This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Skip to Content

Statement on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017

Statement before the Senate

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, while I rise to speak on International Women's Day, I must acknowledge how inadequate 1 day out of 365 is to recognize the vital importance of gender equity in the well-being of society.

The debt we owe to the women in our lives starts with the first breath. If we are lucky enough to have sisters — most of the time it's lucky — our respect for the power of women begins at a most tender age.

Achieving gender equality in Canada has been slow going.

Political history is dotted with firsts: Cairine Wilson, the first woman appointed to the Senate; Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to the House of Commons; and Kim Campbell, the first female prime minister.

As a young foreign service officer, I was lucky to serve as a political assistant under another first, the first woman to be foreign minister of Canada, the Honourable Flora MacDonald, and that was a task not for the faint of heart.

Today we are privileged to serve in a chamber with a number of exceptional colleagues who have each made her own contribution to Canada. Each one, through her actions, challenging assumptions and breaking down barriers, has made a significant contribution to this chamber and to Canada.

The short time frame for Senators' Statements prevents me from enumerating all of these extraordinary colleagues and their contributions, but let me recognize our dean in the Senate, the Honourable Anne Cools. Let me also recognize former Senator Nancy Ruth, whose efforts have led to gender-based analysis becoming part of the criteria of government consideration.

I am sure that my honourable colleagues share my enthusiasm for the rapid progress we are seeing today, as much in this chamber as in the other place.

When this Parliament met in December 2015, there were 31 female senators and 52 male senators. Today, we have 43 female senators and 57 male senators.

Of the 27 senators appointed in the past year through this independent appointment process, 16 have been women, 11 men, and more needs to be done.

And, of course, this government made history with achieving gender parity in the formation of the cabinet.

When we have gender equity, we move beyond the notion of firsts so that equity and inclusion are normalized. All citizens benefit when all citizens are able to contribute.

International Women's Day serves to remind us of this fact and how far we have come and yet how much we still have to achieve to ensure equity and equality in Canada.