Ahead of a planned study on women’s health set to begin public hearings this month, a parliamentary committee is ensuring more women are involved.
Currently, men occupy almost all seats on the 12-member House of Commons health committee, including as chair and vice-chairs, a fact that has sparked criticism and questions on social media social media last week when the Women’s Health Study hearings were first scheduled. .
That’s about to change, says the Liberal chair of the committee.
“Everyone in the Liberal caucus was acutely aware that it would be inappropriate to have a male-dominated committee studying women’s health,” Charlottetown MP Sean Casey told Global News at the a meeting.
“The pressure on social media and elsewhere, you know, has reinforced this urgency. But it was something that was going to happen anyway. »
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Casey said a regular Liberal member of the committee, Nova Scotia MP Darren Fisher, will be replaced by New Brunswick Liberal MP Jenica Atwin. Other Liberal male committee members arrange temporary exchanges with female caucus members, he added, which is “encouraged” by the party whip charged with approving such exchanges.
Committee chairs and vice-chairs receive salary supplements of $13,200 and $6,500, respectively, on top of their $194,600 salary as an MP. Regular committee members do not receive a salary increase.
Fisher notably responded to social media criticism earlier this month by acknowledging that there was a “clear lack of gender diversity” on the health panel and other parliamentary committees, writing that he had “raised this issue” with the Liberals.
Casey said her party is having a harder time filling committee seats with more women because of the Liberal government’s gender-balanced cabinet, which includes parliamentary secretaries.
“We have 58 female members; 19 of them are in the cabinet and therefore cannot take on committee responsibilities,” he said. “One is on sick leave. …There are 13 parliamentary secretaries, so they can do some committee work, but they have a pretty heavy workload…and one of them is chair of the national caucus.
“So look at those numbers and consider the fact that there are 22 standing committees. You will see why certain trades need to be made for this to work. And that’s what’s happening.
Atwin will join fellow Liberal Sonia Sidhu, who until this month was the committee’s only permanent female member.
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The Conservatives and NDP told Global News they also plan to temporarily swap members for women for the purposes of the women’s health study.
“As is standard practice, the Conservatives will exercise their ability to replace committee members with female members of our caucus,” spokesperson Sebastian Skamski said in an email.
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NDP health critic Don Davies, who introduced the motion at committee to launch the women’s health study last year, said he was asking women in his party to take place during the hearings.
“Although the NDP only has one seat on the health committee, I invited women MPs from our caucus to sit in my place for the purposes of this study,” he said in a press release sent by email by the party. “I also submitted a list of witnesses for this study, 100 percent of whom are women.
“The NDP looks forward to seeing this long-awaited study on women’s health unfold in the coming weeks.
The Bloc Québécois, whose MP Luc Thériault is vice-president of the committee, did not respond to requests for comment on whether it would cede its seat to a female MP from the caucus.
Casey said he will continue to chair meetings throughout the study.
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He explained that preparations for the study, including memberships, could not begin until the dates for hearings on the women’s health study were set.
The first meeting, which was to hear from Health Canada representatives, was then pushed back several times by other committee business and is now scheduled for Nov. 27, Casey said.
Davies said he sought to launch the study because of the “historic absence” of a study by Parliament.
“This will allow parliamentarians to hear from experts on women’s health and advise them on the policy changes needed to ensure Canadians receive the care they need,” he said.
The committee has so far received 18 submissions from various experts and advocacy groups for the study. Submissions range from calls for better mental health resources for women, to improved breast cancer screening and gynecological services, to protections for LGBTQ2 women in Canada.
Casey acknowledged that the study was “long overdue.”
“How we decide what to study comes primarily from the membership,” he said. “The NDP raised the issue, presented compelling arguments and the committee agreed to spend time on it. »
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