Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed about the ruling that was just handed down. Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, was introduced in the House of Commons by the leader of the official opposition. This bill would repeal the measures in this year's Conservative budget that eroded pay equity.
It is inconceivable that in 2010, a Canadian government can attack a right as fundamental as equal pay for equal work. The measures in this budget do away with pay equity for Canadian women in a reprehensible way. What is more, Canadians are starting to have a better idea of the sneaky, roundabout way the Conservatives govern. The ultimate goal of Bill C-471 is to restore pay equity as a human right.
It makes no sense to put pay equity on the bargaining table. One cannot put a price on legitimate human rights and turn them into bargaining chips. That is why all the members of this House should wholeheartedly support this bill, which seeks to correct this serious injustice, and state officially that equal pay for equal work is still a fundamental right.
I want to share some statistics that should give us pause. Women who work full-time earn only 70.5% as much as men in the same job category who also work full-time year-round. In addition, women of colour earn only 64% and aboriginal women earn a frightening 46% of what men earn. Most women still hold what are known as “women's jobs” in teaching, nursing and health care, office work and retail sales.
With the measures in this year's budget, the Conservatives are trying to make women pay for their economic woes. I want to talk about how the Conservative vision, as reflected in the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, will affect the well-being of Canadian women. For starters, these measures limit pay equity for more women. To be able to claim pay equity, a group must first show that it is 70% female, which further limits the number of eligible groups. In other words, if a company has less than 70% women, the law does not apply. As a result, many women would no longer be eligible.
Furthermore, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the Conservative government made pay equity part of the bargaining process. But it gets worse: unions face fines of up to $50,000 for encouraging a woman who has been discriminated against or encouraging one of its members to file a complaint regarding pay equity.
Thus, women are being deprived of their right to be represented. They cannot even turn to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. With all these obstacles, the Conservative government has the nerve to call this pay equity legislation progressive. Instead, this measure is regressive, as are most of the measures the Conservatives have brought forward since they came to power, measures to appease their right-leaning electoral base.
It is completely clear that the Conservative government has no intention of addressing gender inequity in Canada. Its track record when it comes to women thoroughly reveals its intentions. Its position regarding maternal health in developing countries is very telling. And we can see other examples in the measures taken regarding Status of Women Canada: the elimination of funding for public interest groups that advocate for women, the elimination of the court challenges program and the repeated attacks on the firearms registry. The list goes on. These are just a few examples that clearly demonstrate this government's backwards attitude to women.
Bill C-471 is about equality, respect and the protection of human rights. Above all, these rights can never be negotiated. This excellent legislative measure is necessary and it must be supported by all members. It already has the support of the majority of Canadians. This legislation is beneficial for and important to the women of this country who must always fight to advance their fundamental rights.
In its March 2003 presentation to the Pay Equity Task Force, the Canadian Human Rights Commission recognized that fundamental rights are closely tied to women's economic well-being. Discrimination is one factor that leads to their economic disadvantage and the gender wage gap is one indicator of inequality for women. The link is obvious.
Only an effective and efficient pay equity policy can contribute to women's equality.
Our legislative measure, Bill C-471, is based on the principle that pay equity is a human right. In fact, it is one of the earliest human rights recognized as an international standard. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has stated that pay equity is enshrined in many international agreements to which Canada has been bound for decades. We must highlight the quasi-constitutional nature of human rights, their pre-eminence over other types of rights and the need to interpret them liberally and progressively.
Furthermore, still according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canada has also signed recent international agreements that recognize the need for comprehensive equality action plans coupled with transparent and accountable institutions of government in order to move the equality agenda forward.
To the Canadian Human Rights Commission, human rights and the right to pay equity are universal and indivisible. Human rights, including the right to pay equity, must be the same everywhere and for everyone. Inextricably linked to equality, pay equity is also intended to be transformative. While pay equity aims to fairly value and compensate the work done primarily by women, pay equity is not "just about the money". Pay equity identifies and dismantles long-standing patterns of systemic discrimination in order to change how we do business and how society operates. In other words, while wage discrimination in and of itself can lead to a constricted ability for some to fully enjoy a range of human rights, it is the insidious link between wage discrimination and other forms of discrimination that can adversely impact the most disadvantaged workers. Unequal pay is part of the broader problem of systemic discrimination in employment, and pay equity is one essential tool for creating systemic change.
That is why pay equity has become a national issue and why members of this House must support and pass Bill C-471.
With this legislation in hand we could create a federal pay equity commission to ensure pay equity in the federal public service, crown corporations and federally-regulated sectors. This federal pay equity commission would enforce the principle of pay equity in the public service and federally-regulated industries. Most importantly, under Bill C-471, future pay equity measures would be considered human rights legislation.
In closing, this bill would benefit all Canadians and I am pleased to support it. I hope all my colleagues in this House share my enthusiasm and will make it their duty to support this bill wholeheartedly.