23 November 2010
Honourable senators, I will speak to my inquiry, and I will read it
first: I will call the attention of the Senate to the state of women's
equality in Canada.
I call attention to this issue because I place a great deal of
premium, as I am sure all my colleagues in the Senate do, on general
equality in Canada, but women's equality in particular, and I call
attention to this issue also because I believe that we have regressed in
that important area of equality over the last number of years, so I
want to do two things. I want to assess where we are with women's
equality in this country and then talk about how or why we have
regressed — honourable senators can imagine what that might involve —
and then talk about what we might do to improve upon the circumstances
of women's equality in this country.
By way of assessment, in terms of violence against women in Canada,
over 50 per cent of women in Canada have experienced at least one
incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. One to two
women are murdered by a current or former partner each week in Canada,
and the idea is not original but it is powerful that, perhaps, for many
women and children, the least safe place in their world is their home.
Spousal violence makes up the single largest category of convictions
involving violent offences in non-specialized adult courts in Canada, at
least over the five-year period from 1997-98 to 2001-02, and over 90
per cent of those offenders were male.
An article in The Globe and Mail by Gerald Caplan in July
2010 makes this point: in Canada, no fewer than 178 women — I will
repeat that number — no fewer than 178 women on average were killed each
year between 1994 and 2008. It is a breathtaking number.
He goes on to say:
Why has our government not declared war against the enemy at home who continues to murder so many women?
Nearly 70 per cent of gun-related deaths involve a long gun, and an overwhelming number of those victims have been women.
As of March 31, 2010 — another breathtaking statistic — the Native
Women's Association of Canada has found 582 cases of missing and
murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
In the area of pay equity today in Canada, women, on average, earn 72
cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues. However, women
with children earn 52 cents for every dollar earned by their male
colleagues. Two thirds of all minimum wage earners in our country are
women, and women are overrepresented among part-time and unpaid workers,
as well as those in the lowest income bracket. Among top earners, men
outnumber women by more than 333 per cent.
Women in poverty: One in seven women in Canada lives in poverty. That
is over 2 million women. When mothers are poor, of course, in so many
cases, so are their children. More than 1 million children live in
poverty in Canada, and poverty is strongly linked to poor scholastic
achievement, and so it sustains itself and it sustains itself and it
sustains itself. If that is not a statistic that should humble every
last, well-off, privileged Canadian, I do not know what kind of
statistic would. Income level is a key determinant of health, and women
and children living in poverty are more susceptible to poor physical and
mental health, and of course that perpetuates the cycle once again.
The recent Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum for
2010 is quite startling. Canada is at number 20 in a global measure of
equality between men and women. Get this: It actually sits behind Sri
Lanka, Lesotho and Latvia. It is shameful.
We could do something about that kind of evidence of inequality. It
might take some time, but certainly when you start working at difficult
problems one step at a time, you can begin to solve them. What do we, on
the other hand, see from the Conservative government when they are
confronted with that kind of blatant inequality, which is manageable in
the sense that they might well be able to fix some of it if they would
only worry about inequality and poverty and women's inequality as much
as they worry about jets?
Conservatives have done this: They turned a woman's fundamental right
to pay equity into something up for grabs at the collective bargaining
table. That was, of course, last year when they changed the pay equity
appeals process from women being able to take their pay equity issue to
the Human Rights Commission, where it would be treated as a right, to
women only having recourse to take it to the Labour Relations Board
where, of course, it is a subject of negotiation. For anyone to say that
that is not a diminution of that right is to say, by definition, they
do not understand what a right is.
This government has cut the operating budget of Status of Women
Canada by 43 per cent while — get this, this is so petty — removing the
word "equity" from the mandate of its women's program, as if "equity"
and "women" would be two words they would never want to put together. I
mean, what might that lead to?
They eliminated the 2011 mandatory long-form census that will damage
the credibility of data that is critical to providing programs and
policies to women in poverty, Aboriginal women and disabled women. If
you cannot define the group and the problem, then I guess you do not
have to work at fixing it or paying some money that might help fix it
either. It is a backdoor way for them to begin to cut costs in places
where people are absolutely vulnerable, while they are spending, without
even tendering — is it $16 billion — on jets.
You wonder why they are so quick to buy the jets and so slow to help
people in categories like this, or so slow the help the veterans, for
They banned the words "gender equality" from the lexicon of the
Department of Foreign Affairs and embarrassed, literally, Canada on the
world stage by excluding reproductive health from our G8/G20 plans. Talk
about freedom of speech. They are afraid to have "equality" put in the
same phrase as "women."
Shame. It is just unbelievable.
The government removed the gender equality unit in the human rights
division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I
wonder how much money they saved by doing that, and I wonder how much
the damage they will do will cost, because the work that group was doing
will not get done, economic consequences and all.
They axed $1 billion annually from the Liberal early learning and
child care agreements that would have made child care affordable for
low-income women. If you focus on low-income women, by definition you
begin to focus on overcoming poverty, and that would give not only
low-income women but medium and other income women as well the chance to
go to work in the paid sector. I know there are some people who do not
think they necessarily should do that, but they have to do that, and
they have a right to do that, go to work in the paid sector and have
some sense of confidence that their children are being well taken care
of and are safe. How much is that to ask for?
They axed the Kelowna accord, which would have provided much-needed
health, education and economic development funding to Aboriginal women.
If ever there is a focus or a problem, a concentration of poverty
amongst people generally in Canada, certainly amongst women, it would be
amongst Aboriginal women. It is definitely borne disproportionately by
women generally, and disproportionately by Aboriginal women.
They eliminated the national child supplement — so much for
supporting families. They ignored a November 25, 2008, motion passed
unanimously in the House of Commons — of course, they are inclined to
ignore what goes on in the House of Commons, those darned votes — to
develop a violence against women prevention strategy.
