Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 19

Thursday, March 12, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Human Resources and Skills Development


Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, yesterday the Leader of the Government in the Senate said that women at the graduate studies level have received equality and there was equal funding for women at the graduate level. She further stated that there was no imbalance and it is not an issue anymore. I would say this is not the case. This is not the story the statistics tell us. Only 40 per cent of women are in business fields. Women have not reached equality in business fields of study and the government has targeted the bulk of new graduate funding to male-dominated business fields ensuring that female students do not receive their share.

I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate personally, as someone who I know has promoted women all her life, will she be instrumental in fixing this imbalance by targeting a percentage of this new funding specifically to women who dominate in humanities and science so they can get better access to funding to promote their careers?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I was a little exasperated yesterday because women obviously tend to have greater representation in certain fields than in others.

Surely, Senator Jaffer is not suggesting we should not be trying to get women to go into other fields such as business and finance. I think if we did try to promote women in these fields, I would not be lamenting the fact that there are not enough women at the board of director level of Canadian corporations.

Surely, we should encourage women to go into these areas of study. I keep watching the graduate lists in mathematics at universities and there are many women on them. To assume that women, by nature of their DNA, are not capable of studying finance and business is puzzling to me.

We discussed yesterday that the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada welcomes the new investment in Canada’s university infrastructure and the Canada Foundation for Innovation funding announced in the federal budget. These investments will boost the role of universities in efforts to stimulate the economy in these difficult times.

I certainly encourage my granddaughters who go to university to not restrict themselves to certain professions. I suggest they look at the whole gamut and go where the future and jobs are.

Senator Jaffer: I did not ask the minister what she and I would like to see happen in the business field. That is a different question; it is not in the budget. I am asking about what is set out in the budget that is not treating women equally. Women have been left out of the funding set out in the present budget.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, that is not true. We put the whole gender equity stipulation in Budget 2007. We have to consider all of these things.

I have at least six pages of data here on funding explicitly targeted to assist women. I will be happy to table it or to write Senator Jaffer a letter and explain to her all of the things in the budget that assist women.

An Hon. Senator: Read it out.

Senator LeBreton: Question Period is not long enough.

It is simply not true that this government is not assisting women. I do not think anyone believes that. Certainly, women like me would not participate in a government that discriminated against women. It is frustrating when honourable senators ask questions and then subliminally suggest that we are overlooking women, which we are not.