House of Commons Hansard #239 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.


The House resumed from October 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity, be read the third time and passed.

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10 a.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia


Mary Clancy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, one thing that makes me most proud about being a parliamentarian is the opportunity to be a part of the passage of legislation like Bill C-64.

When each one of us makes the decision to run for public office it is because we have certain agendas, certain policies we want to put forward. Seven years ago next week, when I was first nominated to run for public office, I had an agenda and I still do. That agenda has a great deal to do with human rights. It has a great deal to do with regional disparity. It has a great deal to do with feminism and it has a great deal to do with fairness. Bill C-64 is a piece of legislation that certainly fits into my agenda. It fits into one of the reasons that although I was born into the great Liberal Party I chose it again as a student in university and later when I decided to run.

There are frequently misunderstandings about the expression employment equity. For example, there are people who confuse employment equity and affirmative action. Employment equity and affirmative action, while complementary, are not the same.

I used an analogy when I spoke at report stage and I will do it again because it bears repeating. At report stage I talked about the fact that we could use a medical metaphor. Employment equity is preventive. It is a preventive measure. It ensures that we do the right thing from the beginning. Affirmative action is curative. I might add, for those people who through misunderstanding find affirmative action repugnant, that affirmative action is enshrined in the charter of rights and freedoms and as such is something Canadians have taken to most strongly, not just Canadians of this political stripe but the majority of Canadians.

Affirmative action would not be necessary if employment equity were the rule rather than the exception.

A couple of phrases and a couple of taglines have arisen throughout the debate that need to be dealt with. The one I have to talk about is the usage of two words together in the English language whenever we talk about employment equity. Those two words are competent and woman. When I hear my colleagues say a competent woman should be allowed, another word I truly love, to advance as far as anyone else, I sit here in vacant and in pensive mood and wonder why we never use those words together about competent men.

Why are we always so afraid that some woman might slip through and might not be competent? With the greatest of respect-and I have already said on several occasions in this debate how fond of men I am in general-there are some incompetent men. We have seen them and they have not suffered in the employment equity wars as have perhaps legions of competent women.

The hissy fit I just had was a little patronizing. I did it deliberately. We can argue the merits of employment equity. Certainly these expressions irritate a number of women on this side of the House-and I look at my colleagues from Oakville-Milton, Windsor-St. Clair and Etobicoke-Lakeshore-as much as they irritate me. Perhaps it is not as much as they irritate me but they certainly are irritating. Perhaps I have become more irritable in these discussions. It may be because I have been having these discussions in the Chamber longer than my three aforementioned colleagues.

Whether we are patronizing, whether women or men are competent or incompetent, whether there is a feminist agenda, whether there is a Liberal agenda-and of course there is a Liberal agenda called the red book-it is important that the bill continues the legacy of fairness. It must continue the legacy of sound social policies which have made this country the envy of the world, which have made this country the country rated number one in the United Nations survey. Everybody here knows that in their hearts, in their minds and in all their lives. It has been a great blessing for all of us either to choose to come here or to have been born here.

We enjoy longer life expectancy, higher educational levels and a greater real income than anyone else in the world. This is an outstanding record of which anyone in Canada can and should be proud. However, it is based on a history of fair legislation, human rights legislation and employment equity legislation.

It began back in the days of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. It followed through with Mackenzie King, to Louis St. Laurent, to Lester Pearson, to Pierre Trudeau and now to the current Prime Minister. It is a legacy we in the Liberal Party are justly proud of and it is one that we will continue to further.

It would be dangerous, however, to sit back, to rest on our laurels and say that because of this history Canada is somehow a perfect place. It is not a perfect place. It is not a perfect place if one belongs to a visible minority. It is not a perfect place if one is a woman. It is not a perfect place if one has a disability. It is not a perfect place if one falls under any of the prohibited heads in the charter of rights and freedoms. We know that discrimination is still a fact of life; every one of us knows it. The whole reason for discrimination is fear of the unknown, fear of people unlike us, fear that somehow people who are unlike us will take something away from us or away from our children. However there is a Canadian tradition that rises above fear.

We are only now emerging from one of the worst recessionary periods in our history. Most of us in the House of Commons belong to that amorphous mass known as the post-war baby boom. This recession was the first real attack on our very privileged lives. Many of us were lucky enough to weather it without huge injury but many of us were not.

