Canada's NDP


December 10th, 2020

MP Lindsay Mathyssen gives statement on the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

On December 7 inside the House of Commons we marked the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

Progress, Change, Equality, and fairness–are things slow and hard to achieve, measure, and maintain.

"Progress, change, equality and fairness are things slow and hard to achieve and maintain. Of course, women have achieved some progress, some equality and some fairness, but some certainly is not good enough. That is what it all comes down to: It is not enough. Until women achieve complete equality and we in this institution create laws and programs, and provide the leadership for that complete equality, we cannot stop. Today, I stand in the House because some progress has been made for women, but it is not enough. Today, women make up only a third of the MPs in the House. Canada ranks 64th in the world for its participation of women in Parliament. It was 50 years ago, because of countless trail-blazing women, that the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was formed. The commission's report contained 167 recommendations to the federal government on such issues as pay equity, the establishment of a maternity leave program, a national child care policy, birth control and abortion rights, family law reform, education and women's access to managerial positions. A large section also addressed issues specific to indigenous women in the Indian Act. The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was undeniably a catalyst for social change. It united Canadian women and gave them a voice in shaping gender-responsive policies. These victories today may have been considered foregone conclusions; however, women are constantly forced to fight to maintain what they have already won. Women are told they have access to reproductive medical treatment, but it is not consistent, it is not universal and it is constantly being challenged even in the House. Now, 50 years later, women still go to rallies and declare that it is their body, their choice. Women are confronted every day with violence. Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of the tragedy at École Polytechnique. Last week in the House, we commemorated that tragedy of 14 women murdered because they were women, yet approximately every six days, a women in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. The majority of these violent acts, more than 80%, go unreported. These too are tragedies. Throughout COVID-19, women have had to deal with an additional and increasing threat of domestic violence, or what is being called the invisible or shadow pandemic. The overcrowding of shelters and the additional strain on other resources has made it harder to get help. Women are more likely to have lost their jobs and income during the pandemic, making it even harder for them to leave violence. Lack of affordable housing keeps women in dangerous situations because there are no safe options. We know that indigenous women and girls are more likely to face violence and are more likely to be killed, yet the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were delivered 18 months ago, but we still see no action. Transgender and racialized women continue to face terrible levels of violence and abuse. They are often victimized again by the justice and health care systems that too often question their identity or use offensive stereotypes. Women and girls with disabilities are far more at risk for violence and abuse. As many as 60% will experience violence in their lifetime. Women are still expected to shoulder the responsibility of violence. We are blamed. We are told that we have provoked it or that we were asking for it. With all these facts, how can we say that we are making progress? It is not enough. It was 50 years ago when the royal commission called for pay equity. Today, by law, women should be paid the same amount of money for the same amount of work as men, but we are not. In 2018, the government finally introduced pay equity legislation, but just a few weeks ago, the Parliamentary Budget Officer issued a report saying that legislation still has not been implemented. Again, 50 years ago, the royal commission called for the creation of a national child care system, and still women are waiting. Even the announcements by the government last week are mediocre and will not create a universal, affordable child care system. A second wave of COVID-19 will force more lockdowns and will cause the rise of virtual schooling and a scarcity of affordable day care. Between February and October, 20,600 Canadian women left the labour force, while almost 68,000 men re-entered or entered it. Women exiting the labour force face the risk of an erosion of skills, which may further exacerbate the gender wage gap that existed prior to the pandemic. A 2016 study from the OECD found that Canadian families spend almost one-quarter of their income on child care, one of the highest amounts worldwide. It is unacceptable that there is still no universal child care system, and constant empty promises are not good enough." -MP Lindsay Mathyssen ( NDP Critic for Women and Gender Equality) December 7, 2020

Watch the video here: