough money to live a decent life. There are 506,000 senior Canadians who do not have enough money to meet their basic needs, including 359,000 single women over 65 and 82,000 single men over 65. Even with the best tax reduction possible, these people would not get a penny more, because they do not pay any taxes as it is. They do not have enough to live on. Most of them have worked all of their lives.

This is especially true of women who have worked 30 or 40 years at home, taking care of their children. Their husbands may have died or left them, and all they have left today is the basic pension. That is all they have to live on. A tax reduction does not mean a thing to them. A tax reduction will not solve everything. It is however part of the solution, because the federal government has too much money for its own needs. The wealth needs to be redistributed differently and that is the message sent by women.

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5:35 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate on such an important issue, namely the status of women and their march against poverty, against exclusion, for solidarity, and all that synergy that concerns us as parliamentarians.

I have often spoken in the House about these things. I am thinking of poverty resulting from a scarce jobs, from a lack of the necessary resources to make ends meet or to improve one's quality of life.

The march of women is a way to fight against exclusion so there is no more suffering for children, so there is more equity between men and women and, above all, so there is no more psychological and material violence against women. Making a few changes in our justice system will not be enough. We need better social policies. We need this government to have social priorities. We have seen was the seven year social deficit of the Liberal government has wrought.

I toured Quebec with regard to the issue of poverty in April, May and June, before the summer recess, and I met the representatives of some 400 community organizations. They all told me they had difficulty meeting the urgent needs of people living below the poverty level, living on the minimum wage, unable to afford decent housing, unable to have a certain quality of life and to put enough food on the table for the children.

I say bravo to the march of women. Things have to change, the message has to be heard. I take pleasure in pointing out that the Bloc Quebecois are the ones who initiated this debate with the motion by the hon. member for Longueuil, the opposition critic for women's issues. I congratulate her and I know that she is involved in a real struggle to get the MPs to grasp certain realities.

As a member of parliament, I feel a sense of involvement and I trust that the members on the government side will be able to bring a positive influence to bear on it as an election is looming. We know that this is the time to hand out the goodies, and we can only hope that some of the goodies will help improve the status of women. There is an urgent challenge to respond to the immediate and pressing needs of women and children, and men as well.

When a family is living below the poverty line, as my colleague for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques has said, often the husband puts pressure on the wife to make ends meet, to manage the family budget and be able to meet pressing family needs.

This world march of women has raised a great many issues and the Bloc Quebecois has some concrete proposals: $45 billion over five years.

As far as social housing is concerned, this is a battle that we have been engaged in since 1993. We all know that the federal government has backed away from its commitment to social housing. It is unacceptable that not another cent will go into social housing.

I put a question to the Minister of Public Works today. He replied that negotiations were being held and that there had been a deputy minister change in Quebec. There are negotiations going on in Quebec City, but there is also a reality in the field. Why did they change the deputy minister? I could perhaps say that they also took a while to attend to Quebec's needs to enable it to meet the people's public housing needs. The federal government offer on the table does not meet Quebec's needs.

We know what the government thinks about the situation of public housing in Quebec. It fails to meet the need and is inadequate for the population. We understand why Quebec does not want to sign this agreement, because once it signs, it will be forced to respond to the pressing need of the public. We have the support of groups wanting more public housing in Quebec. So we will come back to the response by the minister, who is a member of this Liberal government.

We are calling for a second investment in health care, an additional $10 billion to correct the shortfall the provinces have faced since this government has been in power. This additional $10 billion is essential to enable the provinces to meet the needs of an aging population, and women have a longer life expectancy than men.

We are also calling for financial assistance for home care. It is often women who end up taking over the care of sick grandparents or children. If there is not enough money in the health care budget, women will have to pick up after seven years of the Liberal government's social deficit.

We are calling for a fund for daycare and an end to the hide and seek with national child benefit. The government says it has invested over $9 billion in this child benefit. I would point out to this government that it took $720 million away from daycares and child care services. It was supposed to set up child care services.

Let us stop playing hide and seek with this money because the federal government said we could use it to help families. If there is not enough money to help families, to set up a true child care system in Quebec, the government should stop telling us that it is good, and invest more money so that we can have a real family policy including both a national child benefit and a child care system to help women go back to the labour market without having to pay an arm and a leg so that their children are taken care of during the day or at night while they are at work.