I stood in the House on many occasions in opposition and talked about the cost in human terms of the recession. I talked about the rate of bankruptcies, the small business losses. I talked about the number of young people, both men and women, who were not getting jobs and did not have any hope.

We are recovering. We know it and we see it. It is not coming perhaps as fast as we would like but it is coming. Consequently, because Canada is coming back to its accustomed prosperity, the time has come for legislation like Bill C-64 to shore up our employment equity promises and to ensure that all Canadians have fair opportunity.

There are times when it is important to deal with questions of gender equality with a relatively light touch. Members of the female gender remind male colleagues that life is better from womb to tomb for the Lords of creation.

I said in the House the other day that in spite of the fears of some of our colleagues in opposition, white males get 50 per cent of federal government jobs. They get 60 per cent of the jobs nationally in both the private and public sector combined. Even more overwhelming, white males get 90 per cent of the promotions. With figures like that I believe it would be safe to say, and I do not think anyone would argue with me, probably the white male is not exactly an endangered species in the economic climate.

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10:10 a.m.

An hon. member

It is if we keep drinking the water.

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10:10 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

That may well be. I have spoken frequently to the hon. member for Edmonton Northwest about the amount of water he consumes in the House of Commons. I will not make any comments about the amount of air he deals with or the temperature.

However there are people in the country who suffer because the federal employment equity act does not have teeth until we pass this amendment. It cannot really be enforced. Bill C-64 brings in needed enforcement measures.

I talked about the fact that in opposition I was the vice-chair of the committee to review the employment equity legislation. We heard witnesses from all over the country. I remember in particular a group from the province of Saskatchewan that fell under federal jurisdiction and had taken to heart most seriously the whole question of employment equity.

These people very proudly showed us that their employee roster reflected the demographics where they lived and effectively the national demographics. There was probably a higher demographic percentage of aboriginal people because it was the province of Saskatchewan, but on a gender basis, disabled basis and so on, the demographics were extremely reflective of the society where they did their business. They also showed us the excellent quality of their labour relations and profit margins.

I do not understand what it is people fear from legislation that is clearly put on the books to ensure fairness for people who for generations, for thousands of years since the dawn of time have been systemically discriminated against because they are female, they are black, they are aboriginal, they are disabled, or for whatever reason under the blanket condemnation of discrimination enshrined in the charter of rights and freedoms. Why do people fear legislation that promotes fairness?

Why do people fear something which says if there are two equally qualified people and one of them comes from a disadvantaged group that it is time to give the benefit to the member of the disadvantaged group? Why is that a frightening thing? Is it because there is a lack of confidence in their own ability to succeed? Is it because there is that fear of the unknown which I spoke of earlier, the fear that someone with a different skin colour, or a female of the species, or someone who needs extra help because of a disability will surpass you and show you that in spite of the perceived disability or the perceived discrimination that person is possibly a finer or a more productive person than you are? That kind of

response is unworthy of Canadians. It is unworthy of a society that is held up as an example to the world.

All of us have unworthy thoughts. All of us have fears. We all have great trepidations about what the future will hold, not just for ourselves but for our children and for the generations to come. All of us here in the House have a particular responsibility which is to somehow get over those fears and to deal with those fears. We have to look at the larger picture of Canadian life and do our very best to legislate in a way that will benefit the largest number of Canadians.

I said at the beginning that all of us came here with an agenda, with things we wanted to see accomplished. I said that one of the things I wanted to see accomplished as a member of Parliament was a furtherance of human rights and fairness. Bill C-64 again is one of the reasons I am proud to be a member of Parliament. I support this bill and I will be delighted to see it pass.

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10:15 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition has given its support to this most praiseworthy bill. We have been listening to the comments of the third party since yesterday, and I do appreciate what the members across the floor have had to say, something the opposition can rarely state.

I would, however, like to ask the hon. member the following question. Eloquent words are good, very eloquent words even better, but better still are not words but concrete actions and accomplishments.

Let me give the example of the wage inequity that exists at this time for women in the federal public service. It has been evaluated at 72 per cent. How can that be remedied when Treasury Board has undertaken to cut 45,000 positions?

How will the legislation be implemented so that, in the public service for example, there can be a move beyond mere words to concrete actions toward restoring the balance?

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10:20 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. However, he may be confusing his apples with his oranges.

