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.