Evidence of meeting #51 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was welding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Alicia Ibbitson  As an Individual
Dan Tadic  Executive Director, Canadian Welding Association
Roch Lafrance  Secretary General, Union des travailleuses et travailleurs accidentés ou malades
Nicola Cherry  Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Wow, so it's substantial.

12:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Welding Association

Dan Tadic

A substantial number are female.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

This may have been asked already, but how many of the 15% are becoming pregnant and having kids? Would you have a number for that?

12:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Welding Association

Dan Tadic

I wouldn't. I would purely be guessing.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Okay.

12:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Welding Association

Dan Tadic

Just to address the issue with respect to safety, there is a welding standard, CSA W117, I believe, that specifically states how women in welding trades are to be protected, or how every employee should be protected, in terms of emissions from welding fumes. Ventilation equipment needs to be installed. Protective headgear needs to be worn. Respirators and other initiatives need to be taken into account.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Yes. We've seen quite a dramatic change. I was a welder's helper back in the day, maybe 30 years ago. The ventilation systems are quite admirable now. You used to have black around the nose, and basically that doesn't exist now.

To Dr. Cherry, in terms of the exposure to chemicals that we just talked about with Mr. Tadic, you referenced some data looking into the higher risk of miscarriage. Do you know if it's due to that chemical exposure at work? Certainly even tradespeople with good ventilation are exposed to a certain extent. Is it exposure to the elements or is it the strenuous nature of the trades?

12:05 p.m.

Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

Dr. Nicola Cherry

My belief is that it's more to do with the strenuous nature of the trade. We are currently looking at the effect of the welding fume on the outcome of a pregnancy. I don't have the results, but I would be surprised if the welding fume itself caused miscarriage, whereas there's good evidence from the Montreal study and others that in the first trimester of pregnancy, strenuous work can lead to miscarriage.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

In the first trimester....

12:05 p.m.

Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

Dr. Nicola Cherry

Yes. In fact, this is one of the complications of a national program. The first trimester is the most critical for chemical exposures. For miscarriage it is probably the most important period, whereas for low-weight babies and stillbirths it's exposure during the last weeks of pregnancy.

If you are going to protect women, you really need to protect them throughout the period. Indeed, in Quebec most of the reassignments and withdrawals are during the first three months.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

It brings me to my next question. We want to protect unborn babies as much as we can. In your mind, is the 15 weeks in terms of the program sufficient? What would be an ideal situation to help ladies who are tradespeople have healthy babies? What would be your best solution to that problem?

12:05 p.m.

Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

Dr. Nicola Cherry

If there were a program of preventive reassignment that women exposed to heavy work and welding fumes could be reassigned to early in the pregnancy, that would be the best way of protecting the child.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

It's giving an alternative job that is within the company, but maybe a little less strenuous or exposed.

Is that what you're saying?

12:05 p.m.

Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

Dr. Nicola Cherry

Yes, that's what I'm saying.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

What else would you do in terms of the trimesters?

The mover of the bill is looking for 15 weeks. What second-tier recommendation would you make, other than what you just said now?

12:05 p.m.

Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

Dr. Nicola Cherry

I think the last few weeks before the end of the pregnancy can be very uncomfortable for working women. They have fatigue. Their balance is bad. They're probably more in danger of having accidents at work. They have backaches.

There's a lot of evidence that women are hugely uncomfortable in all sorts of welding jobs during those last few weeks. As I said earlier, 80% of women in these physically demanding jobs stop by 28 weeks, so those last 15 weeks are really barely covered by that.

I would certainly support women being able to take their maternity leave earlier, but it doesn't have a huge effect on the outcome of the pregnancy in terms of the child's health, other than it may stop some lighter-weight babies from being born. On the whole, that's for the woman's health and comfort rather than the baby's.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Thank you.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Excellent. Thank you very much.

I was remiss at the beginning in not welcoming MP Serré to our committee today. Welcome, sir.

You are up for the next six minutes. Go ahead.

April 4th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to make a comment to start.

Ms. Ibbitson, thank you very much for the two recommendations you made with regard to the interpretation of maternity leave, child assistance, and the need to have additional funds specifically for low-income families.

We examined this at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I see that a lot of these things are related. Perhaps we could share some reports.

My first question is to Mr. Tadic.

I've had the opportunity to meet several representatives of the welding association, and I know you've done a fantastic job in trying to build the relationship with women in trades.

With the work you've done with the welding association, what have you done to try to get other trades involved in hiring more women in trades? It is, as you indicated, a growth opportunity to get more women involved moving forward.

12:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Welding Association

Dan Tadic

I think we're leading by example. We interact with other organizations or other trades, other programs. We're extremely fortunate that we're a very well-funded organization, and we're able to put on programs that other organizations are unable to. Sometimes we're looked at as the leaders in this area, but other organizations are not as well funded. They suffer as a result and are unable to recruit as well as we're able to.

Our work with Skills Canada has been an experience that is worth noting here. We have funded students who compete, not only in Canada but also internationally, as an example. I don't know of any other trades organization that is able to do that kind of stuff in promoting the work we do.

We are connected with every welding college in this country, so we're talking to them on a regular basis. We are also a certifying body for welding, so we go through those colleges and actually witness the testing of their welders. We're engaged to a far greater extent than some of our other colleagues in the industry.

One thing I would like to suggest, if it's at all possible, is that when it comes to reassignment of work for welders, for example, or other tradespeople, if an employer has a job that is lower paying, then the employee could receive a supplement. Instead of getting $20 or $30 an hour, they're perhaps getting $15 an hour, and the balance would be supplemented through some EI program. I think that would be worth considering.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Thank you.

Professor Cherry, in your opening remarks you indicated that when you look at this piece of legislation, you have concerns with some examples of legislation that would discriminate against women in trades.

Can you elaborate a bit on the examples of legislation that you believe discriminate and about what we could do as a federal government to address them? If you can't do it all in about a minute, you could maybe send a report later on to the committee.

12:10 p.m.

Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta

Dr. Nicola Cherry

Actually, I wasn't particularly thinking about existing legislation.

I think there is always a danger that if employing a woman is, for whatever reason, more expensive than employing a man, fairness may not be the first thought on the employer's mind. I raise this as a caution. If there were to be any national program for maternity, the cost should be independent of whether or not the employer chooses to employ women. The employer shouldn't be allowed to duck out by saying, “We will only have men, so we won't have those additional costs.”

I know that in Quebec that isn't the case. The employer pays regardless of the way his workforce is constructed. This is something that, right from the beginning of these discussions, I would suggest you keep in mind.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Lafrance, Canada has a lot to learn from the system that exists in Quebec. I do not necessarily want to speak to clauses 6 and 7 and provincial jurisdiction—we might not agree on that point—but about the importance of having a benefit system.

At this time, we have an employment benefit system. However, in certain committees, among them the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we have discussed the status of women in European countries. They have a benefit system that is not necessarily linked to employment insurance.

Can you tell us if you are considering including such elements? In Quebec, the system is not necessarily linked to employment; these are care-related benefits.

12:15 p.m.

Secretary General, Union des travailleuses et travailleurs accidentés ou malades

Roch Lafrance

I am not sure I understood your question. When you talk about care-related benefits, what do you mean?

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

I mean maternity leave and work leave. These benefits are not necessarily linked to job loss.