Before I begin, I would like to commend the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for the incredible work that he has done. He made a concerted effort to work with all members in a spirit of collegiality to reach a broad consensus on the need to pass Bill C-309, which is an important symbolic gesture for Canada and which will result in an extensive public awareness campaign.
Every year, we will spend a week marking the importance of achieving gender equality in Canada and throughout the world in order to put an end to the systemic discrimination that threatens women on many fronts.
Gender equality week will be a time to shed some light on the obstacles women constantly face in their daily lives and to let Canadians know what they can do to advance this cause.
I mentioned systemic discrimination, and I think everyone here is familiar with the obstacles and the various forms of discrimination that women face in their personal and professional lives. These obstacles are outlined in some detail in the bill's preamble, which describes the various types of challenges women face. It reads:
...in Canada, women are more likely than men to be victims of gender-based violence, including sexual assault and intimate partner violence;
Whereas Indigenous women, be they First Nation, Métis or Inuit, are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and sexual exploitation;
...Whereas Canadian women face barriers in pursuing and completing post-secondary education and pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
...Whereas Canadian women face challenges in being promoted to executive or board management positions, and those who do reach such positions are often paid less than men in similar positions;
Those are just some of the things that women in Canada and abroad experience. I thank the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for including them in this bill.
We know we have to raise people's awareness of these problems and tackle them by adopting pragmatic policies that position us to support women throughout their lives, to provide them with services that are flexible enough to adapt to the new professional and day-to-day realities facing Canadian women, to enable women to achieve their professional goals, whatever they might be, and to end violence against women. This bill was introduced by a male member of the Liberal caucus, which I see as a good sign. More men need to stand up for women's equality in Canada.
Awareness is key. We need to promote a cultural and ideological ideal. We need to build a society that fights for gender equality and does not perpetuate stereotypes and their preconceived notions of inferiority and natural tendency.
This is another step toward dismantling social concepts of masculinity and femininity that use poorly defined behavioural standards to restrict how people interact and participate in public and private spaces.
We know that every aspect of society benefits when different points of view are expressed. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women, of which I have the honour of being a member, heard many accounts describing the benefits of having women on boards of directors, in politics, and in every aspect of management in our businesses and public institutions.
Businesses are more successful and generally project a more positive image when they have many women on staff as well as in management positions. This is not a statistic, it is a fact, and yet women are often left out of positions where they might contribute to decision-making, which is unfortunate for society as a whole.
The time has come to do away with the prejudices and concerns around hiring women that stem from preconceived notions. Bill C-309 can serve as a catalyst toward helping fulfill Canada's commitment to gender equality education and awareness.
Everyone knows that to achieve true gender equality and to lift countless women out of the cycle of poverty, discrimination, and marginalization, there needs to be a major cultural shift in how we recognize women's contribution to society, both in their public and private lives.
It is important that we recognize the work that goes into supporting the family unit. This work, often undervalued, continues to fall on women because traditional gender roles still result in women often being the ones to provide care. This prevents women from entering the workforce and permanently delays or degrades their economic potential and, by extension, the economic potential of the entire country, through loss of talent. We need to reverse this trend so that women can work in the same areas and have the same responsibilities as men, both at home and in the workplace, so they can be empowered, become independent and fully achieve their social and economic potential.
The federal government, with its many initiatives, is working to improve gender equality in Canada and around the world, including through the following investments: $7 billion over 10 years to create and maintain high-quality child care spaces; over $11.2 billion over 11 years for an inclusive national housing strategy; the new tax-free Canada child benefit, especially helpful for families headed by single mothers; a new $40-million fund from the Business Development Bank of Canada for technology companies headed by women, made up of venture capital and growth capital; and an additional $10 million for regional initiatives to help women start businesses.
This bill will support the commendable efforts already underway by officially institutionalizing gender equality. It will create an annual week recognizing women’s equality in Canada, so that gender equality will finally be recognized as a cultural norm. As well, by promoting women’s empowerment, the bill will ensure that we can finally see more women on corporate boards, more women in politics, and more women in science and technology. This will be the ideological centrepiece for a series of pragmatic, feminist policies.
In closing, I wish to point out that Bill C-309 is a very important step toward launching a comprehensive and extended awareness-raising campaign on gender equality. The only way to drive real change is to educate and raise awareness on this issue. I hope that my colleagues will vote in favour of this bill, with amendments, in order to support our ongoing efforts to achieve gender equality in Canada. The more we fight for this cause, the more Canadian women will benefit.