House of Commons Hansard #178 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.


Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

moved that Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise today to once again speak in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, as it is read a third time. I would like to thank my colleagues in this House for their interest in this bill, for their important contributions to the debate at second reading and at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and for their support. I would also like to thank once more the members of my incredible team for their tireless efforts and the stakeholders, community organizations, and Canadians from all walks of life who shared their views with us. In particular, I would like to thank the Strength in Stories team for the ideas and inspiration that helped bring us to where we are today.

Gender equality week would provide us with a critical opportunity to engage and address areas in which gender-based disparities persist. As my colleagues in this chamber are aware, my team and I elaborated on these disparities in the preamble of this bill.

Importantly, gender equality week is not an occasion to celebrate accomplishments, but, as reflected in the preambular paragraphs, it is an initiative that seeks to raise awareness of the most profound remaining challenges and it offers a platform to work collectively on concrete solutions.

The resounding vote of 287-1 in this House to send the bill to committee at second reading, in my view, revealed that acknowledgement of these challenges goes far beyond partisan affiliation. All of us bear individual and collective responsibility in a society that categorically and systematically treats and values genders differently.

In short, if we truly seek to address these challenges, the pivotal steps are to recognize them frankly and to ensure that they are understood. The federal government cannot solve these issues and problems by itself. Gender equality requires awareness and engagement on the part of all Canadians.

To be absolutely clear, I am very proud of what we are already doing to achieve gender equality and equity. I applaud the leadership of our Prime Minister and of the federal government, who are working to address systemic gender-based gaps that have permeated Canadian society since Confederation.

The Prime Minister formed Canada's first cabinet with female and male parity. He also appointed a woman to be the government House leader and a minister who would focus exclusively on gender issues. These were also firsts in Canadian history.

The Government of Canada also launched an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.

What is more, the Minister of Status of Women is developing a federal strategy against gender-based violence. The government also announced the implementation of gender-based analysis, or GBA+, in all federal government departments to ensure that gender issues are taken into account in all government policies and legislation.

In early December 2016, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Status of Women announced that Nova Scotia businesswoman and civil rights activist Viola Desmond will be the very first Canadian woman to be featured on a Canadian banknote.

The Government of Canada introduced Bill C-16, which is currently before the Senate. It protects Canadians of minority gender identity and expression by adding gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for Edmonton-Centre, and the special advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues for his tireless work as an advocate for Canadians of minority gender identity and expression.

As my colleagues know, in budget 2017, the federal government has committed to allocating $3.6 million over three years, starting this year, to establish a LGBTQ2 Secretariat within the Privy Council Office.

I believe that this initiative is important to the development and implementation of government-led initiatives for the LGBTQ2 community, and I hope that gender equality week can contribute to these efforts.

On the international stage, Canada has seized the opportunity to serve on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and is a strong supporter of the UN HeForShe campaign.

As a Canadian delegate at the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which was held in New York last March, and together with the representatives of such countries as Pakistan, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon, I committed to making the kind of efforts that Canada and parliamentarians have made to promote gender equality.

I was pleased to hear positive feedback on BillC-309 from representatives and other delegates. In Canada and abroad, there is definitely a will to eliminate the gender gap. I have no doubt that if we continue to work together to eliminate gender disparities in our respective societies, we can find constructive, long-term solutions.

Once again, I wish to acknowledge the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Government of Canada in promoting the equality of men and women.

Important as these and other actions are, more work remains ahead of us than behind us. To close the remaining gaps, the government will need the advocacy, support, and commitment of Canadians.

Bill C-309 recognizes this need and it issues a call to action to all Canadians to become involved: men, women, Canadians of minority gender identity and expression, children, students, educators, civil servants of all levels of government, young and established professionals, new Canadians, our indigenous peoples, Canadians in law enforcement and our armed forces, and seniors.

Involvement in gender equality week could take a wide range of forms, and some of these forms include town hall discussions, university and college colloquia, music, plays, literature, film projects, workplace round tables, formulation and presentation of academic research, public rallies, fundraisers, social media, radio and television events, and campaigns.

Our consultations with various groups, organizations, and levels of government helped us draft a substantive preamble that gives Canadians a clear idea of the challenges we face. Gender-based violence and the gender wage gap are particularly critical obstacles that we, as Canadians, must tackle and eliminate. Active engagement will lead to real progress on both those fronts.

Now that I have had the privilege of hearing different perspectives and working with colleagues from all parties in this chamber on Bill C-309 for the past several months, I look forward to engaging with our counterparts in the Senate in the months ahead.

I encourage fellow members to once again support this bill, as the time to act is now. Canadians want us, as parliamentarians, to address the most critical issues facing our country. Through gender equality week, we would build a platform through which we can generate momentum to resolve a major multi-faceted issue that faces our country today, gender inequality.

This House has the opportunity to send a powerful message to Canadians that their elected representatives in concert seek to engage and work with civil society to address gender-based disparities.

I look forward to continuing to work toward establishing a national annual gender equality week, and I look forward to working on this project with colleagues from this House and the Senate.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note that in the preamble of my hon. colleague's bill, there is the following statement:

Whereas Indigenous women, be they First Nation, Métis or Inuit, are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and sexual exploitation;

I commend my colleague for introducing Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week. It is clear from recent history that such a week is long overdue.

My hon. colleague obviously believes that Canada still has a long way to go to achieve gender equality and to achieve justice for indigenous women and girls.

Could my colleague tell us how we could best address and identify the underlying causes of violence toward women, especially indigenous women and girls?