The member first talked about the fact that 72 per cent of the Public Service of Canada is female. That is true, but in talking about the public service-and I do this in spite of my great respect and affection for the President of the Treasury Board-we still have a way to go in ensuring that women reach higher echelons in the public service. They must be able to break through glass ceilings. The federal government has a responsibility to be an example to the private sector.

I believe that with the passage of Bill C-64 and the other projects and policies of the government we will see the federal government continuing its role as an example to the rest of the country. One of the ways it has to be an example to the rest of the country is to put its financial house in order.

I am not exactly sure where the hon. member's riding is in the province of Quebec but I can tell him that I represent the third largest public service town in Canada. The largest is of course Ottawa. The second largest is Montreal. Halifax is the third largest. I have shared with the hon. members for Dartmouth and Halifax West in excess of 30,000 employees of the federal government. With the greatest of respect to the hon. member, I do not need anyone to tell me about the problems and concerns of public servants.

With the downsizing which we all know has to be done the public servants in Halifax who are going are taking retirement packages and are finding that the federal government is dealing with them in a fair and open way. This project is moving along at an even faster rate than a number of people had thought. Thus far I have received little or no complaints from my constituents who, I can assure the hon. member, are extremely vociferous and quick to get in touch with me if there is something they are unhappy about or something they feel is not going their way.

If the hon. member is worried about public servants, perhaps he would like to come to Halifax. They would tell him that they are not quite so badly off as he might think.

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10:20 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the dissertation by the member opposite representing Halifax, the bastion of public service in Canada.

I remind the member opposite that Canada is not a perfect place for the people she listed in her dissertation, all of the groups that were designated. It is not a perfect place for men either. The world is not a perfect place.

In my experience the drive to perfection is better achieved through education rather than legislation. We cannot legislate tolerance; we can educate tolerance. We cannot legislate wisdom; we can educate wisdom. There are some things the government just plain cannot do. I leave this aside and recognize that this legislation will pass.

Why, if this legislation is so good and so necessary for the public at large, are there two sets of rules? Why do we ask Canadians to do one thing while we do another? Why do we ask Canadians to do with less when we are prepared to accept our pensions the way they are? If this legislation is so good, why does it not extend to the House of Commons?

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10:25 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, there were several questions and I will be delighted to deal with each one.

First and foremost, I have to disagree with my hon. friend from Edmonton Southwest, one of my favourite members of the third party. On the question of education for tolerance as opposed to legislation, the point is that we have to do both. I think my hon. friend from Edmonton knows that.

Sometimes we do have to legislate. That is why we have human rights acts with which I am sure my hon. friend would not disagree. That is why western democracies have frequently had to drag portions of their populations kicking and screaming into the latter part of the 20th century. Sadly but truly, part of that is in the area of human rights law in all its ramifications. If we have to do that, we have to do that.

On the question of pensions, I do not think we are debating pensions, but yes, I opted into the pension. I am proud to do so and I will continue to be proud to do so because, in the words of that Clairol commercial, I am worth it.

With regard to the question of why the employment equity legislation does not relate to the House of Commons, there is an option for the House of Commons. I too agree with the hon. member but with legislation, one of the things I have learned in my seven years here is that sometimes we must crawl before we walk. This is a great step forward from the old act. The improvements and amendments will keep on coming in all areas of policy while the Liberal government, our Prime Minister and the cabinet make the policy for Canada.

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10:25 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Lévis has already said we support Bill C-64, on which I believe we have worked very hard in committee. We heard a number of witnesses and tried in good faith to improve the bill.

It is worthwhile keeping in mind, I think, that the bill before us on employment equity goes back as a concept to 1983 and the Abella commission. The Abella commission provided us with a very clear understanding of the fact that, while individual discrimination still exists, often in the form of prejudice or negative attitudes toward certain social phenomena within our society, a more systemic discrimination still exists as well, related to the system and to certain practices, rules and usages which are still sanctioned and upon which it is not easy, as an individual, to make any impact to bring about change.

What Bill C-64 asks of us is to ensure that the composition of the labour market reflects the composition of the Canadian population. I do not see anything in such an objective that is unreasonable or beyond our grasp as a society.

