Madam Speaker, I rise today on behalf of Canada's New Democrats to honour the life and legacy of the Hon. Monique Bégin, who sadly passed earlier this month.
Madam Bégin was a feminist trailblazer, a passionate advocate for social justice and a tireless champion for public health care.
In 1966, she served as vice-president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec and was a signatory of the organization's founding charter. She was then appointed secretary-general of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, where she carried out groundbreaking work to advance women's equality.
In 1972, Madam Bégin, along with Albanie Morin and Jeanne Sauvé, became one of the first women from Quebec elected to the House of Commons. She was appointed to cabinet in 1976, where she served as minister for national revenue and then as minister for national health and welfare.
In Parliament, she advanced a number of critical measures to support vulnerable Canadians, including the child tax credit and the guaranteed income supplement, but perhaps her greatest legislative achievement was securing unanimous support for the Canada Health Act in 1984, something extremely near and dear to New Democrats' hearts in this country.
At the time, Madam Bégin warned the chamber, “An erosion of medicare is taking place” and called on all parliamentarians at that time “to consolidate medicare by fixing the loopholes and bad habits that have developed to make it work for years to come.”
Unfortunately, today Canadians are once again witnessing an erosion of this cherished national institution, as she warned so presciently of those decades ago. Decades of underfunding, creeping privatization, inadequate enforcement of the Canada Health Act and the continued exploitation of legal loopholes represent profound and ongoing threats to our universal public system.
Madam Bégin was known as a fierce defender of public delivery, and she never hesitated to wield a big stick at any province that threatened that principle. Let us learn from Monique Bégin's inspiring example by turning these words of tribute today into action for tomorrow. Let us honour her legacy by recommitting ourselves to protecting, strengthening and expanding public health care for all Canadians.
New Democrats cherish her vision. We will carry it on today in the House and for decades to come.