Mr. Speaker, there are women and men in Quebec and Canada who for decades have been receiving less pay than other people for work of equal value. Why? Simply because they have jobs traditionally filled by women.
Having a traditionally female job means that the pay will be less, both in this country and in many others around the world. Unless there is some coercion, unfortunately, man loves to exploit man, especially when the latter is a woman.
In view of this injustice, what has been done in Quebec and Canada? I want to take advantage of the 20 minutes I have to quickly trace a little of the history.
After Manitoba and Ontario, Quebec passed pay equity legislation. As a result, there has been concrete change in Quebec, and therefore more equality, in the public and private sectors. More and more people in traditionally female jobs have received salary adjustments. There is more justice in Quebec, but that does not seem to be the case in Canada for people who still have the misfortune of working for companies, I hasten to add, under federal jurisdiction.
I remind the House that Canada has been making national and international commitments to pay equity for more than 50 years. This did not happen yesterday. It is quite amazing that Canada could have made so many undertakings while at the same time people working under federal jurisdiction have not seen any concrete improvements in their lives.
In 1970, Canada ratified the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, which guarantees the right of everyone without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, including the right to equal pay for equal work and to just and favourable remuneration.
In 1972, Canada ratified the International Labour Organization’s equal remuneration convention, 1951, which requires governments to “ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value”.
In 1976, Canada ratified the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, which recognizes the right to equal pay for work of equal value.
In 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act came into effect. Section 11 prohibits wage discrimination between male and female employees performing work of equal value.
In 1979, the United Nations adopted the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, which states that women have a right to equal remuneration for work of equal value. Canada ratified that convention in 1981.
In 1985, Canada joined with other UN member countries in signing the Beijing platform for action, which states that governments must take action to apply the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.
Canada joined with other UN countries in signing the Copenhagen declaration on social development and programme of action of the world summit for social development.
That document indicates that signatory governments should safeguard and promote respect for basic workers’ rights, including equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value. In 2000, the Canadian government reiterated its commitment towards those two documents.
In 2001, the Canadian government established the pay equity task force, which was tasked with reporting on the pay equity situation in Canada.
In 2004, the pay equity task force submitted its report—which was enormous, quite a tome—and it concluded that federal pay equity legislation was ineffective. The report recommended the adoption of proactive pay equity legislation. It recommended an act. It is quite simple. The report recommended an act. It seems to be more difficult to understand this on the other side of the House.
In 2006, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women called upon the government to introduce a bill on pay equity. What did this government do? Through a letter from the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Labour, this government is creating confusion by claiming that pay equity legislation already exists. I do not know where to find this legislation. The government will have to tell me and tell all the women of Quebec and Canada. Only section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act addresses this issue, yet this has proven extremely ineffective to date.
Furthermore, the government is proposing measures that have proven ineffective for the past 20 years, but it is proposing them anyway.
Women who have full-time jobs earn only 71¢ for every $1 earned by their male co-workers. This results in a higher poverty rate for women and a significantly higher poverty rate for immigrant women. The government must take action to live up to its international obligations on pay equity and human rights and also to fulfill its legal obligations. All members in this House, upon acceptance of their duties, made those commitments. Justice, equality and equity are part of our values and are part of Quebec and Canadian values. It is vital that they find expression in our laws.
We are here to make laws. We spend innumerable hours, five days a week, creating laws. The laws must be just and equitable for the entire population of Quebec and Canada. The government must take steps to recognize and value the contribution of working women to the Canadian and Quebec economy. It is one way of showing that we respect the work they do.
Unfortunately, as we just heard from my Liberal colleague, for years the successive Liberal governments produced nothing tangible. What I find interesting in what my colleague just said is that with the passing of years the Liberals recognized that it was not working and that a law was needed.
In life, better late than never. I wholeheartedly hope that this government will also take the advice of my Liberal colleague who stated, “We recognize that it took some time. It takes time and we recognize that it is not working. And now, we urge you to do everything possible to put into practice what we thought should be done”.
In my opinion, when I survey what has been done since we came here—not just in this session, but also in the previous one—I realize that this Conservative government puts up roadblocks, on the grounds of ideology, for the future of women. It has cut grants to Status of Women Canada and abolished the court challenges program.
It is eliminating literacy programs and this has major repercussions. In a society, everything is connected: literacy is connected with getting a job and a decent wage.
Everything is connected, whether it be literacy or fighting for rights. How can women fight for their rights if they do not have the money to do it? Money is essential. Unfortunately, we live in a society where everything we do is based on the financial resources we have.
Some women are volunteers and others work themselves to death defending the rights of all other women and all children. Children live in extreme poverty in Canada, and Canada is not a developing country. It is unacceptable that in Canada—I cannot say my country, because Quebec is my country—there are still a million poor children. That is not right. In fact, there will be a demonstration in Montreal in the near future, this Thursday I believe, to fight child poverty. Some of my colleagues will be going to put in an appearance at the Palais des Congrès. Making an appearance is a fine thing, but there are people living on the street and children who do not even have food. I will get back to my subject.
I am sorry to have gone off on a tangent, but it is unacceptable to me for policy to be made on the backs of children. That is my Achilles heel.
I believe that we must do everything possible to put policies in place that are fair, because when a woman is poor it means there is a child who is poor. When a woman is poor, it may mean there is a husband who is not working and who is poor. When a woman is poor, it means there is a family that is poor. We can say the same thing about men who are poor as well, because a man who is working in what is traditionally a woman’s job is also affected by this inequity. When there are poor men or poor women, there are poor families, and poor children. Poverty, delinquency, malnutrition and illiteracy; it is all connected. Everything is connected.
When will we stop compartmentalizing politics and the policies we make? When we have a labour policy, it has an effect on family policy. When we take action based on a criminal policy, or a justice or public safety policy, it has a direct effect on people’s families. Everything is connected.
Deciding to enact pay equity legislation means doing something fundamental to combat delinquency and to combat poverty.
How much time do I have left, Mr. Speaker?