Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Saskatoon—Humboldt (Saskatchewan)

Lost her last election, in 1997, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Human Rights Act April 30th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I underline what my colleague has just said. Bill C-33 is about human rights protection from discrimination. It is not about destroying the Canadian family.

My family values, like those of many Canadians, include the values of tolerance, equity, justice and decency. Bill C-33 is not about conferring special rights on special groups. Bill C-33 is not about promoting lifestyles. It ought to be pointed out that the term sexual orientation which is being added to the bill is a neutral term that includes both homosexuality and heterosexuality.

It is my belief that we are judged as a society not by how we enhance the lives of the powerful but rather, how we look out for the vulnerable among us. For this reason, I am proud to be judged by the protection put in place by Bill C-33, legislation that for many Canadians will replace the raised fist with a sheltering arm.

Canadian Human Rights Act April 30th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are not tolerable but tolerant. We are proud of that tolerance and of our range of views.

My province of Saskatchewan is no different from any other part of Canada. One of our most famous native sons is a former prime minister, the Right. Hon. John Diefenbaker, who brought forward the first Canadian bill of rights to protect, among other things, ethnicity, which was of particular concern to him.

Canadians are right to look to their Liberal government for leadership on this issue, to stand up for the vulnerable and not to do the politically expedient thing, not to govern by 1-900 numbers like the Reform Party.

Canadians would be ill advised to rely on the Reform Party for any assistance on this very important issue. The members of this party are pen pals with Newt Gingrich and the American right. This is a party that would take us back to the days of "Father Knows Best". This is a party that when Pat Buchanan burps, its leader says "pardon me".

Canadian Human Rights Act April 30th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nunatsiaq.

It is with some impatience that I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-33. I say impatience because the policy embodied in this legislation has long been supported by the Liberal Party of Canada.

Some 20 years ago the Liberal Party of Canada agreed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be prohibited. The Liberal Party passed a resolution in 1978 that urged a revised Canadian Constitution to guarantee fundamental human

rights in order to prohibit discrimination by virtue of, among other things, sexual orientation.

In 1985, just over 10 years ago, the Liberal Party participated in an all-party House of Commons committee that unanimously endorsed the resolution that this amendment should be made. More recently, at the 1994 biennial convention of the Liberal Party a resolution supporting this amendment was passed.

The amendment was promised during the federal election campaign. I campaigned on this promise. The Prime Minister has put his commitment behind this both during the campaign and in putting forward this legislation through the justice minister.

Speaking of the justice minister, he has repeatedly promised in the House that this commitment would be honoured. The Star Phoenix , the home newspaper in Saskatoon, wrote an editorial on March 26 with the caption that this protection was long overdue.

It also urged politicians to take the risk of doing the right thing even if it might not be the most politically expedient thing.

If everyone agrees that this is long overdue what has been the hold up? Why did this amendment not pass years ago? It is my belief that the biggest obstacle to this amendment is lack of information. Misinformation is sometimes deliberately put and it can be a complicated issue in terms of legislation and legalities.

Let me take this opportunity to set the record straight. Let us look at exactly what Bill C-33 does and does not do. This section applies to federal legislation. It applies to employment in and the provisions of goods and services delivered by the federal government and federally regulated businesses such as banks and airlines. These organizations employ approximately 10 per cent or 11 per cent of the workforce. Most employers such as schools, small businesses, religious and cultural organizations are regulated provincially and will not be affected by this proposal.

This proposal is not particularly earth shattering either. The amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act merely brings the federal legislation into line with most corresponding provincial and territorial laws, with court decisions that have provided gays and lesbians with the same protection from discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as other Canadians, and with the unanimous recommendations of the 1985 all-party parliamentary subcommittee report.

Eight provinces and territories, including my home province of Saskatchewan, have already amended their human rights legislation to include sexual orientation.

Why is the amendment needed? This is a question we constantly hear from the members of the Reform Party. Why do we need this protection for this group in society? As it stands right now there are two ways individuals can be protected from discrimination in this country. The first is under the Canadian Human Rights Act to the extent that it applies to the individual in question. The second is under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The difficulty is that when there is a gap in either of those pieces of legislation the Canadian who is a victim of discrimination must resort to the judicial system. We all know that resorting to the judicial system can be both expensive and risky.

I cite as an example two recent court decisions on the matter of sexual orientation. First, the Ontario Court of Appeal has suggested that sexual orientation ought to be read into the legislation when it is not present. Second, the Alberta Court of Appeal stated that is indeed not the case. The only way to resolve that discrepancy is through the Supreme Court of Canada which may or may not hear the case.

A more simple approach would be to codify this protection in federal legislation, which is what this bill is here to do today.

No one in this country should suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation. This is a matter of fairness and fundamental justice. It is not up to us to judge people's homosexuality or heterosexuality, but we must protect all Canadians from discrimination in our society.

Both the courts and the people of Canada have recognized that gays and lesbians are a group at risk. They have been disadvantaged historically, stereotyped, they have suffered considerable prejudice and discrimination in our society. No one should be considered any less than a full member of society because of their homosexuality.

As I said earlier, the greatest impediment to passing this legislation is ignorance of the facts. The controversy surrounding this issue particularly in the media, which is fuelled by the party opposite, has resulted in many of my constituents being confused. They have written to me with questions about what this legislation will do. We cannot be disrespectful of the emotional side of this issue or of the deeply held feelings of many Canadians, including some within my own caucus.

However, my belief as a mother and as a teacher has always been that the best antidote to misinformation is information. Let us have a look at the bill to see what it will do. In framing my responses I will refer questions in a generic form that I have received from my constituents.

The question most often asked is related to the special benefit issue. This question is fueled by the Reform Party, that somehow Bill C-33 is to give special benefits to this group in our society.

The proof is in the pudding. Sexual orientation has been consi-dered prohibited grounds of discrimination under provincial law since 1977.

No one could credibly argue that the provincial legislation has conferred special rights on any other groups protected by that legislation. Although each of the characteristics is now expressly covered by the existing statute, it is obvious that no special rights are conferred. It will be no different for sexual orientation. The amendment will prohibit discrimination in areas of federal jurisdiction, including employment and access to goods and services.

Another type of question I have often received from constituents has to do with whether the amendment will lead to benefits for same sex partners. That is unlikely to be the case. In fact, it will not be the case given the experience we have had with a similar provision in provincial legislation.

Another question is will the legislation not lead to adoption by same sex couples. The answer is no. Matters of adoption are primarily under provincial jurisdiction, not federal. The amendment does not in any way deal with matters covered in Bill C-167 proposed by the Ontario government in 1994.

The amendment deals with discrimination in employment, accommodation and provision of services and nothing else. It does not condone or condemn homosexuality or heterosexuality.

Section 2 of Bill C-33 simply adds to the existing legislation sexual orientation as a grounds of prohibited discrimination. I highlight that because a question related to the same sex adoption question concerns the impact this legislation will have on the family.

There is a belief that protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination will bring about the end of the family as we know it. I am offended by the implication that somehow gays and lesbians are not part of the Canadian family. Let us not forget the human side of this issue. Gays and lesbians are not aliens from outer space. They are our brothers, sisters, grandchildren, sons and daughters.

Will Bill C-33 lead to the destruction of the family? No, it will not. The proof lies partly in the application of existing provincial laws, but also in the preamble to Bill C-33. The second part of the preamble states:

And whereas the government recognizes and affirms the importance of family as the foundation of Canadian society and that nothing in this act alters its fundamental role in society;

Another question of great concern to many of my constituents is what impact this legislation might have on churches and religious organizations in terms of their teachings and with regard to the hiring and firing of their staff. There is nothing in the Canadian Human Rights Act amendment that would affect that.