When it comes to systemic discrimination, discrimination within the system, which is most certainly the hardest to get rid of, four categories of individuals have the most difficulty claiming their rightful place in the work force. First and foremost in the four groups listed in the bill are women, and we shall come back to this, since they make up more than half of the Canadian population and still lag considerably behind in the workforce, particularly where wage policies are concerned, as the member for Lévis mentioned.

The second group is visible minorities. They say we live in an increasingly cosmopolitan society. This implies there are more and more people who do not belong to the majority, who are not white, and these people also have specific problems such as getting promoted and getting a job with managerial responsibilities in the workplace.

And of course we have persons with disabilities. This has become a fact of life. Our society can expect to have an increasing number of people who are functionally challenged. There is certainly a connection with the increase in people's life expectancy, especially among women who seem to have a philosophy of life and a knack for taking care of themselves from which men would have a lot to learn.

The last group covered by this bill is aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal peoples represent approximately 4 per cent of the Canadian population but have managed to occupy only 1 per cent of the jobs available.

In federally-regulated companies with more than 100 employees and throughout the public service-more on that later-we are being asked to find ways to ensure better representation of these four groups in the labour market.

We asked ourselves two questions when considering this bill. First, whether other groups or individuals in our society suffered systemic discrimination.

It was pointed out that older workers may have been discriminated against, since it is not easy when you are laid off and lose your job, and you are 40, 50 or 55 years old, to find a job somewhere else. I think we can safely say there is some hidden discrimination against this group.

The question also arose whether in our society young people, the under thirties, also have that problem. We tried to get some statistics to have a better picture of the problems facing these people. We concluded on the basis of the information we had in committee that there was no specific indication that young people and older workers had suffered systemic discrimination during the past few years.

Under the employment equity bill, it is also possible to invoke the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter is a mixture of the best and the worst. The best being, of course, the will to ensure that every citizen, irrespective of his income, origins, or profession, has certain rights. I would say the worst part is the provision which attempts rather awkwardly, without reflecting much concern for the interests of Quebec, to support multiculturalism. But that is another issue. In any case, section 15(2) of the charter allows for specific measures aimed at the same designated groups we find in Bill C-64.

Why do I mention this? Because very often there is an assumption that employment equity legislation, and this includes federal as well as provincial legislation, may not be compatible with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Upon closer scrutiny that is clearly not the case, and as I said before, section 15(2) of the charter allows for measures to deal specifically with designated groups.

The overall picture, before we get into the details, is the following. There seems to be a pretty standard profile of economic discrimination on the labour market against women, persons with disabilities, aboriginal peoples and visible minorities, and the situation is not improving. I would say there are four characteristics that are a constant in access to employment for the four designated groups.

Generally speaking, the unemployment rate is higher for women, aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities. The level of unemployment of people in these groups is often higher than the national average, despite the fact that we have had employment equity legislation since 1986. This is the first characteristic of a general economic profile.

Also, generally speaking, we can say that these people are in poorer paying jobs, that is, again as compared with the national average.

When we look at the employment profile and the type of jobs these people hold, we realize that they often occupy lower level positions, not executive or management ones. For certain groups, and I am thinking particularly of women and aboriginal peoples-I was very surprised to learn-the lower level positions are often clerical jobs, junior positions. Here again, nothing has changed since 1986.

The final characteristic of this general profile is that the people in the four designated groups are employed in jobs with low growth potential. This means that, in the course of the changes the job market will undergo in the next few years, these are the jobs that will be threatened, because of their low level of specialization.

I think it important to keep this profile in mind, because, once we realize the situation, it is impossible to rise, like some of our Reform colleagues have done, and state that everyone is equal in the labour market. It is not true that everyone is equal, and it is not true that everyone has an equal opportunity to occupy the same jobs.

But that does not mean that progress has not been made. I think we would be misinformed as parliamentarians if we did not acknowledge what has been achieved since 1986.

I would like to outline for you the percentage of jobs held by each of the designated groups in relation to the jobs held by the population as a whole.

Let us take members of visible minorities, for example. We are told that, as of the last census, they represented 9.4 per cent of the population. In 1987, one year after the Employment Equity Act came into effect, they occupied 5 per cent of the jobs in the labour market. Between 1987 and 1993, with the legislation still in effect, progress was made, because members of visible minorities now represented 8.9 per cent of the labour force.

Obviously, 8.9 per cent is lower than the absolute proportion of the population they represent, which is 9.4 per cent.

