Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the motion today. Especially as we approach International Women's Day, it is most important that we bring voice to the issues facing women in Canada, particularly as we see the present government chipping away at the foundations of our country. Numerous matters are raised in the motion, and all of these issues are very critical.
I represent a very large riding. It is a rural riding, which includes cities, towns and first nations. The other day the Minister of Canadian Heritage rose in the House and stated that she was proud of her right to vote as a woman. She was aware that women in Canada had to fight for the right to vote. She is indeed correct on that.
I might add, in case she is not aware, that first nations people and therefore first nations women did not have the right to vote until 1960 without giving up their treaty rights. This means that my grandmother was not entitled to vote until she was 45 years old, which is my age. Her name was Madeline Beardy and she was a band councillor. I am proud of the legacy I inherited from her. I am proud of the traditional customary laws in my home communities. On my maternal side, I am from the Muskrat Dam First Nation in Ontario. On my paternal side, I am from the Norway House Cree Nation.
I raise this because I want members to understand that is not the traditional laws of my people that have oppressed us as first nations women, nor made us vulnerable citizens in the country. It is the historical injustice and inequitable relationship with the federal Government of Canada, which has forced first nations women into some of the most dire living conditions in this country.
I failed, Mr. Speaker, to mention something, and I know this is a technical piece of information. I have just been handed a piece of paper reminding me, as a new member, that I have to announce I am splitting my time with the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
Many of the communities in my riding have health and social issues facing no other people in the country. They are without comparable funding formulas for the same services as Canadians in health, education and child welfare. These are the issues that women talk to me about when I meet with them in my riding. It is about their children and how they will ensure their children and their grandchildren have hope for their future.
The past Liberal government created a political accord with first nations, the Métis Nation and the Inuit to ensure the gap would close in the foreseeable future. It is most important to note that this occurred not just solely out of the goodwill of a government. It occurred just as the women's right to vote happened, out of years of advocacy by women. The minister stood in the House and was so proud of that.
Research and advocacy are the pillars of ensuring that every member of a society has equal opportunity. This does not mean we all have to be the same, as the government seems to infer. It means that we all have the same opportunity. This is the hallmark of our great country. Through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and through our Constitution, we ensure the members of this society have equal opportunity and equal rights.
Women were not allowed the right to vote until about a century ago, and that was not bestowed upon them by the goodwill of government. This is 2008 and we are still struggling with a government that does not believe equality is integral for women in our country, that research and advocacy are necessary—