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Results: 1 - 15 of 145
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Hello, colleagues. Boozoo. Aaniin. As-salaam alaikum. I hope you're well. I hope you're safe. I wish the same for your loved ones and for your teams.
Given that this is my first time in front of a committee in our post-COVID world, let me take this opportunity to thank the public service of Canada for all the ways that you've put everything on the line. We are truly blessed to have the world's best public service moving Canada forward during this difficult time. Also, of course, it's wonderful to be here with Minister Qualtrough, who has been moving some significant pieces forward, not the least of which is the CERB program.
Madam Chair, I am very much looking forward to the response that comes from your committee as we navigate the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable, on women and on the path to recovery. I want to thank you for the work there.
I'll talk about our government's response to COVID. I would like to spend a bit of time talking about the impact on women and the road to recovery, but first let me talk about this book. Those of you from Winnipeg and those of you who have been around the last little while know that Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists is a book that tells the story of the women's shelter movement in Canada. Maybe I'll start with that.
In 1971, the Liberal government of the day introduced the local initiatives programs and the opportunities for youth program. These programs were to support those who were experiencing particular vulnerabilities during a time of severe economic downturn. The programs encouraged Canadians, particularly women and young people, to find solutions to pressing local challenges and receive a modest amount of funding from the federal government to help turn those ideas and solutions into action.
Among the many ideas that came forward was one put together by young women across the country. They came together in the early seventies and started women's shelters in Canada, the very first women's shelters in Canada. Today, there are some 600 women's shelters in Canada because a group of young women came together to ensure that battered women and their children had a place to go in their hour of need. In 1996, my family and I were able to stay at one of those shelters.
Because of a decision that was made in 1971 and because of investments made in 1971, people today are benefiting from the thoughts, the creativity and the opportunities that have been created. We are going to see young people seize opportunities to propose solutions that we haven't thought of, and the story of the shelter movement in Canada is a really good reminder of the opportunities that can be seized in times of difficulty.
When the pandemic hit, one of our immediate responses was to provide $50 million to organizations that are providing support to those experiencing increased rates of gender-based violence due to the isolation measures in Canada. Today, some one thousand organizations have been able to keep their doors open, have been able to keep their staff paid and have been able to keep their buildings clean and provide a place of refuge for women and children in really dark hours.
We started our efforts by focusing on shelters and sexual assault centres, and then we were able to flow funds in a new way, in a way that we hadn't done before, to organizations that provide gender-based violence supports but do so without having the specific mandate of being a shelter or sexual assault centre. This includes a range of organizations that, for example, are doing work in the Downtown Eastside, organizations that are working in smaller rural communities and, of course, organizations that are providing supports to victims of human trafficking.
There is more to do. There is more to come. We are moving forward with the plan to develop Canada's first national action plan on gender-based violence, and I will have more to say very soon about our efforts to support victims of human trafficking in this country.
From the very beginning, we recognized that those who were most vulnerable would be hardest hit by COVID, and every step we've taken has taken that into account. The intersectional gendered lens that the Government of Canada applies has been applied to all of our efforts. I am happy to talk more about that.
There has also been a recognition that women have been hardest hit by COVID, with jobs lost and their work on the front lines and the care responsibilities they taken on because schools and day cares have been closed and because elders have needed help—as well as the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence. Women have been hardest hit, and if we're going to get out of this “she-cession”, we're going to have to support women in their need to get back to work and to ensure that we remove barriers. Otherwise, we lose the hard-won gains that so many before us have fought for.
Our focus on the vulnerable has led to millions of Canadians being supported.
The thousand organizations that we were able to support with gender-based violence funds have an impact in supporting some three million women and children in this country.
The CERB has benefited over eight million Canadians. The CEWS, or the wage subsidy, has supported close to three million workers. The Canada child benefit top-up has supported 3.7 million families with kids. The GST credit top-up has supported 12 million low- and modest-income individuals and families. The CESB has supported some 600,000 students. The OAS and GIS top-ups have supported 6.7 million elders in our country, and they will be receiving the top-up this week. The CEBA loans have supported 688,000 businesses, and there are additional supports for those businesses being worked out.
Madam Chair, the road to recovery from this unprecedented global pandemic will be hard. We are still in the middle of the pandemic. There's still a lot that we don't know about the virus, including how it spreads. I am proud of the way that Canadians have come together in shared sacrifice to protect the most vulnerable.
I am grateful to everyone who has been on the front lines of this work, particularly the women, who have put everything on the line. Some have had to have some really difficult conversations with their loved ones about why they can't be in the same house with them because they do work on the front lines. I'm talking about front-line workers.
The road to recovery has to include supporting women and the most vulnerable. There is an opportunity here too. The pandemic has revealed strengths in our system: for example, the public service of Canada; for example, our democratic institutions; and, for example, our universal health care system. It has also exposed cracks in our system that make too many vulnerable. We have an opportunity in the path to recovery, in the reimagining of our country and these systems, to rebuild back better. It's going to take every single one of us to work together to make that happen.