In relation to the matter of the churches, the amendment has been endorsed by the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church, B'nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is of special interest to some people in my constituency. The Canadian bishops are in step with the opinions of their church community and Canadians in general. The polls have shown that most Canadians support the amendment.

War Crimes April 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who recently travelled to the former Yugoslavia to see firsthand the tragic impact of this war on human lives.

Given the importance of fostering respect for human rights and building a lasting peace, can the minister tell the House of Canada's role in the prosecution of war criminals?

Canada Book Day April 25th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, today is Canada Book Day. As a self-confessed bookworm, I am proud of the government's record in promoting literacy, a prerequisite to full participation in Canada Book Day.

We promised in the red book to restore the national literacy program. Not only has this been done, but the Prime Minister has also appointed a minister responsible for literacy. Under her able leadership, the national literacy program has been restored and many Canadians are on their way to acquiring the literacy skills needed to participate fully in the workplace and in society.

It takes more than government policy and initiatives to implement this however. Tribute must also be paid to the thousands of volunteers across Canada who show their commitment to the cause of literacy by working with their local literacy groups.

This being National Volunteer Week, I can think of no better time to acknowledge the efforts of the Saskatoon Literacy Coalition. Each year, volunteers like Eleanor Charman and Ruth Thompson, and many others, organize a fundraising spelling bee in which I have had the honour and pleasure of participating. Thanks as well to the contributions of small businesses like the Broadway Theatre that housed the spelling bee.

The slogan of Canada Book Week is: "Read a book and see what happens".

Ytv Achievement Awards April 22nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to 36 young Canadians who are recipients of the seventh annual YTV Achievement Awards and to welcome them to the national capital region.

These outstanding young achievers were chosen from among 1,500 nominees across the country. Each one has an incredible story to tell. Some have been recognized for their bravery, others for their public service or even their entrepreneurial skills. Among their numbers are writers, visual artists, dancers, musicians, singers, actors, athletes, but all have been recognized by the YTV Achievement Awards for these talents.

As a member of Parliament for Saskatchewan, I offer my congratulations to all these young Canadians, with a special tip of the hat to Mr. Shane Cuddington, 17 years old from Manor, Saskatchewan, a constituent of my friend and colleague, the member for Souris-Moose Mountain.

Shane has been recognized for his entrepreneurial skills, having started a landscaping business providing an ever increasing and more specialized variety of services to some 200 clients.

Shane will be among the award winners at the YTV awards to be broadcast live on Sunday, April 28 from Toronto.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act April 18th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, again I think the member is encumbered with a lot of rhetoric and misapprehension of the facts as they exist.

As I said in my speech, it was that member and all of his friends across the way who wanted the Government of Canada to keep its nose out of their affairs during the time leading up to the referendum in Quebec.

In response to the concerns of people in Quebec and all across the country the Prime Minister made a commitment at the end of last year. He stated that the Government of Canada would withdraw from labour market training, apprenticeship programs, co-operative education programs and so on. This seems to be exactly what the member opposite was saying, that we should let the government that is in the best position to understand local needs design the programs. This has been delivered on.

I know the member is full of fuss and bother this afternoon but it has nothing to do with any failure of this government to deliver on those promises.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act April 18th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my initial response to the member's question would be the same as the introduction to my speech: What does the Bloc Quebecois want? On the one hand it is saying to keep our nose out of its affairs; on the other hand it is saying to do more for it specifically and do not worry about the interests of other Canadians.

The business of governing this country as a country is to take into account the interests of all Canadians. The minister is taking a positive step forward in doing that. He is doing it in Quebec in the same way he is doing it in any other region of the country. As part of the family, we all share and share alike.

Sooner or later the member opposite will have to figure out what he wants.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act April 18th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve will not be disappointed, but I will try to stand in for my colleague from Kingston and the Islands as best I can.

