Good morning and welcome to the 135th meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. This portion of the meeting is in public. Today we'll continue our study of the challenges faced by senior women, with a focus on the factors contributing to their poverty and vulnerability.
For this, we are pleased to welcome Krista James, National Director of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law. She is coming to us via video conference from Vancouver, British Columbia. Krista will be the only witness making an opening statement this morning, as she is not one of the returning witnesses.
I am also pleased to welcome back Madeleine Bélanger, as an individual, by video conference from Quebec City.
We also welcome the Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées. To all of those people who are francophone, I apologize for my pronunciation. Emmanuella, you can help me on that later. Representing that organization is Geneviève Tremblay-Racette. She is the Director and is replacing Luce Bernier, who appeared on February 28.
From FADOQ, we welcome Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, who is the Vice-President, and Philippe Poirier-Monette, Collective Rights Adviser for the Provincial Secretariat.
Welcome back, and thank you very much for making the time to come back. We'll start with our opening statement, and I'll turn the floor over to Krista James for seven minutes.
Thank you for this invitation to speak to the committee. I'll do my best.
The CCEL is a think tank focused on law and policy issues related to aging. We are part of a B.C. non-profit. A large part of our work involves consulting with seniors about their experiences and then working with expert advisory committees to craft law and policy recommendations to address the problems identified through consultation.
From 2011 to 2017, we worked on our older women's dialogue project. This work was funded over the years by various organizations, including the Government of Canada. We started this project because we noticed that, while gender has a significant impact on life experience, research and policy analysis seemed to be focused on younger women. Feminist work tended to focus on girls and women of child-bearing age, and aging policy tended to be gender-neutral. As a result, older women's experiences became invisible. We developed our project to address this gap in research.
We held a total of 35 consultation events collaborating with local agencies, holding events in 10 different languages, as well as American Sign Language, and speaking with women from their fifties to their nineties. We held five consultation events with indigenous older women. In total, we consulted with over 500 senior women living in the Vancouver area.
Our findings and recommendations are summarized in two reports, which are included in the brief I provided. There are also links in my brief to summary reports available in English and French. I will highlight a few elements of those reports.
I'd like to underscore at the outset that an overarching finding of this project was that the experience of poverty and the vulnerability of senior women are significantly impacted by many aspects of identity—not only gender. Women with disabilities, indigenous women, ethno-cultural minority and immigrant women, and LGBTQ women experience unique challenges as they age. Policy responses thus must be tailored to address the experiences of older women in all their diversity. Generic policies will fail to support the most vulnerable women in Canada, and I can't underscore that enough.
In my presentation, I'd like to talk about poverty, health care, violence and abuse, and access to justice.
Certainly, catastrophic events such as divorce, injury, and job loss can negatively impact income security in old age. However, the poverty of senior women is often a function of events occurring across their lives, particularly the choices women must make to prioritize unpaid family caregiving over paid labour. Currently, policy measures do not adequately address the reality that women often earn a lot less than their male counterparts and so have fewer savings in old age. Recent changes to the guaranteed income supplement unfortunately do not lift the most vulnerable women out of poverty.
For many women, I must also say that “retirement” is a misleading term. Many of us are engaged in caregiving throughout our supposed retirement years. Days are filled with physically and emotionally demanding care for spouses, adult children with disabilities, and grandchildren. This caregiving labour is often a treasured part of women's lives; however, they require financial support to fulfill these critical roles in our communities.
In our report, we have three recommendations related to income security. We recommend that the government enhance the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs; amend the Canada pension plan to include a dropout provision, parallel to the child rearing provision, that would be applicable to all years of full-time family caregiving; and develop programs providing better financial, housing, and other supports to senior women who are the primary caregivers of underage children, particularly indigenous women. What happens often is that eligibility terminates when you turn 65, but caregiving does not stop.
In terms of supporting senior women survivors of violence and abuse, we learned that violence has a significant impact on aging. Some women do experience violence in old age. Others experienced violence as children or younger women that continues to impact their quality of life. In particular, historic trauma has had an enduring impact on the lives of indigenous older women. Keeping their children and youth safe is a priority.
Through consultation with service providers who work with senior women who have experienced violence, we learned that senior women are particularly reluctant to go to a transition house. Maintaining a connection to their communities is very important to them. Leaving home often means transitioning to long-term care, because transition houses are not set up to address their complex health needs. Also, as they value family relationships, sometimes over their own safety, they will stay in dangerous situations to make sure the people they love are cared for, including spouses who are harming them.
