The world celebrates International Women’s Day each year on March 8 to commemorate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also an opportunity to bring attention to the challenges women continue to face.
The Senate — which is over 40% female — is a champion for women’s rights as part of its mandate to provide a powerful voice to underrepresented groups in Canadian society. It is a place where ideas can ignite change across the country.
This is especially true through the Senate’s committee work, where the diversity and experiences of individual senators are deployed to full advantage.
Senate Human Rights Committee Chair Senator Jim Munson opened the meeting with a statement about International Women’s Day.
“Today is a day in which we recognize the crucial impact of women in every aspect of our lives,” Senator Munson said.
“Within our study of Canadian prisoners, we think of the proportion of incarcerated Indigenous women in relation to the population of our country. We think of them and their human rights on this special day. With our study, we hope to make a difference in their lives and the lives of all prisoners.”
To mark International Women’s Day, the Senate Committee on Human Rights heard from two accomplished female witnesses who addressed the situation of women in Canada’s prisons.
Bonnie Brayton, the national executive director of the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada, highlighted the importance of taking a long-term view regarding the overrepresentation of disabled women in prisons:
“We need to focus on 10 years from now,” she said. “It’s important to look at real solutions over the long term. [The committee’s study] is a long overdue step in the right direction.”
Dr. Sarah Turnbull, a lecturer in criminology in the School of Law at Birkbeck University of London said it was a privilege to appear before the committee on International Women’s Day, “to underscore the importance of women’s rights as human rights and the pertinence of issues of diversity and equality to the work of this committee.”
The human rights committee has a mandate to deal with issues relating to human rights, including monitoring and seeking to ensure equal treatment of members of minority groups.
Watch the committee’s meeting on Periscope.
To learn more about the Senate Committee on Human Rights, visit the committee homepage or follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #RIDR.