House of Commons Hansard #236 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employment.

Topics

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is fine. I accept the admonition. I have finished my quotes in any event.

Those with the most experience with employment equity are usually its staunchest defenders. With nearly two decades of equity programs in the workplace Sun Life Assurance vice-president Lucy Greene says: "It is just part of our thinking. It is good business sense. Everybody should be doing it".

Few would agree more than Troy Peck, a 25-year old administrative assistant with the planning department of the city of Vancouver. His employer adopted employment equity in 1976 when Troy was still a little boy with a spinal tumour whose future employment prospects did not look promising. Thanks to employment equity this qualified young man who uses a wheelchair found his job on the basis of merit. Troy told the Vancouver Province this past summer:

Employment equity gives you the chance not to be automatically dismissed as an applicant because of your disability. It gives you the chance to show you are skilled and able to perform.

That is all any member of the designated groups is asking of the House. They just want an opportunity to prove that talent comes in all kinds of packages. They ask us to remember that what is important is not the package but the gift inside it. Our gift to future generations in the country must be the assurance that we will give every last young woman and man that chance. With Bill C-64 unamended we can do exactly that.

I urge hon. members of the Reform Party to withdraw these amendments and proceed with the bill as it stands.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise in the House to speak in support of Bill C-64, the employment equity act.

The fourth United Nations world conference of women concluded recently. An event like that one has many benefits for Canada. One is that it gives us an international context to assess how well Canada has done and how far we have to go.

During my remarks today I want to place Bill C-64 in that same international context and to look at our international obligations and how Bill C-64 will help us to meet them. I want to consider some relevant international experiences with employment equity. I want to show that the bill puts teeth in our commitment to equality and shows the kind of leadership that is badly needed around the world.

Let me begin by discussing a recent landmark in understanding the issue. On August 17 the United Nations development program released its sixth human development report. In addition to its overall assessment the report focuses on the situation facing women around the world.

I am certain that every member of the House took pride when once again Canada earned the highest ranking on the human development index. It told the world what Canadians already knew so well, that this country offers a quality of life that is second to none.

However I am certain that each of us knows that Canada placed ninth on the gender related development index. Our track record on the place of women in society is not good enough. One might ask why it is that low. One factor is the economic gap between women and men. Money talks and in Canada right now that means men shout while women whisper.

Some in the House say there are very good reasons for this gap. They say we should just stand aside while the market works in its mysterious way. That is not what the authors of the United Nations human development report says. They point out that trickle down theories and laissez-faire approaches do not work particularly well to raise the economic status of women. I quote:

The free workings of economic and political processes are unlikely to deliver equality of opportunity because of prevailing inequities in power structures. When such structural barriers exist, government intervention is necessary, both through comprehensive policy reforms and through a series of affirmative actions.

The government understands the need for real action. The bill will help address that need by making markets work better. It will help women enter occupations that traditionally have excluded them. It will help women make their way from lower wage occupational ghettos. It will help organizations remove the glass ceiling that restricts women in many workplaces. It will do the same for aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.

Bill C-64 is consistent with our international obligations. For many years Canada has been a signatory to international agreements on discrimination, human rights, women's rights and labour force issues. Let me touch on a few of them.

The UN has a number of conventions that cover equality issues. The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women commits us to pursue the equality of the sexes. Article 24 reads:

State parties undertake to adopt all necessary measures at the national level aimed at achieving full realization of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

This includes modifying:

-the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customs and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.

To do that means taking real steps such as an active program of the type we have introduced in Bill C-64.

A similar commitment exists as a result of the UN's International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article 7 touches on conditions of work. It reads that states that are party to the covenant recognize the right to:

Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence.

This bill is about finding and removing the barriers that prevent designated group members from realizing their legitimate aspirations in the workplace, the barriers that still prevent people in designated groups from competing fairly for promotions they want.

