Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to support Bill C-307, which will allow pregnant and nursing women who work under the Canada Labour Code to avail themselves of provincial legislation providing for preventive withdrawal. I would like to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for this excellent bill. All legislation that improves the balance between work and home life will have a favourable impact on the status of women in Canada.
In 2006, Quebec assumed jurisdiction over the parental leave program. The province has given mothers more money, more flexibility and easier access to preventive withdrawal. The other parent also receives five weeks of parental leave, which is non-transferable. Less than two years later, the poverty rate among women in Quebec has declined by 15 points. This is not a coincidence. The most effective way to reduce inequality between the sexes is to make both motherhood and economic security possible, and put the emphasis on parental leave. This is our role as parliamentarians, and it is our duty, not only for women and mothers but also for men and fathers, and for children’s well-being and the economic future of Canada.
This bill is of crucial importance for two reasons. First, it ensures employment equity for women who work in an environment that may be dangerous to their pregnancy. Second, it promotes the idea that women must not be threatened by poverty if they decide to have children.
Bill C-307 protects women who work in jobs that are completely safe in ordinary circumstances, but may be dangerous to a pregnant or nursing woman. Bill C-307 gives women in those occupations the fundamental right to have children if they want to. Why would a woman truck driver or postal worker or flight attendant, or a woman firefighter or plant worker, have to choose between her and her child’s health and poverty or the option of not having a child? The answer to the question is obvious: she should not have to make that choice. No one should have to do that.
Reproductive justice is more than simply having access to safe, legal abortion. It is also a woman's right to decide whether or not to have a child. I therefore oppose any element that would systematically prevent women from exercising that choice, including poverty, discrimination and, in this case, barriers that women face in the workplace.
It makes no sense that this government recognizes that certain working conditions are dangerous to pregnant or nursing women, yet it refuses to recognize their need to receive their salaries when they cannot work. Women in these situations are forced to go on leave without pay. This is the height of hypocrisy.
Quebec is the only province that has a preventive withdrawal program to protect pregnant and nursing women. It allows these women to receive 95% of their salaries if working conditions are considered dangerous for them or their children.
However, women who work under the Canada Labour Code do not have the same luck. I therefore call on this House to support the bill for the well-being of all these women.
Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?