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House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was equality.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly we know that the record of the previous government was not one of creating new child care spaces. We know that did not happen. We also know that last year the Liberals voted against $250 million for the provinces to create new child care spaces. That was in our budget.

In our party, we do have a record of delivering choice and support to parents. The universal child care benefit is extremely well received. I have comments on a weekly basis from young parents in my riding who support it. We also know that choice in child care does not mean that everyone has to be in a institutionalized child care space. There are choices. The universal child care benefit provides that choice.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.

I find it really interesting to listen to the rhetoric that goes in these debates. As for the fact that we are even having this ongoing discussion about child care spaces, which certainly we on this side of the House understand the importance of, and in regard to the fact that we are listening to the hon. members of the NDP, if they had not voted against our government, we would probably have all of those spaces or a good portion of them in place. I have real difficulty in listening to the rhetoric that is going on, knowing that it is exactly why we do not have something that is very important when we get into the whole issue of child care.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this important debate today.

For the benefit of Canadians who are watching at home and my constituents in the riding of York West, I want to repeat the motion so that what we are talking about is clear:

That, in the opinion of the House:

(a) women's equality is a matter of human rights and, since the Court Challenges Program as a useful tool in achieving that end, it should be reinstated;

(b) to provide a legitimate and necessary voice to the needs of women, research and advocacy should be restored to the government's Women's Program;

(c) an adequate supply of high quality childcare spaces is essential to ensuring women's participation in the workforce and the government should take the necessary steps immediately to create 125,000 spaces as it promised;...

As we have heard, we continue to hear about this. The motion continues:

(d) since access to government services is essential in rural areas and the government's closure of 12 of the 16 regional offices of Status of Women Canada further isolates rural women, the government should take immediate steps to improve access for our most isolated Canadians;...

This is an important motion because, as we can see, it tries to outline a variety of problems that women in Canada have currently. The motion continues:

(e) there is a growing need in Canada for a national housing strategy designed to assist the most vulnerable in our society and to treat them with the respect they deserve; and

that, therefore, the House condemn the irresponsible and self-serving actions on November 28, 2005, by the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois which led to the installation of a government that is hostile to the rights and needs of vulnerable Canadians.

This motion says a lot. I would like to make a few brief comments on the important points here, as put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

First of all, I think we need to be reminded, and to remind Canadians, that we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects equal rights in our country's highest laws. But in order for it to be truly effective, Canadians must have access to those laws. The court challenges program provided that critical access for many people in giving them an avenue for being able to defend themselves.

The elimination of the court challenges program was an attack on an important tool that many Canadians, not just women, could exercise and use to defend their charter rights. Mounting a charter challenge is tremendously expensive. The court challenges program helped individuals and organizations cover that expense. Many times they were victorious and were proven right at the end of the day. If they had not had the court challenges program to assist them, that would not have been possible.

We clearly know that the government and the Conservatives do not want anyone to challenge them. Every time somebody tries to do so, they shut them down in intimidation or with threats of lawsuits. That was a common practice of previous Conservative governments, even under the previous prime minister, Mr. Mulroney.

When the Conservatives are not threatening those who oppose them, they are busy doing nothing to improve the lives of Canadian women. To follow on what our speaker said, if they are doing anything, it is very little. It certainly does not reach the needs that are there. In fact, the Conservatives continue to clearly demonstrate a total disrespect and disregard for many women and the challenges they are facing as we move forward.

We can talk about the need for women to enter the workforce. The biggest obstacle, as I understand it from many of the women in York West, is the inability to access child care. There are hugely lengthy lists in Toronto for subsidized day care. These women want to go to work but are compelled to be home with their children because there is no safe place for their children to go and the $1,200 does not cut it. As for anybody saying no to that $1,200, sure, if I am sent a $100 cheque, I am going to take it, but it is not going to provide me with a day care space for my child.

When we talk about investing in early learning, we are not talking about babysitting. We are talking about investing in early learning and providing opportunities for our children to get the best start possible. A lot of evidence shows that early learning contributes immensely to the development of children.

