This page is in the midst of a redesign. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #155 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2007 / 9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to speak in the House to the issue of women in Canada.

Canada's new government has taken concrete action to increase women's participation in the economic, social and cultural life of Canada and to eliminate systemic violence against women and their families.

It is important to be clear on the recent changes Canada's new government has made to Status of Women Canada.

Status of Women Canada was established in 1976. After three decades, this government has stepped in to modernize the departmental agency through a number of important changes.

Canada's new government was elected because of its promise to deliver value for taxpayer dollars. This promise is being kept. Programs are being reviewed to ensure every taxpayer dollar is spent to achieve results that benefit Canadians. Government waste is being eliminated and reinvested in programs for people.

With this new approach, $5 million in administrative savings has been identified at Status of Women Canada. An independent evaluation of the women's program had previously discovered that it took 31¢ in administration and overhead to deliver one program dollar. This was unfair to both the women who required services and Canadian taxpayers. That is why our government has reduced overhead, closed some offices and rededicated the savings to better assist Canadian women. We have retained four regional Status of Women offices to provide the needed support to women across Canada.

All of the savings were set aside for reinvestment and delivering support directly to Canadian women. The $10.8 million annual budget previously allocated to women's program is entirely maintained. This will result in more money to support women in their communities.

We have renewed the terms and conditions of the women's program with more focused objectives to achieve the full participation of women in the economic, social and cultural life of Canada. The projects that will be supported will directly assist women in their communities on local, regional and national levels.

Under Canada's new government, the women's program will now be focused on eliminating violence against women and enhancing the economic well-being of aboriginal, senior, immigrant and visible minority women.

Rather than conducting more studies and more research, this government has made a commitment to take real action.

For the first time, Status of Women Canada will increase accessibility by making funding applications available online to organizations that undertake projects to benefit women directly. The beneficiaries of this change will be Canadian women so that they will be able to meet challenges and more fully participate in the social and economic life of Canada.

Canada's new government is proud to enhance the women's program in order to make a real difference in the lives of Canadian women who are facing challenges.

On March 7, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women announced an additional $5 million in new funding toward Status of Women Canada for 2007-08 and a new funding mechanism for the women's program. This increase brings the total budget for the women's program from $10.8 million to $15.3 million, the largest budget in the history of Status of Women Canada.

The new funding mechanism provides an important leveraging and partnership aspect that has never been done before. This means more money and more projects aimed directly at helping women in their communities in an accountable and efficient manner.

As of April 1, the women's program has two components: the women's community fund and the women's partnership fund. The women's community fund will support projects at a local, regional and national level in order to enable the full participation of women in all aspects of Canadian life.

The newly created women's partnership fund is an enhancement to the existing grant program and will facilitate the engagement of eligible organizations and public institutions through joint projects designed to address issues pertaining to women. The additional funds will be used strategically to leverage resources from these sources.

With these new means, the women's program will also be able to respond better to the growing demand for financial assistance in addressing the economic, social and cultural situation of women.

It is important to highlight what Canada's new government has done to improve the quality of life for women across this country and to reflect on the challenges ahead.

Canada's new government is committed to concrete action that will benefit Canadian women and make a real difference in their lives. That is why on April 27, 2007 this government announced funding of $26,855 to the British Columbia Coalition of People with Disabilities. Their project, Succession Strategy for Younger Women in the Disability Community, will promote volunteerism and mentorship for young women with disabilities in the B.C. disability community.

On April 11, 2007, this government announced funding of $50,000 to the Golden Women's Centre Society for a project designed to improve access to employment information and support for 100 rural women, half of whom are immigrant or aboriginal. The project, Putting Women on the Payroll, will also seek practical solutions for employers to make their workplaces safer and more flexible. This grant was among the first to be provided by Canada's new government under the renewed women's program at Status of Women.

