Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to address the opposition day motion.
At the outset, I must reiterate the deep and demonstrated commitment of our government in promoting the full participation of women in the life of our country. We have demonstrated this through our commitment in budget 2008. While details will be worked out in due course, what is key is the government's emphasis on equality of women and its commitment to the development of the action plan, a commitment that the members opposite voted against.
Yesterday morning, our Prime Minister welcomed several Afghan women parliamentarians to a caucus meeting, where one of the visiting women spoke about her experiences in government in Afghanistan. These women are an inspiration to all Canadians, true role models of courage and determination, as they work in their home country to build democracy and advance the full participation of women.
It is particularly fitting that we can be inspired by such esteemed visitors during International Women's Week, March 2-8, which culminates in the highlight, March 8, of International Women's Day.
This year's theme “Strong Women, Strong World” refers not only to the empowerment of women to bring about positive changes, but also to the importance of women as caregivers, educators, policy makers, leaders, international peacemakers and stewards of this world. The contributions of grassroots, community based women's organizations, working with and for women, their families and their communities, embody the very heart of this theme.
Our government is justifiably proud of the many concrete ways in which we support the important and valuable work of these organizations.
Through the work of the women's program of Status of Women Canada, we are delivering real results. Through the government's careful and strategic streamlining and refocusing of the program, we have repositioned Status of Women Canada as an instrument for promoting the full participation of women.
How have we done this?
We have done this through the delivery of programs that have direct benefits for women across Canada, women in all communities, women of diverse backgrounds, all women. We have also done this through leadership and partnership with others across the federal government and in other levels of government responsible for social and economic policies and programs.
Women's program is now more effective, more focused and more results driven. This is in large part due to the government's decision to restructure the program into two new components.
First, the women's community fund is focused on projects at local, regional and national levels that support women directly in their communities, for example, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada that works to empower aboriginal women to increase their leadership skills and become key agents in violence prevention in their own communities, both on and off reserve.
Second, the women's partnership fund is a new element of the women's program, supporting collaborative projects involving partners, such as public institutions and non-governmental recipients, to build partnerships that improve the economic social and cultural situation of women. The partnership fund provides an ideal opportunity to increase engagement by other federal departments and levels of government through projects that directly impact the situation of women. For example, in February, YWCA Canada received funding for its northern extension initiative, benefiting women and children in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
In October 2007 the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages announced $8 million over three years in funding for 60 projects across the country, through the women's community fund for the first call for proposals, issued last June. These projects will positively impact over 260,000 women and girls by addressing barriers, educating them about violence prevention, helping them increase their financial literacy and encouraging cooperative peer support networks.
In November the minister announced a second call for proposals for the women's community fund, with the focus on projects that promote women's economic security and prosperity, health and safety and those aimed at ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women. All projects, without exception, must support the advancement of all women in Canada.
With the newly added convenience of online application forms, the women's program can reach more organizations than ever. With the funding of the women's program now being at its highest level ever, the number of proposals receiving funding and the number of new organizations accessing funds is growing. The best news is that the number of women expected to benefit directly increases also.
I must underscore that our government does not fund a who is who of Canadian women's organizations. We care what the organization does, not what it is or who its members are. Funding through the women's program is available to organizations that work to bring women together, to work together for positive and lasting change, to improve the economic and social condition of women and to facilitate their participation in the democratic life of Canada.
Our government keeps our commitments to Canadians. Our track record on this speaks for itself. For example, we have taken action on the issues facing aboriginal women, including addressing poverty, protecting and advancing human rights and addressing violence against aboriginal women. A number of these issues contribute to our government's agenda for aboriginal Canadians, including the resolving of the issue of matrimonial real property on reserve, repealing section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and addressing family violence.
As announced in last week's budget, over the next year we will develop an action plan that will advance the equality of women across Canada, through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.
These are but a few of the many ways which our government has shown its enduring commitment to the women of Canada.
Unlike the members opposite, who claim to stand up for the best interests of Canadian women but voted to take away choice in child care, who for 13 years in government promised new child care spaces and delivered none and who worked to weaken or stall important tough on crime legislation to protect Canadian families, we are getting things done.
The government has increased the budget of the women's program to $20 million, an increase of 76%, its highest level ever. I am pleased to say that budget 2008 states that our government will build on this achievement through the development of an action plan that will advance equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.
Our government is concerned with problems that directly affect vulnerable women, economic security and prosperity, health and the elimination of every form of violence. Since January 2006, our government has helped aboriginal women with property after divorce and has reinvested $5 million for initiatives that go directly to help women in their communities.
Through our government's visionary action, Status of Women Canada is stronger and more effective, working better for the people of Canada, women and men alike.