Women, of whom the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration spoke so eloquently, represent 52 per cent of the population of Canada. As we know, this is a widespread phenomenon, there is no hiding it. Just think, in 1987, they occupied 40 per cent of the jobs available on the labour market in Canada. By 1993, things had improved and women held 45 per cent of available jobs.

Nevertheless, when we analyze the figures a bit,-and this is where we realize it-we see the need for employment equity legislation. I wonder, in the case of the pages, whether we have achieved a balance between men and women. I would guess from what I have seen that, in this session, the women outnumber the men. But we will get hold of the statistics on this.

The aboriginal peoples represent 4 per cent of the Canadian population. In this case, things are really dramatic. In the case of the aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities, progress has been particularly pitiful and there is the greatest cause for concern for us as lawmakers.

The aboriginal peoples represent 4 per cent of the Canadian population. In 1987-hold on tight, Mr. Speaker, you are in for a shock-they held .66 per cent, that is, not even 1 per cent, of jobs on the labour market. In 1993, they occupied 1.4 per cent of the jobs.

This is a recovery. There is a pressing need to change course. Handicapped people, who represent 15 per cent of the Canadian population, were holding 1.59 per cent of jobs in the work place in

1987 and 2.56 per cent in 1993. Even today in 1995, we see discrimination, a gap, an imbalance between the importance of some designated categories and their place in the labour market. This is what Bill C-64 is designed to correct, and I do not understand how a member of Parliament, a representative of the people cannot subscribe to these principles.

One thing surprised me throughout our numerous committee hearings. Of course, I do not deny that there is a cost and some paperwork attached to employment equity, but I was pleasantly surprised to note that what employers came to tell us is that an employment equity strategy is now part of a sound staff management policy.

Removing employment barriers against certain people is in everyone's interest. In a context where businesses are asked to be good corporate citizens, to maintain close links with their communities, striking just the right balance between a business and its environment is in everyone's interest. This is a provision of Bill C-64 on employment equity.

Unlike in the first few years when it was enforced, the law is no longer perceived strictly as an anti-discrimination device. It is seen as an important component of sound management and enforcement of a human resources management policy.

When we stop to think about it, there is a cost attached to delaying employment equity. If it is true that handicapped people, people with functional limitations who can hold a job are denied this opportunity, if it is true that these people represent 15 per cent of the Canadian population and that 60 to 80 per cent of them are unemployed, we must realize that there is a cost attached to this because the productivity they could contribute to Canadian society is lost to us as a society.

Provisions like this one in the employment equity bill are to be commended.

What pleased committee members the most-and this was also one of the recommendations adopted by the previous committee in the previous Parliament during the five year review-is that the Employment Equity Act will now apply to the public service of Canada as a whole.

The act previously applied to perhaps 5 per cent of employees working for some 300 employers. This act will now apply to twice as many workers, since the entire public service of Canada, which employs close to 300,000 people, will now be subject to it.

Of course-and we agree with this-, provision has been made for some organizations that will now be subject to Treasury Board regulations because of certain strategic imperatives concerning them. These organizations include the Communications Security Establishment, the RCMP, the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

All committee members expressed the wish to be subject to the Employment Equity Act once the amendments have been made.

I heard on several occasions a fallacious, hypocritical, deceitful and dishonest argument from our Reform colleagues, who told us that employment equity meant hiring incompetent people.

That is the basic argument that was used throughout our deliberations by our colleagues from the Reform Party, who do not support Bill C-64. This argument does not stand up to analysis however, because the legislator provides in the bill, more exactly in clause 56, that this is not employment equity.

It provides for three things. Employers to whom the legislation will apply because they have 100 employees or more are told that employment equity does not entail opening new jobs. We can appreciate that, in the current economic conditions, not all industrial sectors are experiencing growth.

In fact, you must admit that the government's financial plan is rather shabby, despicable and mediocre. One cannot ask that new jobs be created for the sake of implementing an employment equity policy. Employment equity does not mean creating new jobs, no more than it means setting quotas. There is no mention of this in the bill and I think it is ill-advised to say otherwise.

How will all that work in everyday life? What employers are asked to do is to prepare an annual employment equity plan and file it by June 30 with the human resources directorate. This plan must contain three things, more or less. It will have to set out how the workforce composition will be assessed. Having assessed the composition of the workforce within his business, where underrepresentation has been identified, the employer will be required to set out what measures he intends to take in order to remedy the situation both qualitatively and quantitatively.