Again, we need $2 billion to have a child care fund; this money should be turned over to the provinces, they would manage it. It is said that the only province that has initiated such a program is the province of Quebec. Hopefully Quebec's child care initiative will be taken into account.

With regard to old age security, we are asking for $3 billion. We know that women live longer than men. The guaranteed income supplement should be increased by $1,100 a year to help women 65 and over who often live in dire circumstances. Through the years, the purchasing power of the elderly gradually diminished.

We are asking for another $50 million for various groups. Shelters helping victims of domestic violence are underfunded. They need a place where they can provide women in need and their children with a safe place, emotional support, and counselling.

We are asking for $30 million over five years to help community groups that promote equity and social justice, and help the community maintain some degree of social balance and peace.

Community organizations are at the forefront, helping these women, children and men, by providing food banks, clothing, help with the children' homework and educational services.

Since it came into office, the Liberal government has reduced by 15% the funding for these organizations. No additional help has been provided to help them meet their needs.

I am asking the government to do its homework and make some adjustments. Meanwhile, the Treasury Board is racking up a $160 billion surplus. The finance minister is untying the purse strings with too much caution, and the people below the poverty line are hurting.

Some $32 billion was taken out of the EI fund. Some very minor changes were made last week on the eve of an election. But we all know that some people will still not be eligible for EI.

The same thing goes for the Canada social transfer. Some $17 billion worth of adjustments were made recently. That is not nearly good enough. We need better health care, because people living in poverty require more and more health care.

Sick people who have money can afford the medication they need, like aspirin or other such remedies not covered by pharmacare in Quebec. We all know that these people need money in their pockets.

People tell me that they are sick, that they have got the flu, but that the medication is not covered by a drug plan. These people need health services that are increasingly more effective and supportive.

Home care services are under provincial jurisdiction to adequately meet the needs of the public. The federal government should stop brandishing the maple leaf whenever it hands out $1 million. There are channels of investment, such as the Canada social transfer for health, education and income security.

There are pressures at both the provincial and federal levels. When cuts are made to the Canada social transfer, it means that cuts are also made to the support that the provinces can provide to the public. Things must change.

But at the same time, the federal government still finds $500 million to invest in various propaganda programs, such as the Canada information office, to promote Canadian unity. The government has no problem finding money for such programs.

I could have talked about child care services, but as my time is up, I will close my remarks by saying that I hope the government will hear this message and will be flexible enough to follow up on women's demands.

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5:45 p.m.


André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate my colleague for her speech.

Usually, the Bloc Quebecois strives to defend the interests of Quebec and of the whole world. What I am interested in is defending the interests of our respective regions.

The Bloc is always asking for massive transfers, like the transfer of funds with regard to employment insurance. We know what happened. In the area of health, there is more money available.

The federal government is giving money to the provinces for health and education through equalization payments and the social transfer. Equalization is a kind of transfer where the Government of Quebec can use the money as it sees fit. The federal government uses criteria such as the unemployment rate, the poverty index and the population.

Can my colleague tell me if the Government of Quebec has a system of equalization payments and social transfer to the regions that ensures fairness? According to the figures from the regional board in my area, I know that we are short $75 million a year for health care. We can hardly provide health care services to our population.

I say there is nothing wrong with defending the interests of the whole world and the best interests of Quebec, but is there a way of knowing if we can defend the interests of our dying regions through provincial equalization?

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5:50 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member who has crossed the floor. He has gone over to the other side to defend the Liberals' upcoming policies.

I can tell the member opposite that we come from the same region. We were born in the wonderful Saguenay region and I am very up on the problems there. He has told me that we are defending global interests, but we are also defending the interests of Quebec.

When I speak of being able to restore transfers to the provinces, it is so that they will be able to meet the needs of the public. When the federal government makes cuts, it follows that the provinces have problems.

Since the member opposite is used to crossing the floor of the House, perhaps he could take the debate to the right parliament, the one in Quebec City, and have things rectified.

I find it unacceptable that, when he was on this side of the House, he criticized the Liberal government with respect to the Canada social transfer but, now that he is part of that very government, he starts criticizing the way Quebec operates. I think he is speaking to the wrong audience.