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed an opportunity to look at the deeper causes, the root causes, of gender inequality and gender inequity across our country. To do that, we need to engage all Canadians. This bill is an opportunity to pivot to all of civil society, to leaders in our community and to Canadians who have never thought about this issue or about becoming involved. It would give them the opportunity and the platform to do that.

I made reference to a number of different forms in which gender equality week could manifest itself. One of those is in academic research. When we look at the sociology of root causes, gender equality week could direct national attention to that issue and really give us an opportunity to acknowledge the root causes and to then formulate solutions to address and resolve them.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there is a sense of awareness from designating a day, a week, or a month. On this particular issue, it would be wonderful, not only as the national government demonstrating leadership by designating the week but in how it could have an impact at different levels in our communities, such as in our schools. Using schools as an example, if teachers take an interest in what has been proposed by Ottawa, we would get a higher sense of gender equity, because the issue would be talked about more in our schools.

I wonder if my colleague could comment on the educational benefits of having a week of this nature.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned a group called Strength in Stories, which is a local organization in my riding. The very first conversations on this bill were exactly in the area my colleague points to, which is the field of education. The idea was to pull together a project that would address gender-based disparities or inequities at the level of education. The federal government cannot reach into other levels of government to prescribe educational programs. However, it could certainly offer this week as a platform for teachers to take advantage of it and to do the very important teaching not just at the graduate and post-graduate level, which would give us an opportunity for research and some data, but all the way down to the elementary level, where cultures and attitudes are shaped early on. We really look to education as probably the foundational opportunity for this week to manifest across the country.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for his speech and his leadership on this issue. I wonder if he would offer us a few reflections on the first gender statement in the budget we just passed and how this is consistent with the spirit of this private member's bill.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to gender analysis, of course it is fundamental to connect it to the budgetary process and to put our programming through a gender lens. In using gender-based analyses in the bureaucracy in the planning and execution of programs, the two really come together. I am very proud that this budget is the first budget developed in Canada with a gender-specific lens, and we look forward to much more along these lines in the years to come.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague, looking at gender equality week and all the things that we can do to promote women and young girls. I have listened to the gender equality budget, the quota system, being tokens, and being put on boards. I have to say that I and many women with whom I have had the honour of serving politically or in the private sector would suggest that teaching young girls that just because they are female they can get any position really is offensive to many, and certainly to me, who has really gone through the trials and tribulations in my life to get to where I am today. One has to make the sacrifices and to live those sacrifices to really understand what that journey looks like. To suggest that we have a token—that a person is a female so she gets this position, or she is female so she gets on this board, or they are a minority so they can have this—I think does considerable disservice to all of us. I really think it is incumbent on each and every one of us to do what we can do in terms of empowering people around us, especially young girls.

I go back to my time of almost a decade as mayor of the City of Surrey. Since 1996, we had a majority of women on council. We had a majority of women making decisions for the city. Was it a token position? No, it was not. Was it gender equity? No, it was not. It was because they wanted to participate, they wanted to be part of the community, and we wanted to encourage other women to join in having a say on the issues that were really relevant to our community. In that context, it really was self-empowering, in terms of what we were able to accomplish as a collective. If we are short on the quota, not having enough women in politics, or not having enough women on a board, then it is incumbent upon us to do a better job.

I have two daughters. I would never, from the day they were born, let them know that they were a quota, that they were a token, that they could get a position because they were female. That is not the way I brought up my daughters. I brought them up to be strong young women who were empowered. I taught them to make sure they empower the people around them, that we work collectively together, we go through trials, we go through tribulations, and we get to where we go because the journey is the lessons of where we get to.

That in itself gives me satisfaction, as a woman of my age. It demeans everything that I have done, everything that I have taught my daughters, when I sit there and I listen to people say we have to have a token representation here and a token representation there. That is totally offensive, and I do not think that is what we should be teaching our children.

Furthermore, I would just suggest that what we can do—because it is not about what we cannot do, but rather what we can do—is really come together as a community, as parents, mothers, fathers. There are single moms, single dads, and children who need to be brought up in a community that has resiliency. We need to make sure that they have all the tools, all the education, and all of those things; that we have resilient communities; that we have empowered children; that we ensure that our kids know that they need to look after and give their hand out to somebody who is less fortunate than themselves. That is where we make a difference, and that is where we have empowerment within our communities, within our families, and that is what makes us stronger.

While I honestly appreciate my colleague, and I sit on many committees with him and respect him to the utmost degree, I would suggest that when we do not have gender equality week will be a good day in this House.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, achieving gender equality is non-negotiable. There is no doubt about it. That is one of the NDP's core principles, actually. It is always at the heart of our work on the ground and the legislative measures we put forward. Can the same be said of the government? Unfortunately not.

I have no doubt about the sponsor's intentions. I have been keeping tabs on his interventions in the status of women committee. However, if one truly believes in as fundamental a principle as gender equality, one must be consistent and non-partisan about it.

It is a shame that the sponsor of the bill before us voted against the NDP's Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, which was designed to increase the number of women in federal politics. It was actually an excellent and very well-documented bill.

How can anyone support gender equality and yet vote against a measure that would put more women in Parliament? I, for one, will be consistent and vote in favour of this bill. I do not think it goes far enough or actually does anything concrete, but I do think there is no such thing as paying too much attention to gender equality.

In addition, my NDP colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith will work tirelessly in committee to propose amendments in order to make this bill even more action-oriented, and I fully trust and support her.