I represent a very multicultural riding. A lot of the children there could clearly benefit from having the opportunity to be in early learning centres, so that when they enter the formal part of education that benefit would be there for them. They would be better prepared, rather than going into junior kindergarten still struggling with a lot of the issues that they struggle with for many reasons.

I truly believe that the early learning program was a great social opportunity that was missed. The financial situation being what it is, I question whether we will ever be able to produce it. We certainly are going to try, but it does take money. Those plans were there, and if we are starting to move into a deficit position, it will be some time before we are able to produce that kind of program again.

Our government had invested $5 billion over five years for the creation of a Canada-wide system for early learning and child care. It was all based on the principles of equality, universal inclusiveness, accessibility and development.

My neighbour, the hon. member for York Centre, stickhandled that issue for some time and had managed to get all 10 provinces to sign on. It took a considerable amount of time to do that. We were moving forward with that system, and it would probably be up and running in all of the provinces at this point if we were still in government, but we know what happened to the previous agreements.

We can thank the NDP for forcing the election of 2005-06, which led to the demise of child care in Canada and the destruction of what I believe was one of the best social programs ever that Canada would have introduced. When the NDP forced the winter election that nobody wanted, child care was one of the many programs that suffered due to its irresponsible actions.

We all know that the Conservative government was very quick to cancel all of those agreements and undo all of that good work, so I hope the NDP members are proud of themselves. I find it really quite funny when I listen to the rhetoric and hear them complaining because we do not have this and we do not have that. What I say is that they should enjoy what they got because they are responsible for it.

I also would like to draw the attention of the House to yesterday's announcement by the Liberal women's caucus. We gave the Conservatives a failing grade on women's issues, as their phony action plan was more of a non-action plan than anything else. It is nothing more than an empty gesture on a long list of failures by the government. Why has it taken two years to come up with an action plan?

The Canadian government also went to the meetings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women last week and claimed it had this grand plan when in reality there is no funding, there are no details, and there is no timeline, just a mention that it is going to create an action plan.

As we mark International Women's Day, it is clear that the Conservatives still do not take women's equality seriously. The Liberal women's caucus urges our Conservative government to stop turning back the clock on women and come up with a real and detailed plan now, not two or three years from now, but I am not going to be holding my breath to see that action plan.

Last week in New York at the meetings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Canadian government delegation claimed it was taking a more focused approach to equality and announced that it was committed to this action plan to advance women's equality, but it provided no details for the implementation. More than 17 Canadian organizations representing women's rights also attended those UN meetings and reacted swiftly to the Canadian delegation's statement, calling it “All Words, Little Action, No Money for Women”.

International Women's Day is meant to be a time to celebrate, but this latest Conservative blunder is another grim reminder that there is much work to do in order to achieve women's equality. After all, who can forget that the Conservatives cut off funding to the women's groups that did advocacy work and that they closed 12 of the 16 Status of Women regional offices?

The Conservatives have squandered a generous surplus and still make cuts to programs that have been proven effective and have provided necessary tools for helping individuals and communities. Their funding cuts directly target women and other groups for which the Conservatives have traditionally shown complete disregard, but that is what we have come to expect, very sadly, from the government. If people are not members of its traditional base, they can be sure the government will turn its back on them and they are not going to get any assistance from it.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to listen to several of the speeches this morning and there is a lot of talk about child care.

My recollection is that in 1993 the Liberals promised a national child care program and they did not deliver. In 1997 the Liberals promised a national child care program and they did not deliver. In 2000 they promised a national child care program and they did not deliver. In 2004 they promised a national child care program and did not deliver. In 2006 they promised it and did not deliver.

Do you really expect Canadians to believe that when we get into the next election--

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member really does not want to be asking me whether I believe anything. He wants to be asking the hon. member whether she believes it. Perhaps he could rephrase his question.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

That is correct, sir. When people in my riding tell me that they absolutely want the federal government to implement a national child care program, I disagree with them, but tell them if that is what they believe, they should vote NDP and not Liberal. While I disagree with NDP members on this, I actually believe that it is their intention.

