October 16, 2000

LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee

Mr. Speaker, I ask that answers to starred Questions Nos. 88 and 95 be made orders for returns. These returns will be tabled immediately.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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Some hon. members

Agreed. .[Text]

Question No. 88—

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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REF

Jim Pankiw

Reform

Mr. Jim Pankiw

With respect to the Canada Foundation for Innovation and its Board of Directors, what has the government through Industry Canada determined to be: ( a ) the names of those organizations and/or persons represented on the Foundation's Board of Directors; ( b ) the criterion for being selected to the Board; and ( c ) the duration of service for Board members.

Return tabled.

Question No. 95—

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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REF

Jim Pankiw

Reform

Mr. Jim Pankiw

With respect to the Canada Research Chairs initiative: ( a ) what is the total number of applications received to date from each Canadian university; ( b ) what is the formula to be used for the granting of program money to Canadian universities; ( c ) what is the amount of money to be given to each university in the upcoming fiscal year; and ( d ) in each case, which granting council will award the money?

Return tabled.

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Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.


NDP

Michelle Dockrill

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill (Bras d'Or—Cape Breton, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today, but I think it is very important that we also talk about what is happening across the country as we sit here. We have to look at the facts.

One in five Canadian children, or 1.3 million, live in poverty. That is up 25% since 1989. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population in Canada is families with children. Up to 40% of all food bank users are children under 18 years of age. The Canada child benefit, Canada's major tax transfer program for children, goes to only 36% of poor families. Those are the facts.

Yesterday was a momentous time for women across Canada and the world. The streets of the capital were filled with 50,000 men and women in a demonstration to make their demands known to the federal government.

What was the purpose of the march? What had inspired such a mass demonstration of anger toward the Liberal government? The march was for equality. The march was to stop violence against women. The march was to end poverty affecting women. It was an expression of anger at the Liberal government. Here we are, a supposedly civilized developed nation, and yet we still have to march in the streets to demand decent funding for health care. This is what Canada has come to. Yesterday 50,000 people shouted that it is time for a change.

In 1985 the UN announced that the target date for equality between men and women was the year 2000. We have two months left before the target date and it is terrifying to see how far we are from equality.

Wages for women are on average two-thirds those of their male equivalents. The glass ceiling in many professions is just as solid as it was 30 years ago. Members should look around the House. Do we see equality?

One in six Canadian women is poor. This figure of one in six includes all types of women. Of those women living alone who are more than 65 years of age there is a poverty rate of 49%. Is this how the Liberal government wants to thank those women who have put so much into our country? As well, of women who head single parent families 56% are poor. Is this the environment the Liberal government wants our future generations to be raised in?

What does this mass poverty lead to? It leads to women staying in violent or abusive relationships. The financial cost of escaping is too great. It leads to fear of running away. We all know the federal government has not set aside resources and benefits to protect these women.

Should it really take 50,000 marchers to make the government give money to those who really need it? The demands of the World March of Women are vital to the development of our nation. We must restore federal funding to health care and prevent it from the awful prospect of privatization.

Over the lifetime of the Liberal government millions of dollars have been cut year after year. Acceptable health care is a crucial part of society. We must fight every day to restore it to acceptable levels. We must also continually demand that a two tier system of health care be prevented. Only recently Alberta made moves toward such a system. The nation was outraged.

Canadian women say health care funding must be restored now. The World March of Women also demands that an additional 1% of the budget must be spent on social housing. With increasing numbers of people being forced to sleep on the streets and rising numbers of women using women's shelters, increased federal spending on social housing is well overdue.

The federal government promised to contribute $2 billion to the setting up of a national child care fund. This money is yet to materialize. Any working mother knows the difficulty of juggling a career and a family, and yet the government seems to be reluctant to support these women who need their help.

When will the Liberal government recognize that until women know that their children can be looked after they cannot go back to work? In many cases they cannot afford child care until they are earning a wage. This is an ongoing nightmare for many women across the country who are desperate to get back to work but are unable.