When I first saw Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, I thought that we would finally see some real progress and concrete measures for women and girls. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This bill proposes declaring the first week of October gender equality week, but nothing more.

There are no measures to tackle economic disparity, there is no money to fund shelters for women and children, no action plan to end violence against women, no funding restored to organizations that work with women and girls and that, quite frankly, do an excellent job with very little funding, there are no measures to increase the number of women in the House, and I could go on.

What does the bill propose? Its preamble has 21 points. Here is an excerpt: “Whereas there is a wage gap between men and women in Canada”. What does the bill propose to address that problem? Does it include any actions, plans, or measures? Well, no, it proposes to establish a gender equality week.

No one here is against apple pie, but how will a gender equality week truly change anything for women and girls? If legislative measures are proposed, then action must follow. Unfortunately, this bill proposes no such action.

As the House probably knows, the disparity between men and women is glaring. For every dollar earned by a man, a Canadian woman earns only 74¢. That is unacceptable, and measures must be taken to address this gap.

Last March, Oxfam published a report on the measures taken by the Liberal government on gender parity. This government received the worst score for its policies on the work of women and pay equity. The Oxfam report noted that while the Liberal Party campaigned on a promise to improve the economic situation of women, this government has put very few measures in place to that effect.

In other words, once again there are more words than action. I feel like I have been saying that all day. Women need tangible measures from this government. Women have been waiting for pay equity for 40 years. It is all well and good to promote it, but proposing concrete measures is better, and women need these measures now, not later. This government must immediately draft proactive legislation on pay equity in order to reduce the wage gap and achieve economic equality for women.

Because this is 2017, we should do things differently. Because this is 2017, women should have equal pay for work of equal value. It is time for this government to back its claims that equality counts and to take immediate action.

Another point highlighted in the preamble is the following:

Whereas poverty and inequality disproportionately affect Canadian women, particularly elderly, disabled, transgender and visible minority women, leaving them isolated and vulnerable;

That is so true.

With respect to my Bill C-245 to establish a poverty reduction strategy, I heard many stakeholders, several organizations, and many women's groups talk about this reality. These organizations are waiting for real measures and actions to continue helping women.

Women's groups in my riding do extraordinary work. I am thinking, for example, of the Centre Ressources-Femmes de la région d'Acton; the Centre de femmes L'Autonomie en soiE; La Clé sur la porte, a shelter for victims of domestic violence; the Centre d'aide pour victimes d'agression sexuelle or CAVAS; Les 8 Marskoutaines , which organizes activities on March 8 every year; the Cercles de fermières in various communities; Afeas, which does work to raise awareness; the Syndicat des agricultrices de la région de Saint-Hyacinthe; and the Coalition des femmes de la MRC Les Maskoutains. These groups expect more. They expect better. They expect this government to walk the talk.

In our ridings, 63% of low-income seniors who live alone are women. The median income for seniors in Quebec is $20,200 for those aged 65 to 74, and for those 75 or over it is less than $20,000. There are real people behind the statistics. They need action and measures.

When women live in poverty, so do their children. That is completely unacceptable. By not dealing with this problem, the government is abandoning thousands of women, girls, and children who are in desperate need. How is a week of celebration going to help them to get out of poverty?

I am already at the end of my speech. We must adopt concrete measures to make gender equality a reality. Feminism means more than just believing in a philosophy and lofty principles; it means taking actions that are consistent with those principles. Appointing a gender-balanced cabinet and doing nothing else for the next four years is not enough. Dedicating a week to gender equality is not enough. This bill has to be the first of a great number of steps.

Oxfam gave this government the worst grade. New Democrats know that action is key to true gender equality. Words are not enough. We can never stop fighting for gender equality and women's rights, and we never will.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate on Bill C-309, a bill to establish a gender equality week in Canada each year.

I want to congratulate the hon. member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for his leadership in advancing gender equality in this country.

It is fitting that as we mark 150 years since our nation's founding, we are discussing a bill that asks Canadians to pause over the course of the week, reflect on the progress we have made toward gender equality, and recommit to taking actions that will help to make that equality a reality.

One of the key challenges we face is the myth that gender equality already exists and that feminism is no longer necessary. That is simply not true. That is why I want to underscore my strong support for the intent of the bill, because the more we do to advance equality, the more inclusive Canada will be and the better off all Canadians will be.

I also agree with the goal of the bill, which is to encourage all sectors of society to mark this week with events and initiatives that address the challenges that Canadian women, as well as individuals of minority gender identity and expression, continue to face. It is just as important that we encourage men and those who do not identify as women to become involved and remain engaged in achieving greater inclusiveness and full gender equality in Canada. These goals need to be pursued not just during gender equality week, but throughout the year.

I also want to take a moment to say that I agree with the amendment that was made in committee, which would have made this week occur in the fourth week of September rather than in October. It makes sense to me, because the month of October is already designated as Women's History Month in Canada, a time when Canadians celebrate the achievements of women and girls as trailblazers throughout our history.

In addition, Women's History Month includes two important commemorative dates for women and girls, the International Day of the Girl on October 11 and Persons Day on October 18, so holding gender equality week in September means it will not overlap with events that are part of Women's History Month. This will give Canadians an additional opportunity to understand gender equality in all its facets, help close the gender gaps that still remain, and increase awareness of some of the emerging issues.

The need to raise awareness is clear. Despite all of the progress we have seen among women and girls since Confederation, our journey toward equality is far from complete.