On February 8, 2007, this government announced funding of $49,140 to Prince George New Hope Society, the first grant to be provided through the renewed women's program at Status of Women Canada. This funding will help sex trade workers start new lives by providing refuge and training opportunities.

Canada's new government is proud to support this initiative which is taking concrete actions to help directly sex workers and sexually exploited young women, particularly young aboriginal women, with the safety, hope and tools to come off the streets. This is just another example of the meaningful contributions this government is making to improve the situation of women in key areas such as women's economic status and violence against women and girls. This was the first grant to be provided by Canada's new government under the new terms and conditions and new guidelines of the women's program at Status of Women Canada.

It is very exciting. This government is seeing a positive response as organizations from all across the country are coming forward with projects that directly benefit women in their communities. This demonstrates that there is a desire for concrete action from Canadians to make a difference in the lives of women who face challenges.

Canada's aboriginal women and their children presently experience greater incidences of violence in all forms. Through community-based initiatives that incorporate aboriginal traditions, teachings and support, we will reach that day when violence exists no longer. That is why Canada's new government believes in supporting programs that have a direct impact on women. We believe in putting money into the hands of groups that will help aboriginal women in their communities.

In October 2005, Canada was cited by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women for failing to adequately address the high rate of violence against aboriginal women. That is why this government committed multi-year funding of $1 million a year through to fiscal year 2010-11 to the Native Women's Association of Canada. The Sisters in Spirit initiative addresses the high rates of violence against aboriginal women. This is the same project from which the Liberal government withheld promised funding for years.

Our government believes in a promise made, a promise kept.

On April 13, 2007, I had the privilege of announcing funding of $165,000 to the Crossing Communities Art Project Inc., a registered charity aimed at developing art projects and networks by mentoring women and girls who are in a marginalized position. Crossing Communities achieves its goals through studios and workshops that employ visual expression in ways that help women and girls to heal in the aftermath of trauma and violence.

On March 8, 2007, this government also announced that Canada's new government would provide $20,000 in funding for the La Ronge Native Women's Council. These funds will enable the council to organize a cultural camp with workshops and activities.

On March 8, 2007, this government announced funding of $19,140 for the Anishinaabe Kweg Research Project. The goal of the project is to study traditional aboriginal healing methods in the treatment of issues such as family violence, mental health, substance abuse and grief.

On February 23, 2007, this government announced $29,884 in funding to the Women of the Dawn Counselling Centre. These funds will support the centre's hope for non-violence project.

Another horrific issue that affects women here in Canada and abroad is human trafficking. As we learn more about the nature and incidents of human trafficking around the world, it is clear that the priority given to combating this crime is warranted.

The International Labour Organization has estimated that at any given time approximately 2.45 million people are in situations of forced labour as a result of human trafficking. This is a staggering number. This is why I am proud of this government that provided $6 million in funding to protect children from online sexual exploitation.

Strong laws are only as good as the ability to effectively enforce them. That is why I am pleased to note that the federal government continues to support the implementation of these offences through training and awareness building across Canada.

This government will continue to ensure we are making a difference in the lives of women. This is our commitment and, as we have shown time and again, a promise made is a promise kept.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for her clear commitment to the modernization of the Status of Women Canada. Her dedication is evident and admirable.

I listened with interest to the hon. member's description of a project in her riding called Crossing Communities Art Project Inc. The project sounds like it achieves the kind of direct impact that the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women intended the new women's program to achieve.

Could the hon. member elaborate on the importance of boosting the confidence and self-esteem of women and girls? In her opinion, could she tell the House why we should be providing funding to projects such as this one?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Chair, recently our government was pleased to support single women and motherhood training program in London. The project will help single mothers in the London community to fully participate in the economic life by increasing the availability of access to education and employment opportunities.

Another example of projects that we support is the Crossing Communities Art Project in Winnipeg which will engage up to 30 aboriginal and visible minority girls and women who have or are at risk of being in conflict with the law. The project offers an art mentorship to help boost confidence and social and economic well-being for these women. They will participate in studio workshops and training sessions twice weekly in order to develop skills in film and video ,as well as more effective interpersonal communication presentation skills.