There are many more specific demands submitted by the World March of Women and it is time they were answered. Last month the government triumphantly announced its $12 billion surplus. Now it is time to use it. How long can the government ignore the shouts of thousands of its citizens who say give the money to health care, give the money to benefits, give the money to reduce student debt, promise to protect women from violence at home, and find ways to secure equality between men and women? It should open its eyes and recognize that these issues will not go away.

These are not just women's issues. These are the issues of Canadians. The NDP has been calling for many of these changes throughout this parliament. Health care and education have been two of our highest priorities. We will not give up the fight to protect and approve them.

The member for Halifax and I were on the Hill supporting the march. We were showing our desire to gain equality and end poverty and violence against women. Today the NDP women are on the inside of parliament shouting just as loudly for the same demands.

Yesterday's march was a triumph for the women of Canada. Now that momentum must be harnessed and pushed forward. The government cannot ignore the cries of 50,000 people with the support of thousands more around the country and the world. The message is loud and clear. It is time for change.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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NDP

Svend Robinson

New Democratic Party

Mr. Svend J. Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague from Cape Breton for an excellent speech and for the work that she has done on behalf of not only the women of Canada but the important work that she has done in promoting equality, justice and solidarity with women globally.

I was very pleased to see that an important element of the women's march yesterday was a recognition that we are global citizens. When women are victims of violence or when women are victims of poverty around the world, that pain is pain we as Canadians must respond to as well. I salute the hon. member for leadership on this issue.

As a New Democrat I say that we are proud to stand in solidarity with the women who marched yesterday and to support the demands of the women's march.

Our leader, the hon. member for Halifax, spoke eloquently this morning about some of these demands, in particular challenging the failure of the Liberal government to take seriously a number of the specific concerns raised among the demands made by these women.

Because this is a day long debate and I think it is important that there be a broad range of issues covered, I want to refer to one element. That is the section in the women's march document which called for respect and promotion of the human rights of lesbians.

Too often when we speak of women as minorities, when we speak of aboriginal women, and when we speak of women with disabilities, we forget another group of women still unfortunately face violence and still face discrimination. The section included in the march document points out that despite recent victories recognizing same sex couples, lesbians have not yet achieved legal equality. Because of hatred and prejudice, lesbian mothers can still lose custody of their children despite overwhelming proof that children in lesbian homes grow up healthy. Lesbians still do not have the right to bring partners to Canada under the Immigration Act. Lesbians of colour face a toxic mix of racial and homophobic prejudice.

The document points out the high suicide rate of young lesbians, which is indicative of the hatred and self-loathing experienced in a country that refuses to denounce homophobia and fosters heterosexist values and norms.

The document goes on to point out that internationally in many countries a woman who enjoys an intimate, physical relationship with another woman can be criminalized, jailed, slashed, flogged, harassed, shunned and sometimes even killed.

The document finally notes that women's right to sexual autonomy must be respected as well as their freedom to choose and celebrate their sexuality.

We as New Democrats support full equality for Canadian women and justice for Canadian women. I wanted to note particularly as well some of the challenges that face lesbians in Canada. We stand in solidarity with those women and we urge the government to respond to the very important demands made by the women's march in Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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NDP

Michelle Dockrill

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments. I think he makes a very valid point. When we are talking in the House about equality, as women have been talking across the country, that is just what we are talking about: equality for all women who are Canadian citizens.

Recently we have heard a lot of discussion from the other side of the House about values, about Liberal government values. As a Canadian citizen I have to say that we all should be standing here and holding our heads in shame when we look at the social deficit that has been caused at the hands of the Liberal government.

As a mother I cannot imagine knowing and dealing with, day after day, my children having to go to bed hungry. Women across Canada to their credit yesterday sent a clear message to the government. This is not about our asking for equality. This is about Canadian women from coast to coast to coast saying we want it and we want it now.

Topic:   Government Orders
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NDP

Angela Vautour

New Democratic Party

Ms. Angela Vautour (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, PC)

Mr. Speaker, the member gave a beautiful vox intellectus. I would like her to speak on the challenges of women in politics,

She experienced a bit of her ordeal through all this. There are challenges at every level including women who are in poverty and some who are not. We have a whole global problem when it comes to women in this advanced country. I believe that we have to look at all the issues. I would like the member to speak to that.