They abandoned women again by attempting to scrap the gun registry
with Bill C-391 which, of course, would deprive Canada's police officers
of a vital tool for public safety, and certainly for supporting and
sustaining the safety of women.
This government has reduced the percentage of women since they have been in government in the Senate itself.
In addition, they certainly have enhanced all of that regression in
our policy in this important area by what they have done with cutting
funding for groups, international groups that have worked on women's
equality, worked on the status of women, worked on issues that affect
women internationally. Just to name a few, they cut funding to Match
International, which I think had been receiving funding for its work
with women's equality around the world for 34 consecutive years. They
just cut it.
This government has cut funding to the Canadian Research Institute
for the Advancement of Women, Le Conseil d'intervention pour l'accès des
femmes au travail, New Brunswick Pay Equity Coalition, Alberta Network
of Immigrant Women; L'Association féminine d'éducation et d'action
sociale, Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses,
Womanspace resource centre, and I could go on. There are many of them.
In response to a clear-cut problem that has been defined clearly for a
long, long time that I believe is absolutely fundamental to the values
that Canadians hold — the sense of equality, the importance of equality,
of opportunity, a sense of helping your neighbour when they are less
fortunate — the government simply cut programs. They were so small as to
take "equality" out of anywhere that it might have been expressed — or
many places at least — where it has been expressed in government
documents and government websites, in the same breath as "women." They
took "equality" away from the phrase "women's equality" and cut funding
to help people so desperately less fortunate than us around the world,
funding to groups that have been helping these people for, in many
cases, literally decades.
That is the kind of legacy that that kind of ideology and that kind
of dogma has brought this country to in this very important area.
Are there actions that we could take? There are very many.
First of all, we certainly — and are doing so — should maintain the
gun registry. Gun control laws have reduced the rates of robberies,
suicides, firearms, murders, and particularly murders of women. The gun
registry saves women's lives. Do honourable senators know what the gun
registry actually costs? In a report that was suppressed by this
government and was not allowed to be released before the vote, it cost
$1.5 million a year. I think $1.5 million is only change for Mr.
Clements' riding. That amount is what would be saved and that is how the
government has been trying to justify it.
We could conduct gender-based analysis of all federal government
legislation and policies, including international policies, to determine
how public policies differentially affect women and men. The government
says they conducts gender-based analysis, but when they are asked for a
concrete "yes" or "no," with evidence of it having been done, it simply
is not being done.
We should support Mr. Ignatieff's bill on pay equity, which calls for
swift action to implement the recommendations of the 2004 Pay Equity
Task Force, including a new pay equity commission to ensure pay equity
in the federal public service, Crown corporations and federally
One of the most significant features for people to be accorded status
in society, if not the most significant feature, is their level of
income. By definition, therefore, women are disadvantaged significantly
in achieving equality of status and all the things that come with that
equality. Honourable senators, consider all the problems that would be
solved as a result of their gaining equality of status in significant
ways if they earned as much money, because they do not, period.
We should expedite the inquiry into the missing and murdered
Aboriginal women and girls. The government said it has put up money.
Apparently some of the money has begun to arrive, after months and
months with no sense of urgency.
We should restore the Court Challenges Program. What is the
government so afraid of? Are they afraid they will be questioned in a
democracy about some of the things they are doing that maybe they
should, or should not, be doing? They talk about democracy but then shut
down the Court Challenges Program, which has been critical to women
defending their rights in this country — women who are disadvantaged and
do not have the money to do it. That disadvantage is not a problem for
We should think about what is happening in the United States.
President Obama has established the White House Council on Women and
Girls to provide a coordinated federal response to challenges confronted
by women and girls, and to ensure that all their cabinet and cabinet
agencies consider forcefully and rigorously how their policies and
programs impact women and families. President Obama has also appointed a
White House adviser on violence against women to advise him
specifically on domestic violence and sexual assault issues. It is an
important thing to do and it is not that difficult. In fact, it is not
difficult at all. However, it is a question of where one places
The government should reintroduce a national daycare program, and
they should ensure that they absolutely take action now they have
completed the report required by the United Nations on UN Security
Council Resolution 1325.
Many problems in the world, in this country, and in the Third World
are solved when women begin to access education. We know many Third
World countries have diminished abilities to grant that access. In a
place like Afghanistan, one of the admirable reasons — and there are
many — why we are, have been and should be there for the period we have
been there is because women do not have a chance even to go to school in
I am talking about international situations for women in Third World
countries but I bet honourable senators would find inequality in that
regard here with Aboriginal women, for example, if honourable senators
studied it. How easy is it for Aboriginal women to access an education? I
am talking about that equality.
Let us look at the issue from an economic point of view, from the
power of the economy. It is interesting that McKinsey and Company, a
well-regarded international consulting firm, conducted a study with
Amazone Euro Fund. The firm selected 89 European-listed companies with
the highest listed level of gender diversity in top management posts,
and compared them to companies that did not have as much involvement of
women in their upper management posts. What they found was striking:
There can be no doubt that, on average, these companies outperform
their sector in terms of return on equity (11.4% vs an average 10.3%). .
For the other firms that do not have as much involvement of women at
upper management levels, their operating results — earnings before
interest and taxes, EBIT — were 11.1 per cent versus 5.8 per cent, and
their stock market growth was 64 per cent versus 47 per cent over the
period of 2005 to 2007.
This study is a statistically significant study. If the government
wants to improve poverty or fight poverty in the Third World, let us
educate women. If honourable senators want to improve many of the social
problems that confront Canada today, let us improve women's equality
here, and if the government plain and simple wants to improve the
economy and create more jobs, place women where they have a chance to be
absolutely fundamentally equal in our economy.