Our government is also introducing an exciting new funding mechanism, the women's partnership fund. The new funding program will address issues pertaining to women by encouraging organizations and other levels of government to work in partnership supporting projects directly related to assisting women in their daily lives.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for her dedication to directly helping women in the community. I listened with interest to the hon. member and her passion to protect women and children from human trafficking.

I am also proud that the government has provided $6 million in funding to protect children from on-line sexual exploitation and to assist investigators in suspected cases of human trafficking.

The member also mentioned the importance of training front line officials on the new human trafficking offences. I strongly believe in properly equipping our law enforcement officers with the tools necessary so they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

I have a specific question on human trafficking. Could the hon. member elaborate as to what other actions the government has taken to help victims to ensure they are treated as victims and not criminals?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Chair, the first thing is that we do regard these women as victims and that is why we introduced the 120 day access to the needed health care that they will need and the needed support systems that they will need as well.

We do not see that these women should continually be victimized. They should not be considered criminals. They are the victims and in fact it distresses me that these victims come from many countries around the word but we also have victims of human trafficking here in Canada. Many Canadians are not aware of that and that is why we are taking these kinds of actions.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues have eloquently demonstrated that the Conservatives do not wish to hear opposition voices. The Conservatives have cut funding for women's advocacy groups and are hindering the development of cultural expression.

One powerful example of what my colleagues are talking about is the court challenges program, which the Conservatives abolished and which made it possible to defend those who initiated charter challenges of government decisions. Women, as well as minority linguistic communities, often used this program. However, the Conservative government does not like to be contradicted. It is anathema to them.

The court challenges program was abolished because, according to the Prime Minister, the government does not need to pay lawyers. Community groups disagreed, went to court and then what did the government do? It paid its lawyers in order not to pay others. We must admit, that is quite something.

The Commissioner of Official Languages was right to take the government to task over this decision. All the reasons given by the government still leave us scratching our heads. Why would the government take issue with the fact that groups want to defend their interests under the charter? Why does the government have a problem with its decisions being challenged? It is a question of ideology.

The government would prefer that the Standing Committee on Official Languages not sit rather than allow it to study the court challenges program. This government does not like democracy. It puts up with it, but it would prefer to do without. It would like to do as it pleases. It is a minority government right now, but just imagine if it were a majority government.

Francophone minorities, official languages and so on are problematic. They are not a priority. The armed forces transformation model is another example that speaks volumes, as are the appointments of unilingual senior public officials and the decision to appoint a unilingual anglophone as Minister of Canadian Heritage. We know she was taking French classes, but we also know that she is totally disconnected from the real lives of francophones and Quebeckers.

Clearly, when it comes to official languages and protecting francophone minorities, this government is more of a hindrance than a help. The Prime Minister can start as many speeches as he wants to in French, but we will not forget that in 2001, in the language of Preston Manning, he said this:

As a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions.

He is not in a good position to be teaching Justin Trudeau a lesson, even though Justin Trudeau is scarcely any better. It is absolutely clear that for the Conservatives, bilingualism is an expense. Communities have every reason to be concerned. It is time to remind this government—which wants to reduce the proportion of francophones in this House by increasing the number of seats for Ontario and Alberta but not for Quebec—of the importance of communities to the future of Quebec and Canada.

My question is for the minister. Does she agree with what the Prime Minister said in 2001, that “bilingualism is the god that failed, that it has done nothing for unity or fairness and has cost Canadian taxpayers millions”?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, as a francophone and a Quebecker, I certainly heard the most astounding things in the speech given by the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois.

I would simply like to remind him that our government is committed to promoting linguistic duality in Canada. Our government believes that two official languages can survive side by side in our country. However, I know the objective of the Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois, who seem to believe that, with repeated referendums, they will one day create a country in which French will be the only language used. Francophone communities and the Canadian francophonie deserve more than such a stunted view of the French fact.

