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.