Consider these challenges. One area where action is needed is in closing the gender wage gap, and I will very much agree with my hon. colleague from the NDP. The fact is that women earn 87¢ for every dollar earned by men, largely as a result of wage inequality between women and men within the same occupation.

A record number of women, a total of 88, were elected in Canada's 2015 general election. This means that women held 26% of the seats at that time. We can be proud of the fact that four women were recently elected to this House, but we still have much work to do to achieve parity in this House.

The most recent statistics from the Board Diversity Council's 2015 report card indicate that women hold only 19.5% of FP500 board seats. I disagree respectfully with the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock that this status quo should remain. We need to be active on this front.

The bill before us today, by creating a gender equality week, will allow us to shine a bright light on the actions we must take to close these gaps. There is always more that we can do to make progress in creating a more inclusive country that benefits everyone, regardless of their gender identity. That is why I am proud of the fact that the Prime Minister is leading by example on the goal of gender equality. The Prime Minister recently broke new ground by appointing a special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues, who will advise him on the development and coordination of the Government of Canada's LGBTQ2 agenda. This will include working with organizations from across the country to promote equality for the community, protect the rights of its members, and address discrimination against them, both historical and current.

The Prime Minister appointed the first gender-balanced federal cabinet in history and the first ever minister fully dedicated to gender issues. Thanks to the commitment of the Prime Minister, we are having a renewed conversation about gender equality and feminism in this country at an elevated level and in many places around the world.

The federal government is also taking strong actions to help deliver on its commitment to equality, including developing a strategy to address gender-based violence, enhancing the gender-based analysis that the hon. member spoke about to ensure that decisions about policies, programs, and legislation advance gender equality, and many other measures.

We also cannot ignore the tremendous step forward that budget 2017 represents for openness and transparency by including a groundbreaking gender statement, something I mentioned earlier, not as an annex but as a full chapter in the budget itself. The gender statement raises the bar in our understanding of how public policies affect men and women differently.

These are all important actions, but as I said earlier, having a gender equality week on the calendar each year would help to accelerate our nation's journey toward equality through greater awareness, understanding, and action.

That is why I encourage all members to support the bill before us today. It will provide us with one more tool to mobilize support for gender equality by engaging the hearts and minds of all Canadians.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak in support of Bill C-309, which would designate the fourth week in September as gender equality week.

Equity, social justice, and compassion for all individuals are core values shared by all Canadians. At every level of government, we as a nation have legislated gender equality, yet women and people of marginalized gender identities and expressions continue to be victims of violence, hate, and discrimination.

Their lived experiences speak to a very different reality than the ideals of gender equality we as Canadians aspire to achieve.

We know, for example, women are more likely to be among the poor. We know indigenous and aboriginal women are disproportionately represented in jails and prisons. We know there is unequal pay for women who do equal work, with equal education. These are just a few reasons why we all have a responsibility to address the challenges that women continue to face in our society.

Allow me to illustrate the importance of establishing gender equality week.

In my riding of Scarborough North, a one-of-a-kind shelter has been in operation for more than 25 years. Juliette's Place, also known as Homeward Family Shelter, provides temporary refuge for women and their children who are escaping from domestic violence. The women assisted by this wonderful organization often face multiple points of oppression. They are women of colour, as well as indigenous and aboriginal women. They are members of the LGBTQI2-S community. They include immigrants, as well as undocumented workers. They come from all backgrounds and socio-economic classes.

Regardless, Julliette's Place is there to help these women and their children, providing them a place to stay upon fleeing from horrific situations of domestic violence.

They also help the women secure longer-term housing, as well as find work, and access other social services. For those with children, Julliette's Place can provide resources for legal custody arrangements. The incredible staff, volunteers, and board members of the shelter serve to advocate for these women and their children.

Julliette's Place is the only shelter of its kind located in north Scarborough, but there are many such organizations in all parts of our country. This is unfortunate. I say it is unfortunate because there is, and continues to be, a need. All too often, organizations like Juliette's Place are just around the comer from where we live, yet they are deemed invisible, invisible until we find out a family member or friend is affected by domestic violence, or we find ourselves as victims.

Gender equality week is a designated time each year for us to highlight the reasons why organizations like Juliette's Place exist, to shine light on the work before us that is unfinished. As Canadians, we must talk about domestic violence, about the barriers to equality that women and people of marginalized gender identities and expressions continue to face.

Juliette's Place also does important outreach work, speaking to businesses and faith groups, and running workshops in schools. It teaches children that violence in the family is unacceptable. This empowers students to approach their teachers and guidance counsellors to talk about abuse in their own homes. School social workers may then have an opportunity to provide specific information to families in need, linking them with supportive resources in their community.

Education can be a first step to prevent violence from occurring or recurring. That is why gender equality week is so important.

There remains much work for us to do with respect to gender equality, as women continue to face barriers in all facets of life.

With that said, some trends are indeed positive. For example, women today are achieving higher levels of education than ever before. Studies by Statistics Canada showed that in 1990, only 14% of women aged 25 to 54 held a university degree. By 2009, this figure had increased to 28%. In fact, today more women than men have earned a university degree.

The 2011 national household survey released by Statistics Canada said that 53.7% of university-educated Canadians aged 25 to 64 were women. Despite these trends, women continue to face tremendous barriers in the workplace.

Women are under-represented in certain fields, most notably in jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Not only are women under-represented, but their average earnings are also considerably lower compared to those of men. Achieving gender equality is a monumental task, one that requires all Canadians to have a better awareness and understanding of the issues at hand.

