Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in this important debate today.
As the youngest woman in the House of Commons, I do not believe we would be discussing a bill in 2010 that would seek to take away the rights for which women before me have fought so hard. While the bill claims to react to a tragic situation around coercion and the discussion of abortion, it is an attack on a woman's right to choose.
The bill is mostly redundant because threats and illegal acts are already covered under the Criminal Code. In fact, this part of the debate is so critical to the discussion. It is certainly not a discussion about the facts. Unfortunately what is in the Criminal Code is not being discussed in the House. Bill C-510 is unnecessary and it is redundant. Threats and illegal acts are already covered under the Criminal Code. Counsellors at abortion clinics already screen for possible coercion in women seeking abortions.
The anti-choice movement has noted claims that women are coerced. However, when we walk by abortion clinics across our country, and certainly even the one close to Parliament Hill, we see a much greater movement to coerce women not to get an abortion, often with very aggressive tactics, taking advantage of women who are already in a vulnerable situation, who are already having to make a very difficult decision, often a very conflicted decision.
This debate is also one that is so critical because it identifies the notion of fetal rights that challenges the discussion and the way abortion and a woman's right to choose are legally framed, noting that women have the control over their bodies. The discussion is about the fetus, not the child. As we enter into this discussion, many of us fear that this will open the door to making abortions in our country illegal. The bill attempts to reintroduce the notion of fetal rights through indirect means, by presenting abortion as a social harm to be criminalized.
I noted earlier that while the foundation of the bill is based on a tragic experience, one that took place in my home province, it is important to recognize that much of what has come out has been misrepresented. We note that in this legal case, the murderer, the lawyer and the crown prosecutor all agreed that coercion to have an abortion was not the motive. The bill claims that it would prevent what happened Ms. Roxanne Fernando from Winnipeg. However, when we look at it more closely, it attacks the rights of women to choose, it challenges the work of abortion providers and it rolls back the rights of women in our country by decades.
Unfortunately this is not a new development. The Conservative government and members of it have promoted an anti-choice agenda since they were elected into government. Ironically, in past elections it was stated that a Conservative government would not support any legislation to regulate abortion. Yet the bill deals entirely with that issue. It strives to take a major step in challenging that right of women to choose.
Unfortunately, the bill and the words used to present it have been framed in such a way as to claim to deal with the violence that women face, not only in the discussion around a woman's right to choose, but generally violence that women face. We all know that women face levels of violence, domestic violence, physical, sexual and mental violence in a way that we do not see it with men.
Unfortunately, the bill would do nothing to deal with those levels of violence. Not only would the bill not do anything, the government has done nothing. Not only has it failed to reinvest in and continue programs that are critical, it has sought to take away gains that have been made in policy, governing structure and the supports that women look to in order to seek equality.
How many signs do we need to know how much further we have to go forward, not just in the levels of violence that women face. We also need to look at the absence of women in power structures and positions of decision making? It is shameful that in the year 2010 only 21% of the members in the House of Commons are women.
Young people ask me why that is the case. I believe we can look, unfortunately, at very recent policies that seek to strip away the voice of women, as well as men, to speak out as to what is needed for us to eradicate gender-based violence and for women to truly achieve equality.
Let us look at some of the Conservative government's work, not only in the discussion around attacking women's right to choose, but the overall attack on women to achieve equality.
From 2006 onward, we have seen the elimination of equality as an objective in the Status of Women Canada's mission statement. We have seen a 100% cut in funding for advocacy, lobbying and independent research projects funded by the Status of Women Canada.
Dozens of feminist organizations have had their funding severed and have had to close their doors. In the past year, nine groups have lost their funding, including the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, the New Brunswick Pay Equity Coalition and Réseau des tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec.
We have shamefully seen the lose of funding for the Sisters in Spirit initiative that has sought to counteract the tragic and historically perpetuated levels of violence against aboriginal women. While the government promoted the work of Sisters in Spirit for years in the House, it did not renew the funding for an organization that clearly made known the barriers that aboriginal women faced.
We also saw the loss of funds for over 130 projects in the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the cancellation of the pan-Canadian child care program and the elimination of the court challenges program.
We need to look at ensuring women have economic support. In my home community in the province of Manitoba, women are going to be losing their jobs in the smelter and the refinery, only to be made more vulnerable in an economy facing a recession.
These are the messages, the actions we need to support women in their work to achieve equality, in our work as Canadians to achieve equality. We need to leave alone the battles for which women, along with men, have fought, which are the right to choose, the right to shape our futures and the right to be equal in our country, Canada.