House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Information CommissionerRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 39(1) of the Access to Information Act, a special report of the Information Commissioner entitled, “Systemic Issues and Report Cards 2007–2008”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting the main estimates for the financial year ending March 31, 2010 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association respecting its bilateral visit to Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda, from June 22 to 28, 2008 inclusive.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-China Legislative Association respecting its participation in the annual co-chair's visit held in Bejing in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Guilin and in Hong Kong, China, March 17 to 21, 2008.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women concerning gender responsive budgeting.

This report concerns the importance of gender budgeting as a tool toward achieving gender equality. Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the committee requests that the government table a response to the report.

Foreign Affairs and International DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled, “Canada in Afghanistan”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

It is a pleasure for me, again, to present, in both official language,s the third report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled, “Omar Khadr”.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled, “Corporate Social Responsibility”.

Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-328, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce the rights of indigenous peoples act.

The bill seeks to ensure that federal laws in Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This was signed by 144 member countries in September 2007.

The UN declaration was the culmination of two decades of negotiations with indigenous peoples globally and it established a universal framework of standards for human rights, collective rights, self-determination and mechanisms for the resolution of disputes.

In summary, the bill seeks to ensure that Canada's aboriginal peoples, some of the poorest and most marginalized, will enjoy respect, protection and the same access of opportunity as all other Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, presented to the House on Wednesday, February 11, be concurred in.

I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak about the issue of violence to women. Ever since I have been in this House, the women members of my party, those who have sat on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and myself, have been the staunch defenders of the campaign against violence toward women. I will take a few moments at the start of my speech to quote an excerpt from an information pamphlet prepared by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women. It was first written at the time of the Women's March in 2000, and was updated in 2002.

What is violence against women?

Violence can be physical (such as punching, kicking, choking, stabbing, mutilation, disabling, murder), sexual (such as rape, any unwanted touching or act of a sexual nature, forced prostitution), verbal/psychological (such as threats to harm the children, destruction of favourite clothes or photographs, repeated insults meant to demean and erode self-esteem, forced isolation from friends and relatives, threats of further violence or deportation if the woman attempts to leave), stalking (such as persistent and unwanted attention, following and spying, monitoring of mail or conversations), financial (such as taking away a woman's wages or other income, limiting or forbidding access to the family income), and other forms of control and abuse of power). Violence against women is about the control and coercion of women. It is a significant problem in Canada and around the world, also including female genital mutilation, child marriage, dowry-related murder, honour killings, female infanticide, and trafficking in women. Mass rapes and enslavement of women are also used as an instrument of war and genocide.

My colleague from Laurentides—Labelle has often spoken about this, particularly concerning women in the Congo, who are currently facing a terrible situation.

We have seen, in the excerpt I just read, different forms of violence against women. There are threats of deportation, for example, but we can also talk about violence against women who have chosen to live elsewhere with a spouse because he promised eternal love, and then cannot go back to their home country. That is the case with Nathalie Morin, who is being held by her husband in Saudi Arabia like some sort of hostage. Her husband is not allowing her to return to Quebec with her children.

We also saw that other types of violence against women include taking away a woman’s rights and her wages. I will focus on this type of violence because it is a direct consequence of the guidelines, laws and rules that we are developing here in Parliament, and which are being demanded by the current government.

Transforming pay equity into a game of negotiation is a form of violence against women. Taking away a woman's right to defend herself, to protect her rights, by cutting funding to groups that defend her is a form of violence against women. Cutting the court challenges program and therefore keeping women who have been victims of violence and have had a difficult time appealing their case is a form of violence, violence against women. Preventing women from lobbying to put the spotlight on certain challenges, their needs and their current reality is a form of violence against women. Cutting subsidies to these lobby groups as this government has done is yet another form of violence against women.

Another form of violence against women is preventing women's groups that do research from doing feminist research. That kind of violence against women is almost pathological. Since coming to power, this government has been attacking women, its apparent goal, as the text I just read put it, “to demean and erode self-esteem”. When the government claimed that equality had already been achieved to justify depriving women of the tools they have had at their disposal for years, tools that have helped them move forward and make progress, it made a big mistake. That is violence against women on a grand scale, institutionalized violence.

Everyone knows that this government has had it in for women since coming to power. We did not hesitate to fight to make the government see reason, to try to make it understand that a step forward for women does not mean a step back for men. On the contrary, as long as women can assert their rights, there will be greater equality in the world and more opportunities to move forward together, to go farther and to ensure that every person's rights are respected.

