Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-309, an act to establish a gender equality week in Canada.
One might ask why the bill so important. We are in 2017. There should be a standard notion that men, women, gender non-conforming individuals, and transgender people are all equal. We all know that is not the case. Although our government has taken quite a few steps to ensure we have risen the profile of women in our gender-paired cabinet, the number of women in caucus, and the number of women in the House, plenty of work still needs to be done.
I will give the House some examples from my life. In case members have not noticed, I am a black woman in the House of Commons. It is quite rare still have black women in this place. I am one of two black women in the House.
In my role, I stand on the shoulders of many who came before me. However, when we look at women in business and politics, statistics show that only 20% to 30% of them are in senior level positions, sit on boards, or in positions of power. Less than 10% of women with disabilities, indigenous women, racialized women, women of the LBTQ2, transgender, non-conforming, religious minorities are in these positions. Maybe 3% to 4% of individuals of these particular minority groups are on boards or are in positions of power. That needs to change.
The barriers these individuals face need to be removed. How do we start to do that? By first acknowledging the situation, which is women, especially minority women and vulnerable women, are not afforded the same opportunities as men.
I have two daughters and a son. It is interesting in my household. My son is a math and science guy but he is also a dancer. He does ballet, acro, and has just taken up jazz. My daughters are very focused. My eldest daughter is going off to law school. My middle daughter is very much into the arts but also very much math and science oriented. They have parents who really push education, who push the fact that they have the ability to do anything they want to do.
This bill would allow others who might not be afforded the same opportunities as my children to see those examples throughout a very targeted, very specific demonstration of the capability of women and girls. When they grow up, they will be able to choose what they want to do.
I want to speak specifically now to my role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development. In that role, we have made it very clear that we will put women and girls at the centre of everything we do. We know from various studies that if women are allowed to rise to their full potential, if we invest in women and girls with respect to sustainable development goals, education, health care, and reduce poverty, there can be a $12 trillion to $28 trillion injection into our global GDP.
What does this mean? It means that at the current pace, we are not tapping into the great potential women and girls bring to our economy.
It is not only about dollars and cents, but sometimes it is best to speak about dollars and cents. I am a business major, so I like to think of the return on the investments that we make in everything. When we make those investments in women and girls, it is important to know that most often it is the women who return that investment to their communities, sometimes in the fold of 80% to 90%.
They return that investment by making sure their children are okay, that their families are okay, and making sure that their communities are okay. In fact, oftentimes when lower-developed countries would make this investment in women, the women would take what little resources they had, and they would save it and then share it with other women to make sure that those other women had opportunities.
A gender equality week would allow us to profile the stories of these women. It would allow us to say that these are the things that women are doing around the world; women who have the means and the capabilities to make change, and women who are taking what little they have and making change. It is very important we highlight these opportunities that women can use to make their communities and countries better.
What have we done? I have explained that as a Black woman in this House, there is still a lot further that we need to go. This government has been very deliberate in taking a whole-of-government approach to looking at the issues around gender equality. We have made investments in child care and affordable housing. We have made investments in social infrastructure and transit, making sure that people, women in particular, can get to and from work. We have made investments in shelters to ensure that there is adequate space for women who are fleeing violence and particularly damaging situations. We have made investments in a gender-based violence strategy and the Minister of Status of Women had the opportunity to present that earlier this week. We have made investments in seniors in well.
All of these investments allow us to look at, through various lenses, the barriers that women face when they want to embark on a career, start a family, and make choices about what they want to do with their lives. This allows them to get some of those barriers out of the way. Again, a week focused on gender equality would give us an opportunity to highlight, and amplify some of the necessities to ensure that barriers that face women, barriers that face minority women, and barriers that are in front of various vulnerable groups of women are not only removed, but also that the time is taken to address and study them.
What this bill really encourages Canadians to do is to recognize there are issues in terms of gender equality in this country, and also to take the opportunity to recognize that rights of women are fundamental human rights. There is capacity for our government and for society to integrate women's issues into everything they do, and it is something that we take seriously as a government. We do it here domestically, and we are also putting it into our international development policy to ensure that women and girls stay front and centre, and that gender equality is a human rights issue as well.