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