Indeed, our government is committed to growing the middle class, investing in Canadians, and creating a fair and just society. If we are to work toward achieving these goals, then we must also achieve gender equality. To effectively grow the middle class, we must eliminate the wage gap faced by women. To invest in the success of Canadians, we must address the reality that women and their children continue to be victims of domestic violence. To achieve a fair and just society, we must ensure that all women are treated fairly and justly.

The creation of gender equality week highlights the challenges before us to achieving a society free from violence, hate, and discrimination. It encourages all three levels of government to work together with stakeholders to achieve this goal, stakeholders like academia, the private sector, the media, not-for-profit organizations, and social service agencies like Julliette's Place.

Gender equality week compels us to think about the ways in which inequality affects not just women in general but especially women of colour, indigenous and aboriginal women, members of the LGBTQI2-S community, poor women, and women of minority faith groups.

It makes us realize that achieving gender equality is just as much about achieving social equality for everyone. I stand with women and people of all gender identities and expressions in the fight for equality for all Canadians. I stand in support of Bill C-309 as an important step in the right direction, knowing full well that change is neither quick nor easy, but it begins with courageous conversations.

Through gender equality week, I hope that all Canadians will take a moment to reflect on the progress we have made, the challenges before us, and the change we all want to see. This is a national conversation that we must have, one that recognizes the importance of furthering the project of gender equality for a fairer and more just society. I implore all my colleagues in this House to support this important legislation.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I must say I was really impressed with my colleague's comments on the issue.

Whether it is in the comments of my colleague or the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, the way they articulate the issue shows it is something which they genuinely believe in. In good part, there are issues that will come and go in terms of debate in this chamber, but there is a genuine appreciation that we can do much better on the file of gender equity. Over the years, we have seen significant progress.

Sharon Carstairs was a very important woman in my life, someone who was quite inspirational. I had a big decision to make back in the mid to late 1980s regarding the direction in which I was going to go and putting it in the perspective of a time frame. Sharon Carstairs played a significant role in my making the decision to get involved in politics. At the time I was in the military, trying to determine whether or not to go into politics. We had this wonderful leader who was elected for the Liberal Party in Manitoba. It was something very different. Back in 1988, Sharon Carstairs was the first female to be elected as leader of one of the three main parties, at the provincial or national level.

If we were to canvass members of the House for their opinions, we would find that all of us have had individuals who have impacted our lives.

When I look at this whole issue of gender equality and the amount of inequity that is out there, this is a very powerful motion that we are talking about today. Designating a week could lead to all sorts of things being talked about in classrooms, in the business community, at corporate tables, in union rooms, in different levels of government, in non-profit organizations, or in individual homes. There are many stories that need to be told.

I have talked about Sharon Carstairs because of the profound positive impact that she had on me, but there are other women in my life who have had a huge impact also. We owe it to all to move forward and advance the issue of gender equity.

I am very proud of the fact that we have a Prime Minister who is a feminist. The types of actions he has taken since the last federal election have been very significant. One of the first initiatives he announced was that he was going to have gender parity in the cabinet. That was a first in Canadian history. Governments around the world recognized that particular initiative.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women talked about that gender lens. Those are two words that we often use now. I have seen the term “gender lens” being used more in the last year than in the previous 20 years. There is a heightened sense of awareness when developing public policy, whether it is a budget or a piece of legislation, that we need to apply that gender lens.

I know our Prime Minister pushed heavily on this. We have seen the cabinet respond to that. The Minister of Finance, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women indicated, applied the gender lens to the most recent budget, which we have been debating for the last couple of months. That in itself will have a significant impact on the types of decisions we are making.

Quite often we hear criticisms about the government's appointments, from opposition members. I am actually quite happy with the way in which the appointments have been taking place. The other day, when I was responding to a question from the opposition in regard to appointments, I made reference to the fact that, of 122 appointments, 60% were females. I do not have at the top of my head the number of appointments and the actual gender breakdown with Stephen Harper's government, but I suspect we would find that, through this Prime Minister, this is yet another initiative that does not just talk about it but actually is a tangible action toward gender equity. We have the cabinet, we have the gender lens, and we have the appointment process. Through that appointment process, we talk about the importance of transparency and accountability; we talk about the level of expertise among the individuals who are out there. The government needs to make that extra effort in ensuring that we take down some of those barriers, because there are barriers in place. Some of them are more difficult to recognize than others, but the bottom line is that barriers are in place. I appreciate those individuals who have brought us to the point where we are today.

Now, my colleague brought in a motion that ultimately would see recognition being given on an annual basis for a duration of one week. The question I posed for him was in regard to how we can incorporate it into school classrooms, possibly. When we have awareness bills, resolutions, or motions that come to the floor, one of the primary reasons for them, I would argue, is that they allow for all the different stakeholders that we could possibly imagine to take advantage of the sort of leadership that is coming out of the House of Commons on an issue such as this and to actually utilize it. The example I used for my colleague is that a progressive teacher would say, “In Ottawa we have recognized a national gender equity week, and we want to talk about that in our classroom”. Those are the types of actions that I believe we will see take place.

I also believe that, as members, we will often talk about the different issues, and this is one of those issues on which we have the opportunity to do so, whether through ten percenters or householders or just discussions we have with our constituents, where we can actually promote some of the good work that is done inside the House of Commons. By doing that and by raising this around different individuals and groups whom we meet, we can in fact influence and ultimately, hopefully, raise the profile of the issue. The bottom line is that it is about education; it is about looking for barriers and coming up with creative ways to take down some of those barriers, so that there is a more equal playing field.