There are other similar conventions that our country has signed and ratified over time. I will just name a few: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination; and a number of international labour organization conventions.

I would like to refer to the second article of ILO Convention No. 111 concerning discrimination in respect of employment and occupation which states:

Members undertake to declare and pursue a national policy designed to promote equality of opportunity in respect of employment and occupation.

Article 3 of the same convention states:

-each member undertakes to enact such legislation as may be calculated to secure acceptance and observance of those policy.

Canada takes its international commitments seriously. We negotiate, sign and ratify these agreements with the intention of living up to them fully. That is certainly true with conventions on human rights and workplace issues such as these.

We can and do point with pride to Bill C-64 and the existing Employment Equity Act as its predecessor as an example of the government at work to make the equality of opportunity we all want a real goal. Canada is not alone in this process. Other countries have signed these conventions and many are dealing with many of the same issues in society and the economy as we are.

For example, Australia is a country with which we have much in common. We are both senior members of the Commonwealth. We share similar constitutional and legal traditions. We both have significant aboriginal and visible minority populations. Persons with disabilities have become prominent advocates for their own cause. Women are taking on leading positions in society. Like Canada, Australia has an employment equity act. Like us, it recognizes an obligation to break down barriers and it is doing so.

Another interesting case is that of the Netherlands. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of its liberation by Canadian soldiers has reminded us of our close ties. It reminds us of the many Dutch people who have made new homes here over the years.

When the Dutch government looked for a legislated approach to promote the full integration of its immigrants into the labour force and therefore society, where did it turn? Which country provided a model of effective and appropriate legislation? The answer is Canada.

Examples such as that show why Canada can attend international conferences with real pride. Regardless of the issue, we can point to initiatives we have taken at home, co-operation with other countries and a commitment to results. Certainly that is true on workplace issues and on human rights issues.

While we have much to do, Canada has consistently tried to do more to meet some minimum standard. We have been motivated by the caring and tolerance of a society to do better. We realize that equality of opportunity means much more than the absence of formal discrimination. It means building a climate that encourages everyone to participate in our society and our economy.

That is becoming a lesson to the world. Many countries are coming to grips with equality issues. They know we are leaders. Canada has a distinguished history in human rights in the international community. Countries that are looking for effective ways to improve human rights within their own borders are looking to Canada. Countries that want to recognize their growing multicultural nature are looking to Canada.

The Canadian approach to employment equity is a real contribution to the international community. It starts with the idea that all Canadians share a commitment to opportunity and the willingness to find solutions. It speaks to the finest qualities in our national spirit.

Passing this bill will send an important message to a world that needs more of this spirit.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma, ON

Mr. Speaker, in offering my comments on Bill C-64 and the report of the standing committee, I want to go back to the fall of 1993.

At the time, Canada was in the middle of an election campaign, and the Liberal Party published a campaign program in which it formulated its commitments.

This campaign document explained the philosophy behind these commitments. At the beginning of the red book, our leader, the man Canadians chose as their Prime Minister, set the tone for a program I was proud to defend.

This is what he said, and I quote: "The result is a Liberal plan for Canada firmly anchored in the principle that governing is about people, and that government must be judged by its effectiveness in promoting human dignity, justice, fairness, and opportunity. This is our approach, and this election is about presenting that choice to Canadians".

Consider those words: "Our platform was one of jobs and growth but it was not a narrow economic platform. It spoke to a vision of society in which growth reaches everyone. It spoke to a vision of society in which everyone has opportunities in practice, not just in theory".

On this side of the House when we think about the kind of Canada that we are engaged in building, we see a united people building a great country. We see a Canada with opportunity for all. Our Canada would have a strong and sustainable economy. Our economic pie would grow bigger through the skill, commitment and innovation of Canadian workers. From the chief executive officer to the newest employee, everyone would help create the opportunities of tomorrow. The government would work with them to take on the challenges that markets alone cannot.

