Historically, Conservative governments have always supported democratic gender equality. We have and continue to take decisive action to advance equality for women and girls.
Under our government, the number of women appointed by Order-In-Council is at its highest level in Canadian history. Internationally, reports continue to rank Canada as a leader in achieving gender equality.
Since 2008, Canada has ranked among the top countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. A 2012 global poll of experts found that Canada is the best place to be a woman in the G20. The United Nations commissioned 2013 Human Development Report ranked Canada among the top countries on human development and gender equality.
In 1960, former prime minister John Diefenbaker, for the first time in a federal election, gave aboriginal women the right to vote. The first woman to be a member of Parliament, Agnes Campbell Macphail, was a Conservative. Conservative, Ellen Louks Fairclough was the first minister appointed, and the first woman to become prime minister was Kim Campbell.
In 1987, the minister of national defence created an office to study the impact of employing men and women in combat units. These trials were called combat-related employment of women and in 1989, all military occupations were open to women with the exception of submarine service which opened to women in 2000. This provided opportunities for all persons to serve their country to the best of their abilities.
From the establishment of federal pay equity laws and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our legislation has continually progressed over the years to keep gender equality front and centre.
Our government passed Bill S-2, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, in June 2013, which addressed issues relating to family real property on reserves. This legislation will provide a First Nation with the power to enact laws relating to “the use, occupation and possession of family homes on its reserves and the division of the value of any interests or rights held by spouses or common-law partners in or to structures and lands on its reserves.”
Further, Prime Minister Harper hosted a high-level Summit on Maternal Newborn and Child Health this year. Saving the lives of mothers and children is not only a moral imperative; it is also the foundation for building prosperous communities for this generation and the next. Saving the lives of vulnerable women and children is one of the clearest expressions of our Canadian values.
Current and past Canadian history affirms gender equality is more than a sentiment with Conservatives — it is positive policy and political action.
Colin Mayes is MP for Okanagan-Shuswap.