I am here to defend the interests of the regions and of Quebec and I wonder what the hon. member is doing sitting over there. I believe the hon. gentleman is in the wrong parliament.

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5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Dubé Progressive Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that this member here will stay put.

I listened carefully to what my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois had to say. I also took part in the March of Women last Sunday.

I also participated in a study carried out by my party on poverty in Canada in general and among women in particular. We noticed that women's poverty mostly affects single mothers and their children. Very recently, the government introduced Bill C-44 to change the eligiblity criteria for EI.

Does my hon. colleague for Québec, who sits on the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, think these new changes will help women and families with young children qualify more easily for EI benefits?

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5:50 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a very easy question to answer.

The changes made were mere cosmetic changes. The Bloc Quebecois expressed concern several times last week when the government announced the changes. They do not go far enough compared to all the money that was taken out of the EI fund.

The new changes will not help many women. A lot of them will still be excluded. Two out of three women do not go on maternity leave because they cannot qualify for parental leave; they are not eligible for EI benefits.

With only 55% of their income, these women will not be able to afford maternity leave. I am sorry we did not come up with more suggestions concerning, for instance, women who have seasonal jobs.

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5:50 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Ottawa West—Nepean.

I am very pleased to rise in the House to talk about the World March of Women, a very important event for Canadian women and all Canadians.

Since March 8 of this year, many women from coast to coast have been working hard to make this march a memorable success. For more than seven months now, they have been organizing numerous activities at the local, regional and national level to make Canadians more aware of the cause of women.

For days, they have been marching hand in hand with their sisters from all over the world to fight poverty and violence against women.

And tomorrow, the World March of Women will culminate in New York, when women from more than one hundred countries will speak with one voice before the United Nations. As a matter of fact, it was in the Big Apple that women started making demands almost a century ago.

Armed only with their will, their courage and their determination, women took to the streets to speak out against their dangerous working conditions and their meager wages. These women rose above prejudice to make sure their message was heard.

Then other women throughout the world took up the torch in the name of justice and equity. Little by little, progress was made: the right to vote, respect of fundamental rights, massive entry into the labour force. Gradually, women took their place in society.

Here, in Canada, a country known as one of the most progressive countries, women also had to fight hard to acquire the status of a person, to have access to higher education or to have the right to vote. There is no doubt that their collective progress has been slow, too slow, and often very difficult.

We needed the work of pioneers like the Famous Five to give Canadian democracy its true meaning.

But today we can see the concrete results of that progress. Canadian women are present in all areas of our society. They travel in space, they push back the limits of science, they amass great wealth, and they are elected to our democratic assemblies.

Despite this considerable progress, however, the road to equality is long and obstacle-ridden. For example, Canadian women are still considerably under-represented in the rapidly developing areas of science. Far too many are still in insecure employment.

But there are other still more serious problems that remain with us. In 1997, 88% of the victims of spousal abuse in Canada were women, and 65% of these reported more than two incidents of violence. One victim in four has been involved in ten or so such incidents.

Our government is very much aware of these problems. Moreover, poverty and violence toward women are among its highest priorities. In the area of justice, we have stepped up our efforts in recent years to eradicate violence toward women and children. Women cannot develop their full potential except within a society that is totally free of violence toward them.

In recent years we have made the necessary changes to make substantial improvements to the situation. We have passed appropriate and effective gun control legislation. We have amended the criminal code in order to bolster the provisions on high-risk offenders.

In 1999, we also passed three extremely important pieces of legislation. These have made it possible to provide more rights to the victims of violent acts, to promote the personal safety of women and children, and to ensure that the legal system provides a better response to the needs of abused women.

Despite this significant progress, we are firmly determined to continue our quest for a society in which everyone, men and women, may live in safety. That is why we have been working so hard to eradicate the evil at the root of it by fighting poverty vigorously, especially poverty among children. We are helping families to ensure that each child gets a good start in life.

The unanimous and historic agreement on health care concluded by the first ministers includes considerable investment in women's health and help in early childhood. We are continuing to increase our help to Canadian families through the national child benefit.