Topic:   Government Orders
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NDP

Michelle Dockrill

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. As she knows, being a mother, it is a struggle and it is tough being a mother and not having the ability to feed or clothe one's children.

What we have seen happen is a slash, burn and cut mentality from the Liberal government. Unfortunately women have carried the brunt of the Liberal cuts.

With respect to the member's question about whether it is difficult, as I said earlier in my speech, the government talks about equality, but when we sit in the Chamber do we have equality? Not yet. Will we? I believe so.

What is important about the women's world march is that it is not about asking any more. It is about Canadian women demanding. This will be something for which women will want an answer from every government member when they possibly go knocking on doors in two weeks.

Topic:   Government Orders
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REF

Philip Mayfield

Reform

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the comment of the hon. member. She mentioned that there is no equality in the House. Could she explain to me where the lack of equality for men and women in the House exists?

Topic:   Government Orders
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NDP

Michelle Dockrill

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill

Mr. Speaker, it is really simple. It is the number. All we have to do is look at how many men and how many women there are in the House of Commons.

Probably the member has some ideas about why that is so. We talk about equality. We hear the government talk about it all the time. If we as members are not committed to that equality when it comes to representing citizens, I am afraid that by the time my 11 year old daughter is old enough we still will not have that equality, if we do not have that commitment from the Liberal government.

Topic:   Government Orders
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PC

Mark Muise

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Mark Muise (West Nova, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Beauséjour—Petitcodiac.

It is with genuine sadness that I rise before the House to participate in the Bloc Quebecois opposition day motion calling for an end to poverty and violence against women. It is also demanding equality in the workplace and better health care programs for all women throughout the country. I say genuine sadness because who would have thought that as we entered the 21st century women would still be victims of domestic violence?

Governments are quick to condemn these acts of violence yet they do very little to protect individuals against their abusers. What about discrimination in the workplace and the high prevalence of poverty found within our female population? For years women have been listening to governments promise to address these inequities in society, yet most cuts in government spending disproportionately affect women. Provincial cuts for women's shelters and housing programs force many women to remain with abusive partners.

A lack of subsidized child care spaces and reductions in education and retraining programs effectively prevent women from pursuing a better life for themselves and their children.

I wish I could say that I completely understand and appreciate the frustration women are feeling because of the lack of progress in addressing their serious concerns, but to say that I completely understand would be patronizing and completely false. Only those women who live in poverty or are victims of violence or discrimination in the workplace can truly understand the situation.

In 1995, at the fourth United Nations world conference on women in Beijing, Canada reaffirmed its commitment to a number of international United Nations agreements including the charter of the United Nations, the universal declaration of human rights, the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the convention on the rights of the child, and the declaration on the elimination of violence against women.

Let us add to this impressive list the designation by the UN that the years 1997 to 2006 are to be known as the international decade for the eradication of poverty.

With the Canadian government being a signatory to all these agreements, why are Canadian women still being marginalized and in many instances treated like second class citizens? I will tell the House why. It is because the Liberal government is more interested in offering lip service than actually addressing the serious concerns facing women.

On Sunday our Prime Minister met with a delegation representing over 5,000 women who gathered on the Hill to protest the lack of government commitment toward addressing serious women's issues. In 1993, prior to being elected Prime Minister, the leader of the Liberal Party wrote a letter promising to abide by any decision rendered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal with regard to the outstanding issue of pay equity. This issue affected approximately 200,000 predominantly female workers in the public service.

This is the same individual, our Prime Minister, who fought tooth and nail to try to prevent these workers from getting the money they so rightly deserved. The Prime Minister reneged on his promise just as he did on the GST and free trade. Unfortunately for women in Canada and around the world he is likely to renege on our international UN commitments as well.

In 1993 women working outside the home earned 72 cents for every dollar earned by men. This is totally unacceptable and serves only to magnify the disparity which exists in Canadian society. Already 60% of families headed by single women live below the poverty line. If this wage gap continues we can expect that the number of single women living in poverty will certainly increase.

