October is Women's History Month

October is Women’s History Month in Canada and it was an honour and a pleasure this past week to host our new Minister for the Status of Women Canada and Minister of Labour, the Honourable Dr. Kellie Leitch.

The portfolios that Minister Leitch is responsible for might sound incompatible but they intersect each other in important ways, especially when it comes to encouraging Canadian women and girls to fully participate and succeed in our economic and democratic life.

The first stop on the Minister’s visit was Aberdeen Hall Preparatory School where she joined students to celebrate International Day of the Girl, held every October 11th, worldwide to promote equal treatment and opportunity for girls in areas such as law, nutrition, health care, and education.

It was an ideal location given that one of the students at Aberdeen Hall is Alaina Podmorow, the founder of Little Women 4 Little Women in Afghanistan and Canada’s first Honourary Youth Ambassador at the United Nations International Day of the Girl.

Dr. Leitch had a lively conversation with the students about the challenges facing girls in today’s society and the importance of education as a means of ensuring their full participation and success in all aspects of Canada’s social, economic and democratic life.

It was a timely discussion. While young women represent a majority of university graduates in Canada and there has been steady growth in their participation in the Canadian labour force, statistics show they remain under-represented in sectors such as the skilled trades and science and technology, representing the largest currently untapped human resource to meet Canada’s occupational needs.

In 2012, women held just 11.8% of construction jobs, 19% of forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas jobs, and 30.5% of agricultural jobs; in the information technology professions, women maintained the same 25% of jobs from 2000 to 2010, despite increasing demands for these skills; in 2007, despite representing 3% of enrolments in the electrical, electronic and related trades, only 1.5% of all graduates from these programs were women; in 2009, women made up only 2.2% of registered apprenticeship completions in the building construction, electrical, industrial and mechanical, metal fabrication, and motor vehicle and heavy equipment trades; and only 6.9% overall work in trades, transport, equipment operations and related occupations.

The need for greater participation in these fields was reiterated at an event I recently attended with business, educational & government leaders hosted by Applied Science Technologies & Technicians of British Columbia (ASTTBC) where only 9% of members are female.

Discussions focussed on girls and the need to capture their interest at a younger age, particularly in the “S.T.E.M.” subjects, science, technology, engineering & math. One participant added an ‘A’ for the arts, noting that creativity is a vital component of innovation creating the “S.T.E.A.M.” needed to move forward.

The Honourable Dr. Leitch heard the same message at Okanagan College, where President Jim Hamilton and his team are putting an emphasis on the continued and increased participation of women in the labour force, particularly in non-traditional fields. Minister Leitch had the chance to speak with Nancy Darling, the head of the Women in Trades program who is doing some great work by successfully getting more young women involved in the trades.

It is also a priority for the Government which understands that in order to achieve our goals of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity women need to succeed in all sectors of our economy.

With the advice of smart, energetic people like the Honourable Dr. Leitch and Western Economic Diversification Minister Michelle Rempel in Cabinet, and initiatives like the recently launched advisory council to promote the participation of women on public and private corporate boards, I have confidence we are making progress.

I want to thank the Honourable Dr. Leitch for paying us a visit and inspiring the young women in our community to see that the sky is the limit and to live the message of this year’s Women’s History Month: Inspiring Change Through Ongoing Leadership.

As a father of three daughters, husband to a working spouse, and a member of this community, I know just how much we owe to the women in our lives - in business, education, social services and the arts - for their leadership and the contributions they make to our communities and Canadian society.

They are a beacon for all that is possible.


The Honourable Ron Cannan is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country and welcomes your feedback at [email protected].  Information on local announcements and federal government programs can be found at www.cannan.ca. More information about the history and events celebrating Women’s History Month can be found at www.women.gc.ca.

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About the Author

The Honourable Ron Cannan was first elected as Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country in January, 2006. He was subsequently elected in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. He is a member of the Conservative Caucus.

On September 13th, 2012 Ron was summoned to be a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and will provide advice to the Government as a member of the Priorities and Planning Sub-Committee on Government Administration.

Ron successfully uses his experience and knowledge as a long-time Kelowna City Councillor and regional government representative to be an effective and enthusiastic champion for his riding and his constituents.

His greatest satisfaction comes from helping local organizations and citizens obtain the support they require from Ottawa. 

He is also dedicated to doing what it takes to ensure that the growing and vibrant communities in his riding continue to thrive and prosper.

He is proud of the partnership and cooperation between federal, provincial and municipal governments which have resulted in significant infrastructure projects including upgrades to Highway 97, expansion of the Kelowna International Airport, a new horticulture strategy for fruit growers, obtaining a full service passport office for Kelowna and addressing critical economic issues such as labour skills shortages.

He works closely with the local Chambers of Commerce and once a year arranges meetings for the Chamber with Cabinet Ministers and senior policy staff in Ottawa to move forward important local issues such as crime prevention and labour skills shortages.

He is also an ardent champion for important community initiatives including homelessness, mental health, women’s resources, and support of arts and culture.

On Parliament Hill, Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade since 2006 supporting initiatives which will broaden the economic opportunities for local businesses and businesses Canada-wide.

In previous parliamentary sessions Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee for Government Operations and Estimates, Veteran’s Affairs, Human Resources and Social Development, the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee, and the Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans.

Ron is also involved in a variety of inter-parliamentary organizations: he is Vice Chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, and a member of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship group.

As Chair of the Conservative Wine Caucus, Ron works with his colleagues across the country to promote the wine regions of Canada.  Ron tabled Motion 218(formerly Motion 601) which supports direct to consumer purchasing of Canadian wine. His motion became Bill C-311, sponsored by MP Dan Albas, seconded by Ron, which was passed into law on June 28th, 2012.

Prior to entering politics, Ron developed a diverse business background as a small business owner and had several years experience in marketing and sales management working with corporations including Coca-Cola, Costco and Corus Entertainment.

Very active in his community, Ron has been a Director for both the Central Okanagan Regional District and the Central Okanagan Hospital Board. Ron also served on the Okanagan University College Access to Training Advisory Board, the Glenmore Elementary School Parents Advisory Council, and the Kelowna Christian School Fund Raising Committee. He was co-founder of the Okanagan Volunteer Festival. Currently Ron is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna and, along with his wife Cindy, was the honorary Chair of the 2012 Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Ball.

Ron lives a family-oriented and active lifestyle with his wife Cindy. He is the proud father of three daughters and grandfather to three grandsons. His hobbies include music and sports.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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