My question for my hon. colleague is, how can she possibly think that Canadians will believe her party when it is promising the same thing for the seventh campaign in a row? This is the same as Lucy with the football, and Canadians are not going to be Charlie Brown any more. They know that this is not a promise that will be kept. Why does the hon. member think Canadians are going to believe that promise after being made seven times?

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member has forgotten but when we came into power in 1993, instead of finding $11 billion in surplus as the Conservatives did, we ended up finding ourselves with a $42 billion deficit. It took a long time to pay down that deficit and to get the finances of the country under control.

All Canadians had to make a lot of sacrifices. Many things that we all wanted to be done were not done because we had to put the country's financial house in order.

We started working on being able to fulfill our commitment to child care, not because it was a promise we made, but because we happen to think it is one of the most important social programs for Canadians.

It takes some time to do, because 10 provinces have to come on board to do it. Once we had the money for that program it was our full intent to do it.

We can certainly rest assured the NDP will never do it because that party will never be in power to have that opportunity.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, does the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party know no bounds, none at all?

Blaming the opposition parties for the Liberals' defeat speaks to their own sense of entitlement. That is what Canadians got fed up with.

In the 2006 election, 70% of Canadians voted for parties other than the Liberal Party. I think the official opposition needs a little history lesson. In April 2005 the Liberal prime minister of the day went on television and told Canadians that he planned on calling an election in nine months. On November 28 of the same year, the Liberals lost a vote in Parliament and Parliament was dissolved. That was only 46 days earlier than the Liberal prime minister had indicated the election would be. It just defies any kind of common sense.

Is the member trying to tell Parliament and the Canadian people that in 46 days the Liberals would have solved the child care problem in this country, solved the environmental crisis in the country, and brought in changes to the environment programs that would have cleaned up the environment? Is the member trying to tell us that the terrible record of Canadian governments in terms of aboriginal people in this country, that in 46 days the Liberals would have solved all those problems if the opposition parties had not brought the Liberal government down?

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me make it very clear. The reason we lost that vote and were defeated was directly as a result of the NDP and its constant philosophy about how important all these social programs are.

Now the NDP members have nothing to look at, nothing else to do but complain because the Conservative government is not doing anything, but they had better get used to it because that government is here for a little bit longer. You can rest assured there will be no child care program--

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. The hon. member for York West should know better than to keep saying you this and you that.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North on a point of order.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the member for Trinity--Spadina be added as an Associate Member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House has heard the terms of the motion by the hon. member for Winnipeg North. Is there unanimous consent?

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion. It is appropriate that during international women's week we are debating a motion about many issues facing women across the country.

We have heard from women from across the country over and again who feel that they are losing ground. They are indeed losing the gains made by the women who have come before them over the last 35 years, gains that have come about as a result of the royal commission on women and many other initiatives.

We have a government that is targeting its policies, its programs, its tax credits and its grants and subsidies are going only as a favour to those groups who support that party. Indeed, I would say that in recent days we have heard representatives of those groups trumpet their success in affecting government policy, which is reason to give most of us here cause for concern.

The motion before us condemns two parties in the House for helping bring about a government that is hostile to the rights and needs of women and to other vulnerable Canadians. Having said that though, I have been a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women since its inception. I want to acknowledge that as an individual member of Parliament, it has been a pleasure to work cooperatively with three colleagues in particular on women's issues. The member for Laval, the member for Laurentides—Labelle, both in Quebec, and the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and I have worked cooperatively in the best interests of women and we have tried to do what we think is right.

I know that the tactical decisions that are made by their parties are often not theirs but I would urge them in turn to speak to their leadership on the importance of ensuring a government that will act, that will speak and that will move forward on behalf of women and those most vulnerable in our country.

We know that Canadian women face many of the same obstacles as those in developing countries. One in five Canadian women lives in poverty. Canadian women still earn substantially less than men. In 2003, women's average earnings were 64% of that of men. More than half of all women in Canada have had some form of post-secondary education; however, Canadian women are still less likely than men to have a university degree.

