Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to join in this debate on Motion No. 504, which is before the House today. I congratulate the member for Sault Ste. Marie for bringing it forward. I know it comes from his heart. It comes from the right place, and I think it is being so well received in the House in part for that reason.
First allow me to provide some context for my remarks in the debate.
The member's motion reads as follows:
That the Standing Committee on the Status of Women be instructed to undertake a study on the subject of best practices in education and social programs in Canada that prevent violence against women, and report its findings to the House within one year of the study's initiation.
I will certainly be supporting the motion, because the reality is that violence against women and girls is a scourge. It is disgraceful conduct that destroys lives, and it affects us all whenever and wherever it occurs.
We know the terrible toll that gender-based violence has on individuals, families, and communities. It also impacts our economy. In fact, the estimated economic cost of violence against women by a spouse is estimated to be at least $4.8 billion per year.
For all these reasons, our government supports asking an important committee of the House to explore, research, and draw attention to the kinds of programs that help reduce and prevent violence against women and girls in our society. For the same reasons, our government has put in place a wide range of measures to make our communities safer and to reduce and prevent violence against women and girls.
In terms of legislative actions, we passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act to improve the safety of all Canadians. We launched a national action plan to combat human trafficking. We increased penalties for violent crimes for deterrence and to keep incorrigible violent offenders off the streets longer. We introduced legislation to give police and prosecutors new tools to address cyberbullying.
At the beginning of this year, our government also launched a national anti-cyberbullying campaign, known as “Stop Hating Online”. It is focused on both parents and youth and is designed to raise awareness of the harmful impact that cyberbullying has, especially when such behaviour amounts to criminal activity.
Through economic action plan 2014, the Government of Canada will invest an additional $25 million over five years to reduce violence against aboriginal women and girls by putting money into concrete resources.
On September 15 the Minister of Labour and the Minister for Status of Women launched the Government of Canada action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. The action plan sets out concrete actions in three areas: to prevent violence, to support aboriginal victims, and to protect aboriginal women and girls from violence. It includes new funding of $25 million over five years, beginning in 2015-16. When added to a range of ongoing investments, the action plan represents a total investment of $196.8 million over five years.
In April our government announced the victims' bill of rights, a significant piece of legislation that will, for the first time in Canadian history, create clear statutory rights at the federal level for victims of crime.
Our government also believes in giving communities the tools to help end gender-based violence. That is why we have increased funding to the women's program at Status of Women Canada to record levels. In fact, we have invested over $146 million through Status of Women Canada in more than 720 different projects since 2007. This includes more than $70 million that has been invested specifically in projects to end violence against women and girls.
These projects are helping communities address violence in rural and remote communities, in post-secondary campus communities, and in high-risk neighbourhoods. They are responding to violence against women and girls in the name of honour, the so-called “honour killings”, and working to prevent the trafficking of women and girls through community planning.
We recently held a call for proposals for projects that are helping communities engage youth in preventing or eliminating cyberviolence and sexual violence against young women and girls.
Our government also believes in engaging men and boys to address the issue. For example, we issued a call for proposals through Status of Women Canada with the specific theme of engaging men and boys.
This is why we are supporting projects such as huddle up and make the call with the White Ribbon campaign and the Toronto Argonauts. The goal of this project is to engage men and boys in reducing violence against women and girls through activities such as in-school engagements, youth leadership development, public service announcements, as well as education in the community and even at football games in Toronto.
All of these projects supported by Status of Women Canada recognize the benefits of working with skilled partners. They are organizations with the capacity to identify needs at the community level and to develop the tools and resources to meet those needs.
We also believe in addressing the issue of violence against women and girls globally. For example, Canada is working very hard with its international partners to end child, early and forced marriage, which is a terrible practice that robs children of their human rights. I am also proud of our Conservative government's decision to bestow honorary citizenship upon Malala Yousafzai, who courageously risked her own life to promote education for girls and young women everywhere.
With all of these actions by our Conservative government, we are maintaining a clear focus on eliminating violence against women and girls as part of our broader commitment to achieving equality between men and women in Canada. We are working to help empower women, but at the end of the day, all Canadians must be part of the solution.
That is why I will be supporting the motion. It is so that the Standing Committee on the Status of Women can engage with a range of stakeholders, examine and share best practices for ending violence against women and girls, and I hope, make a real difference in the lives of many Canadians.