Between now and 2004, we expect to invest an additional $2.5 billion annually in this initiative, which has been called the most innovative social measure in the country in the past generation. We are also investing more in public housing.

We are making available effective initiatives such as the Canada prenatal nutrition program, which gives considerable help to pregnant women in Canada. We have also decided to double the length of maternity and paternity leave to enable mothers and fathers to devote the necessary time to their family.

These actions merely form the basis of our fight against poverty and violence against women. More than ever, we have to do more. And so we will. Yesterday, the Prime Minister met the organizers of the march. He reiterated his support and that of the Government of Canada.

He reiterated our intention to work closely with all our partners to improve the status of women. However, our government is well aware that legislative measures alone will not ensure equality. They must absolutely be supported by effective and flexible policies that take into account the realities and diversities of women's lives.

In 1995, our government launched an action plan in order to advance our government's policy on equality. This plan, which includes the initiatives of 24 federal departments and agencies, enables us to conduct comparative analyses between the two genders. This revolutionary approach allows us to accurately analyze the impact of each legislative measure and policy on women and men.

This new data helped us learn important lessons. First, it was imperative to approach the issue of gender equality from a new perspective. We can never eliminate the anatomical, physiological and psychological differences between men and women. Men and women will never communicate, make decisions or solve problems in the same way. To be sure, we are always striving to achieve equality, but we must do so while taking these differences into account, not by imposing uniformity.

In March 1999, the federal Minister of Health introduced, among other initiatives, the women's health strategy. This innovative strategy will allow us to not only target inequalities but, more importantly, to meet the specific needs of women when it comes to health.

We also took measures in the area of justice with our National Crime Prevention Strategy, and we are firmly determined to continue in that direction. We have not given up, far from it. Rather, we want to intensify our efforts. We know that our comparative analyses by gender can be improved.

We are working to design new tools and new methods to promote equality in all areas of our society. However, we are also aware that governments cannot do everything alone. In Canada, there are currently over 3,000 women's groups that are active.

Through its equal opportunities for women program, Status of Women Canada provides financial assistance and professional services to groups of women working at the regional, provincial and national levels for equality.

In 1998-99, we contributed $8.2 million in funding to 267 projects and groups throughout the country. To advance a cause, ideas and a vision are needed, but much more is often needed as well, such things as determination, courage, tenacity and willingness.

For a number of days now, participants in the World March of Women have left the beaten path to take up just causes, values and ideas. The Government of Canada supports their efforts. We have invested close to $1 billion in promoting the World March of Women nationally and internationally.

As we begin a new century and a new millennium, it is wonderful to see women throughout the world speaking with one voice. They are sending us a clear message that poverty and violence against women must be ended.

Today, I am sure that all members of the House will want to join with me in congratulating women on their efforts and sacrifices, which will help improve the status of women both at home and abroad.

We are going to work together to ensure that this historic march signals the beginning of a new era, an era which will see us step up our efforts to build a fairer and more equitable society, a society in which equality of the sexes will be not a noble objective but a daily reality.

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6 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear the hon. member mention the famous five. These are women who were strong, sought independence and sought the independence of others. I am glad that we will be honouring these famous five. I thank him for that.

What I am concerned about is the continuing independence that people seek and are thwarted often by government policies. For example, our health care system leaves people who are waiting for heart surgery in line to the point where they die. In our health care system cancer patients do not get the diagnosis they need to save their lives. In our health care system contaminated blood was given to hepatitis C victims. After many years of struggle the lawyers have been paid, but the hepatitis C victims have never received anything from the government.

These matters cause me great concern. I realize that nearly three times as much money is spent by Ottawa on interest on the national debt as on health care and education.

Another matter which concerns me is the violence perpetrated against women and others. For example, people are brought to justice and then turned loose before they are prepared to take responsibility.

David Bruce Jennings was out for a short time, reoffended, put back in again, and now he is out. He has never taken treatment. The police are telling everyone to be careful, that this guy is in the community. He has been told he cannot go near schools. He cannot be near kids under 16. He is not to go near parks, but he is out on the street. Why is that so?

David Trott asked not to be turned out because he knows he could not resist reoffending. When he was out he stole three different vehicles in three different days. Now he is in custody and they are assessing him to see if he is fit to stand trial.

