Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.
I am pleased to rise in the House today to highlight the significant accomplishments of the Government of Canada toward increasing women's participation in the life of our country. We are justifiably proud of these accomplishments.
The women's program of Status of Women Canada is important in achieving results for women. We have created two new components: the women's community fund and the women's partnership fund. Through these funds we can better support the work of women and other Canadian organizations.
We have also renewed and updated the terms and conditions of the women's program, tailoring the program to be more responsive to the needs of Canadians and more effective in achieving results. The mandate of the women's program now is to advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions, and their participation in democratic life.
The objective of the women's program now is to achieve the full participation of women in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada. The government has increased the women's program budget to $20 million, an increase of 76% over its highest level ever.
The response from women's groups has been overwhelming. Last year a second call for proposals resulted in an increase in the number of projects put forward of nearly 30% of the first call. These projects promote women's economic security and prosperity, health and safety, and aim at ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women.
The government is deeply concerned about the challenges facing first nations, Inuit and Métis women. We have taken concrete action to increase aboriginal women's participation in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada and to eliminate systematic violence to which they are particularly vulnerable.
Last June the government partnered with the first national aboriginal women's summit which brought aboriginal women together with federal, provincial and territorial partners to discuss the issues, identify solutions and plan for future action.
The government is achieving results for aboriginal Canadians, including the resolution of the issue of matrimonial real property on reserve, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and addressing family violence.
We are now working with the Native Women's Association of Canada and federal partners to target specific issues for reporting at the second summit in July 2008 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. These include: adapting police training to target the treatment of aboriginal women and girls, and adapting youth training for girls in violence prevention.
Status of Women Canada also maintains its ongoing commitment to the sisters in spirit initiative, administering the funds to the Native Women's Association of Canada through to 2010. Sisters in spirit is a research, education and policy initiative to increase public knowledge and understanding at a national level of the impact of racialized and sexualized violence against aboriginal women.
The Government of Canada has taken other steps to address the concerns of aboriginal people, including the collaboration with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on the selection process. It announced on March 4 that new shelters will be located in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, a commitment of a total of $2.2 million.
Second, included with the June 2007 announcement there was funding of almost $56 million over five years for family violence prevention programs and services on reserve. These funds are in addition to the $6 million announced in October 2006 as a one time allocation to the family violence prevent program of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Third, there was the creation of legislation to enable first nations people to assume meaningful control over on-reserve elementary and secondary schools in British Columbia, and finally ongoing work to improve living conditions in the north for first nations and Inuit people through better housing.
Since taking office our government has taken action to make our streets and communities safer through legislation to restrict conditional sentences such as house arrest for serious crimes. We have also increased mandatory penalties for serious gun related crimes, yet members opposite worked to weaken this legislation.
We have raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 years to protect our youth, including girls and young women from adult sexual predators. This applies to sexual activity involving prostitution, pornography, or where there is a relationship of trust, authority, dependency, or any other situation that exploits a young person.
The issue of trafficking in persons remains a serious and growing concern for women and girls, both in Canada and throughout the world. Budget 2007 allocated $6 million to combat child exploitation and trafficking.
The Vancouver Olympics in 2010 are on the horizon. We recognize that international sporting events can create opportunities for trafficking, particularly in the sex trade. As a result, our government is examining measures to avert traffickers from the Vancouver event.
In May 2006 the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration released guidelines for immigration officers that addressed the unique needs of victims of trafficking. The guidelines are designed to help victims of trafficking escape the influence of their traffickers and recover from their ordeal.
In June 2007 the guidelines were updated to further strengthen the ability of the government to protect and assist victims of human trafficking while ensuring the integrity of the country's immigration system. This initiative is yet another reflection of the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to strengthening overall efforts to combat human trafficking through prevention, prosecution and protection.
Today more women are in the workforce than ever before, which contributes not only to their full participation but also to their economic security. The increased participation of women in the paid workforce has been a significant social trend in Canada in the past quarter century.
Our government's “Advantage Canada” plan to better secure better paying jobs and solid growth for Canadians is good news for working women and their families. Furthermore, tax relief and a further 1% cut to the GST will put more money into the pockets of women.
Many rural women will welcome the government's support for Canada's supply managed system, which will deliver stable, predictable and bankable support for farm families.
A busy and vibrant organization, Status of Women Canada is on the cutting edge of advancing the participation of women, and is a vital part of many of the ways the Government of Canada works for the women of Canada, their families and their communities.
In budget 2008 we committed to the development of an action plan for women, an opportunity to provide focus and strength to an already robust organization.
Unlike the parties opposite that have voted against our budgets to increase funding to help women across this country and have worked to weaken important, tough on crime legislation to protect women and their families, or have just worked to stall these important pieces of legislation, our government is achieving real results for women.
In the end, this will make a difference for all Canadians as we strive to improve the lives of women aiming for real results, and creating lasting and positive change.