What can we do to address poverty in the country? The PC caucus put together a task force on poverty last year that travelled extensively across the country to meet with Canadians to discuss the issues and try to come up with possible solutions to the problem. As a result of these extensive consultations, our party released a report in January entitled “It's Up To Us” which identifies a number of the problems associated with poverty and makes a number of recommendations on how some of these problems should be addressed.

Because the member for Shefford was instrumental in helping put this report together, I am confident that she will be able to convince her new party to adopt many of our measures.

What is the Liberal government doing to address domestic violence which continues to be perpetrated against women in society? The answer is very little. The tragic 1989 killing of 14 young women at École Polytechnique in Montreal shocked the nation and forced us all to look deeper into the roots of violence within our society.

Unfortunately, as so many people's memories of the event are waning, so is the Liberal government's commitment to finding ways to put an end to violence against women.

Statistics Canada reveals that at least 51% of all Canadian women have experienced at least one incidence of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16 and that sexual assaults account for almost one in ten violent crimes. This suggests to me that government policies are not working. We need more money for women shelters, community counselling, child protection, crisis lines and legal aid. We need better training for our enforcement agencies to handle domestic disputes. We need a justice system that is more in tune with the potential danger facing women by their partners.

As our Canadian women's lobby continues on to the world march in New York City, I can only hope that this Liberal government will take concrete measures in its expected mini-budget to address the immediate concerns of women's rights across the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the member will appreciate that all Canadians are very concerned about the issues that the member talked about, which were child poverty and domestic violence. Certainly there are a number of issues. However, I was very interested in the member's statements about the domestic violence angle and the solutions that he suggested which were more shelters, more crisis intervention and many things after the problem occurs.

Would the member not agree that there should be a balance between prevention and remediation and that part of the solution of domestic violence is trying to make sure that it does not happen in the first instance? The member will well know that family breakdown is terribly high in Canada. In fact 50% of married persons will break up before their children reach their 18th birthday. He will also know that common law couples will also have the breakdown in their relationship 50% more frequently than married persons.

The problem here, and I am sure the member would like to comment, is the reasons why families break down and the reasons why the children are the real victims of divorce and family breakdown. The fact is it is not a simple, linear excuse. It is a multiplicity of things. I believe the member would agree that strengthening the Canadian family and investing in the Canadian family, men, women and children, and not making it simply a women's issue but making it a societal issue, is the fundamental prerequisite to addressing the serious problem of domestic violence.

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PC

Mark Muise

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Mark Muise

Mr. Speaker, I think the member's question comes truly from the heart and I recognize that.

My colleague's question and comments were genuine. I would like him to be able to share some of those same sentiments with his caucus so that the government enacts legislation and policies that will help people in society. Also, his comment that this is family issue and not just a woman's issue touches on an important point.

Today's children who are poor are poor because their parents are poor. When we have a situation in the home where people do not have the resources to adequately clothe, nourish and house not just their children but their whole family, it leads to stresses that cause the types of things that we are discussing today. As my colleague says, what we are looking at is even broader than just the women's issue. It goes back to the fact that the government has reneged and has cut to the point where families are negatively impacted, hence negatively impacting women.

Topic:   Government Orders
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo

Mr. Speaker, the member also touched on the issue of child poverty. He mentioned some statistics about lone parent situations. I understand that about 14% of all families in Canada are in lone parent situations but they account for over 54% of all so-called children living in poverty. Of course, the member will acknowledge that it is really families living in poverty. This again very clearly goes to the issue of family breakdown.

Would the member not agree that investing in the Canadian family and in our children, and making sure that children are raised in a healthy and well adjusted environment so that they can grow up to be healthy, well adjusted children as they move into adult life, is prevention versus remediation? I think the member gets the gist that my concern is not so much what to do when we have the problem. My concern is more with what are we doing to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place.

I do not say for a moment that we should legislate behaviour but I think we have to encourage healthy family life in Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
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October 16, 2000