[Minister spoke in Ojibwe, Anishinabe and Arabic as follows:]
boozhoo, aaniin, as-salaam alaikum.
I join from my home in Peterborough—Kawartha, where Curve Lake First Nation and our entire community are grieving the loss of Cileana Taylor, who lost her life due to an act of violence perpetrated against her by a man she knew.
I would like to thank my hon. colleagues for agreeing to this important discussion. I am not sure when the last time, or if there was a first time, the House of Commons had a take-note debate on gender-based violence. My team and I have been looking for that, but this is historic. I want to thank the Liberal women's caucus for sounding the alarm, our House leader for listening to us and for taking us seriously, and every single party in the House for agreeing to have this important conversation at this very important time in our history and for women.
These conversations are important and our government will continue to create spaces for them. However, this cannot just be about words, but has to be followed by action. When I see my Conservative colleagues vote against transferring essential funds to support women and children escaping violence and abuse in Quebec tonight, I have to question their sincerity. I hope my Conservative colleagues will account for why they voted the way they did in the time they have tonight.
I would like to talk about the women we lost, our government's response during the pandemic, the illness that causes the violence against women in the first place and how parliamentarians can lead the cultural shift necessary to put an end to this shadow pandemic.
Let me say the names of the seven women we lost in Quebec in just seven weeks. Elisapee Angma, 44 years old, was the loving mother of four children. Marly Edouard, 32 years old, was a Haitian Canadian well known in the Haitian music scene and a former manager, producer and radio host. Myriam Dallaire, 28, was the young mother of a precious one-year-old child. Sylvie Bisson, 60 years old, was Myriam Dallaire's mother. Nadège Jolicoeur, 40 years old, was the mother of five children. Rebekah Harry, 29 years old, was the mother of a nine-year-old son and was described as a good friend and family member who lived life strongly. Nancy Roy, 44 years old, was loved and cherished by those around her. These women were loved and they will be missed.
To Quebeckers and to Canadians grieving, we grieve with them.
One life lost is too many. We grieve with them. We will continue to put survivors and the loved ones we lost at the centre of what we do.
We lost more than 160 women to femicide last year, and one life lost is too many. We grieve with them and we will continue to keep survivors and families at the centre of our work.
When the pandemic was first declared, we reached out to leaders across the country, and they all said the same thing: They warned us the rates of violence would go up. We asked what the Government of Canada should do and they said we should get funds as quickly as we could into the bank accounts of organizations that would be the last stop for women and children fleeing violence and abuse, and we did that. Through an innovative model that had never been done before, we were able, with our partners, provinces and territories, the women's Shelters Canada team, the Canadian Women's Foundation and a separate agreement with the Government of Quebec, to get got money into bank accounts.
Over a thousand organizations in this country have been able to keep their staff paid, their doors open and to get the PPE, cleaning supplies and the laptops necessary to provide this critical care. I thank these organizations for their care. Because of them, we managed to prevent many, many more tragedies. Close to a million women, children and non-binary Canadians have been able to find care and refuge through these organizations during the pandemic. On behalf of the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada, I would like to thank these leaders. They are in every single one of our ridings, and we could not do this work without them.
The issue of gender-based violence is not new. For decades, feminists, survivors and their families have been advocating for change. The pandemic has magnified and intensified the reasons for the violence, and people are under pressure, but violence against women is unacceptable. It is a violation of their dignity and human rights, and it costs all of us.
Our government is working with provinces and territories to move forward on a national action plan on gender-based violence. Our partners at the YWCA, led by Maya Roy, and our partners with the Blueprint coalition, led by Women's Shelters Canada's Lise Martin, have been out there ensuring that the voices of survivors are fed into our national action plan.
Provinces and territories have agreed to move forward. We have spoken with over 1,500 stakeholders across the country, and over the past five years we have increased funding to frontline women's organizations more than any other government, and five times more than the previous government. We have opened up regional offices and have lifted the gag order that prevented too many feminist organizations from advocating for their clients and those they serve.
Every step of the way, including with the economic development measures that our government is working on, we will continue to rely on strong feminists across this country. They know the way. They have brought us to this moment in time when parliamentarians are having this courageous conversation, and every step of the way we will continue to work with them until every woman and child in this country is safe and free to achieve her dreams and reach her full potential.
I see that Madam Speaker has taken the Chair. I appreciate your leadership and advocacy in this chamber and in the women's caucus. You are a rock, and your feminism and advocacy strengthen the rest of us.
We have not always been brave enough to call the reason for this violence what it is. We have not always been brave enough to name it, but toxic masculinity is creating less safety for women and it is robbing men of their dignity, too. There are 238 honourable men in the House, and I am calling on all men to join us to help fight this preventable crime from happening in the first place. We need them. For too long, women have carried the burdens of violence against them, their families and their bodies, but more and more we are seeing guys step up as allies, like my former parliamentary secretary, who has been incredible in his advocacy, and like the Prime Minister of Canada, who shares power and space with other women and encourages us to lead and be strong in our advocacy for those who do not have a voice at the table.
There is a reckoning happening, and this reckoning requires us as parliamentarians to ensure that we seize the moment that has been offered to us, unpleasantly so because of the pandemic, to put an end to this violence once and for all.
Not too many days ago on a schoolyard not too far from where I live, an 11-year-old girl was kicked in the hips really hard by a boy because she had outperformed him on the sports field. He told her that she was fat and ugly and that she had no friends. Her friends laughed, and she left that place crying.
In another place, in another school not too far from here, a 14-year-old boy, when cornered in a difficult conversation, told another 14-year-old girl that she was too ugly to be raped and asked her why she was even debating with him the safety of women.
Within a matter of minutes, the entire school was calling him out. The girls had circled the wagons around this 14-year-old girl and they were calling out the toxic masculinity. Our teenagers are seeing this and they are calling it out. We have to be courageous enough to do just that. They are—