We are talking about violence against women, and this government has taken a more or less institutional approach to perpetrating violence. Every one of this government's bills affects women directly. That includes employment insurance bills because we know that women have limited access to employment insurance. The same applies to social housing bills. Tax cuts benefit only the highest income earners, when we all know that 37% of women earn less than $20,000 per year. If that is not violence against women, then I do not know what is.

Violence against women means preventing women from reaching their full potential, preventing them from being all they can be, preventing them from moving forward and giving their children what they need to one day become enlightened members of a free society.

The government's repeated attacks reflect a near obsession. And every time we have the misfortune to get up in this House and ask the government why it is obsessed, we are told that 52 million people are wrong and that the government is right. Every day we get thousands of emails, notes and letters from women, telling us about what they are going through and imploring us to help their cause. They ask us to defend their cause, because they say they do not understand why this government has it in for them. All these women need an answer today, and they are entitled to one. All these women have the right to know why this government is choosing to set women back 30, 40 or 50 years in some cases.

Mr. Speaker, I know that if it were up to you, you would likely tell me that I am right. As the father of several children, you know how important it is for your wife to be able to make the best life she can for your children. I, too, want to make the best life possible for my children. I want my colleagues to be able to do the same for their children. But as long as we condone the violence that is being perpetrated here in Parliament, we will never be able to discuss and address the violence being done elsewhere. We need to start with what is going on in our own backyard.

What I am saying is that we need to start coming together and making this government understand the risks it is taking as it continues undermining women, day after day.

Yesterday, this government unveiled a poster about strong women, a strong world, equality and women's leadership. But where is the leadership by the Conservative women? Where are these strong Conservative women, where is this strong world?

Conservative women cannot even defend the women of Quebec and Canada. They cannot even get up in this House and in their caucus to talk to their cabinet colleagues and make them understand that their position on pay equity makes no sense. What can we expect from them but doubletalk?

Today too, I suppose, we will not get much of an answer. It is the same week after week. We have been asking questions about pay equity for weeks now and all that the President of Treasury Board can say is that it is the best thing in the world for women. I think he should go and do some work on this because if there is a critical kind of violence against women, it is preventing them from earning a decent living and having the same considerations as their male colleagues. That is a huge violence against women because they struggle and work every day just as hard as their male colleagues.

Why do the Conservatives refuse them the same advantages, the same benefits and the same salary on the pretext that they should have to negotiate equity and are not simply entitled to equal pay?

In 1929, five women fought to have women recognized as persons. Their statues can be seen on Parliament Hill. These women would be furious today to see how the government makes a farce of everything to do with women’s rights. All the women in this chamber should try to emulate the courage of those women in 1929 who went all the way to the English courts to insist that women should be recognized as persons. Now the government is trying to do the opposite. They slowly nibble away at the rights of women and eliminate the advances that were at least giving them the impression they were making progress.

Nellie McClung would be very disappointed today at the extent to which the government has failed to keep its word. In January 2006, the Prime Minister said he would give women equality. He has broken his promise and goes on breaking it every day. If this sort of violence is endorsed by Parliament, why would people in civil society bother getting caught up in all these niceties?

If the government itself does not recognize the violence it does to women, how in the world can our criminal lawyers, police officers and groups that work with women who have been abused hope to make them understand that they are right, we are listening to them and we will do something for them? It does not make sense.

When our own government does the opposite of what it should to protect women from violence, it does not make sense. Nor does it make sense to think that civil society will do any better.

And yet, many groups continue to defend women daily.

The government has just cut funds for Africa. These funds were essential in helping women with AIDS, the grandmothers looking after children with AIDS and women in refugee camps, who are assaulted and raped daily and used as weapons of war. It is cutting funds for these countries. That is abominable.

It is more evidence of the lack of respect of this government, evidence that this government does not want to see an end to violence against women. It is further evidence that this government is in fact exacerbating violence against women. Everything it does points in this direction. Everything this government does is currently to the detriment of women and causes them distress.

I received an email this morning from a woman in Nova Scotia. She would not vote for me, but she asked me to do something. She does not know who to ask anymore. She cannot ask the Conservatives to help women or the Liberals, who have chosen to support the Conservatives on the matter of pay equity. She asked me to do something and told me that she and thousands of women were suffering.

Suffering is violence against women. Being unable to feed the children or pay the rent and having to choose to send a child to school without a meal so as to have milk for a younger child is what violence against women is about.

