Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 59

Thursday, March 8, 2012
The Honourable Donald H. Oliver, Speaker pro tempore

Status of Women

Violence against Women

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Today, Thursday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day on which we recognize the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world. Unfortunately, today is also the anniversary of the death of Ms. Arlene May. On March 8, 1996, as the international community celebrated International Women’s Day, Arlene May’s family grieved the death of their daughter. It was on this day in 1996 that Arlene May was murdered by a man who was once her common-law partner.

Sadly, Arlene May is not alone. On any given day, over 3,000 Canadian women are living in emergency shelters to escape domestic violence.

As I have said at other times, I know that when the leader was working with Prime Minister Mulroney she was very instrumental on many programs set up to prevent violence against women. Today, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, would she inform us what exactly our government is doing to protect women like Arlene May, who are victims of domestic and spousal violence?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question. She is quite right: This is a subject I have been intimately involved with for quite some time, including, as she mentioned, during the Mulroney government. That was when I first had the opportunity to meet Senator Jaffer; we appointed her to a special board on the subject of violence against women.

I do not know whether she was in the chamber when I made my statement earlier today, but there have been significant increases in funding. Minister for Status of Women Ambrose has just announced further funding focusing on women who live in rural and remote areas and particularly targeted on programs that deal with isolation, economic security and, primarily, violence against women. There is a long list of programs that the government has participated in, not only through Status of Women but through the Department of Justice Canada and through the Minister of Public Safety.

I have a long list. I know I do because I use it as the basis for the many speeches I give on the subject, and I would be happy to give Senator Jaffer a long, detailed answer by written response.

Senator Jaffer: I understand that the leader cannot give an oral answer on this and I respect that. However, when she is providing the information, may I please also ask that she provide the steps our government is taking or has taken to have in place ways to prevent violence against women? What are the exact steps; what tools are currently in place to ensure the safety of women like Arlene May; and, finally, are there any specific programs for newly arrived immigrant women?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government has involved itself in various programs to combat violence against women. The elder abuse campaign was sort of a spinoff of the campaign this government and previous governments had run on violence against women.


With regard to immigrant women, we had before us last week Bill C-10, which has specific provisions to deal with human trafficking and the abuse of immigrants who come into the country.

I will be happy to add all of those topics to my answer when I respond.

Senator Jaffer: I appreciate that. I commend the leader on the elder abuse campaign that was run. I found it very instructive.

May I ask that the leader now consider a campaign for people who are newly arrived in our country so that they will be aware of where they can turn to so that they are not alone or isolated when they face violence?

Senator LeBreton: Again, as I mentioned, there are specific provisions that will be provided once Bill C-10 is passed that target the people who would abuse women — and they are primarily women, because many are domestic workers.

To follow up on a question by Senator Lovelace Nicholas, and with the permission of Senator Jaffer, I will provide to Senator Lovelace Nicholas a copy of an answer. It was the honourable senator who asked this question about missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in B.C. We provided an answer to the question that was asked last November and December. We filed it here in the Senate on February 7. With Senator Jaffer’s permission, I would like to ensure that Senator Lovelace Nicholas gets a copy of it.