Posted on 10 March 2009
OTTAWA –Liberal Senators used all their questions in today’s Question Period to highlight the many serious challenges faced by Canadian women. As well, the questions were all asked by women Liberal Senators, underlining the central role played by women Senators in the Liberal caucus.
“All of my colleagues in the Liberal caucus, both women and men, believe it is important to send this government a very clear message on the situation women face in this country,” said Senator Lorna Milne (Peel Region, ON). “As we have clearly demonstrated today, women’s rights are being undermined by Conservatives policies.”
During the first Question Period since International Women’s Day on March 8, the Liberal Senators raised such issues as the Conservative decision to roll back pay equity in the federal public service, the leniency in sentencing men who victimize Aboriginal women and the lack of support for working women.
“Women have always deserved the same remuneration as men; however, Canadian women who are public servants find the fight for pay equity agonizingly slow and their government unresponsive to the need for change,” charged Senator Lucie Pepin (Shawinegan, QC). “This government needs to heed the example of the Provinces of Manitoba and Quebec, where pay equity legislation exists to ensure discrimination against women is not tolerated.”
Senator Lillian Dyck (Saskatchewan) questioned the recent sentencing practices of judges in Saskatchewan regarding cases where the victim was an Aboriginal woman. “This government prides itself on having a Law and Order agenda, yet when the victim is an Aboriginal woman, the call for maximum punishment under the law has been deafeningly silent. Canadians need to be assured that their justice system will operate fairly in all circumstances, while adhering to the principles set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Today’s emphasis on women’s issues is the latest example of the Senate’s concerted effort to draw attention to the shortcomings of the Harper government.
“Canadians deserve better than a government that is philosophically opposed to playing a prominent role in society. The Conservative Party has shown that it does not have the vision to help Canadian women and men build a prosperous future for themselves and their children,” remarked Senator Milne.
“Our goal is to hold the government accountable for its lack of action, and to remind Canadians that there is another approach to governing, one that, in former years, helped make Canada a prosperous and progressive country”, said the Senator.
The Senate was identified as the appropriate forum for this focus on women’s issues, given that the proportion of women in the Senate is higher than in the House of Commons, and in many other legislatures in the world.
One-third of Senators are women, compared to less than 25 percent of MPs. Thanks to successive Liberal governments, the proportion of women in the Senate has grown quite a bit over the years. Unfortunately, that number suffered a setback recently when Prime Minister Harper only named five women out of 18 in his most recent Senate nominations.