Mr. Speaker, I am choosing to speak primarily to two areas of the motion. I do believe the government has failed to act. The two areas that I will focus on are aboriginal affairs and the Status of Women. During the previous election campaign, the Prime Minister made clear promises to honour the Kelowna accord and the CEDAW declaration, which promotes equality of women. He broke both promises.
As we all know, budget 2006 presented the Conservatives an opportunity send a strong signal to aboriginal communities that they honoured them, celebrated them and valued them. From the outset, they have done nothing but insult the aboriginal people, beginning with their refusal to honour the Kelowna accord. It is clear that the issues surrounding Canada's aboriginal peoples are not of primary concern to the government.
We know Kelowna was an important initiative. It was an initiative that was built on relationships among the Government of Canada, the leadership of first nations and the leadership of the 13 provincial and territorial governments. We had 18 months of consultation and 28 round tables, dealing with issues of housing, water, education, economic development, governance, capacity building, all of which the Prime Minister, in a radio ad during the election campaign, promised to honour. As soon as the time came for him to show that he meant what he said, it was gone.
I have to underline that we all know this money was booked. The Department of Finance confirmed it. The former minister of finance confirmed it. The commitment to aboriginal people is, at best, tepid.
In addition to program cuts, the Conservatives have abandoned the aboriginal procurement policy. They have abandoned, as my colleague said, child care funding for first nations. They have eliminated the first nations' stop smoking program. Aboriginal language funding, which the minister took pains to speak about this morning, has been slashed, and we have heard an outcry from aboriginal leadership across the country.
In my own province the doors of Aboriginal Literacy have been closed and people have been laid off.
Capital projects have been cancelled. Capital projects that have been promised and designated for schools have been eliminated. Just this week I heard of a school in which the walls were caving. The teacher has chosen to have the class at home in the living because the school is not big enough or conducive to education.
We are hearing a lot of rhetoric across the way and we are seeing a lot of inaction, a lot of juggling moneys around to make it look like they are doing something, but not much is happening.
We hear much about how the government is the champion of human rights. This party will not take second place to anybody on human rights. The Conservative government not only opposed the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, but it opposed it. Twenty years of work was done by our aboriginal communities to ensure it had a place at the United Nations and the government chose to lobby against it.
We now hear a great deal about the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. I want to make it clear I have sympathy for the intent and I support it. However, the government is going about it all wrong. The minister said this morning that the act was introduced 30 years ago and he said that he thought 30 years of consultation was enough. That is an insult to aboriginal peoples.
We know that it is a complicated issue. We know that it deals with the issue of collective rights versus individual rights. We know that it has many ramifications in first nations communities and as I said in question period, we have this attitude of father knows best and we will tell them and they will do it. Aboriginal women from coast to coast to coast do not appreciate this.
I want to speak to the issue of women's programing. As I said at the outset, the Prime Minister, during the election campaign, along with other leaders at the request of women's organizations, signed a pledge that indicated that he would honour the CEDAW declaration to support women's human rights and agreed that Canada had to do more to meet its international obligations on women's equality.
What did the government do? Taking consultation from one particular group who I will quote from later, REAL Women, it determined that equality seeking organizations in this country have no place any more. Advocacy has no role. It is time just to provide services. It is a noblesse oblige charitable approach to women's issues. Women need the advocacy dollars. They need the support for equality seeking issues.
One of the presenters who appeared before the committee, Shari Graydon, President of the Women's Future Fund in Toronto, said:
John F. Kennedy once noted that things do not happen, they are made to happen. The equality gains that we've achieved in the last century, and there have been many, exemplify this. Governments didn't simply decide to grant women the vote, or declare us persons. Women's advocacy made that happen. Over the past 30 years the member groups of the Women’s Future Fund have also made divorce and sexual assault laws fairer, improved the matrimonial rights of aboriginal women, secured maternity benefits, and fair pay. We lament that the current government doesn't wish to continue funding this work which benefits millions of Canadians.
Again, it is a striking example of how the Prime Minister, seeking election, will choose to do anything to get votes, but really dismisses it when it is time for reality.
I cited REAL Women and we all know it has a direct pipeline into the Prime Minister's Office and the minister's office. Its comments are that the cuts are only offensive to the special interest groups of feminists whose extremist views are not supported by mainstream women. Mainstream women include the YWCA, the University Women's Club, provincial councils of women across the country, and the National Association of Women and the Law. There is a whole host of women's groups that would not like to be categorized as marginal feminist groups and that is who the government chooses to listen to.
We have heard said that there are members opposite who indicate that the court challenges program cut was their favourite cut. How dare they? The court challenges program, which provided an opportunity for women, aboriginal people, and francophone Canadians to challenge inequities, to provide the resources for them to have someone speak for them in the courts, has not only been reduced but absolutely and unequivocally cut.
I will be supporting the opposition motion. I find it reprehensible that government members are choosing only to listen to and govern for that narrow majority who will see them re-elected. Canadians do not want this kind of government. Whether they agree with the government or not, they expect their government to govern for all Canadians. Even Conservative supporters would want the government to govern for all Canadians. What we have is a very narrow casting of policy development and program initiatives.