We have heard some statistics even in this evening's debate in terms of the percentages in education and the types of marks and different types of professions. Earlier today we heard the leader of the Conservative Party, a very bold leader who has done so much and no doubt has inspired many women to take hold of what has been accomplished, knowing full well that they can be just as engaged and that women play an absolutely critical role, an equal role, and some would argue, even a larger role. If members talk to my daughter, she will tell them about that.

I appreciate the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts on this important issue.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean. I want to remind the hon. member that she will have about six minutes before we end the debate.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing this incredibly important bill to the House. I had the privilege of sitting on the status of women committee when the bill came before our committee. I want to thank our colleagues on committee who worked hard on this as well.

When we talk about a gender equality week, what we are really talking about is bringing people together across the country, whether it is civil society, parliamentarians, researchers, or other groups to be able to multiply the conversation, to start a real engagement on gender equality in Canada.

We know from many studies that women and men in Canada are not equal today. We can see it here in the House where 27% of elected members are women. We see it in other kinds of leadership bodies and on corporate boards. I am very pleased at what our government is doing in Bill C-25 about women on corporate boards to make sure that companies have a comply or explain model. They have to have diversity policies.

I am particularly pleased at what the Minister of Science has done in the past week regarding women in research. Universities that do not have a diversity policy within the next two years and reach their targets will no longer get federal government research funding for Canada research chairs. We have tried many other ways. This is the kind of thing that is needed, because we have not seen significant increases in gender equality in Canada in several decades in many different fields.

We on the status of women committee right now are studying women's economic security. We have had a number of different groups come before us. We know that women in Canada today are not making the same amount of money as men do for the same kind of work.

I chaired the committee on pay equity. We came out with a very proactive report which calls for proactive pay equity legislation which recognizes that pay equity is a human right. I am very proud that our government has responded positively to our report and is going to be bringing in pay equity legislation. This is the kind of thing that will help in terms of people who are working in similar fields.

We also know that the wage gap includes a number of different factors that are not necessarily just about pay equity, for instance, precarious work. There are more women working in minimum wage jobs. There are more women working in part-time jobs. Today we heard in the status of women committee that in the bottom seven deciles, that is zero to $70,000, there are more women earning that amount and as soon as we get over $70,000 there are more men. It is clear that we have a long way to go, particularly when it comes to women in the STEM professions.

When it comes to the jobs that pay good money, when it comes to the kinds of good jobs that create Canadian prosperity, women are not choosing those jobs because of socialization or because of a lack of role models. There are a number of things we need to do to improve the situation for some of the young women in our communities.

I am very proud to have had the opportunity in my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean to meet with several girls in projects that allow girls to reach their full potential. I am speaking of projects like Girls World at the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, or the Girl Guides, whom I met with. It was quite inspiring. These young girls are so articulate. They believe that they can be anything and do anything. This is something we need to make not just an aspiration for these young women, but an actual reality.

Later, one of the young girls, a 12-year-old, wrote to me and asked if I could create a junior youth council. Apparently, when she is playing with her dolls at home, she pretends the dolls are in Parliament. This is the kind of thing we need to promote. A young 12-year-old girl is dreaming of being in government, of being a member of Parliament, but at what point is that aspiration lost? At what point does that young girl think it is not something for her? We still do not see as many women winning nominations and being elected to this place as we ought to see.

I will use myself as an example. When I was in grade 10, I joined the science club. I decided I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I did an entire report on how to become an astrophysicist. I signed up for calculus and all of the science courses, but somehow between grade 10 and grade 12, I lost my interest in science. I received my highest mark in math, but I was telling people at that point “I hate math. I am terrible at math.” It is something that I continued to repeat over and over for decades, that I am terrible at math. I saw my report card. I had 93% in grade 12 math.

Somewhere along the way, young girls are socialized to think that science is not something they want to do. I am very pleased to have studied history and to now be in politics, but we need to create a world where young girls and young women have the same opportunities. We need to ensure that the barriers are no longer there so they can achieve the kinds of things they dream about when they are 12 years old and that somehow, along the way, we see that inequality end.

When I talk to young students and tell them that men make $1 for every 73¢ a woman makes, they gasp. They look and me and ask how that is fair. Even young children know that it is not fair.

I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this incredibly important bill before the House. I hope it will receive support across all party lines, because this is an opportunity for us to really make sure we are doing something about the gender gap in Canada.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight in support of a successful national inquiry into the tragedy of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people. Canada needs this inquiry to succeed. We need to get to the bottom of why so many women disappeared. We need to support their families. We need to fix our social institutions to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent further tragedies like this.

It is in that spirit that I asked both on Friday and this afternoon if the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs is doing everything she can to have the inquiry succeed. Do the commissioners have full access to inquiry funding, and if not, who is delaying approval of those expenditures? The minister refused to answer. On Friday, she also answered, “We are confident that the commission has the tools, the resources, and the networks to ensure that voices of families are heard and that they have the support they need”, but that is not what the families and survivors are saying.

Yesterday the inquiry received a failing grade from the Native Women's Association of Canada, and also yesterday, 30 families and indigenous leaders wrote an open letter to the chief commissioner. They said that the process is in serious trouble due to delays and a lack of transparency and communication. Both reports issued yesterday suggested that the approval of the budget, as well as the lack of access to funds, may have contributed to those delays.