Current policy measures also increase risk for immigrant women experiencing abuse. Pension policy excludes many senior immigrant women from access to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. Immigrant women stay in dangerous situations because 10-year to 20-year agreements between their sponsoring family members and the Government of Canada prevent them from accessing many publicly funded services, thereby effectively tying them to family members who harm them.
To address these concerns, we have recommended that the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments fund initiatives to enable senior indigenous women, women elders and their communities to develop locally based and culturally appropriate programming to support healing within their communities.
We ask that you enhance support for organizations that assist senior women experiencing or fleeing abuse. This not only means transition houses and safe houses, but also seniors-serving agencies and immigrant-serving agencies, particularly to develop and enhance outreach services so that women can be served without leaving their home.
We would like enhanced funding to safe houses and transition houses, to allow them to implement practices identified in the report “Promising Practices Across Canada for Housing Women Who are Older and Fleeing Abuse”. It is referenced in our brief. This would allow programs and agencies to enhance accessibility and appropriateness for senior women.
Also, we are asking for a review of old age security and guaranteed income supplement eligibility criteria respecting access for senior immigrant women who otherwise have no financial support.
In terms of access to health care, I'm going to skip some of my introduction and just lead into the recommendations.
We've recommended that the government fund patient advocate and navigator programs to provide support and assistance to senior women who experience barriers to receiving timely and appropriate health care. Women with complex health issues find system navigation challenging. Health care is often delivered through a mix of providers.
We recommend enhancing funding for programs aimed at providing housekeeping assistance, such as meal preparation, laundry and housework to senior women requiring support. This is essentially home support. What we've found in recent years is that some of these kinds of services—which are the services women tend to need more than others—have been cut.
We ask that you explore models of health care delivery that better serve women with complex health circumstances, such as community health centres that bring together primary care physicians and allied health professionals. The problem with going to see a physician, as many people know, is that you're often limited to seven minutes with a doctor. If you're an older woman or a woman with disabilities with many complex health issues, seven minutes does not allow you to tell your story and get the right kind of care.
Finally, I have a few words about enhancing access to justice. Senior women tell us that they find it difficult to access legal representation and legal advice. Most cannot afford the legal services they need, and many do not know how to find a lawyer to get help. For some reason, the outreach and promotion of legal services did not seem to reach older women.
Senior women who have survived violence have told us that the legal system can be harmful and re-traumatizing, rather than helpful. Lawyers don't provide the assistance they require; judges may not support them to tell their stories in court, and justice professionals do not seem to help keep them safe. We have worked with a group of older women to develop an eight-minute documentary to illustrate this dynamic. You can watch it on our website. It's called No Voice.
We also have a number of recommendations related to access to justice, as follows.
Provide sustainable funding for programs that provide legal representation to grandmothers who are the primary caregivers of children, including in-house staff lawyer positions within key community agencies. Grandmothers providing care tend to be a group of people that the policy never contemplated would happen.
Identify practical solutions to barriers to access to justice facing older women in B.C. and other provinces, with particular attention to outreach strategies.
Increase the number of hours of funded legal representation in instances where older women require legal aid.
Ensure that justice sector stakeholders, including lawyers, judges and law students, develop a better understanding of the dynamics of trauma.
Enhance funding for advocacy programs that allow senior women to access support that they would not get from a legal aid-funded lawyer. Advocates can provide holistic, emotional and practical assistance that allows women to make better use of their advocates and their legal counsel in a limited time. It provides a better wraparound service for women with complex needs.
Those are the issues that I wanted to highlight in my submission.
Good morning, Madam Chair and honourable members.
At the Réseau FADOQ, when we think about the survival of our life partners, it's a serious matter. Women have a longer life expectancy than men. We know that 8.4% of women in Quebec are widows, which is significant. The death of a spouse is a difficult life experience for anyone. It's difficult on a financial level. When you get up one morning, as a couple, to see the sun rise, and the next day your spouse is gone, your life changes.
When Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan recipients die, their benefits stop. We want their benefits extended to three months after their death, because the bills keep arriving in the mailbox. The widowers or widows, who are seniors in many cases, continue to fulfill the financial obligations. These obligations were often established before the death of their spouses. We're asking for compassion in this area.
We also want the guaranteed income supplement increased by $50 a month. Many women were in the workforce before they needed to stop working to raise their children at home, and they weren't able to contribute as much as their spouses to an RRSP. We're also asking for compassion in this area.
