Ms. Hélène Alarie
My wish for her, her mother and her grandmother is that we may live in a world where increasing efforts will be made to eliminate poverty and violence, and that she, her grandmother and her mother may be able in their respective communities to establish themselves and live in the equality that is vital to their development.
I would like to reread the motion we introduced this morning because every word in it is important in my view:
That this House immediately work to provide the means needed to fight poverty and violence against women as demanded by the World March of Women, particularly in the areas of income protection, health, international aid, violence and wage parity, so as to ensure a fairer distribution of wealth between women and men.
As has been repeatedly pointed out today, the government is in a position and has the means to help women with their demands. The budget surpluses can be used to do much to improve the conditions in which women and, by extension, their children live.
The World March of Women, which brings together 5,000 groups of women from 159 countries, managed to get over three million signatures in support of its demands. These signatures are cards that will be delivered to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general.
This march has its roots in Quebec, where a group of organized women, of activists, came to the conclusion that many policies at all levels were not working and were harmful to women. Back then people probably did not think that the movement would spread to other countries, that these women would join forces with others to achieve the success that we are witnessing this week.
I took part in the march in my riding and felt solidarity between the men and women who participated. Colleagues, friends, fathers and even young men took part in the march. We could feel solidarity among us and, above, all dignity and pride in representing women who, after all, symbolize the perennial character of society and account for at least 52% of its members.
That march was necessary and it was a wake up call for many people. Wherever we are we must recognize that the poverty level is increasing.
In my area, an organization called La Table de la pauvreté conducted a survey. It found that in a riding which appears to be rich 25% of the families were living below the poverty line. I can assure members that living below the poverty line in a city is very difficult. It may be more difficult than in the country where people can sometimes manage to get by, which is not the case in cities.
In echoing what was said here this morning, I would like to talk about two groups in particular. The first one concerns aboriginal women and human rights.
Members may wonder why I am the one speaking about the human rights of aboriginal women. It is because I had the pleasure—and I say the pleasure because I discovered a lot of things with them—to study with a group of aboriginal women.
I would like to salute them today. I am thinking about Fernande St-Onge, Suzanne Achini, Germaine Pinette, Marie Jourdain and her sister, Angéline, who came from Maliotenam to study on the south shore, in La Pocatière, in my colleague's riding.
They came to the south shore because they wanted an education that would help them make things better in their society. It was not easy for them to attend a boarding school and be away from their people for a whole school year. But they did it and today they hold values that they share with us.
Those involved in the march of women are calling for a lot of things. To eliminate poverty and violence against women they are asking the federal government to support the human rights of aboriginal women as well as the welfare of their children, their family and their community and to respond to their concerns regarding housing, health, education, justice, territorial issues and resources.
They are also asking the government to make funding available to national and regional groups representing aboriginal women so as to ensure their full participation in discussions on self-government.
They are asking that all programs include a gender equality analysis. When we realize that the aboriginal peoples have a concept of equality governing their traditions, this demand appears totally justified.
They are asking for changes to the Indian Act to restore the traditional rights enjoyed by women in the transmission of native heritage.
They are asking for sufficient funding for aboriginal women's groups to enable them to set up halfway houses and other services in the communities.
Finally, they are calling for the full implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which includes a whole section on the equality of women.
The Bloc Quebecois has already proposed a review of the rules of the dissolution of an aboriginal marriage, which discriminate against women by failing to recognize the right to equal division of matrimonial property. It also proposes a bill to rectify the situation given the government's inertia on the matter.
We support funding for aboriginal women's organizations, as requested.
I would also like to speak of another group of citizens for whom the march of women has made demands. They are calling for the implementation of a progressive immigration reform so that domestic workers receive immigrant status as soon as they arrive.
Domestic workers are all too often a source of cheap labour governed more by the terms of modern slavery than by positive immigration measures.
The Bloc Quebecois proposes that the government tighten up the procedure for support of candidates for this program so they may be monitored by an immigration officer in order to prevent abuse.
We also want the immigration reform to call for the elimination of the head tax for all immigrants. We want this federal tax to be abolished because the federal government is taking no responsibility whatsoever except in Quebec, I might add for the integration of immigrants.
Another major recommendation concerning new immigrants would include persecution based on gender or sexual orientation as a specific reason justifying the granting of refugee status.
The 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees stipulates that:
As a result of events...and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion—
In 1993 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that membership of a particular social group must include people who are afraid of being persecuted for other reasons such as gender or sexual orientation.
The Bloc Quebecois wants the federal government to ensure that visa officers overseas interpret the definition of a refugee according to the court's ruling.
I have only one minute left, but I could keep going for hours. I just want to say that, as my hon. colleague pointed out, we are in favour of forgiving the debt of the 53 poorest countries of the world.
As agriculture critic for my party, I want to add that the farming industry could very easily help to feed the poor on this planet. The problem has nothing to do with production but rather with the fair distribution of our production.
Topic: Government Orders