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View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, bonjour, aaniin, as-salaam alaikum to my hon. colleagues.
The great women feminists in my life, the Angelas, the Farrahs, the Lynns and my own mother, remind me that women hold up more than half the sky. A large part of that sky is above Canada. I stand here before the House on this traditional Algonquin territory as the Minister of Women and Gender Equality.
I am fully aware that my role intersects with so many of the concerns that face all of us today, such as economic development, climate change and reconciliation. Youth, seniors and those in between, in rural communities and in larger centres, are concerned with addressing and preventing gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual assaults; supporting LGBTQ2 services and equality-seeking organizations; making progress on housing and addressing homelessness; improving economic security; and representation, because representation matters.
On International Women's Day I, like so many of my colleagues, was back in my riding. In Peterborough—Kawartha I walked with Rosemary Ganley, who was in Beijing in 1995 and helped shape the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive blueprint for gender equality.
I also walked with my 10-year-old and three-year-old nieces, Leila and Ellia. I know when they get a little older they are going to look me in the eye and ask, “What did you do while you were in power to make things better for all of us?” I want to be able to tell them that I did everything I could. I know that all my colleagues want to be able to tell the little people in their lives the same thing.
I am confident that I will be able to have a good answer for them because, first and foremost, we have an incredible team, and some of them are here with me today, who wake up every day thinking about the very same outcome. I am also part of a movement that existed long before any of us got here, a movement that will continue long after we are gone.
On International Women's Day, we have an opportunity in this House to come together across party lines and talk about why it is important to hold up those who hold up more than half the sky. The French call this day, la Journée internationale de lutte féministe pour les droits des femmes, personnes trans et non-binaire, which in English is the international day of the feminist struggle for women, trans and non-binary people's rights.
For me, here in Canada, March 8 brings opportunities to connect with amazing feminists who believe in equality for all women, men, non-binary individuals and transpeople. It reminds all of us that no one can make progress alone. Feminists across the country and around the world have taught me there is no universal woman. That is the beauty of International Women's Day. It gives us a chance to connect to our own community and to connect to women's experiences across the country as we galvanize around the work we have accomplished and the work we still have to do.
As a Canadian, I am deeply proud of our spectacular country. We are unique because of our diversity and our diversity is our strength. I am proud to be a feminist in a movement that has incorporated its shared experiences of women, including those of women who are indigenous to these lands and those of immigrants from all corners of the world.
There are women who trace their ancestry to formerly enslaved Africans who fled north for freedom, women who trace their legacy to settlers who arrived here from Europe and women who continue to arrive here as refugees, seeking safety from war and political strife. They all have stories to share. We all have stories to share.
Canada is remarkable because we strive to share these stories and to learn from them. The leadership from women from all these realities has shaped and will continue to shape this great country we all call home.
A more difficult reality to face is that the making of our nation has resulted in specific oppressions and violence against particular groups of women, especially indigenous women and girls. These are wrongs we are working to make right. Making this right includes acting on the recommendations from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which I and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and all of our government are committed to addressing and responding to.
We will always take our lead from feminists and leaders across this country. Because we are working with them, our plan is working, and we are well equipped for the work ahead. We all know that these problems are multi-generational and, while they cannot all be eradicated in just four years, we are determined to continue to face them head-on.
In the months to come, I will once again be relying on meaningful conversations with feminists and equality seekers from across the country to develop Canada's first national action plan for addressing gender-based violence and to develop Canada's first federal gender equality plan.
Having grown up in family of strong-willed women, I do not expect we will always agree, but I am counting on the support of my colleagues and of Canadians to ensure our approach is intersectional, trauma-informed and culturally sensitive. We want to ensure that when we invest $100 million in women's organizations, which will be the single largest investment in grassroots organizations in Canada's history, we are empowering every single community across this country to become resilient and strong.
Our government will work with all willing partners to make the most of this momentum forward because, as our first openly feminist Prime Minister says, doing this work is not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Our future and our economy depend on it.
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