Before the age of 60, men are more likely than women to live alone. We want this reality to be taken into account and we want an increase in old age security benefits. For the guaranteed income supplement, we want an increase of exactly $50 a month.
We commend the government for improving the earnings exemption for experienced workers. We're very pleased with it.
Many women in Quebec act as caregivers. The gap between women caregivers and men caregivers is larger among those aged 45 to 64. In this age group, 39.7% of women are caregivers. One in three women caregivers holds a job, while one in five men caregivers holds a job. We want the government to double the caregiver tax credit because it's often given to women. The credit must also be refundable.
In 2016, the Appui pour les proches aidants d'aînés estimated that 2.2 million adults in Quebec perform a caregiver task each week for a senior.
The Réseau FADOQ recommends that the federal government raise the weekly earnings threshold for calculating caregiver benefits so that the amount provided is closer to the income of program recipients.
[Witness spoke in Mi’kmaq
Hello. My name is Hannah Martin, and I am from the traditional unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq in a place called Tatamagouche, in Nova Scotia. Today I am representing the riding of Cumberland-Colchester, and I will testify on the devastating impacts of resource extraction and development on water and communities in Mi'kmaq territory.
The theme of my testimony is that the violence against indigenous lands is violence against indigenous women. Today I will be making three calls to action on the impacts of Canadian mining at home and away.
For the first time in history, the province of Nova Scotia is planning to release a request for proposals for mining exploration in Warwick Mountain, Nova Scotia. If this mine is not stopped, the tailings will poison the French River watershed and six other watersheds of which the mountain is a part. This will have a direct impact on human life, plants and wildlife—all for five years of jobs.
To date, adequate consultation has not been conducted by Atlantic Gold or the Province of Nova Scotia with indigenous or non-indigenous folks. On behalf of members of the Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia group, and as a Mi'kmaq woman, today I call for the immediate halt of the request for proposals.
With urgency, I call on the Canadian government to hire a now 15-month overdue ombudsperson for responsible enterprise, or CORE. On January 17, 2018, the government promised that it would create the CORE, which would be fully independent and would have the powers to compel documents and testimony.
I, myself, have witnessed the violence of Canadian gold companies abroad in places like San Miguel, where Canadian gold companies are raping and forcibly removing indigenous women from their lands and territories. This is happening by Goldcorp.
Reconciliation and respectful relationships have no borders. We need to be treating indigenous folks and carrying out our promises to indigenous peoples not only in Canada, but also abroad.
My name is Nokuzola, but you can call me Zola. I'm a body—a biological process—but I very much belong to social systems. Frankly, my mom might have given me a pep talk before I got here.
In 2017, nearly 4,000 people died from opioid-related causes in Canada. Over the past five years, one in eight Canadians—that's 3.5 million people—has reported having a close friend or a family member who is dependent on opioids.
Opioids are a classification of drugs that, when consumed, activate the reward centres in our brain, which in turn floods our brain with dopamine, which causes feelings of euphoria. We can definitely see that although there may be an aspect of individual agency, this is very much a biological process.
There are two streams that contribute to the opioid-related mortality in Canada: the prescription drug stream and the illegal drug stream. Thirteen per cent of women used prescription opioids in the past year. Among women, the greatest risk for opioid addiction is receiving a prescription for opioid meds in the doctor's office. This is due to many reasons. Women tend to frequent the doctor's office more. They tend to have undealt-with trauma and violence and as a result self-medicate, and they have differing chronic pain experiences.
Though Canada has implemented warning stickers on some opioid labels, as well as information sheets to be given along with prescriptions, there is a relationship between social isolation and addiction. If opioid addiction starts in the doctor's office, specifically for women, so should social support. We need to look into social prescription programs to accompany opioid prescription and employ doctors to listen to women in the doctor's office.
Hello, everyone. My name if Dharana Needham. I'm a second-year student at McGill University, and I will be representing Vancouver Quadra.
Today I will be speaking on women and poverty, focusing specifically on single mothers living in poverty, subsequent child poverty, and the impact of the health care system on impoverished people with disabilities.
My older brother and I were raised by a single mother who is both diabetic and living with chronic illness. This places her in a category of persons with disabilities.
I am a student living with both physical and learning disabilities, and my entire family is living in poverty. I have been below the poverty line my entire life and, as such, have seen the progression in the lack of resources being made available to single mothers, persons with disabilities and low-income families, which has perpetuated the problem of poverty, specifically within Vancouver.
