Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We stand at a pivotal moment, a moment that will be looked back on for how Canadian society and the global community banded together to help one another fight an invisible enemy. Hard decisions had to be made and, with the spirit of collaboration, parliamentarians have come together to deliver programs that are helping millions of Canadians weather the storm of the pandemic.
While we are all in the same storm, Mr. Chair, we are not all in the same boat and, sadly, many are taking on water. COVID-19 has exposed the many cracks in our system and has highlighted the millions of Canadians who were struggling before the pandemic even began.
I think of the many people in my constituency who have no access to health benefits. With fewer employers offering benefits, people are having to pay out of pocket for needed medications. There are those workers who are deemed essential and who fear falling ill, as they have no sick leave and, with poverty-level minimum wages, they struggle to pay rent and put food on the table. There are seniors struggling on fixed incomes, who see the costs of everyday goods continuing to rise and the money they receive from their pensions covering less. As well, I often speak to younger Canadians who do not even know what a workplace pension is because they are becoming increasingly rare.
Daily, I speak with women who face incredible barriers, barriers that generations of women have been fighting to tear down, yet they still stand. Those barriers existed through government after government. Those barriers continue to stand under this Liberal government. You can forgive those who are discouraged by the fact that they still must fight the battles of generations past, despite its being 2020.
While we are still experiencing the effects of COVID-19, there is hope that we will soon see the other side of this pandemic. At that time, we will stand at the crossroads, and we'll have to decide how we go forward. What kind of Canada do we want to see? Already, like clockwork, you can count on those in the right wing sirening a call for austerity and a devastating agenda of cuts that will prolong the sufferings of Canadians and what they are already feeling.
I hear from women's organizations and charities about the kinds of supports they need. They and I humbly propose a different vision from the same old neo-liberal agenda that is on offer, one where the government stops the project-based funding model for organizations that support women and charities. That model has forced organizations to continuously address the symptomatic problems women and marginalized Canadians face, rather than address the real issues. We need to change how we fund these organizations. Until we get back to offering consistent, reliable core funding, we cannot begin to address the systemic barriers that keep people down.
In my home of London, Ontario, we saw a clear example of this just last week. Funding that was allocated for organizations to provide long-term support to trafficked and sexually exploited women and girls is being cut. These women already face incredible trauma and abuse. They need support and stability, and the government is taking it away because the project has ended—except people don't live in projects with hard timelines. I fear for the women who will come after and who are fleeing violence and now have fewer places to turn to because of the actions of this feminist government.
Because of the models of funding that governments have put in place, they starve women's organizations. They have to scramble to find whatever funding they can to deliver the critical supports they offer our communities across this country. Short-term funding can't solve long-term problems. Sadly, because of COVID-19, when more is being asked of them, when supports are needed the most, their ability to raise money has all but vanished. These organizations, like many Canadians, don't have rainy day funds. They don't own the buildings they are in, and they are scrambling to keep the lights on while helping people who desperately need it.
We can help them so that we can help Canadians. We need a government that will take some bold steps and show some courage.
Another simple but effective measure that can help women now and going forward is for Canada to establish paid domestic violence leave. From the government's own data, domestic violence accounted for 30% of all police-reported violent crime in Canada in 2017. Eight out of 10 times, women were the victims.
Many women and those who are marginalized not only suffer at the hands of their abusers but also suffer significant financial costs when they are trying to escape. We can and should put in whatever financial backing we can to help those who are fleeing that violence. What we need is a government that has the political will to do it.
Mr. Chair, women are still not equal in the workplace. Of course, we see this in a variety of ways. I'll quote the former member of Parliament for Qu'Appelle and the fifth woman ever elected to the House of Commons, Gladys Strum, who said:
I submit to the house...that no one has ever objected to women working. The only thing they have ever objected to is paying women for working.
For every 10 jobs that have been lost due to COVID-19, six were lost by women. We have seen the extreme toll that takes.
We have also seen women laid off, unable to acquire the needed hours to receive maternity benefits. Every week, expectant mothers reach out to my office to ask what will happen to them in a post-pandemic world where they are unable to return to work and fall short of the hours they need to claim the benefits they need.
There are many ways the work that women do goes unrecognized. Because of old, tired views of what constitutes work, enshrined by outdated laws and regulations, a lot of work is unpaid, overlooked and taken for granted. With children out of school, the home has become the day care or school. With a lack of supports for seniors at home, often the responsibility of caring for them falls on women.
While we have made a lot of progress since MP Strum said those words in the House in 1945, when it comes to recognizing the work of women and pay equity, a lot more needs to be done. Around 56% of women are employed in occupations involving the five Cs: caring, clerical, catering, cashiering and cleaning. The differences in how female-dominated occupations are valued relative to male-dominated jobs contribute to gender-based pay inequality. Right now, Canadian women make 32% less than men do, and the gap is even wider for racialized women, immigrant women, women with disabilities and indigenous women.
Respect for indigenous women and girls and two-spirit people must be at the core of a new Crown-indigenous relationship, but for too many indigenous women, systemic discrimination and violence continue to be a reality.
After the Conservatives refused to address the tragedy of murdered and missing indigenous women for almost a decade, the Liberal government finally launched a long-overdue inquiry. However, they set it up with a limited mandate and failed to adequately care for the families who courageously shared their stories. The inquiry's finding of a genocide against indigenous women in Canada demands action from all Canadians. The report from the national inquiry must not sit on the shelf. The government needs to work in partnership with indigenous women, the families of the murdered and missing, and the communities, to implement the inquiry's call for justice and the calls to action brought forward by communities.
As more and more businesses are slowly allowed to reopen, people need to know they can return to work safely. They need to know their children will be cared for and kept safe. Many people don't have the privilege of working from home, and the government has a responsibility to guarantee them more security and supports. People have sacrificed so much, and Canadians did this in good faith. They put the needs of their communities first so we could weather this storm. The government must make public its plan to transition into our next phase so that those sacrifices are not wasted.
With bold thinking and political courage, we could bring forward some exciting new realities. Let's make workplaces safer and give workers 10 mandatory days of paid sick leave. Let's make child care available, affordable and accessible. Canadians want to go back to work. Let's make sure that when they go back, they can stay safe and stay healthy.
We have a lot of choices ahead of us. We can ensure a Canada that removes the barriers women and marginalized people face so that they can meet their full potential. We can address the core funding crisis women's organizations and charities face. We can work to change the laws to recognize all the many ways women work and contribute to our economy and society. We can address pay equity, an issue that is long overdue. We can redefine relationships with indigenous communities across Canada. We can move forward in a positive, progressive way. We can make further investments in the people who make up the neighbourhoods, organizations and communities we love. They are our foundations. They are our anchor.
It is certainly never too late to invest in people and the programs that reinforce our society. That ship hasn't sailed. In fact, the tide is just coming in.