That is the question I am repeating tonight, because that is wholly within the realm of the Liberal government. It is not the independent inquiry but the government that has the responsibility to make sure the resources it promised are flowing to the commissioners and to the inquiry so they can do their vital work.

In the Native Women's Association of Canada report card, it said, “It is likely that outside factors, such as the approval of the budget as well as a lack of access to funds, may have contributed to the delays”. In an open letter published yesterday, an entire section was dedicated to the question of the independence of the inquiry. It says,

We were promised an independent inquiry, but it appears that many questions remain about the role of the Privy Council Office (PCO) in decision making.

These are the questions I put on the floor again tonight, the same questions. These are the exact words that were written in the open letter:

1. Does the [Privy Council Office] approve expenditures or does the Inquiry?

2. Has the Inquiry been hampered in its ability to support families or its work because of the [Privy Council Office]?

3. Has any of the budget for the Inquiry been spent to support [Privy Council Office] offices or civil service staff?

4. Can you demonstrate that the [Privy Council Office] has not or is not impairing the independence of this Inquiry?

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Brampton West Ontario


Kamal Khera LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, it is incredibly important to remind one another, and indeed all Canadians, why we launched the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. It is because for far too many families, a mother, sister, daughter, niece, or friend has gone missing, and they need answers.

The terms of reference for the inquiry make it extremely clear that families should, and must, be at the centre. They are the families that fought so hard to get this national inquiry in the first place. It was their voices, their strength, their courage, and their well-being. The point of this national inquiry is not only to produce a report. It is also about helping families heal and have their voices heard, and through them, the voices of all the women and girls we have lost.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report lays out three main stages on the path to reconciliation. First is truth telling, second is healing, and third is reconciliation. If we are to advance reconciliation in Canada, we must never forget to help one another heal.

What we have heard to date is raw and intensely personal. It has left no doubt in our minds about the urgent need to examine the underlying and deep systemic challenges of violence, including racism and sexism, and the sustained impact of colonialism.

We also know that we cannot wait for a national inquiry to make recommendations before we act, which is why our government has already taken immediate action on root causes, with investments in women's shelters, housing, education, and child welfare reform. This includes expanding the network of shelters to include five new centres for families fleeing violence on reserve, and $2.6 billion over five years for kindergarten to grade 12 education on reserve. It includes $554.3 million over two years from budget 2016 to address urgent housing needs on reserve plus an additional $4 billion over 10 years from budget 2017 to build and improve housing and other community infrastructure.

This national inquiry was purposely developed to be independent so it would be free from political interference and so the voices of families would be heard. That is what is happening now, and it is up to the commission to take the feedback it is receiving and incorporate it.

As the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has said, we look forward to hearing from the commission, and we are ready to continue supporting it. Again, I want to reiterate that our government is committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with absolutely every word the member just said, but none of them has anything to do with my question, other than my very first line that said that, yes, we want the inquiry to succeed and we need it to succeed. None of that says anything about the government's responsibility to make sure that the inquiry has the money it needs and that the government funding approval process is not starving and emasculating the commission.

Maybe the member has good reassuring answers for me, but this was all over the press yesterday. It is an extremely high-profile issue. I cannot believe that the minister's representative is not ready to answer these questions.

Does the PCO approve expenditures, or does the inquiry? Has the inquiry been hampered in its ability to support families or its work because of the PCO? Can the member demonstrate that the PCO has not or is not impairing the independence of the inquiry? It is time for truth telling.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Kamal Khera Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, let me reaffirm that our government is committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. This government has taken immediate steps and action on root causes with investments in women's shelters, housing, education, and child welfare.

The terms of reference for the inquiry make it extremely clear that families should and must be at the centre, the families that fought so hard to get the national inquiry in the first place. We have stated that the commission must also ensure that the voices of families are heard in a culturally appropriate and trauma-informed way. We made the national inquiry independent so it could be free from political interference and so the voices of families will be heard.

That is what is happening, and it is up to the commission to take the feedback it is receiving and incorporate it. We look forward to hearing from the commission and are ready to support it and to continue to support it.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, on May 3, on behalf of the women and men who serve their country in uniform as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, I asked the Prime Minister a question. I asked him how many more times the Minister of National Defence has to mislead Canadians before the Prime Minister will force him to resign. The response I received on behalf of our women and men in uniform was an insult to the service they provide to our country. It is time for the Prime Minister to understand that Canadians expect him to do more than just show up for question period one day a week and endlessly repeat mindless talking points prepared for him by his handler, Gerald Butts—the same mindless talking points, I might add, that I should not have to expect to hear during this adjournment debate.

I challenge the Prime Minister's unethical support for a member of his party who misled voters in the 2015 election concerning his service record and who continues to mislead Canadians by repeating false claims when he thinks he can get away with doing so.

Having grossly inflated his role in one of the largest Canadian military operations in recent history, the Minister of National Defence should have resigned. After he failed to do the honourable thing and fall on his sword, the Prime Minister should have fired him.

The Minister of National Defence has lost the confidence of the women and men he was appointed to serve. The Prime Minister, by refusing to fire the Minister of National Defence, has lost the confidence of our NATO allies. Defence expenditures are now at their lowest level since the end of the last great war.

These are the facts.

As the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I have Garrison Petawawa in my riding. Petawawa is home to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. During operation Medusa, in the war in Afghanistan, it was the Royal Canadian Regiment that bore the brunt of the fighting. Members of 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment were honoured with the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation, which is only awarded for extraordinary deeds or activities restricted to war or warlike conditions in an active theatre of operations.