I want to thank you again for giving me a space. I want to thank everybody who has worked so hard to make this different way of doing business and doing Parliament possible.
I'll hand it back over to you, Madam Chair. I look forward to the conversation we are to have.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, let me correct the record. The organizations mentioned, including the London Abused Women's Centre, have received funding. There is more funding to come, which the organization and many other excellent organizations will be eligible for. Some thousand organizations have received emergency COVID funding in a very short period of time, in addition to the 500 that were receiving multi-year funding before the pandemic hit.
Madam Chair, I want to also acknowledge that when I started as the Minister for Women, the department had about $20 million to give out in funding to organizations. This year it's close to $120 million.
We believe that those organizations that are on the front lines are the most effective way to advance gender equality. We appreciate their incredible work. We know we have more work to do together.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, human trafficking is a heinous crime. We have a $75-million strategy, a hotline and supports for women's organizations. There is work to be done to prevent it, and we recognize that we need to do more as a country to address this. Half of the human trafficking victims are indigenous women and girls. That came out clearly in the MMIWG calls for justice.
There were no cuts; a program sunsetted, and we are moving into a new program. In addition, there was no cherry-picking. We worked with provinces, territories and organizations on the ground to come up with a list of organizations. Those organizations received funding directly deposited into their bank accounts. A thousand organizations receiving funding directly into their bank accounts has never happened before. We did that because we appreciate their work.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
One reality that COVID has highlighted is that in our economy, the care work that's done is disproportionately borne on the shoulders of racialized women and newcomer women, women whose work is essential to our survival, yet whose work is not compensated according to the incredible amount of labour that we ask of them. The precarity of their situations means that personal support workers, for example, have to have two or three jobs to try to manage, to make ends meet.
We can do better in Canada. The work that my department has been doing over the past few years, as well as our government as a whole, is to recognize that there are groups of Canadians across the country who are underserved and under-represented. Not only is that unfair, but unless we maximize the potential of those who have been on the margins of our societies and economies for too long, Canada won't reach its full potential.
We did begin to take into account and measure things. For example, 20% of our funds support women in rural communities. Also, a portion of our funds supports indigenous women and those organizations that are supporting them. We are doing more to dig deeper and figure out what percentage is supporting black women's organizations, indigenous women's organizations and racialized women's organizations, but we have so much more work to do.
Perhaps one positive outcome of COVID has been a recognition across the country that, unless the data that we collect as a nation in different orders of government is disaggregated by gender, race and other identity factors, we're not going to be able to count every single person and measure our impact.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for the question, Ms. Larouche.
As I just mentioned to MP Zahid, our economy, particularly the care work that's been done, unpaid care work, underpaid care work at best, has been done by women and women of diverse backgrounds. Pay equity is certainly a priority for us. We have put forward pay equity legislation. The work around addressing the gender wage gaps also includes ensuring that gender-based violence is addressed. If this most prevalent human rights violation is not addressed, women will not reach their full potential. If women are not supported, those who choose to go into fields that are often male-dominated, but also pay better, we're not going to reach pay equity, but I also agree that we need to work as a country to ensure that women get paid equally for work of equal value in the fields they choose to be in.
COVID has heightened just how important women's work is, how important care work in particular is, and how we all need to do better to compensate those who are doing this work. The pandemic pay that our government put forward to support provinces and territories is an example of just how much we believe that this needs to happen, for the sake of it being the right thing to do, but also, if we don't pay people fair wages, they're not likely to stay in those fields where we need them, and that's going to create a whole other set of challenges, as we have seen throughout COVID.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Without a doubt, this is a male-dominated sector. Without a doubt, it is harder for women, racialized women, young women and women with disabilities and exceptionalities to get into politics, to get their name on a ballot, and then to win and stay once they get here.
Representation matters. Minister Qualtrough talked about the considerations that were taken into account in very short order in the development of, say, the CERB. The fact that we have people around the cabinet table who had been homeless, the fact that we had people who had lived in poverty and different backgrounds, allowed us to make those calculations very quickly. Representation matters.
When little girls and boys and gender-diverse people see us women around these tables, they begin to see themselves in those fields as well.
Every time there has been movement forward for equality for women's rights, there has been push-back. There was push-back when we got the right to vote. There was push-back when we entered the workforce, and there's certainly push-back now that we are in politics. Just look at any one of our Twitter feeds to see just how harsh and how toxic that push-back is. Certainly, we play a role in supporting one another to show that women can work together and do politics differently. Certainly, our allies, particularly male colleagues, play a role.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
There's so much more to say.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
You are right; women's shelters and women's organizations, particularly over the past few decades, have had to find creative ways to make ends meet. They've been able to maintain their services despite the whims and the values of the various governments of the day.
We came in, in 2015, and one of our first steps forward on that front was providing supports to support and maintain 7,000 shelter units. We also carved out one-third of the national housing strategy so that women who are staying in shelters could then move into affordable housing, so that they could free up spaces but also piece back together and rebuild their lives. To date, about 29% of the national housing strategy has supported builds for women.