The workplace, always according to the Liberal vision, must reflect the diversity of the population. It must never raise barriers to prevent someone from doing a job of which he or she is proud and participating fully in the development of this country. The Canadian workplace should emulate the best of what can be found in the rest of the world.

That competitive economy would exist hand in hand with a tolerant and generous society. It would live with the golden rule that exists in all faiths that I have seen. Our culture, our race, our sex, none of these would be a barrier to friendship or to contribution. We would learn from each other and grow richer in the process.

In our vision of Canada people would resolve differences in a spirit of goodwill. They would know that a reasonable people can usually find common ground to work out agreement. Our Canada would be one that builds on our traditional core values of equality, justice and fair shares of the opportunities that build better lives and a better country. It would recognize, as the red book did, that we exist in this society together and not apart.

Canadians are far more than individuals driven by impersonal economic forces and narrow self-interest. We support and are supported by our families, our communities and our country. That has always been true. From the earliest days of human settlement here we have always worked best when we have worked together. It remains true to this day.

The Liberal vision of Canada mirrors the aspirations Canadians have for our country. We want to live together in progress and in peace. In a troubled world Canadians recognize just how much we have accomplished in reaching for this vision. Our ranking in the United Nations human development report is a tribute to that.

Still we know we have more to do. The situation of aboriginal people or our lower ranking on the equality of women in the UN report testify to what more we must do.

Employment equity is a basic part of making our vision real. It recognizes that equality of opportunity is a goal that we have not yet reached. It brings us closer to the ideal caring society that I believe we all want.

In other words, if the concept of employment equity did not exist, we would have to invent it. In fact, it is an essential step towards ensuring that all Canadians have equal opportunities, are aware of that fact and take full advantage of this equality.

Certainly there has been progress both in numbers and attitudes. For example, the Bank of Montreal's president and chief operating officer, Tony Comper, noted that representation had increased significantly in that bank between 1993 and 1994. However, what was every bit as important was the extent to which employees of that bank have bought into the equity process. They have come to understand that diversity is a business plus in our times.

The same is true at Union Gas in southwestern Ontario. A company with a traditional workforce of technical and office workers has built a very successful equity program. Why? Because

the company has been committed to making it a success. It trains staff on issues that arise in a diverse workforce so they can understand the new expectations of customers, co-workers and the company. It builds bridges, not walls, between employees in the name of equity.

Let me quote the company's human resources manager, Maureen Ghettes: "We often look at the cost of something and not the benefit. The cost of an employee who is not interested in working with a certain group or who does not take time to understand an accent is far greater".

These business people are telling us that employment equity is both a strategic social investment and an economic investment. It is consistent with the kind of targeted action the government has adopted across its agenda. It is an action we need more of.

As the red book pointed out and as our experience tells us, people in the designated groups still have a long way to go. In the years since the original Employment Equity Act was passed, progress has been slow for women, people with disabilities, aboriginal people and members of visible minority groups.

The standing committee heard from many groups with personal stories of barriers that have not given way despite years of trying. Representatives of the Filipino Technical and Professional Association of Manitoba describe the experiences of well-trained people whose credentials were simply dismissed on arriving in Canada. These people were not even given partial credit toward professional and technical designations despite their training and years of experience.

Spokespersons for the disabled described the professional ghettos to which persons with a mental deficiency are confined. They explained the problems encountered by even the best trained people who suffer from other disabilities. There may be various reasons why it is difficult for this group of workers to find a job.

All of these groups are telling us that they believe in Canada. They believe this country and its citizens have the generosity of spirit to see what needs to be done and to do it. They are asking for us to continue the great mission of diversity that has enriched this country from its beginnings.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It is almost two o'clock. The hon. member will have the floor when we come back to debate. It being 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to statements by members.

National Family Week
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, for 12 years now in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Canadians have made a special effort to celebrate National Family Week.

