I am pleased this government supports adding genetic characteristics as an explicit prohibited ground for discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Minister of Justice has written to the premiers of the provinces and territories to get their support. In her correspondence with the premiers, the minister wrote:
In conclusion, I reaffirm the high importance that the provinces and territories take the necessary steps within their respective jurisdictions to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of genetic characteristics.
With an interlocking scheme of federal, provincial, and territorial legislation, our country has achieved comprehensive human rights measures prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and others.
The prohibition of genetic discrimination should be added to that proud human rights heritage. My plea today, on behalf of all Canadians who have genetic characteristics, is that every premier in our country would join the federal government, and take the action required to do so.
As a woman who has spent 28 years in political life, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to encourage more women to get involved in what I consider an honourable profession, where it really is possible to make a difference in the lives of others, especially the most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, I have observed over the years why they may choose not to go down that path. It takes a strong individual to stand up and fight back against bullying of any sort, especially if the bully is in a position of authority. While I refer to politics as a profession in which women may choose not to get involved because of these tactics, the harassing and belittling is not limited to politics, nor is it limited to women, but it is safe to say it is more pervasive among men toward women. The question is, why? Why do some people feel it is okay to treat another individual as less than equal?
As I continue to encourage more women to get involved, I tell them of my positive experiences, and that in my opinion there is no profession more rewarding. I also say to them my encouragement does not mean I think women do a better job; instead, we do a different job, based on our experiences.
I thank the Prime Minister for the opportunity to serve in a gender-balanced cabinet. It reinforced my belief that when men and women work together, respect each other, and are treated equally, the best work can be accomplished.
In my 28 years of political life, I have seen and heard it all. I have dealt with and heard about experiences of others that should never have occurred. As I look at my daughter and granddaughter in the gallery, and know that in the 2015 election only 88 of the 338 members of Parliament elected were women, just 26%, the fight for gender equality is far from over.
While some in-roads have been made, it is a fight that all of us, men and women, should take on, so that daughters and granddaughters in our country can have the opportunity to serve and make a difference. As the Prime Minister says repeatedly, better is always possible. By working together, better is indeed possible.
I have said to anyone who will listen that I am blessed with an amazing family. As they watch today from the gallery and at home, I thank them for their tremendous support during the entire 28 years I have been in political life, support that never wavered. They knew how much I appreciated the opportunity I have been given, and that I thrived on it.
Having served in provincial politics prior to being elected in 2008 as a member of Parliament, we knew as a family the job would take me away from home more often than I would be at home. As an MP representing a riding of 240 communities, even when I was in Newfoundland and Labrador, it meant I was rarely home.
My husband of 43 years, Howard, has put up with such a crazy lifestyle, and knowing how much I enjoyed my job, he campaigned vigorously every election to help me keep it. In fact, I always said it was we who ran.
He has been the stalwart in our family: a husband, a dad, a father-in-law, and now a poppy to Katie May, Meadow, Ruby Jude, and Elliott to whom we say, “We love you to the moon and back”. Katie May's response is always “I love you more”.
I thank you for always making me feel you understood how important my job was. Thank you as well for showing me that, as important as it was, you knew it was never more important than you. I am so looking forward to spending more time at home making memories with you for many, many years to come.