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May 9, 2019

Honourable senators, in addition to being Mental Health Week, this is National Elizabeth Fry Week.

The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies celebrates Elizabeth Fry week every year. Elizabeth Fry societies across the country organize public events.

As Mother’s Day approaches, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies holds their national week leading up to this holiday each year to highlight the fact that the majority of women in prison are mothers. This year’s theme is #HearMeToo, a call to end strip-searches that amount to state-sanctioned sexual assault. While most of us make plans to celebrate with our mothers and our children, women in prison must face the reality that in order to see their families this Mother’s Day, they are usually forced to undergo invasive and degrading strip-searches.

About 91 per cent of Indigenous women and 86 per cent of all women in federal prisons have experienced sexual or physical assault. Strip-searching women with a history of abuse too often retraumatizes. Despite evidence that these strip-searches rarely result in the discovery of contraband, the degrading searches continue to be carried out as a matter of routine on a daily basis.

This year, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies is bringing forward this difficult topic to challenge Canadians with part of the reality of life behind prison walls that too many women — too many mothers — in this country are enduring this Mother’s Day and every day.

Honourable senators, I ask that you join me in congratulating the Elizabeth Fry Societies throughout the country on the fine work they continue to do on behalf of marginalized, victimized, criminalized and institutionalized women and girls throughout the country. To all mothers here and throughout the country, happy Mother’s Day. Thank you. Meegwetch.

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