Due to my mother's disabilities, she is unable to drive. It takes us an hour on public transportation to reach affordable food centres. It takes double the time to reach our nearest welfare offices. Vancouver has become unaccommodating and neglectful to people living in poverty, and I can safely say that this is not the only city in Canada in which this is happening. The issue of access is intensified for single mothers and even more so for a single mother living with a form of disability. This is an occurrence that is significantly more common than one may think.
The current medical system does not accommodate those living in poverty. We claim to be living in a universal health care system; however, we've plateaued at the term and have not considered the fact that an inordinate number of people are still being barred from the health care resources they need because they cannot afford them.
Canada's health care system can be put up on a pedestal because, technically, it is universal—and I am forever grateful for that—but when I have to choose between paying for my medication and paying for my rent, I cannot be proud of our system.
I understand that the topics I am discussing are regulated by provincial governments. However, these cannot be considered provincial issues. They are concerns that fall under the mandate of each respective provincial government, but they are problems that transcend one province and are perpetuated across the country.
Good morning. My name is Jaelyn Jarrett. I'm originally from a small Inuk community in northern Labrador called Nain, Nunatsiavut. In the early part of my life, I got the opportunity to be raised by my anaanatsiaq and my ataatatsiaq, my grandmother and my grandfather. They showed me my traditional way of life, how to live off the land, and my language. Those are values that I have carried with me every day throughout my 21 years. These were the best times of my life.
However, I've also been in foster care. I've been adopted; I have suffered from isolation in the cities and lost my language. I've had a grandparent who attended residential school, and I've dealt with the deep-rooted trauma that has come with that. I've also suffered from depression.
I'm still here, and I'm still breathing and, while it hasn't been easy, I'm very thankful for that. However, many of our Inuit youth are not actually able to say the same, and some of them aren't with us today. A few days ago, I was going through some of my childhood memorabilia, and I found a little kindergarten graduation cap. When I looked at the names inside the cap, I realized that a lot of the kids I had grown up with aren't with us today because they've taken their own lives. As I continued to look through my pictures and my memorabilia, I noticed that, as I have gotten older, I would put RIP next to some of the people I had lost.
While my story may seem kind of like an outlier compared to the rest of Canada, it's not. Unfortunately, it's probably very familiar to many Inuit. Whether it's losing family, relatives and friends to suicide, or whether it's being in the foster care system and suffering from isolation or suffering from loss of identity, it's very familiar, and I'm sure that what I'm saying can resonate with many Inuit.
Yes, these laws are being ignored. The example I gave you was Goldcorp. It has a mine in San Miguel called the Marlin mine. There was a recent case, which is actually very dependent on the ombudsperson that we need to implement immediately. There are actually a number of Mayan women who travelled to Toronto last year to be heard about their case. There were several women who were raped at the site of the mine by security personnel who were part of Goldcorp.
They were also forcibly removed from their lands. Many times, when these companies go in, they actually trick women into signing off their lands. Lots of these women don't speak Spanish. They speak their indigenous language only, which, as we know, is an extremely precious gift that we have as indigenous peoples. However, some of these companies are going in and actually tricking them because they don't speak Spanish, stealing their land and removing them from their territories.
The result is these massive open pit mines, which produce chemical tailings that kill everything as far as your eye can see. I've seen these tailings ponds. There was a recent break in Brazil. I'm sure everyone here is aware of that. I do not think we are following regulations and our laws abroad as a country, and we really need to be more responsible. These are people's lives, you know.
The same thing is happening in Canada. As a Mi’kmaq woman, I won't be able to practise my treaty rights and my inherent rights under the peace and friendship treaties if a mine is implemented in my backyard. It's literally a few kilometres down the road. Not only does it affect my spirituality, but it also affects my physical and mental health. This is a responsibility that I carry as a Mi’kmaq woman for myself and my future children, and your children and your families.
This is an issue that I think a lot of people are starting to realize is more than an indigenous issue. That is why I come here associated with not only my Mi’kmaq community but my community of Tatamagouche. I'm a member of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, which has been actively trying to stop the mine since it was announced last fall.
I think this is an issue that is really happening not only abroad but in our own communities, and we have to take action.
Hello. My name is Immaculée, and the LaSalle-Émard-Verdun district of Quebec is where I call home today.
Today I want to talk to you about one of the residents of my riding, a refugee girl who fled the Congo with her family. They moved from country to country, looking for safety. They went to Uganda, where they sought refuge for 10 years. Her parents finally got jobs there, so they sent her to school. She went to school for the first time when she was 14 years old. She couldn't read, write or even spell her name.