Women accounted for nearly half of Canada's employed workforce. That is very important to note, particularly in light of the often overemphasis on family responsibilities. We have seen what the government has done.

On another issue I want to cite a very serious and less publicized incident where the Prime Minister broke his word. During the 2006 election campaign, the Prime Minister, as a candidate and leader of his party, signed the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, commonly known as the CEDAW pledge, which committed the government to act on promoting the equality of women. He has not kept his word, and I question, is it because the vice-president of REAL Women, in a discussion of the court challenges program at the status of women committee on December 4, 2007, said when commenting on CEDAW, that CEDAW is not to be taken seriously and she would not pay attention to what CEDAW says.

We heard today about the many setbacks women have faced, such as the court challenges program, child care or the lack thereof, the lack of funding for research and advocacy, in spite of the fact that many of the very knowledgeable presenters at the status of women committee base their information on the research undertaken through the funding previously available through the status of women. Where that will come from now remains to be seen.

We have heard about housing challenges. We have heard about the shutdown of services to women across the country. We have heard about unattached senior women being discriminated against. We have heard about the removal of the word “equality” from the mandate of Status of Women Canada. We have heard about the government's unwillingness to honour pay equity.

And as I was sitting here waiting to speak, I received word that the women's future fund is being cut and will no longer be available.

What we have seen from the government is a general disrespect for the realities of the lives of women, and I would add, a disrespect for the intelligence of women through a game of smoke and mirrors. I want to highlight two particularly egregious examples of this.

The Minister for the Status of Women came to the status of women committee not too long ago and told committee members that she put the word “equality” back into the mandate of the women's program. I think the minister misrepresented the facts at that committee meeting. No change has been made to the funding requirements for the women's programs and that is what matters. Those are the guidelines they have to meet before they can apply and qualify for funding. Department officials subsequently confirmed that adding the word “equality” was only symbolic and that nothing indeed had changed.

Just yesterday there was more trickery for women, this time focused on aboriginal women. On Tuesday of this week, the Minister of Indian Affairs introduced a 52-page bill to address matrimonial real property on reserve, an issue that our party believes needs to be addressed. It is an important issue for women living on reserve. But yesterday the government knowingly asked the House to fast track this legislation through all stages, for the sole purpose of saying that during this week the Conservatives have finally addressed an issue of importance to women and aboriginal women in particular.

First, there is no respect for the committee members who had not yet been briefed on the legislation by government officials. In fact, I do not think the binders were yet in our offices. But more important, there is no respect for the women who were to be affected by the legislation.

Let me read from the Native Women's Association of Canada's press release:

The Minister of Indian Affairs...was well aware that NWAC did not support the legislative draft proposed after a lengthy meeting with him in December in which NWAC outlined the critical importance of systemic solutions, promotion of Indigenous legal systems and the need for nonlegislative solutions. These nonlegislative solutions are necessary to make the rights in the legislation real for communities.

Then the president of NWAC is quoted as saying:

As a result, we have not experienced our relationship with the federal Department of Indian Affairs of being one of partnership or even consultation but rather it feels like another experience of colonialism, or at best piecemeal, individually based solutions that will not result in real equality for the women we represent.

She then went on to say:

I promised Aboriginal women who participated in providing solutions to this issue that their voices would be heard. I worked hard to get their messages to government but those messages fell on deaf ears. I now fear that there is going to be more harm done to women than good. There is nothing in the legislation that addresses the systemic issues of violence that many women face that lead to the dissolution of marriages nor is there any money available for implementation. In the end, we end up with a more worthless piece of paper.

I want to speak to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, but I do not have the time. Let me just say that that document is another item of disrespect for aboriginal women who saw it as a great hope.

I wanted to speak of child care because in my riding of Winnipeg South Centre the waiting lists are 300 children long. They are not accepting any more.

We have heard much about choice, but I say that the only choice that parents have is to not go to work or not go to school. They have no choice.

I commend to all members a letter written by a woman named Tami Friesen, that was published in the Edmonton Journal Opinion section on November 26, 2007. It was on the issue of child care. I had hoped to have time to quote from it, but she underlines the essence of the issue exquisitely, if I might say so.

