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How About a Throne Speech That Talks About Women?

11/12/2013 12:10 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

After a month of prorogation and a shuttered Parliament, MPs at last returned to the Hill for the Government's Speech from the Throne laying out its new agenda for the Second Session of the Forty-First Parliament of Canada. One commentator described the Speech as "a breathtaking spout of free-associating bloviation ... an epic ramble".

In response to the Speech, one of my young constituents simply asked, "do women and girls even register with this government?" Her question prompted me to think about what a Throne Speech might have looked like if it actually addressed the challenges Canadian women face.

Perhaps it would have begun with our remembering in silent prayer and reflection the 600 murdered and missing Aboriginal women -- mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters stolen from our communities and taken from Canada -- and a commitment to an inquiry with real recommendations to end the violence.

Perhaps it would have celebrated our Canadian women heroes, their courage, determination and vision, and perhaps it would have challenged us all to address the remaining inequalities, and build brighter futures for our families, communities, and our country.

After almost one hundred years of women's advocating, this would at last mean eliminating the gender wage gap. Its eradication would be an economic imperative, as the wage gap hurts our families and hurts our economy. In fact, Canada's largest bank has shown that the lost income potential of women in Canada due to the wage gap is a staggering $126 billion a year.

It would be understood that a healthy and robust Canadian economy needs women's contributions, and that it is government's job to remove the obstacles that appear at all stages of women's lives that keep them from realising their full potential.

It would also be understand that a lack of affordable child care holds women back, and is one of our country's great unsolved issues. As a result, there would be a promise to start a dialogue with Canadians to fix Canada's broken child care promises, and to fix a system which is failing Canadians.

There would be a real effort to engage Canadian women, and not disarm advocacy groups. It would be understood that women's help and ideas are needed to see what Canada could do better to increase their participation in the economy today, and in the future -- so that women really can have it all.

There would be a promise to ensure that when your daughter leaves college, university, or the trades, she would make the same wage as the young man sitting next to her. This would mean that she would have the same opportunity to buy a home, raise a family, save for retirement, and have enough money to leave an unhealthy relationship if she needed, and that she would not be trapped, as in past generations, dependant on a partner who hurts her.

There would be a thank you to survivors of violence and advocates for their efforts to end violence against women because it would be understood that it takes enormous courage for women to leave their homes, to share their stories, and to relive the horrors many have lived. It would also be understood that by women's speaking out, they were saving the lives of innumerable women in Canada, who, we hope, would not suffer the abuse they have endured.

As a result, there would be a promise to develop a national strategy to end violence against women and girls which forces 100,000 women and children from their homes into shelters each year, carries an incalculable human toll, and costs Canadian society billions. And there would be an apology to our founding peoples; we would say we are sorry for the loss of their children, Canada's children, and that we would rectify this injustice.

An inquiry would be immediately launched, with the promise to listen, nation to nation, and together develop real recommendations to end the violence, which we would implement together.

The Throne Speech would close with a celebration of the remarkable women in all our lives, and our profound thanks. After all, they give us life, they care for us, they inspire us, and they are always there for us when life treats us unkindly.

Moreover, they look after the next generation, they contribute to our families and to Canada, and they look after aging parents who built our great country. We owe the women in our lives a debt of gratitude, and words are not enough. It is time we recognized the invaluable impact women make in our lives, and that we put a value on their contributions.

The future is Canada's to have, but only if we build a truly inclusive society where women can thrive, and achieve their greatest dreams.

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