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Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit at the G20 Buenos Aires, Argentina

Women’s Empowerment

November 1, 2018


The Honourable Senator Patricia Bovey :

Fellow Parliamentarians, Good afternoon!  First, I want to extend a warm thank you to our Argentinian hosts, the Parliaments and staff for their fine organization of this Speakers’ Summit, the P20 of the G 20.

I am honoured to represent Canada’s Senate Speaker, The Honourable George Furey today. Canada embraces the importance of women’s empowerment, so thank you!

What is women’s empowerment? We rightly speak of women’s economic participation. The 2014 Brisbane G20 Summit committed to reduce the gap between women and men’s labour forces by 25% by 2025. In 2015, Canada’s women were 47% of the labour force, but earned only 87 cents for every dollar men earned.

Goal #5 of 17 of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: the gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is key – including ending discrimination, recognizing the value of domestic work and more.

Les femmes canadiennes sont les médecins, juges, astronautes, pilotes - effectivement, elles constituent des nombres imposants dans tous les domaines. Mais, elles n’ont toujours pas une représentation égale aux hauts échelons des grandes organisations.

Pourquoi? Ne sont-elles pas correctement formées ou manquent-elles de confiance? Oui, mais le plafond de verre de la société reste une barrière systémique.

As embraced by UN goals and realized in Canada’s recent policy and programs, women’s empowerment is far more than employment and financial security. It includes, health, education, family, systemic traditions, and community.

The right to VOTE, and the right to be a PERSON, are critical.

Canada has made significant strides in the last hundred years, but we are not ‘there’ yet.

In 1916 my province, Manitoba, was the first to grant women the right to vote, followed by the other three Western provinces that year. In 1919, some women could vote federally. However, these rights were not initially extended to all women. People of Asian origin could not vote until post Second World War. Indigenous peoples were only given the vote in 1960.

Women legally became PERSONS in 1929, after the valiant leadership of the Famous Five, a group of dedicated western Canadian women, and a hard-fought court case. We now recognize Person’s Day every October 18th. In 1930, a year after the Persons Case, Carine Wilson became Canada’s first female senator. Thelma Chalifoux was our first Indigenous female senator, in 1997.

Today, 46% of Canada’s Senators are women, a 7 percentage point increase since 2015.10% are indigenous women. The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, appointed the first genderequal cabinet in 2015, even though House of Commons’ female representation remains below 30%.

Women have also made gains in Canada’s diplomatic corps. Excluded until 1947, female senior diplomats reached the 44% mark in 2017, a four-year increase of 15 percentage points.

Malgré les progrès réalisés, les femmes font toujours face à des difficultés et a des abus systémiques d’ordre social, économique ainsi que sur le plan des emplois.

Pourquoi? Toujours sous-représentées dans les domaines des sciences, de la technologie, de l’ingénierie et des mathématiques, elles sont plus susceptibles d’avoir une formation universitaire. Les programmes de STEM, ou STEAM, qui inclus les arts sont très importants.  Les fibres optiques dans le nord du Canada sont un grand défi pour nous, pour l’éducation, la sante, le business, et tous les affaires de la vie contemporaine.

Malgré les gains d’emploi, les femmes restent les fournisseurs de soins primaires pour les enfants et les personnes âgées, un travail NON PAYÉ.

Gender-based harassment and violence remain barriers to women’s empowerment, despite increased participation in all aspects of social and public life.

What does empowerment mean? Beyond financial society, society must create an enabling climate, addressing violence and harassment. Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, proclaimed last week on October 25th, strengthens the laws against abuse in all federally regulated workplaces, including Parliament Hill. And, Canada’s feminist international assistance policy is another recent initiative.

Women become empowered through experience, training, internships and mentorship opportunities.  I believe role modelling and mentorships are crucial, but must be extended equally. We all, women and men, must lead by example.

La Gouverneure générale du Canada, Son Excellence la très honorable Julie Payette, l’ancienne astronaute et leader pour les femmes en science, est un excellent modèle. Beaucoup de jeunes femmes la regardent, et elle leur inspire à la fois une vision et des objectifs à viser.

Women’s empowerment is also about women recognizing their inner strength, and taking pride in their seat at the table. Famous Five member, Nellie McClung, said: “I am a believer in women, in their ability to do things and in their influence and power. Women set the standards for the world, and it is for us, women in Canada, to set the standards high.”

As diverse parliamentarians of the G20 we share responsibility to set those standards high and prepare for new forms of employment. We must reach the 2025 target! May we be mentors empowering young women globally to take their places as leaders, workers, and active family and community members.

Thank you!