I hope that the women of Canada take note of what is happening to their rights, to their opportunities, both for themselves and their children.

In Winnipeg next week we are celebrating the accomplishments of five women who were trailblazers. Let me close with the words of the indomitable June Menzies when she said, “If you aren't constantly vigilant you go backwards”. We in this House must be constantly vigilant.

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, would my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre take a message to the leadership of her party, as she asks us to do in our party?

Has she ever, in the period of time that the Liberals were in government, raised with her party the fact that they were the most right-wing, neo-Conservative government in the history of Canada and that their idea of social policy, their idea of addressing poverty in the inner city of the city that we share, was to cut, hack and slash every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians?

The Canadian people tossed her party out of government, ran them out of government on a rail, virtually tarred and feathered them on the way out because they broke faith with the Canadian people. They not only broke their word and broke their social contract with Canadians to act in their best interests, they stole from them. They were corrupt.

I have listened to this self-serving opposition day motion of the Liberals today and it boggles my mind that they have the temerity to stand up with some revisionist history, and try to paint themselves as the champions of social justice and poverty fighters when they, who had it in their ability to do so, chose to do nothing.

I do not know if it was Dante, but somebody reserved a special corner of hell for those who had the ability to prevent evil, and chose not to do so and not to act.

The Liberals had the ability to make a big impact on child poverty, social inequity, women's rights and child care. Instead, when they were faced with surplus budget after surplus budget, they cut and hacked social programs, and chose to give tax cuts to their buddies on Bay Street and nothing to Main Street.

The area I represent in Winnipeg is the poorest zone in all of Canada. Believe me, in the 13 year tenure that the Liberal Party ruled this land it went from bad to worse. Child poverty: 52% of all the children in my riding live below the poverty line. It was 40% when the Liberals took over. Instead of using--

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre needs some time to reply.

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague behind me says he really feels sad that we have to listen to that. I listened to the bluster and gamesmanship from that member. I know his riding. I know it well. I represented part of it, both as a member of Parliament and as a school board member. I have worked actively.

I can tell that member that I have worked with members of his community to effect programming in his riding that made their lives better. I have done it under a Liberal majority government and a Liberal minority government, and I have done it under this government. It is a lot of bluster from this member.

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague who just spoke. We are both members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I find all of this surprising. The Bloc probably would have supported the Liberal Party's motion today, because it is exactly in line what we have said, what we want and what we want to develop.

But I must also say that the question the NDP member just asked makes perfect sense. The Liberals were in power for 13 years, and we never saw so many cuts. It is not the Bloc's fault or the NDP's fault that they lost power. It is their own fault. How will they re-establish their credibility on the issues that caused them to lose power through their own fault?

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, enjoy a positive working relationship with my colleague and I am pleased to answer his question. I do not think there is an issue of re-establishing credibility. This party has credibility, and has credibility on these issues.

Canadians know that this party signed agreements for a national child care program. Canadians know that the Liberal government brought in a homelessness policy. Canadians know that the Liberal government balanced the books of this country, only to see it mangled and perhaps obliterated by members opposite.

I do not think there is an issue of establishing credibility. It is an issue of responding to the needs of Canadians.

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel a little uncomfortable about the motion put forward here today. I find it somewhat unfortunate the women are being used, International Women's Day is being used and women's issues are being used to try to make this an opposition day, when the Liberal Party knows full well that the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Conservatives will all vote against this motion. I think that was their goal here today, but I find their actions very pernicious.

While the motion raises issues that we defend wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, issues that we really care about, we nevertheless find ourselves compelled to vote against it. I find that especially unfortunate, considering that most of the women who have spoken so far are aware of what is at stake in terms of women's issues today. They know that the Conservatives made drastic cuts to all social programs for women. They also made significant cuts to both the court challenges program and the women's program.

When a party drafts such a motion and forces the opposition parties to vote against it, knowing full well that the members of those parties care about the issues identified by its premise, I think that is somewhat dishonest, especially since we know that the Liberal Party has recently been joining forces, almost openly, with the Conservative Party.

Refusing to vote against a budget and a throne speech is the same as adopting the positions of the party in power. In other words, one supports that party. If one does not vote against something, one is for it. And if one is for something, one supports the policies and positions of that party. Supporting the positions of the Conservative Party and then trying tacitly to denounce them is somewhat dubious as a position, I find.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to vote against this motion. I say unfortunately, because as a woman, I would like to tell my Liberal colleagues, my NDP colleagues and my Conservative colleagues—even though there are fewer women in that caucus—that the recent cuts, the adoption of Bill C-484 yesterday and the elimination of the court challenges program threaten all women in Quebec and many women in Canada. No matter what we said or did, the government boasted that 72% of women supported the adoption of Bill C-484. In my opinion, there was a huge amount of manipulation and disinformation with regard to this bill, and I think that is a shame.

We know that the member who introduced the bill had previously introduced bills designed to reopen the abortion issue. In addition, the e-mail that was received came from anglophones in English Canada, where the right has a much stronger presence. Most of these people are members of the pro-life movement. We did not receive any e-mail from women or other people in Quebec urging us to vote for this bill, because we know that it represents a direct attack on women's rights and a step backward in terms of women's freedom, independence and self-determination. I think that is a shame.

I think it is a shame that the Liberals are taking an opposition day so lightly when we have so few of them. Why waste them doing nothing? Why waste them on empty rhetoric? We cannot vote for this motion, especially since the Liberal Party is condemning the Conservative Party for what it has done, while in 2005, FAFIA, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, denounced the Liberal Party for the cuts it had made, which set women back significantly. Ten years of federal budgets: double whammy for women. That is what FAFIA said in 2005 about the period from 1995 to 2005.

We should add that the United Nations Human Rights Committee severely reprimanded Canada, on November 3, 2005, for its treatment of aboriginal and incarcerated women. That was before the last election, when the Liberals were still in power. It was not in 2006. However, we know that aboriginal and incarcerated women are not treated any better today.

We should not always blame the party in power. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and determine what we have done that was good and what was not so good, admit it and move on to other things.

This does not allow us to move on to other things nor to lend credibility to the file for which the Standing Committee on Status of Women is responsible. This gives absolutely no credibility to all the interventions made in this house to defend the cause of women. In fact, today's motion ridicules this cause.

Personally, I am very angry. I believe that women deserve better than a motion such as this one, which destroys all our attempts to advance the cause of women. It is already a difficult enough task with the Conservative Party. We have already taken enough steps backwards in the past year one political party is not aware of the potential impact of a motion on the entire Parliament and the outside groups following the debate.

When it comes to the cause of women, we should be united, not divided. There should be no partisanship. Otherwise we will make no progress and just spin our wheels. It is deplorable to use this cause for narrow political purposes.

I am getting worked up even though I know that the authors of this motion may not have realized its potential repercussions. If I get worked up it is because I sometimes find that there are too many leaders in a party, or not enough, that is to say that the actual leader is not doing his job.

Insofar as pay equity is concerned, I want to remind the House that women have been fighting for it for more than 20 years. It goes back not just to the Conservative government but to the Liberals as well. They try to cast blame on the Bloc Québécois and the NDP when all the Bloc members have done is to oppose any measures brought before this Parliament that did not seem right to them. That is the mandate we have adopted: to oppose any measures or programs that would be a setback to the status of women or injurious to anyone living in Quebec.

We cannot be blamed for doing our job. The day we stop doing it will be the day the voters throw us out. If some parties are losing their credibility and are being abandoned by some of their MPs and party members, it is not because the Bloc Québécois told the electors how to vote. It is because the party in question did not do its job, did not take the time to examine itself, make the necessary corrections, and admit its errors.

I must say, with all the humility I can muster, that I sincerely believe the voters will be as convincing in the next election as they were when they threw the Liberals out of Quebec. This time, though, the voters will be equally as convincing elsewhere. They will take into account the actions of the Conservative Party, which won only 36% of the vote, making it a minority government, but does whatever it wants regardless of what Parliament decides.