After 10 years in Uganda, they came to Canada in 2014, and she enrolled in an adult school. Two years later, she graduated, winning awards and being named valedictorian.
Today, the girl struggles to finish her college education because of the responsibilities to her family. Unlike Uganda, Canada chose not to recognize her parents' education and experience, so they, too, went back to school.
Like many refugee girls, the daughter works long hours in low-paying jobs to support herself and her entire family, while hiding from those who want to exploit her desperation and poverty. Her parents work too, but they don't make enough money to feed everyone. All eight members of the family suffer from post-traumatic stress, and the untreated impacts on their mental health can be debilitating. There is neither time nor money at home for proper treatment.
Four years ago, that girl slept under trees, sick with malaria and fleeing civil war. Today, she speaks to you in the Parliament of Canada. I am that girl, and I am extremely grateful to be in Canada, but more needs to be done to help refugees, especially refugee women.
Recognizing the education of refugees and immigrants is crucial. We need workers, engineers, lawyers and doctors like my mom and dad.
I would like to begin by situating us in an area of Canadian history that is all too often ignored. Throughout Canada's early colonial history, segregation and eugenics were dominant ideologies. The very women whom many of us consider the Famous Five, who are galvanized in copper and set on Parliament Hill, were also famous for their eugenics and white supremacist attitudes. It was not until 1975 that eugenics legislation was repealed. It was not until 1996 that women in institutions were given the right to vote.
However, the institutions that have warehoused oppressed groups for centuries have yet to crumble, despite mass calls for deinstitutionalization. The institutions that saw—and see—the abuse, rape, forced medicalization and forced labour of disabled people remain. No longer are my people housed in institutions. Instead, they are in nursing homes, not-for-profit group homes, psychiatric institutions and prisons. We are tucked into the corners of society, out of sight, but we must always be in mind.
We must remain vigilant of the ways that history repeats itself. We must remain vigilant that pharmacare not be used to forcibly medicate persons in institutions. We must remain vigilant that a mental health strategy not seek to segregate people into institutions, away from community. A mental health strategy must not pathologize or criminalize marginalized identities.
As our population ages, we must remain vigilant that nursing homes are not spaces for warehousing people. We must reinvest in the importance and knowledge of elders.
I challenge you to leave here today remembering that it is not feminist to revoke someone's consent because they are mentally ill. Remember that consent extends beyond the bedroom, all the way into our hospitals and institutions. Remember that warehousing people is not feminist. Remember that prisons are not feminist.
I challenge you to leave here today recognizing your privilege and your responsibility to patients who live without a patients' bill of rights, without access to democratic institutions and fundamentally segregated from this very place where I am sitting.
“Go home with your friends,” “Watch your drink,” and “Plan your transportation.” These were the recommendations of an awareness campaign that was still under way at the end of last year. The campaign was hardly unique.
I've noticed that the imperative form of the verbs is used to address women. Why are women being addressed in a way that dictates choices to them? Why should we live in fear of being assaulted when we return home in the evening or at night? It would not occur to our male friend, who leaves shortly after us, that the man walking across the street may decide to harass, rob, assault or even abduct him. We must ask the following question. How does an individual end up taking this type of action?
Personally, I agree with the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who said that a human being born with an open heart is ready to share. However, today's inequalities mean that the same opportunities and possibilities aren't available to everyone. As a result, I believe that a proper education, parental support, information or awareness campaigns, and the values conveyed by society through advertising and our economic system must be adjusted or improved in order to bring about long-term change.
When people are children, teenagers or young adults, they develop their personality, identity, opinions and ambitions. This is where action must be taken. Once they have joined the labour market and are responsible for a home and children, a number of people lose the determination needed to bring about change.
I also think that we need to change the education and customs of our society. Even if we adopt new rules or legislation, or change the Constitution overnight, the habits, behaviours and ideologies will remain the same. As a result, we must keep seeking new knowledge and applying critical thinking skills. Through learning, education and communication, we can bring out change in our country.
I come from Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town of 7,000 people in the Charlevoix region. Before I started university in Montreal, I had never experienced sexism and gender inequality. I thought that we lived in an egalitarian society.
Hello. My name is Phoenix Nakagawa. I am a third-year agriculture student at the University of Manitoba, majoring in agroecology and entomology. I am here representing the riding of Winnipeg Centre, and I'll be talking to you today about women in sport.
I'm a global indigenous transwoman of colour and a competitive rower. I live between colliding worlds, one that validates my identity and one that does not. I would love to talk to you all today about the struggles of women, especially queer and coloured women, in sport. Sadly, I cannot do that. The reason is simple: I have not been validated as a woman in the sporting community.