That is a major change introduced by the bill. Not only is the employer required to assess quantitatively the composition of his workforce, but he can also provide qualitative information, which was not the case previously.

We are dissatisfied with certain aspects regarding the employment equity plan. Personally, I would have liked this plan to be prepared and implemented jointly by union and management, as a requirement. We have presented amendments to make this a joint responsibility, a mandatory and binding responsibility, because we do not think that employment equity is possible unless it is something that all parties want and agree to.

Unfortunately, this amendment was defeated and I think that the government made a major mistake there because there was a

consensus among the interested parties about this provision. In addition, we would have liked that a copy of the employment equity plan be distributed to each employee and the contents of the plan to be posted in common display areas, as provided for in the Canada Labour Code for instance, where the employer is required to post his policy regarding sexual harassment.

We believe that the bill would have been greatly improved as a result, had the government bowed to the opposition's arguments. Unfortunately, this has not been the case and we were told, quite wrongly I would say, that the employment equity plan would contain strategic information, information which, by virtue of its highly confidential nature, could put the businesses' competitive position at risk. To this, the unions and our party naturally replied: "But if all employers are subject to the same requirements and all of them have the same plan and are willing to make it available within the organization, it is hard to believe that some of them could be penalized, since this standardized policy would be implemented across the board".

To conclude, let me say that it is with great pleasure that we support a bill which, without being perfect, is a major step forward as far as employment equity is concerned.

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10:50 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with the hon. member for Hochelaga for the last couple of years and I know him to be a very earnest, honest, hard working and credible person. I know that when he speaks about this employment equity legislation he is speaking from the heart, that he really does think this will improve society in Canada and prevent discrimination.

I want to ask the hon. member what he thinks will happen as a direct result of this legislation when people who are just as qualified, not more or not less qualified, are denied a job or advancement because of the colour of their skin, because of their race, because of their gender. Does the hon. member feel this will contribute to hard feelings, contribute to discrimination and plant seeds of dissension that would not otherwise be in our society?

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10:50 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his good words. I think exactly the same of him. It was a pleasure to work with him, because he seems to represent the progressive wing of his caucus. That wing is not as important as it should be, but that issue will not be solved at this level.

I want to give him an example. It goes without saying that if we agree with employment equity, we support the objective of making more room for designated groups. Let me give a concrete example which is related to my personal life.

I have a twin brother who suffers from cerebral palsy, and I am convinced that he wants to earn a living, just like I do. He is as intelligent, hard working and willing as I am. Had it not been for the fact that a number of organizations have specific policies urging employers to hire persons with disabilities, my brother would probably never have found work. We have to recognize that it is not a natural tendency for an employer to hire handicapped people. Nor is it a natural tendency to hire members of a visible minority group. Employers are still very reluctant to hire women who might give birth in the near future.

When my twin brother was hired, had he been chosen instead of an able-bodied person, that person might have resented the fact and that would have been understandable. However, we must go beyond such considerations, which means that, in a number of cases, preferential treatment should be given to the four designated groups mentioned in the legislation. I agree with that principle.

The minor distinction which I would make is that, in order to achieve genuine and real employment equity, it is necessary that when people apply for a job, their application be reviewed based on their ability to do that job. When my disabled brother was hired, he had the basic skills required to perform the duties involved.

The bill includes a very explicit provision which provides that an employer is not required to hire unqualified persons. It can be assumed that, given personnel management policies, employers conducting interviews to recruit staff will reject applicants who are not deemed qualified. However, when a number of people have equal skills, including persons with disabilities, then a collective effort should be made to help these persons get the job.

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10:50 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I ask the hon. member if this employment equity legislation will address an issue of discrimination by using discrimination itself.

Although the legislation as he interprets it may not be doing that, we do have a situation in which those who are not covered by employment equity legislation are being told not to even bother applying for some of these positions that are open because they happen to fall outside of the categories of this protection.

How fair is it to not even be considered for a job? I am referring to the RCMP as a prime example. I have had a number of young men complain because they have been turned away at the door from even applying because they do not fit into this little category.

How fair is it to those individuals to be denied even the opportunity of applying to see if they are equally capable of doing the job?