I doubt the voters will want to put this government back in power—at least, not out west or in the eastern provinces. Maybe in Alberta, because it gives them lots of money. Apart from that, though, the voters have not been fooled.

We should all work hard in this House for the well-being of our citizens and the people we represent. I hope we will have the courage and audacity to rise, oppose this motion and say what we think of it. If we pass motions like this in the House, we will only be diminishing ourselves as members of Parliament and representatives of the people.

My colleague from Laurentides—Labelle and I did a tour of Quebec in the spring and summer to meet with women’s groups and all the groups that could tell us what women were concerned about in their daily lives with respect to the legislation and the various programs created here.

We met a lot of women’s groups and they told us, without exception, how concerned they were about what this government was doing. All these groups, without exception, told us how happy they were that someone was finally showing genuine concern about their issues and preoccupations and how we could help them and work together with them to achieve as much as possible—under the circumstances, naturally.

All these women’s groups were also opposed to the cuts the government had made, especially to the court challenges program, the women’s program and social housing. When the government cuts social housing programs, it has a real, immediate impact on the lives of women.

The CMHC has made huge profits. It has a surplus of over $11 billion. And not one penny of that is going towards building social housing or affordable housing, so that single mothers and their children can live in a safe environment.

Absolutely nothing is being done to help these women return to the labour force with more pride and dignity. In fact, access to EI has been cut for women. The various programs have been getting cut for several years now. There were several billion dollars in the EI account, but programs were still cut.

Unfortunately, such a motion reminds us that there are a number of problems surrounding the challenges facing women. It reminds us that there are also many problems concerning everything that women must do and can do to be able to move forward and gain more freedom. It also reminds us that there is pettiness in politics, and there is never room for pettiness. It should never exist, especially not on March 6, two days before March 8, International Women's Day, whose theme is “Strong Women, Strong World”.

Where are the strong women in the Liberal Party who could have prevented this motion? Where are they? Strong women are women who would dare rise, speak, and tell their colleagues how they feel about something as low as what was introduced today. That is a strong woman. I am ashamed to know that today, there are women in this Parliament who have not shown their strength.

They let themselves be manipulated and tempted by a remote political objective, and I am disappointed.

I see that it is now time for question period. Mr. Speaker, if you tell me how much time I have left, I would be happy to—

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member will have five minutes after question period to continue her remarks.

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 23(3) of the Auditor General Act , the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons for the year 2008.

This document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Rights of the UnbornStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canada is known as a country in which we have laws that protect all equally and where citizens are compassionate and caring. However, one important change is needed to preserve that reputation. Canadians are surprised to know that in Canada a woman who has chosen to have a child gets no help from the law in protecting her unborn child.

The member of Parliament for Edmonton—Sherwood Park has introduce Bill C-484 to address this gap in the law. His unborn victims of crime act recognizes that a woman who has chosen to have her child and to give it birth has a right to protection for her child as well as for herself. Seventy-two per cent of Canadians support this legislation. I hope MPs here continue to support it as it works its way through committee and on to third reading.

Let us support the choice of the woman and the child she has chosen to keep.

Human RightsStatements By Members

March 6th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recently returned from the global forum on anti-Semitism attended by some 300 delegates from over 45 countries, including a significant number of parliamentarians, where the generic theme was, “We are witnessing today an old/new, escalating, sophisticated, global, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism”.

In its common form, it refers to escalating anti-Semitic hate, Holocaust denial, boycotts, conspiracy theories and the singling out of Israel and the Jewish people for discriminatory treatment in the international arena. In its lethal form, it refers to state sanctioned global anti-Semitism and the racist anti-Semitic terror targeting Jews.

Silence is not an option. The time has come not only to sound the alarm but to act. For as history has taught us only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews. Anti-Semitism is the canary in the mine shaft of evil.

Accordingly, I joined with U.K. parliamentarian John Mann to establish an international coalition to combat anti-Semitism, a coalition of scholars and activists, parliamentarians and civil society to monitor and combat this longest and most danger of hatreds. I trust colleagues will join us in this common cause.