Madam Speaker, today I am speaking to Motion No. 58 as the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women.
From the outset I want to state that our party will vote against this motion. Nevertheless, I want to reiterate loud and clear in the House that I am a feminist.
It is clear that this motion is completely useless since the government has already asked the Department of National Defence to integrate GBA+ into its policy development. We are also studying this integration at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
The motion states that GBA+ provides a rigorous methodology for assessing systemic inequalities. However, there is no data indicating that it really works nor is there anything to confirm that this analytical process is a failure.
I will approach this topic by providing a brief history of GBA+, by talking about organizations where the problem is still quite serious and by sharing a few of my hopes for a safer future for women.
Here is a brief overview. In 1971, Canada created the position of minister responsible for status of women, then, in 1976, it created the Office of the Coordinator of the Status of Women. In 1981, Canada ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was adopted by the UN in 1979. In 1995, the federal government launched a plan to eventually implement GBA, but without the “+”, in all federal agencies and departments. In 2004, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women was established with the support of all parties, including the Bloc Québécois. In 2009, the Auditor General released a report at the request of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women indicating that the GBA had not been properly implemented in various departments. In 2011, the government transitioned to GBA+ where the “+” included other factors, such as gender identity. The Auditor General released another report in 2016 in which he stated that more had to be done. Budget 2018 was intended to be a feminist budget that sought to achieve results and improve oversight with respect to attaining gender equality.
As it happens, that was around the same time that the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence completely ignored the allegations of sexual misconduct against former chief of the defence staff General Vance.
The Department of National Defence has a team of 23 employees who are already working on integrating GBA+ into the department and the Canadian Armed Forces. The 2017 defence policy entitled “Strong, Secure, Engaged” stated that the department must integrate GBA+ in all defence activities across the Canadian Armed Forces and the department, including the design and implementation of programs, services that support our personnel, equipment procurement and operational planning.
However, six years after Justice Deschamps released her scathing report on sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces, the government is under tremendous pressure from the opposition for not having addressed the allegations against General Vance.
Essentially, this motion is completely pointless. If the government wants to increase the number of women and minorities in the Canadian Armed Forces, it should start by proving a safe work environment free from sexual misconduct and assault.
However, the facts continue to speak for themselves. Let us then examine the numerous examples that speak to the inaction of Liberal and Conservative governments, who have consistently failed to fight sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, whether it be in the Canadian Armed Forces, in penitentiaries, in the RCMP or, of course, in the Canadian Border Services Agency.
As a matter of fact, I spoke about this just this afternoon before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The government showed it was incompetent at handling cases of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, penitentiaries and the Canadian Border Services Agency. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence turned a blind eye to allegations of sexual misconduct against the former chief of the defence staff, General Vance.
The government is trying to protect its image as a feminist government, but the Liberals are not taking any concrete action to deal with systemic problems, apart from spouting talking points. Their veneer has scraped off and is badly chipped. If the Liberals want to increase the percentage of women in the Canadian Armed Forces, they must start by offering them a work environment free from harassment and sexual misconduct.
Liberals have had the Deschamps report in their hands since 2015. However, according to former Justice Deschamps herself, they have yet to implement the measures it recommends. This motion will do absolutely nothing to help victims of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and racism.
The federal government has consistently failed to protect women and other groups. The government has demonstrated its utter incompetence in addressing sexual misconduct in the military. It has had the Deschamps report since 2015 and still has not implemented its key recommendations.
We know how that turned out. Senior officers have been abusing their authority and several generals are accused of sexual misconduct.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence have known about General Vance, the former chief of the defence staff, since 2018 but did absolutely nothing until the media broke the story in February 2021.
This was clearly demonstrated in 2015 by former justice Marie Deschamps who released a scathing report on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, where she found a sexist culture that turns a blind eye to many instances of misconduct.
The RCMP has also been plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct, including a scathing report by former justice Michel Bastarache. In that report, Justice Bastarache wrote that the culture of the RCMP was toxic and tolerated the misogynistic and homophobic attitudes of some of its leaders and members. He found that the problem was systemic and that addressing the situation would require a major overhaul.
In October 2020, the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada issued a devastating report on sexual violence in federal penitentiaries. It determined that the organization was indifferent to this reality. According to the correctional investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Service Canada, CSC, turned a blind eye to the situation because the organization considered this to be normal behaviour in prison. The correctional investigator also noted that LGBTQ+ groups, women and persons with disabilities were more likely to be assaulted, but CSC had no strategy.
In May 2020, Radio-Canada reported that the Canada Border Services Agency had conducted more than 500 investigations into allegations of misconduct by its officers, including allegations of theft, corruption, abuse of power, criminal association and sexual harassment. As an example, some officers were using their position to get the phone number of women crossing the border.
We can only hope that the government takes meaningful action. For now, there is still no report on the horizon on cases of misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces at the Standing Committee on National Defence. As for the Bastarache report, it is lingering at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Fortunately, we are now studying this report on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces at the Standing Committee on Status of Women. We can only hope that the government takes meaningful action. However, no report has been produced yet.
The Liberals had no problem filibustering to prevent Liberal staffers Zita Astravas and Elder Marques from appearing in committee. I know this because I was filling in for another member at that committee when it happened.
From the testimony of Elder Marques, we learned that everyone around Trudeau was aware, but Trudeau continues to deny it. When other staffers were summoned by the House—