I hope that my Conservative colleagues will be open-minded enough today to listen instead of closing up as they usually do. Perhaps a crack will appear through which they will understand that, if they wanted it, it would be so easy. The employment insurance fund contains some $54 billion. It would be easy to eliminate the two week waiting period. Women would thus have much better access to employment insurance. It is all very well to take courses or training, but when you have no job waiting for you, it does not mean much. Denying women access to employment insurance amounts to violence against women.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for your solicitude. I would also ask you to please understand and have all our colleagues in this House understand just how much we must do to end violence against women. Violence occurs against women in other situations and circumstances as well.

Violence is done to women with firearms. The government wants to abolish the firearms registry, as we know. We also know, though, that this government does not consider long barrelled firearms dangerous. However, the firearms that destroy the most lives and kill the most women are long barrelled firearms--not little revolvers. They are used, of course. There are sidearms as well. However, these firearms are almost legal for the government, although they spread the greatest violence in their path.

I have only a minute left to close—a very short time. I had prepared texts, but am not managing to keep to them. I have a hard time doing so. I am an emotional and passionate woman. The women contacting us each day to ask us to support them can count on all of the members of the Bloc to defend their cause and continue to work hard to end all violence against women, especially the violence initiated by this government.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing this very important topic before the House and for her strong words to us in her speech this morning.

I want to ask her specifically about two groups of women. Lesbians often face an extra burden of violence and abuse in our society because they are women and also because of their sexual orientation. They have been ignored by our society and by further attempts to ensure that they have full equality in our society. Also, transsexual and transgender women do not have explicit protection under Canadian human rights laws. Gender identity and expression is not a specific ground in the act, although there are other provisions, sort of backdoor provisions, to allow complaints to be laid. Transsexual and transgender women face incredible violence. Many transsexual and transgender women are murdered every year around the world. They face very severe discrimination in jobs, in housing and in the provision of identity documents, for instance.

Would the member support adding gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code provisions around sentencing and hate crimes?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

It is quite true that I care deeply about all groups that struggle to be recognized and to have their rights recognized. My colleague said that lesbians, transsexual and transgendered women have even greater difficulty than people who have decided to come out of the closet or people who have decided to live their lives without worrying about what other people will say. It is true that we have seen many hate crimes committed against homosexuals, lesbians and transgendered people. We have seen this and we still see it every day, which, to me, is an absolute disgrace.

I think a study is needed so that such groups can be included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think we need to examine this issue very seriously to determine whether certain groups should be added to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think it is our responsibility to take a very close look at this situation. I cannot presume to know what my hon. colleagues will decide, but I think it is our duty to look closely at this situation in order to ensure that all the groups represented in our society have the same rights and the assurance that they will not suffer such senseless violence.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate my colleague from Laval for her excellent presentation on violence against women. We will see shortly that this House will use any means to prevent my colleague from continuing the debate. That is the way of the Conservatives and the Liberals.

I will give her the opportunity, in the few minutes she has remaining, to explain to us what will happen to pay equity for women because of the provisions adopted by the Liberals and the Conservatives in the last budget. How is it that women will again be subject to the violence of not obtaining full pay equity?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who always has very clear and thought-provoking questions.

I was a union president for a long time. One of the duties of a union president is to ensure that its members are properly represented and that, no matter the offence, members are defended. I believe that this is the first time that I have seen a union receive a fine of $50,000 for wanting to defend its members and to do its job. That is unheard of.

I do not know what the Human Rights Commission will do, but I would rail against such an action. Imagine the situation. I am a member of a union and of the public service. I realize that I do not have pay equity. I ask for my right to negotiate, because that is the only option now, but my union can do nothing to assist me. And since I can no longer resort to the court challenges program I cannot even defend myself. The government knows very well that there are millions and billions at stake in these cases but that poor employees do not even have a cent.

That is definitely a form of violence against women.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from the Bloc Québécois for moving this motion and for her passion today on a very important matter.

I want to continue with the theme of the attack on pay equity as very much an expression of symbolic violence against women. Whether or not it is physical or psychological, the damage is felt. I am wondering how she would deal with the words uttered by a Conservative hack, Tom Flanagan, who said:

Equal value was one of those really bad ideas of the 1970s, like big hair, polyester leisure suits, wage and price controls, Petro-Canada. Most of these are in the evolutionary graveyard of bad ideas, but equal value is still around, so the [present] government deserves credit for moving against it.

How in the world can we tolerate that kind of hateful language? How is it that the government has yet to denounce publicly these hateful words?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that my colleague is surprised that the government has failed to condemn Mr. Flanagan's statement. Few of the people advising the government and its leader have a mind quite as warped as his. I also know that my colleague is not surprised that the government has not asked Mr. Flanagan to apologize because it actually agrees with his ideas. Consequently, every idea Mr. Flanagan proposes to the government and its leader is received joyfully and with open arms. That is clear from its implementation of various directives and regulations.