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10:55 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I will admit that some people are being frustrated. Let me say this to her.

It seems to me that it would be a great deal easier as parliamentarians to reach a consensus on the justification for an employment equity act if we were in a context of job creation. Surely, we must hope that there are enough jobs to go around. The misfortune at this time, the reason there has been the heavy backlash on employment equity, is that there are too few jobs available and that the jobs available are not accessible to everyone.

I agree with the hon. member on this. Where our opinions diverge is that over here in my seat for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve I feel that a full employment policy is not possible in a country that stretches across a whole continent, as Canada does. Those countries that have adopted successful employment policies-because trade is a worldwide affair, but unemployment is not, and I would be delighted if we could have the 5 or 6 per cent unemployment they have in Austria and other countries-are small countries with populations of seven, eight or ten million and countries with great cohesiveness. And Quebec possesses those characteristics.

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10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

It being 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), we will now proceed to statements by members.

Community Academic Services ProgramStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute to a program in my riding called the Community Academic Services Program, CASP. It is a community program dedicated to upgrading adults in English and math up to the grade nine level by setting up classrooms in community facilities such as church basements, Lion's clubs and schools. It is province-wide and has been very successful in helping people gain new skills.

CASP was recently awarded the UNESCO international award for literacy at the Beijing world conference on women. The importance of literacy cannot be overstated. It is an essential tool in increasing employment opportunities and improving the quality of life for people across the country.

I congratulate Maryanne Bourgeois and her staff from Literacy New Brunswick in particular for their hard work and dedication. As a member of the Fredericton Community Literacy Committee and as someone who has been involved with CASP from the beginning, I am encouraged to see the program is getting international recognition.

AidsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, this National AIDS awareness week has given us members the opportunity to reflect on this significant problem for society, as between 42,000 and 45,000 Canadians and Quebecers are now infected with HIV.

It is our duty to step up our efforts to eradicate HIV transmission and to ensure that infected individuals receive the support they require. The battle against AIDS, however, also includes a battle against homophobia, and that is precisely the theme of the 1995 awareness campaign.

Putting an end to homophobia requires a positive atmosphere, an atmosphere of solidarity toward those who are seropositive, and a positive representation of homosexuality. My closing wish is that all members of this House will contribute to overcoming homophobia and thus to winning the battle against AIDS.

ThanksgivingStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, on this Thanksgiving weekend Reformers would like to thank a few Liberal members who have really stood out in this session.

First, we would like to thank all of those unknown backbenchers for filibustering the government's own pre-referendum stay asleep "snooze bar" legislation.

Second, we would like to thank the Minister of Finance for his Walter Mitty, feel good, two-year revolving target approach to fiscal forecasting which if nothing else will make weather forecasters look good.

Third, we would like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for helping us put together a working definition of the term racist. Thanks to her we now know that a racist is an individual who is winning an argument against a Liberal.

Finally, thanks go to the minister of HRD whose job creation initiatives have ensured that thousands of young Canadians will utter the words "do you want fries with that" upon graduation from university.

We would like to thank the Minister of Justice for his unwanted gun control bill, the treasury board minister for his expensive infrastructure program, and a special thanks to the Minister of Health for her great impersonation of the hon. member for Macleod.

Arctic Wildlife RefugeStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the members of Vuntut Gwich'in first nation and various wildlife and environmental groups will soon begin a cross-country tour of the United States to gather support for the declaration of the Arctic national wildlife refuge as a United States national monument and for the protection of the area from exploitation.

The wildlife refuge is a primary calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd which migrates across the Yukon-Alaska border. This herd is unique and constitutes an irreplaceable national treasure while providing subsistence for First Nations people.

The Prime Minister and the American president have said they support the protection of the herd. In recent statements the president has said he supports the establishment of a national monument. However the U.S. Congress wants to open the area to oil and gas development.

I urge the Prime Minister to intervene personally by lending his public support for the national monument declaration and by reaffirming Canada's commitment to protect the herd.

National Immunization MonthStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I gave a flu shot to Bob Marks, director of the Canadian Lung Association. With that one shot Bob got protection for the whole winter. However Bob alone does not benefit from that shot; all of society does.

Over 2,000 Canadians a year die from pneumonia and influenza. The number of work days lost due to flu and the cost to business and the health care system are exorbitant. Yet only 33 per cent of at risk Canadians take advantage of this protection.