This year, from October 2 to October 8, all Canadians will be encouraged to look inward and to contemplate the fundamental importance of our families and the relationships we have with the loved ones around us. This year's theme "Families are Forever: Enjoy Family Times" builds on the concept that families, like precious jewels, are forever and need to be enjoyed, treasured and celebrated.

The family unit is an essential building block of all societies. The ties that bind us to each other are reflections of the ties that keep the greater family, the global community, together. During this National Family Week and indeed all year long we should enjoy the time we spend with our family members and enjoy the memories of good family ties.

Automotive Industry
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Mercier Blainville—Deux-Montagnes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal Department of Industry has made a complete list of pressure tactics Ottawa could use to persuade the automotive industry to campaign for the No side.

To convince Hyundai, it is hinted that the government might want to recover the federal contribution for the construction of the plant in Bromont. To convince GM, there would be a reference to the $110 million loan approved by Ottawa for the Boisbriand plant. To convince other parties, there would be references to federal programs to help industry and facilitate access to the U.S. market.

It seems that the people they are counting on to do the job include Yves Landry of Chrysler Corporation, identified as the spokesperson for the automotive industry, and Maureen Darkes, the Canadian President of General Motors who is responsible for the Boisbriand plant. Leaders of the automotive industry should not give in to this federal blackmail.

Nuclear Testing
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, many Canadians are outraged by the continuing French nuclear tests in the South Pacific and are demanding our government take a stand. While other countries have strongly condemned the French behaviour, the Liberal government reaction has been pathetically weak.

Instead of recalling our ambassador from France for consultation as the Reform Party demanded, the government lamely expressed its regret and yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs told a member of the House that the nuclear tests were nothing to get excited about.

Instead of standing up to France, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has chosen the path of appeasement over principles, just like the leader of the Bloc Quebecois did on this same issue.

Unlike the government and the Official Opposition, the Reform Party does stand up for its principles and will continue to condemn the French nuclear testing because the people of Canada demand it.

Nuclear Testing
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are extremely disappointed at the weak response our government has taken with the Government of France on nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific.

Last week I had the opportunity to address the Council of Europe to convey the unhappiness of Canadians with France for undertaking these tests. Delegations from Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico condemned France for its actions.

Today I am calling on Canadians to boycott products from France such as wines, perfumes, bottled water, cheeses and clothing until the French stop testing nuclear devices. A boycott will pressure French business to lobby French President Chirac to end testing sooner.

The government and Canadians must take a firmer stand on this issue. It is incredible that on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki France should resume nuclear testing. It is equally incredible that the Liberal government has been silent on this issue which impacts negatively on world peace and on our environment.

Communities In Bloom
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Pillitteri Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Ontario Parks Association through its Communities in Bloom program has announced that Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town which I am proud to represent federally, has been named prettiest small town in Ontario.

Competing in the category for communities with a population of between 5,000 and 30,000, Niagara-on-the-Lake prevailed over places such as Coburg, Collingwood, Dryden and Elliot Lake.

What struck the judges was the originality of the town's landscaping. For this, much of the credit is due to the town's parks and recreation department and to its residents.

Now Niagara-on-the-Lake will be concentrating its efforts on achieving the national title, due to be announced in Ottawa next fall. This is calling for the active participation of the town's residents, who I am sure will rise to the challenge.

The Environment
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, all of us have a role to play in protecting our environment. The federal government is in a position to create policy which will protect the Canadian environment and the environment of our neighbours.

This past July the Minister of the Environment introduced measures to protect the environment of lakes, rivers and wetlands across North America by banning lead shot under the authority of the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Lead shot, which can be fatal when ingested by water fowl, is released into the Canadian environment by water fowl hunters at between 1,500 and 2,000 tonnes per year. This action taken by the minister will end the poisoning of our waters and will protect important species in our ecosystem. This measure will not only save our environment, it is one small step toward maintaining biodiversity and giving future generations an environment they can live with.