Since the member seems to enjoy recalling previous comments, I would like to remind him that, back when relations between the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois seemed to be a little better, André Boisclair, the new leader, said that the francophonie was limited to Quebec. Today, the hon. member is trying to teach me a lesson about the francophonie across Canada. I do not accept it.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister should know that my roots are Franco-Ontarian and that I fought in Saskatchewan to revive the French schools that had been abolished in 1931 by the Conservative government of James Anderson. The schools were reinstated in 1995, after 64 years of fighting by Franco-Saskatchewanians. If the hon. minister would like to know what it means to be a minority francophone, she need only ask. She has much to learn on the subject.

Furthermore, I would like to ask her another question. Does she agree with the Commissioner of Official Languages, who said that her government violated the Official Languages Act by eliminating the court challenges program?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Josée Verner Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Chair, as the member is well aware, I cannot comment on this because it is before the courts.

However, since he raised the issue of Canada's francophone community, I would like to know how it feels to him, as a Franco-Ontarian, to have chosen his country, as he said one time when I appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

I, too, have chosen my country. My country includes all francophones, even those who live outside Quebec. He is free to choose, but I would like to know how, as a Franco-Ontarian who has chosen Quebec, he can claim today to be defending francophones outside Quebec.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Chair, I will tell the minister and her colleagues that Quebec was part of North America long before 1867, when the Dominion of Canada was created. Canada became a sovereign nation in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster. Still, even though Quebec was part of Canada, that did not prevent the provinces, with the federal government's approval, from abolishing our schools, abolishing our services and even going so far as to try and close the Montfort Hospital. This government had a sister party in Ontario, the party of Mike Harris, who wanted to close the only French-language hospital west of Quebec, a hospital that was working well and providing excellent service for the community.

Canada's francophonie needs to understand this: for Quebeckers and all francophones, in order to combat the rampant assimilation that has been under way since 1951, the only thing that has not yet been tried is the creation of a French-language country neighbouring Canada within North America.

I would like to ask the minister another question. Does she agree with the Commissioner of Official Languages, who says that in abolishing the court challenges program, the government did not take into account the needs of minority communities, as the Official Languages Act requires?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Josée Verner Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Chair, I will repeat—in French—that since the issue is before the courts, I cannot comment on it.

The hon. member talked at length about the struggles of francophones in this country. We acknowledge the vitality of francophone minority communities. I have visited each and every one of these groups over the past year, and they can certainly be proud of the battles they have fought and the gains they have made. Our government is committed to promoting linguistic duality in our country.

The problem with the Bloc member is that he wants just one official language for Quebec, but bilingualism outside that province.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Chair, the minister should really think further. Against whom did my Franco-Ontarian parents, now 86 and 89 years old, do battle? They were prevented from studying in French by Regulation 17. In Ontario, French schools were abolished in their early days, when they were mere toddlers. My sisters did not get the chance to study in French in high school because there were no French high schools before 1968. I was the first in my family to be able to go to a French high school. That is what I call vision. As soon as a community starts to disappear due to assimilation, it starts getting what it should have been given 100 years earlier.

The battles for the French fact were not fought by the federal or provincial governments, but rather by the communities. They were fought in spite of all the efforts of the enemy—that is the provincial governments—to try and choke us, while the federal government watched with an approving eye, without doing a thing to help us.

I would like to know what the minister thinks of the president of SOS Montfort at the time, Gisèle Lalonde. She will be our guest tomorrow, at the advisory committee of opposition parties on official languages. She will speak to us about the battle fought by SOS Montfort. SOS Montfort won the battle against the Government of Ontario while the federal government watched approvingly, without doing anything to help the hospital survive.

