Madam Speaker, it is an absolute pleasure for me to rise in the House today to speak to this important legislation, Bill C-5, an act to amend the Judges Act and also the Criminal Code of Canada.
I feel very passionate about this piece of legislation, because I have seen first-hand many barriers that women and Canadians face when they are victims of sexual violence.
Prior to entering politics, as I have mentioned a few times in this House, I was a front-line social worker. I served over 23 years with the Codiac regional RCMP as the victim services coordinator. During that time, I had the privilege of accompanying many survivors of sexual violence through some very difficult times.
Within the RCMP, a part of my job was assisting police officers in conducting these types of investigations and also helping victims navigate through a very a complex system, preparing them for court and often times accompanying them to court. I have personally had the privilege of accompanying probably thousands of victims who faced these very difficult situations. I wish I could stand here today and say that I have never heard any inappropriate comments made by judiciaries, but that is not the case. I have seen first-hand some of the treatment that women and individuals have gone through, which is why I feel so passionate that this bill move forward. I am pleased to see that all members of this House are supporting the bill.
If passed, this bill will ensure that superior court judges who hear sexual assault cases get proper training so they will not be influenced by harmful myths and stereotypes that persist in our society. It will also lead to a better understanding of the social context surrounding this type of crime in our country. This training will also assure the public that judges are applying the law in a way that respects survivors' dignity and reality. This training will give judges the right tools to make fair, impartial decisions.
The bill will also require judges to explain their final decisions in sexual assault proceedings in writing, which will make the process more open and transparent.
Sexual assault is a form of gender-based violence and one of the most under-reported crimes in Canada. When I was a front-line worker, we would often say that fewer than 6% of survivors came forward, and today we have heard in the House the statistic of 5%, and so we know that this crime is truly under-reported. Unfortunately, gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive and deeply rooted human rights violation of our time, and we have to remember that it is 100% preventable.
I would like to talk about the Government of Canada's co-ordinated efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence, because Bill C-5 is another important piece of a larger suite of initiatives designed to better support survivors and their families, as well as to promote a responsive legal justice system.
First, let me explain what gender-based violence is.
Gender-based violence is violence directed towards another person based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender. Gender-based violence is linked to gender inequities, unequal power dynamics and harmful gender norms and behaviours. It is made worse by other forms of discrimination.
Women and girls, racialized women, lesbian, gay and bisexual people, indigenous people and people with disabilities are at an increased risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Transgender, two-spirit and gender-diverse people in Canada also experience higher rates of violence.
In Canada, gender-based violence continues to happen at an extremely alarming rate. According to data collected by Statistics Canada, between 2008 and 2018, over 700 women were killed by their intimate partner in this country. In 2018, one in every three women experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in public. While these numbers are terrifying, the reality for indigenous women and girls is even worse. In 2018, the rate of homicide was nearly seven times higher for indigenous women and girls than that of their non-indigenous counterparts.
Faced with such a bleak picture, the government took action.
In 2017, the Government of Canada took action, launching the very first federal strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence entitled “Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence”.
The strategy includes over $200 million for federal initiatives to prevent gender-based violence, support survivors and their families, and promote responsive legal and justice systems.
The gender-based violence strategy is the first-ever federal strategy of its kind because it takes a whole-of-government approach and is informed by grassroots activism and feminist action.
We listened to survivors and women's and equality-seeking organizations in communities across the country that are working tirelessly to address gender-based violence within their communities. Let me give some examples of the initiatives under the strategy that were informed by their voices.
As a part of the strategy, the Public Health Agency of Canada, also known as PHAC, is investing more than $40 million over five years and more than $9 million per year ongoing. This includes investing in initiatives that prevent child maltreatment and teen and youth dating violence, and equip health professionals to respond to gender-based violence.
For example, the Public Health Agency of Canada is funding projects through which young Canadians learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships that are free from violence and abuse. Educators are also provided with new tools to increase their capacity to deliver this type of guidance to young Canadians.
Teaching teenagers across Canada about what a healthy relationship looks like also helps foster positive relationships, changes attitudes and promotes gender equality. It helps foster a greater understanding, ultimately resulting in a safer community for young Canadians anywhere in Canada from coast to coast to coast.
In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada is investing more than $6 million per year to support the health of survivors of family violence. Improving physical and mental health outcomes for youth and children, helping mothers experiencing family violence learn the impact of violence on their parenting and their children's development, while building mothers' self-esteem and improving their positive parenting and healthy relationship skills, and building resilience and life skills in young women are just some examples of what the funded projects aim to accomplish.
Just as Bill C-5 proposes to train judges, under the strategy we are training RCMP front-line officers so that they can better understand the social context surrounding gender-based violence. The goal is for survivors to feel more confident in moving forward to denounce their aggressors and for officers to be more understanding of the survivors' situation.
These are just a few examples that demonstrate the ongoing progress of the strategy.
As part of the strategy, we are working in close co-operation with every level of government, including the provincial and territorial governments, as well as several departments and organizations. We are pooling our resources to strengthen our ability to support those affected by gender-based violence in communities across Canada.
We are working on establishing a national plan that would ensure that anyone facing gender-based violence is protected and has reliable and timely access to services, no matter where they live.
In closing, I could continue discussing our accomplishments and the continuous efforts we are making. The point is that Canada's strategy to prevent gender-based violence is moving forward because we know there is still more work that needs to be done.
We need to give Bill C-5 our full support. We are counting on all members of Parliament to help us continue this crucial work to end gender-based violence within our communities.