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View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 10:22 [p.1978]
Mr. Speaker, women in Canada and around the world continue to face many barriers and challenges. I appreciate the opportunity to raise some of them here in the House today. This is, of course, in part due to the cancelling of the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While this outbreak is having distressing impacts on people and communities around the world, like many diseases it will have a larger impact on those who are marginalized. This includes many women, particularly indigenous women and women in rural and remote communities.
This disease will also have a serious impact on unpaid and paid caregivers, health care workers who are on the front lines of this fight. Women comprise 82% of health care workers in Canada, and we need to make sure that the federal safety protocols for front-line health care workers are good enough to keep them safe and that the equipment they need is made available.
We know that our families, our communities and our country are stronger when women thrive. In Canada today, it is still all too common for women to experience discrimination and gender-based violence. We are seeing in reports that one out of two women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Canada and the global community have made it clear that violence and harassment in our society, including in our places of work, will not be tolerated and must end. That is why the International Labour Organization, which brings together governments, employers and workers, published a new international labour standard to combat violence and harassment for all. ILO convention 190 raises the bar, and Canada can and should be a leader as one of the first countries to ratify this agreement. It is our belief that the federal government has an important role to play in making work better, fairer and more secure for everyone.
In my community, as in many communities across Canada, there is a housing crisis. Everyone should have the right to a safe and affordable place to call home. However, for far too many women this is not a reality. Consecutive governments have neglected the housing crisis in Canada for far too long. The government makes inflated announcements, and when it comes to the actual dollars invested into housing, the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that the national housing strategy will spend 19% less on affordable housing than what was spent when the Conservatives were in power.
Housing is increasingly out of reach thanks to skyrocketing rents, demovictions and ballooning home prices. Parents lie awake at night worrying about how they can afford the family home, as costs keep going up but paycheques stagnate. Average rents rose in every single province last year, and today 1.7 million Canadian households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. This means that families in our communities are facing constant stress and impossible choices between rent or food and between living in substandard housing or relocating out of their community. Worse, they facing the real risk of homelessness, especially when they are fleeing violence.
We are seeing women who are victims of violence being turned away from shelters across Canada due to a chronic lack of resources and funding. One in five shelters reports that it has not received funding increases in 10 years or more, a situation that is unsustainable. Shelters are essentially doing the same work year after year with far less money.
Our vision of Canada is one where women's organizations have stable funding so that women can access the support and advocacy they need when they need it. The government has been promising a national action plan to end gender-based violence for many years. This plan needs to be backed by funding to ensure that shelter services and other programs are available in all regions of the country, especially areas that have traditionally been underserved. It needs to be complemented by domestic violence leave policies in workplaces and improved police training on sexual assaults, and requires universities to develop plans to end sexual violence on campuses. The government also needs to address violence against indigenous women, girls and LGBTQI2S+ people by working with indigenous peoples to implement the calls for justice from the national inquiry.
There is also an affordability crisis in child care across this country. Families are struggling to find child care spaces and are forced onto wait-lists before their children are even born. Costs are unaffordable in many cities, and parents are forced to make impossible choices between delaying their return to work or paying huge amounts for the child care they need. Every parent across Canada should be able to find child care with a licensed provider who makes a fair wage. The government needs to work with other levels of government, indigenous communities, families and child care workers to ensure that care is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all Canadian children.
So much more needs to be done to address the many systemic barriers facing women today. The New Democrats commit to breaking down those barriers and advancing gender equality. We will not stop until the job is done. We owe it to women now and to the girls growing up to make the changes they need to be safe, secure and equal in every way.
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