What does she think of a person like that, who maintains that the court challenges program is necessary and should be restored?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Josée Verner Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to help the Canadian francophonie, one must want to work in Canada as a whole. The truth is that the Bloc member cannot ignore the fact that for the years during which Quebec was ruled by the PQ, Quebec did not participate in the Ministerial Conference on Canadian Francophonie. How can the Bloc think that it can help the Canadian francophonie if it does not even take its seat at the table? How can the Bloc think that it can help promote this country's linguistic duality from its seat on the sidelines?

We must promote the Canadian francophonie within Canada. We have taken real measures since coming to power: service delivery and education agreements with all of the provinces, territories and communities. Various initiatives have been put forward, including an immigration program designed to promote immigration to francophone communities.

That is how we will continue to stimulate the Canadian francophonie and the vitality of Canada's francophone communities.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to point out to the minister, who likes pulling out examples from here and there, that this is nothing but smoke and mirrors. In the case of Franco-Albertan schools, it is thanks to the court challenges program that we were able to win our battle in Alberta to get back our schools that had been abolished ages ago.

It was the Liberal government of Robert Bourassa in Quebec that spoke out against Franco-Albertan school management, while the Parti Québécois has always supported francophones in minority situations, by never speaking out against their battle. I will go even further. In the Mercure case in Saskatchewan, in 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada told the Government of Saskatchewan that, since the province had to be bilingual, the government would have to draft legislation in French and English establishing the province as unilingual English to avoid any problem. That is Canada's vision for bilingualism, for communities that are fighting so hard.

The minister realizes that communities are fighting. Who are they fighting against? Against the federal government and the provinces. It is outrageous. That is Canada and it does not respect francophone minorities, especially as we can see now with the—

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry, but the hon. member has used up all his time including any time that might have been available for a response.

We will move now to the final round. The member for London North Centre.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I will be splitting my time with the members for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte and Vancouver Centre, who will be asking questions for five minutes each.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I wonder if members on this side could just be a little more quiet so I could hear what the member for London North Centre has to say and so maybe the minister could hear it as well. I might also say to the member this will not come out of his time. There are not 15 minutes left, there are only five minutes left, so he probably will not be sharing his time with anybody. He is it. The hon. member for London North Centre.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, in the charitable work I have done over the years many people have expressed some grievance at the fact that the word “equality” has been taken out from the Status of Women. I wonder, if the minister were meeting with those women, as I have done, what she would say to them on that subject.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Chair, certainly with respect to the immigrant women's associations and visible minority communities, I have spent 30 years in my professional career working with immigrant women, working with ethnic communities to understand what their communications issues are and what their lives are all about.

We are addressing that, but not just through advocacy and listening to just advocates. We are doing it right across this government. That is why we have increased our funding for immigrant settlement homes.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, for Canada's own foreign aid and development policy, women's advocacy is one of the key things that we tried to fund in the various things that we do. I know that we have done that in Africa in the past.

I am trying to figure out how we square that circle between being able to do that as part of our foreign policy, but yet in our domestic policy in Canada, we have taken out that ability to advocate.

How can the minister balance those two things? Why do we say one thing to the world and we practise another thing here?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Chair, advocacy is a practice that any organization, any individual and any citizen in Canada can do and they have elected members of Parliament who should be listening to the women and the citizens. We understand and acknowledge the situation in foreign countries and that is why we are there. We are helping the political system to grow and develop in Afghanistan. We are doing that type of work right around the world.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Chair, a crisis is brewing throughout Canada. Over 100 cultural, historic, theatre arts organizations and sporting organizations in my riding alone will be shutting down in the next several weeks as a result of cuts to the student job creation program. Organizations like the Dorset Eskimo Museum will be shutting down. I want to know--

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Bill Blaikie

There is a point of order. I am recognizing someone on a point of order. Keep an eye on the Chair.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Chair, I rise on a point of order regarding relevancy. I believe that the member would want to ask questions that relate directly to the minister's portfolio.

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Bill Blaikie

As far as I am concerned, the questions are in order, but I would ask the hon. members on this side to please be quiet while the member is talking.