I am still wondering why the women on the government side have not stood up and objected to this, why they let these things happen. Have they no backbone? Have they no strength? Is there no such thing as a strong world when it comes to Conservative women?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member for Laval to tell us about the Conservatives' position on the status of women. What is their true position, the one on paper as well as the one in practice?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her excellent question. As I pointed out in my speech, I have never seen a government attack women's rights the way this one has. I have never seen a government attack women to this degree. I have never seen a government purposely do as much as this one has to eliminate appeal rights and try to pass private bills of which it is the silent architect.

Last year, we had Bill C-484, and I have no doubt that another Conservative Party member will introduce a similar bill. If so, I hope the government will know what to do.There is nothing so pernicious as a government that would have everyone believe that it believes in women's equality. There is nothing so pernicious and violent as a government that would have women believe that they have everything they need, then does everything it can to override and chip away at their rights, and, for all intents and purposes, extinguish them. That is terrible.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes for a brief question.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Laval mentioned earlier that the Canadian International Development Agency has decided to make massive cuts in its aid to Africa. We are well aware that African women use micro credit to support their families by creating small businesses and thus they put food on the table.

How can she explain that the Minister for La Francophonie,a woman, and the Minister of International Cooperation, another woman, have both let this happen?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am really ecstatic to here such questions from my colleagues in this House. We can see there is a real interest in all these problems, whether they are universal, national, or regional. The women in the government are doing nothing to defend women, regardless of where those women live. Whether in Quebec, in Canada, in the Congo, women everywhere will have to just give up the fight, because—

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to acknowledge the extremely importance of this issue that has been brought forward by the hon. member. It is something that permeates and lies in the very inequality of women. The fact is there is a huge amount of gender discrimination. It is still alive in Canada and around the world.

What highlights what the member is speaking about is the fact that in 2005 Canada stood at number four on the United Nations gender development index. That index speaks to a country's efforts to improve the social and economic status of women in that country. Today, Canada stands at 83. In three short years, Canada has slid to the depths at which it now stands. This has to be laid at the feet of the current government.

The issue of violence against women in its many forms is an important one. It was a Liberal government in 1994 which brought forward a survey that showed how violence affected women and girl children in this country from the age of 14 moving forward and the depth of violence. We mapped this out and brought forward a strategy to deal with violence against women in this country.

One of the things we noted was that the issue of violence against women was not just limited to gender but that the diversity of women's gender and of women's experience, immigrant women, women from minority groups that condoned violence within the home, domestic violence, and the inability to get justice on those issues. Those were things the Liberal government of the day dealt with in the 1990s. On an international front our Liberal government brought forward concerns of violence at the Beijing conference, the concept that women's rights were human rights. It was an absolutely horrible thing to suddenly realize that it had been forgotten that women's rights were human rights. Finally, in 1995 we saw language for the first time that told us about the depth of violence in all its forms against women in this country.

We looked internationally at violence against the girl tribe, girl children who are forced into marriage at the age of 10 in many countries, girl children who are bought and sold. It was the Liberal government as well that looked into the fact that young women still were being trafficked across the country. Young girls were being moved from province to province. There was massive trafficking. It looked at girls being trafficked in and out, and at commercial sexual exploitation of children under tourism.

It was the Liberal government that brought in legislation to deal with sexual tourism, to deal with trafficking. In fact, a massive bill dealing with trafficking of women and girls was brought in by a Liberal government. Of course I need not tell the House that that government was brought down before the bill was passed. The NDP members who stand in the House and make such wondrous statements about violence against women colluded to bring down the government before that bill could be passed.

Also, on the issue of violence, the hon. member referred to domestic violence, most of it including guns. It was a Liberal government that brought about gun control legislation in 1995 but it was absolutely voted down, not only by the Conservatives of the day but by the NDP that did not support gun control legislation.

This is an extremely important broad ranging topic. The lack of action by the Conservative government and the ability of the NDP to support the Conservatives in that lack of action needs to be discussed in greater detail.

This is such a serious topic that it deserves to be debated today in another forum in a very fulsome manner, but the motion was presented to the House without any notice. In the next 20 minutes the Standing Committee on the Status of Women will be meeting. There are witnesses who are waiting to present to the committee today. They have come from outside Ottawa to present to the committee. We cannot afford to deal with this issue right now and give it the appropriate attention it deserves.

We must return to this topic on another day when we can discuss it in all of its detail and fulsomeness and bring to the attention of the people of Canada the problem with respect to women's equality in this country.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 26th, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.