Ever since I've come out, I've had an uphill battle with sport and its continued erasure of transpeople like me. I competed twice at the Canada Summer Games, once at the Western Canada Summer Games, and twice at nationals, where the experiences caused me discomfort. The 2017 Canada Summer Games was especially difficult for me, because I had just come out as a transwoman to most of my crew and support team. I was accepted within my crew, but I had to race as a man. I knew of this reality, but I decided to continue to pursue the games, hoping that other accommodations would be made. They were not. I was in the men's dorm room and the men's food hall. I was not permitted to enter the women's area. My name tag had a large “M” on it, representing male, which caused me constant dysphoria.
The major issue today in the sporting world is that nobody wants to address us as women, as people of colour, as queer or trans identities, or, for that matter, as disabled athletes. Most sporting organizations are afraid to tackle many of the issues faced by our communities. However, I would like to advocate for one thing that would engage at least the queer community to enter sport—that is, a gender-inclusive category.
This gender-inclusive category would help diverse queer identities, such as non-binary and gender-fluid people and other transpeople, to safely participate in sport. This category would involve disabled athletes, athletes of colour, and other intersections of disability, colour and queer as well. Of course, this idea is not perfect, but we must start somewhere or else we will never have full public access to publicly funded sport.
It is clear that there are an increasing number of women in politics. The 2015 federal election saw a record number, 88 women elected as members of Parliament, but we still face many challenges. In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges is sexual harassment and the terms of language directed to and in reference to women in politics.
An article published by Global News in 2018 highlights the issue of sexual harassment in Canadian politics. The article states:
One MP, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect her personal privacy, said that while she has never experienced sexual harassment on Parliament Hill, she has heard her male colleagues share many jokes and remarks of a sexual nature about female MPs and employees.
Despite her best efforts to make clear that the jokes—which her colleagues find trivial—are unwelcome and inappropriate, they have not stopped.
I am deeply disappointed and disheartened by the behaviour of some of Canada's leaders. It is clear that gender balance and equal representation in cabinet do not mean equal respect on Parliament Hill. Both the women and the men in politics need to work together in order to address this issue.
I ask the women of Parliament to address inappropriate workplace language. While some women may remain afraid to speak up against harassment, I encourage them to confide in a trusted co-worker. However, I also call upon the men in politics and in Parliament to address and challenge inappropriate language that they may hear among their co-workers in regard to their female co-workers. Language in politics needs to be addressed because, far more often than not, women are verbally harassed and they do not speak up against harassers in fear for their job.
The leaders of our country need to be held accountable for their inappropriate language and their actions towards women in politics. While it remains a male-dominated field, an increasing number of women are now involved in politics. If the gender representation in Canadian politics can shift, so can the language towards women in politics.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Recent events have made me realize that being a woman, and especially a small woman, has had more repercussions that I would have thought, at several points in my life.
I'm thinking in particular of a recent event, a public speaking contest where I had worked very hard to win first place. The comments that I received after the contest surprised me. People told me that I had really surprised them. They didn't think that a small person like me would have such a strong voice. This didn't bother me. The comments weren't bad. In the end, why do people make those comments? The reason is that the characteristics of a good speech aren't associated with small women like me. A powerful voice, strength and greatness are demonstrated in speeches.
This just confirmed the importance of destroying stereotypes, which are especially blatant in politics. Inequalities are strongly perpetuated by stereotypes. The more intense the socialization process, the stronger the stereotype. This issue is addressed in paragraph 5(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, which condemns the perpetuation of these stereotypes.
One issue is that politics was exclusive to men for such a long. As a result, the stereotypes are very strong. We don't need to look very far to see that Canada has never elected a woman prime minister. In Quebec and the United States, there have been very few. In addition, few women are leaders of political parties running for election, for example. How can a woman have aspirations in a field built so heavily on male stereotypes?
Lastly, my message is that parity is still important in politics. Above all, I want to point out that parity comes from general recommendation no. 5 of the CEDAW, which proposes temporary special measures. This just means that parity is a temporary measure to enable women to infiltrate decision-making institutions. We've reached a point where so many competent people have doctorates, training and experience. These people are women as well as men. Experience is no longer an issue. Stereotypes must be dismantled during the hiring and selection process. I'm excited to see more women in positions of power.
I'll conclude with an observation by Simone de Beauvoir. Women's rights are not and will never be permanently acquired.