Out in the field during operation Medusa, the battle group was commanded by then major general Omer Lavoie, the commander of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment.

The Canadian component of his force comprised the 1RCR, a complement of 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, medics from 2 Field Ambulance, all from Petawawa, and various support staff in undetermined roles, including the self-proclaimed architect of the operation, a reservist with no military training, with an assigned rank, for a total of about 1,050 Canadians.

What is known for sure is that five soldiers in that fight received Canada's third highest award for bravery, the Medal of Military Valour, while another, Corporal Sean Teal, received the Star of Military Valour, Canada's second highest award, just beneath the Victoria Cross. One other soldier was mentioned in the dispatches.

This is how the Minister of National Defence chose to inaccurately describe his role in operation Medusa: “On my first deployment to Kandahar in 2006, I was...the architect of...Operation Medusa where we removed...1,500 Taliban fighters off the battlefield. And I was [proudly] on the main assault...”.

Much has been written about this effort to take credit for whatever minor role the minister may or may not have played; however, what is particularly outrageous for the soldiers doing the actual fighting was the claim by the Minister of National Defence to being on the main assault.

Claiming to be on the main assault is an insult to every member of Charles Company, 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. Charles Company of 1RCR is the most decorated, most bloodied company in the serving Canadian Forces. They earned their reputation by being on the main assault.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Saint-Jean Québec


Jean Rioux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.

As I had the opportunity to emphasize Monday, May 8, 2017, in the House, I have spent the past few months working with the Minister of National Defence, and I have been a privileged witness to his integrity and the determination with which he discharges his mandate.

The primary responsibility of the minister, and of our government, is to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces have the training, equipment, and support they need to carry out the missions they are assigned here in Canada and around the world.

Over the last year and a half, our minister has sought to achieve this very objective. It is what he strives to do every day. The Minister of National Defence is working to discharge that mandate with the greatest respect for our men and women in uniform.

That being said, the member opposite is questioning his expertise and his role during Operation Medusa. The minister has admitted that he made a mistake in describing his role. He retracted that statement and apologized in the House.

The minister's comments were in no way meant to diminish the role of his former senior officers and comrades in arms. He gave them a heartfelt apology. The minister is proud to have served as part of an extraordinary team of Canadian, American, and Afghan soldiers who successfully carried out Operation Medusa. His commanding officer in Afghanistan, General Fraser, considered him to be one of the best intelligence officers he ever worked with.

He said:

He was the best single Canadian intelligence asset in theatre, and his hard work, personal bravery, and dogged determination undoubtedly saved a multitude of Coalition lives. Through his courage and dedication, [the minister] has single-handedly changed the face of intelligence gathering and analysis in Afghanistan.

He went on to say:

He tirelessly and selflessly devoted himself to piecing together the ground truth on tribal and Taliban networks in the Kandahar area, and his analysis was so compelling that it drove a number of large scale theatre-resourced efforts, including Operation Medusa...

Retired Colonel Chris Vernon of the British army said:

You know, without [the minister's] input as a critical player, major player, a pivotal player I'd say, Medusa wouldn't have happened. We wouldn't have the intelligence and the tribal picture to put the thing together.

The Minister of National Defence made a tremendous contribution in his deployments to Afghanistan and is currently making an even greater contribution within our government.

Over the past 18 months, he has contributed to significantly changing our mission in Iraq, and this mission is producing solid results. He launched the most ambitious defence policy review in the past 20 years. He established solid and effective ties with all our allies, including within NATO and especially with our American neighbours, our most important military and economic partner.

With the help of his cabinet colleagues, he made major improvements to the procurement process.

I am proud of what he has accomplished and I am happy to work by his side. With the help of the minister's vision, leadership, and hard work, I am confident that our government will ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces have the tools and funding they need.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is also an insult to Bravo company, which joined the main assault after Charlie company was nearly decimated. The Minister of National Defence's claim of being on the main assault is an insult also to the five members of Charlie Company who lost their lives, and the 40 wounded comrades.

What is clear is that the decision by the Minister of National Defence, on more than one occasion, to mislead Canadians about something so important as the most significant battle fought by Canadians since the Korean War means the minister, and by extension the Prime Minister for refusing to fire him, cannot be trusted to do what is right and honourable. When the minister makes another public pronouncement, how will Canadians know whether he is telling the truth or merely making a mistake?

On behalf of all Canadians, the House deserves real answers to the questions Canadians would like to have answers for and not for the mindless talking points that characterize the Prime Minister's question period.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


Jean Rioux Liberal Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister apologized in the House for what he said, but I get the distinct impression that, even if he apologized 10 or 100 times, it would never be enough for the members opposite.

As I mentioned earlier, I have the privilege of working with the minister on a regular, if not daily, basis. Last Friday, I had the opportunity to accompany him on an extended tour of Quebec's flooded areas. I saw him talk with many members of our Canadian Armed Forces. Everywhere we went, the minister was greeted by our troops with respect and enthusiasm. The connection between them was obvious.

I know that the minister has a good understanding of the needs of our troops and the challenges they face. I also know that the members of our military trust him because they know that, like them, he served our country. They know that they can always count on him to help them better carry out their missions.

The minister has the support of our troops, his colleagues, and the Prime Minister, and he has promised to do great things for our country and the armed forces.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:51 p.m.)