Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 21

Thursday, December 6, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Status of Women

Restoration of Programs Involving Women’s Advocacy and Research for Equal Access to Justice

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As the minister knows, today is a very sad day in our country. The events that occurred 18 years ago are etched in the memory of all Canadians, who will never forget those young women who dared to dream to become engineers and were savagely killed. In fact, today, 51 per cent of Canadian women over the age of 16 still experience an act of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Since taking office, the Conservative government has closed 12 Status of Women Canada regional offices, a $5 million cut to a modest budget of $13 million; eliminated the Court Challenges Program and the Law Commission, a $5.2 million cut; and refuses to fund women’s advocacy groups. As a result of these aggressive measures, women’s equality-seeking organizations are finding it more difficult to carry out their work.

Honourable senators, that work supports vulnerable women in our society. Instead of trying to silence women who speak out for equality, the federal government should be restoring funds for women’s advocacy and research for equal access to justice.

May I call on the honourable leader to take leadership to help restore these programs? What will she be doing?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for that question. I will be supporting what the government has been doing, putting more money into Status of Women Canada to fund programs directly into the communities, where those funds are required; and not into offices, where advocates sit around and talk to each other.

As I have said before, our government believes in the full participation of women in Canadian society. We will continue to support women through programs that are managed effectively. Those are important words: “managed effectively.”

Budget 2007 provided a new, refocused women’s program at Status of Women Canada with an annual budget of $15.3 million, the highest budget in its history. The women’s program supports projects that have a direct impact on women in their communities, as I said a moment ago, in such areas as violence against women and girls. The second call for proposals for funding under the Women’s Community Fund is currently under way. The first calls for proposals were issued in June. On October 11, Minister Verner announced 60 projects that would receive funding totalling $8 million. If the honourable senator checks the record instead of believing the rhetoric, she will see that we are putting real money into the community, where we can address the issues that women face — not at the advocacy level, but in the community where women live and work.

Funding of Homes for Battered Women

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, when the honourable leader was speaking about the gun registry years ago, she said money should be put toward homes for battered women. Since her government has come to power, how many homes for battered women has the government funded?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I replied to that question in my earlier answer to Senator Jaffer. In response to the actions of the previous government that was spending all this money on the long-gun registry, we found out that $1 billion was spent. I made that comment in the context of an action the government has taken.

I just mentioned to the honourable senator that Minister Verner has announced 60 projects that will receive funding totalling $8 million. I will be very happy to provide Senator Jaffer with a description from Minister Verner in regard to the types of projects that were funded.

Also, in November, Minister Verner announced funding for a project in Quebec to help women aged 55 to 65 re-enter the workforce. She also announced funding for an outreach program in British Columbia to help senior women who are experiencing abuse. As the honourable senator knows, as the Secretary of State for Seniors, I recently attended an FTP meeting in Saskatchewan. One of the subjects that received the most attention, from not only the federal government but also provincial and territorial governments, was the issue of elder abuse.