During October, National Immunization Month, we are changing that. We are asking Canadians to do themselves a favour by getting a flu shot.

Polio used to paralyse our children. Not any more. Diphtheria and whooping cough caused death among our young. Not any more. National immunization programs put an end to those days. Now we are on guard against influenza. In every province thousands of at risk seniors, the chronically ill, children and HIV positive patients can get free flu shots because it is good preventive medicine.

As a physician I ask every member of the House to recognize National Immunization Month by getting a flu shot. I will give it to them personally. Let us all say no to the flu.

National Immunization MonthStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I am all for that and I will be happy to meet with you right after question period.

Hiv-AidsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, today I wear this red ribbon in remembrance of those who have died of AIDS and for the approximately 16,000 Canadians who have been diagnosed with the HIV-AIDS virus.

The AIDS virus has most seriously affected the homosexual community. However the virus does not discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation as many women and children have died of the virus in addition to the thousands of men.

While our views may vary one thing is very clear. Those who suffer from AIDS are human beings. They deserve our support and compassion.

I applaud Canadian researchers for their relentless search for a cure. While progress is being made every effort must be made through education and lifestyle change to stop the deadly transmission of the disease.

As we take time this week to support AIDS awareness and education programs, I encourage every member of the House to inform themselves about the disease so as to eradicate prejudice and homophobia and treat those suffering with AIDS with the dignity and compassion they so rightly deserve.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Judy Bethel Liberal Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend the auditor general on his study on environmental management systems and its recent release. The co-operative effort of the many government departments involved in the project should be acknowledged. It is a good example of the wide range of initiatives in which all parts of the government are sharing information and best practices to green government operations in as rapid and cost effective a manner as possible.

The Government of Canada, through its greening government operations initiative, has established guidelines for all federal departments to follow in order to integrate environmental considerations in their operations.

The auditor general has provided us with a useful study. Implementing an environmental management system is a vital first step to improving environmental performance in key areas such as procurement, fleet and facilities management, and land use.

This is only one step the government is taking to meet its commitment to Canadians to make sustainable development a reality.

Aerospace IndustryStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to the secret document prepared for Operation Unity by Industry Canada, that, in the event of Quebec sovereignty, because the aerospace industry worldwide maintains close relations with their respective governments, if the governments of Quebec and Canada can maintain co-operative relations in this sector, the aerospace industry will not be affected. The document also indicates that partnership is more the rule than the exception in this industry, throughout the world generally. It seems clear that, in the country's national interest, Canada will try to negotiate a partnership with Quebec in the aerospace sector.

The blackmail, intimidation and threat of reprisals have to stop. It is time Quebecers were told the truth, and the truth is that a partnership is not only possible but desirable for both Canada and Quebec. Canada will negotiate a partnership agreement with Quebec not out of charity for its former province, but because it is in the national interest to do so.

Government GrantsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again I stand in the House to tell Canadians about the wasteful practices of the Liberal government.

In particular I list some of the outrageous grants being handed out by the Minister of Health. A group known as Positive Straight Men received $10,000; the prisoners with HIV-AIDS support action network, $63,000; the Committee on Seniors and Sexuality, $117,000; and let us not forget that pauper of the financial industry, the Royal Bank of Canada that received $55,000.

The only thing that Canadians are asking is that their tax dollars be spent responsibly. This is a minute part of the $10 billion of grants and contributions in 1994-95, much of which has been poured down the proverbial drain.

Women EntrepreneursStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, on September 22, 1995, the office of The Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan was officially opened in Saskatoon to serve businesswomen in rural and urban communities across the province.

Women entrepreneurs enjoy an enviable success rate in business. In spite of this they have historically faced obstacles which often prevented them from getting started in the first place such as banks demanding a husband's signature on a loan, high interest rates or excessive collateral. We must factor in as well fear of the unknown and isolation resulting from lack of business networks.

The women entrepreneurs office, funded by western economic diversification, will go a long way to breaking down the barriers by providing loans at market interest rates, advisory services, mentoring and seminars related to entrepreneurship and business skills.

Congratulations to Jeanne Martinson, Pamela Warden, Marie Jensen, Donna Dixson-Bernard and Ann Chatfield, the board of directors, for making this dream a reality. Finally, well done, Andrea Scott.