In addition to that, we were able to put forward funding to support shelters through capacity-building funds, through the gender-based violence program. During the COVID response, one of the first calls was to Lise Martin of Women's Shelters Canada. In partnership with her and her team, we were able to get money directly into the bank accounts of some 500 shelters in Canada to respond to COVID.
There is absolutely more work to do. We know that the work around operations for these women's organizations and equality-seeking organizations has to be in conjunction and co-operation with provinces and territories. The national action plan for gender-based violence is going to create an opportunity to further support these organizations.
MP Mathyssen, I look forward to your continued advocacy and partnership to ensure greater sustainability for these essential services for Canadians.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
The short answer is yes. We are working with provinces and territories, with the safe restart agreement, with the $14 billion that's on the table, to support the safe reopening of day cares so that parents can go to work knowing that their little ones are safe.
We also know that the child care system in Canada is not yet fully a system. We can't get back to a strong economy if we don't address the labour force attachments that women need. There is a link between gender-based violence, economic security, child care and pay equity. These things are all related. When women are able to stand on their own feet, to earn a good income, to participate in the economy, they are less vulnerable to gender-based violence—not totally 100% safe and free, but it makes a difference.
We are committed to that work. We do look forward to coming to agreement with our provinces and territories. It's mid-July. Parents are nervous, and rightfully so. We need women to get back to work so that we can restart the engines of our economy.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for sharing a bit of your own personal story. As someone who worked in a restaurant for five years, I appreciate it.
As Minister Qualtrough said, we obviously can't divulge cabinet matters, but let me be very clear. The purpose of these programs is to support students who are ready to step up and to do things in their communities that make a difference, that ease suffering, and we remain committed to that—
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
MP Serré, it's wonderful to see you well.
When the pandemic hit, the moment that really hit home for my team and I was when the Prime Minister had to self-isolate. At that time, we got on the phone with women's organizations, our partners across the country. In the next 48 hours there was a series of phone calls. Organizations all said the same thing when we asked them what we should do first: The last place that women will go when they need help is shelters and sexual assault centres, so we better make sure that when she knocks on the door, it is open to her and she's safe.
We've been very fortunate to have very positive relationships with all of our partners across the country, the other ministers responsible for women and gender equality in every province and territory. We realized that the rate of response was key. We had to get the money out very quickly. Flexibility was also going to be key, and we knew that to ensure there was no overlap of our funds, as resources are always limited, we had to make sure there weren't gaps created in the supports we were providing to organizations across the community. In that regard, working very closely with our provincial and territorial counterparts would be key.
After we came up with a list of partnerships with women's organizations, including Women's Shelters Canada and the Canadian Women's Foundation, we were able to share it with provincial and territorial partners, which then went through it and added to it, and told us who was getting funding already. When we rolled out the funds, they went out in a coordinated fashion to organizations that are providing support to some three million women and children across the country.
Those partnerships are going to be key not only in the ongoing efforts to respond to COVID, but also in the work that will need to happen with the national action plan.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
High-speed Internet is an essential service that Canadians deserve access to. While 87% of Canadians have that access, first nations communities and those in rural parts of our country disproportionately do not. We're moving into the world of telework and telehealth, and we are staying connected to our loved ones more and more online. While some 400,000 households are and will be connected to high-speed Internet because of our government's support, too many, some two million, have yet to have that connectivity.
The universal broadband fund, which we'll have more to say about, has the goal of connecting 100% of Canadians to this essential service. This is a matter of fairness, productivity and having a competitive advantage for our country.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
I was a student activist when the Prime Minister of Canada in the previous government said that the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls was not a priority; that was crushing.
We are moving forward to respond to the calls for justice. My colleagues, including Minister Bennett and me, have been working with indigenous communities across the country. We held virtual gatherings, with Yukon, with Manitoba, for example. The work is ongoing. COVID has changed things, but we heard clearly from families, from survivors, from indigenous leaders, “nothing about us without us”, and we are co-developing that response.
We didn't wait to respond. We've already invested historic amounts in women's organizations supporting indigenous communities across the country. We are already working to close gaps. The K-to-12 education gap, for example, the cap on funding, that was removed. Over half the boil water advisories have been removed. Sex discrimination in the Indian Act has been removed. We put forward legislation around indigenous languages and supports for children in care and restoring those rights to those families. Some hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested directly—
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
We have a long way to go, and more will be done.
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
They have every reason to be afraid. They are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence, and we, as a country, are going to benefit when our communities are safer for indigenous women and girls.
MP Shin, it's not if there will be a second wave, it's how the second wave or the third wave will look and where it will hit hardest. In indigenous communities where there have been containment efforts, where communities have been in charge of their own health services, able to share their data, they've been able to respond really effectively. I want to thank them for that.
We are going to continue to support those who are providing shelters for indigenous women and girls on and off reserve. We are going to continue to ensure they are at the table and that we are hearing directly from them, and we are going to continue to ensure that they benefit from the various government supports in place right now so they are not made even more vulnerable because of COVID. Provinces and territories are also committed to this work, and I'm grateful to see multi-party support for this work in 2020 because indigenous communities have been let down by government for too long. We can do better, and we will.
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