I would preface my remarks by saying that as a woman I have often been plagued by the question: What do women want? I could translate that by saying: What does a Bloc Quebecois want?

I listened to my colleague opposite asking for the minister to do away with duplication and overlap and to deal with the province of Quebec, i would answer him by saying that is exactly what this bill proposes.

Mr. Speaker, when the bill now before us was tabled in this House last June 7, and this March 7, a number of us were amazed that the Bloc was so strongly opposed to it. Many of us were amazed at their heroic efforts to delay passage of a bill which has as its sole purpose the regularization of a government administrative restructuring that took place two years before. Amazed yes, but not in the least surprised.

At that point we were on the verge of the referendum campaign and the opposition wasted no opportunity to try and convince Quebecers of the dark intentions of the federal government. Nor did they waste any opportunity to hinder the smooth operations of government, to hold up to scrutiny every little action or statement by members of the government, as a diversionary tactic. It is easy to understand what was behind their actions at that time, but then the referendum came along and Canada remained Canada.

When the bill came back, the opposition began to sing the same tune again, to throw up the same roadblocks, but for a different reason. This time it was a sort of warm up in preparation for their opposition to the employment insurance bill the minister was going to introduce shortly. Here again, their reasons for acting on the federal level to immobilize and oppose any proposed change are easily understood.

The reasons were clearly demonstrated recently, on March 12, when it proposed that the bill on employment insurance be withdrawn even though everyone agrees that the current employment insurance program is in need of reform.

However, one important change has taken place since the last time the bill to establish the Department of Human Resources Development was debated.

Meanwhile, the Quebec employment minister agreed, after meeting with the federal minister, to discuss our proposal regarding employment insurance. Discussions are still going on with Quebec, as well as with all other provinces. Quebec is interested in the formula proposed because it will allow updating the management of worker adjustment programs; because it is consistent with its own goals regarding decentralization in favour of regions; and because the federal government has clearly indicated its intention to withdraw from manpower training.

For a large part employment insurance entails decentralization and partnership with provinces. If clause 20 allows the minister to enter into agreements with a province, financial institutions or similar agencies it is simply because we have taken into consideration, by adapting them, section 7 of the Employment Department and Commission Act, section 6 of the Heritage Department Act and section 5 of the existing Department of Labour Act.

The Department of Human Resources Development Act does not give the minister any powers other than those already being exercised. It does not confer any powers that were not previously exercised, respectively, by the ministers responsible. What is involved, essentially, is internal management. In other words, hypothetically even if the bill were never passed the minister would still continue to do everything he does now. When the bill is passed the minister will not be doing anything more or anything less than what he has been doing until now.

We all know we must invest in our human resources if we want to stay ahead of the world's nations in terms of quality of life.

This bill reconfirms the basic mission given to that department by the Government of Canada by bringing under the same roof all initiatives and programs designed to help Canadians at all stages of life: learning, work and retirement. In fact, as the bill stipulates, the powers, duties and functions of the minister "are to be exercised with the objective of enhancing employment, encouraging equality and promoting social security".

The act to establish the Department of Human Resources Development is especially designed to allow the department to continue helping put Canadians back to work.

To do so, we need a legislation which provides a simple and integrated mechanism in order to clarify the role of the department and the responsibilities of the minister with respect to the Canadian people.

Members of this House have had ample opportunity to thoroughly examine and discuss the bill which will put an end to this transitional phase, a transitional phase not only for this department but for the entire government reorganization.

I therefore believe it is time to put an end to it now and to consider other issues far more crucial for Canadians and the future of this country.

Petitions March 29th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present two petitions, one from the residents of the city of Saskatoon and the second from the rural portion in my riding, including communities such as Annaheim, Naicam, Muenster, Humboldt and St. Gregor, urging this government not to increase the federal excise tax in the 1996 budget.

Of course the petitioners were pleased with the minister's announcement on March 6 not to raise any taxes, but they will be pleased to remind him of this for next year's budget.