Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Hello, colleagues. Bonjour. Aaaniin. As-salaam alaikum.
I join you live from my basement in Peterborough—Kawartha on traditional Michi Saagiig territory, covered by the Williams Treaties. I want to thank you all for the very important work you're doing, the study that you've begun and the study that you've just wrapped up, which is critical in providing guidance on next steps for an even recovery as well as in response to COVID.
I want to congratulate the newer members to this committee. This is a really productive group of people who come together, find common ground and move good things forward. I can think of our federal gender-based violence strategy, which was so well informed by the work that this group had done.
I want to congratulate you, Madam Chair, on returning to the chair and also on your recent book launch. It should be a fun read over Christmas break.
Colleagues, I will spend a few minutes this morning talking about COVID, about where we are since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women tabled its historic report in the House of Commons, and then about connections.
COVID has, without a doubt, hit women hardest. It's hit the most vulnerable, those in rural communities, those with disabilities, trans women, indigenous women and Black and racialized women particularly hardest. Those with children and care responsibilities for adults in their lives are doing double or triple duty. Those who are on the front lines, whether in our health care system, long-term care system or responding to victims and survivors of gender-based violence, all have taken on additional responsibilities.
You know too well the job losses that women have experienced over the course of COVID. I know this committee is aware that if we are not united and strategic in our response to COVID and the recovery post-COVID, we stand a very real chance of losing hard-won gains.
Our government, right from the start, took decisive action. We put people at the centre of our response. We've applied an intersectional feminist lens to every aspect of our response. Whether it is support for the women's sector, which has received a 70% increase in funds over the past five years if you combine everything provided to them in the previous five years, the more than $1 billion in support for early learning and child care this year, the support for women entrepreneurs, and our supports to provinces and territories to enable them to carry out their responsibilities, our government recognized from the beginning that supporting women would be critical to our response and recovery from COVID.
In fact, CARE recently pointed out that Canada is the only country that fully accounted for gender in its response. We take this recognition with a lot of humility. We are committed to doing even more to ensure that on the other side of COVID, Canada is even stronger than when COVID began.
I realize that COVID has been hard in many ways on those Canadians and on colleagues who are grieving the loss of loved ones. You are not alone. I hope that you have the strength you need to get through this difficult time.
Looking ahead to December, we will mark 50 years since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women tabled its historic report in the House of Commons. We have an obligation to those who came before us to ensure that we build on the momentum, build on the progress and not allow the clock to be turned back. Those connections—women's connections to the labour force, to one another through broadband and cell service, and through conversations like this and those you're engaged in, Madam Chair, in the course of your studies—will be vital to ensuring we build on that progress.
I look forward to the conversation today. I have my binder and a bunch of papers here. My wonderful officials are here as well to ensure that you have the information you need to keep moving forward.