Mining
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's mining sector continues to provide jobs, investment and the impetus for new technological development. Canada's mining companies and mine workers are among the best in the world when it comes to efficient, cost effective and safe mining practices. Important for all Canadians, environmental concerns have become a high priority for Canada's mining industry.

Government red tape is a big problem. As a member of the government's rural caucus and especially as a northern Ontario MP, I emphasize the importance of streamlining the regulatory process which faces the mining industry.

The current system creates unneeded duplication, slows the approval process and wastes both industry and government time and money.

I am pleased the government has recommended that the process be made to serve Canadians, not hinder them, and that we have agreed with industry, aboriginal and environmental groups and others about what needs to be done.

I ask my colleagues to support action which will lead to the streamlining of the regulatory process and I call on provincial governments to co-operate to ensure that both senior levels of government work together to make regulatory efficiency a priority.

Agricultural Research
Statements By Members

October 3rd, 1995 / 2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 1995 federal budget announced the closing of the La Pocatière agri-food research centre, the only centre specializing in research in sheep farming, with sheep production in full expansion.

Neither Quebec nor the regional community was consulted about the closure, which was hidden away in the appendixes to the budget. The comité de survie de la ferme expérimentale thought it had succeeded in extracting a moratorium, enabling it to revive agricultural research in the cradle of farming research in Quebec.

Unfortunately, despite the minister's promise, the department has begun to remove the centre's equipment, in spite of the community action. Data provided by the federal government reveal that Quebec receives less than 15 per cent of the federal department of agriculture's spending on research and development.

Does the agriculture minister believe, just like the defence minister, that he cannot afford the luxury of treating Quebec equitably? This is another good reason for Quebecers to vote yes.

Government Grants
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, in his February 1994 budget speech the Minister of Finance stated: "Fiscal reality requires that the government review its policy on the funding of interest groups".

In a letter to the President of the Treasury Board, the Minister of Natural Resources agreed that grants should be given only to those groups that provide important services to the Canadian public.

I give some of the results of this promise. Natural resources gave a grant of $35,000 to the United States Department of Energy, $5,000 to Sears, $70,000 to Superior Propane, $40,000 to the Saskatchewan Trucking Association and $5,000 to the Omineca Ski Club.

In total natural resources approved grants of $282 million. Canadians are fed up with the Liberals buying favours with taxpayers' money and this outrage must stop.

Canadian Unity
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to add the federal riding of Elgin-Norfolk to the important debate on national unity. Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a constituent of mine, Mr. Tom Savage of Port Stanley, Ontario.

Mr. Savage, an artist, has created a national unity T-shirt. This shirt truly represents all of Canada: a large red maple leaf with a fleur de lys of Quebec and the sacred hoop of the First Nations.

In the wake of the crisis in both Ipperwash Beach and Gustafsen Lake and the constant debate on the Quebec referendum, Mr. Savage is one of many Canadians who feel Canada includes Quebec and aboriginals.

It is frightening to envision the possibility of Canada's breaking up and therefore I commend the work of Tom Savage and hope that more Canadians step forward to voice their concerns. There is no room for complacency. It is time for all Canadians who together form our cultural mosaic to embrace our differences and stand united. This will ensure a strong and prosperous future for all of Canada.

Referendum Campaign
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Bertrand Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the separatist leaders spent much of last week frightening seniors by claiming that, the day after a no vote in the referendum, their pensions would be cut.

The federal government is being financially responsible by reviewing all its programs to see how they may be made more efficient and less costly. The PQ government and its separatist allies, on the other hand, continue to promise the world ignoring the fact that an independent Quebec will face a deficit of between $7 billion and $15 billion in the first year.

Seniors, like the rest of the people in this country, prefer a government that states its intentions clearly over one that irresponsibly wastes money it does not have just to win its referendum. Seniors will say no on October 30 to the campaign of fear by the PQ and the Bloc.