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Statement: International Women's Day

Honourable senators, March 8 marks International Women's Day and this year's theme is "Ending Violence Against Women: Action for Real Results".

Often, when we reflect on violence against women, as Canadians we tend to think about the situation facing women in developing countries — which is completely justified, given their plight of constant poverty, often under totalitarian, dictatorial, military or religious rule.

It is certainly easier to talk about places around the world where violence against women is so much more apparent and given so much media coverage. However, when we take a closer look at violence against women right here in Canada — yes, in our own back yard — we must admit that thousands of Canadian women of all ages are victims here at home. They are victims not only of physical violence, but also other forms of violence committed by their male counterparts.

The systematic discrimination within our government policies has led to a kind of social violence. Positive hiring practices, child care programs, literacy programs and even the employment insurance system have not always helped women improve their situation. Economic discrimination against certain women also constitutes a form of violence.

In our so-called "wealthy and developed" country, pay inequity remains a problem for Canadian women, in both the public and private sectors.

For older Canadian women, our fiscal policies and Canada pension plan are archaic in their design and delivery. In fact, women seniors must be separated from their spouses in order to benefit from the economic justice of these programs. In Canada, 15 per cent of our children and their mothers live in poverty.

In the order of 51 per cent of women in Canada were victims of an act of physical or sexual violence after turning 16 years old. In other words, almost 8 million Canadian women have been victimized. You will agree that this statistic is alarming and deserves particular attention. Canadians are right to call for proactive programs to eliminate all forms of violence.

Let us restore the Canadian Council on the Status of Women in order to keep women's issues a federal responsibility.

Let us restore funding for literacy programs in order to equip thousands of Canadian women for a better future.

Let us establish a truly universal child care system so that our young mothers can reach their full potential and contribute to the Canadian economy with peace of mind.

Let us review our employment insurance program in order to enable women working in our seasonal economy to leave the quagmire of poverty.

Let us increase funding for shelters for women who are victims of violence.

All this is now possible because the federal government has a surplus. On March 19, the Harper government will table a budget. Will our Prime Minister move towards social and economic justice or will he continue to lean hard to the right leaving individuals to their own devices?

More than 52 per cent of the voters in this country are women, Mr. Harper; take action at last, for real results!