Why is government policy not giving us a justice system that will protect women, children and families from these kinds of violent offenders?

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6:05 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member of the Canadian Alliance for his question. I will deal with his first point regarding health care.

Since 1996, the federal department of health has been setting up centers of excellence for women's health. We are talking about five focal points for multidisciplinary research financed over six years. By studying what determines women's health, they will help shape policies. Women's health is a very important issue.

Another issue that is very important is child poverty. Our government has been promoting policies to fight child poverty. It is important for every child to enjoy equal opportunity right from birth.

We have programs to help mothers even before the birth of their child. For single and low income families, the government of Canada has introduced benefits to help mothers and mostly children. We all know that when children are born, their brain is made up of billions of neurones that are not yet interconnected. Children need the right stimulation to make sure that when they start school, they are ready for it. If they are, they will experience less problems during their teens. They will not drop out and will have fewer run-ins with the law.

For us Liberals, policies are there to ensure that in the long run children will become good citizens.

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6:05 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I met with the representatives of 250 women from Peterborough who were on Parliament Hill yesterday. I was struck by the universality of the issues they mentioned, many of which my colleague has addressed: homelessness, poverty, and the disparity between rich and poor here and overseas. They also mentioned in particular education, higher education and access to higher education.

Could my colleague could comment on what has been done in Quebec as compared with what has been done in Ontario to improve access to college and university for all students but particularly for women?

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6:05 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to mention that at the end of the past millennium, instead of erecting statues to the glory of our Prime Minister or the Liberal government, this government decided to invest in our youth and provide them with grants to go to university or college.

In Quebec, 23,000 students have received bursaries from the federal government. This is important, because it means we have faith in our country's future.

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6:05 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suddenly realized I only have five minutes so this will be a précis version of a number of the things I want to say.

First I want to congratulate the hon. member for Laurier—Saint-Marie for bringing forward this motion.

I also want to congratulate women everywhere in Canada, and especially the Fédération des femmes du Québec, who played a leadership role in holding the march of women in Canada and throughout the world and who are responsible for the truly extraordinary and impressive show given on Parliament Hill yesterday.

I have long believed that women will only have social and political equality when they have economic equality. I trust the House will indulge me as I talk a bit about some of the measures that have been taken to improve the economic status of women in our country.

I will refer to a number of measures in the budget for the year 2000-01. It is a budget that very much builds on steps begun in past budgets. It is a budget that has been made possible by the sacrifices of a lot of Canadians. Because women are among the lowest income Canadians, that means particularly by Canadian women.

However we see now that low and middle income earners in particular will benefit most from a number of measures in the last couple of budgets with reductions in their net personal income tax reaching an average of at least 18% annually. Again, the majority of those low and very moderate income earners are women and especially those with children.

We have also seen the reindexing of many tax measures which means that people at a lower income will now see their incomes rise without them becoming taxable or without increasing their tax burdens. It means that benefits such as the national child benefit and the GST credit for low income Canadians will also be indexed to inflation so that those benefits will not erode over time. For senior women it means that inflation will no longer compromise the real value of the age credit for old age security or the income level at with OAS begins to be reduced.

A number of measures with respect to business are of particular interest to women and their economic status as well. Women are now starting up four times as many small businesses, women under 30 compared with men under 30. They are increasingly involved in trade so a number of the tax measures and initiatives with respect to developing trade and with respect to reducing the tax burden of small businesses will therefore benefit a large number of women.

I truly see the irony in what I just said, which is that women will benefit from the measures announced in the budget because their income is lower than that of men in Canada.

I recognize very well that there is a great deal still to be done. The majority of those living in poverty in Canada are women. Ninety per cent of senior women on their own are living in poverty. That is a shameful statement to have to make about a country like ours.

The United Nations calls us the best country in the world in which to live, and we are, but women in this country only rank ninth in the world. I will not be satisfied, nor will the government, until we have taken more measures to improve the equality of women and to ensure they benefit to a greater extent from the opportunities that a growing and prospering economy which we have now offers them.

To those responsible for yesterday's march, I express my personal appreciation because it certainly lends support to public awareness of the need to improve the economic status of women and assist the efforts of all of us in the House who are working toward that end.

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6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.15 p.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?