June 23, 1972 (28th Parliament, 4th Session)


Winona Grace MacInnis

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Grace Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway) moved:

That BiD C-195, to amend the Adult Occupational Training Act, be amended in clause 1 by changing the period at the end of line 10 at page 1 to a comma, and by adding immediately thereafter the following words:
"including a woman who is engaged in the domestic services of her home whether or not she has at any time been a member of the labour force.
She said: Mr. Speaker, in order to explain the background and the reason for introducing this amendment I shall have to go back a little in history. The amendments being introduced by the minister are to the Adult Occupational Training Act, 1970. My amendment would apply to clause 3, the definition section of that act, which now reads as follows:
In this part
"adult" means a person whose age is at least one year greater than the regular school leaving age in the province in which he resides; "adult eligible for a training allowance" means an adult who
(a) has been a member of the labour force substantially without interruption for not less than three years, or
(b) has one or more persons wholly or substantially dependent upon him for support.
The way that clause reads, without the bill which the minister has introduced, has been a source of great trouble and difficulty to women across this country. Many women have needed to go out into the labour force, not only to receive training but to obtain the allowance while taking the course. One type of woman affected by this legislation is the single-support mother who because she was unable to get the training allowance and was not able to afford any kind of babysitting or housekeeping service could not go out to work and, in any case, was not eligible because of the three-year requirement. Other women were also affected adversely. Recommendation No. 130 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women reads:
-we recommend that section 3(b) of the federal Adult Occupational Training Act be amended so that full-time household responsibility be equivalent to participation in the labour force in so far as eligibility for training allowances is concerned.
Mr. Speaker, for several years I have been trying to achieve exactly the same sort of thing as is contained in that recommendation, and I have had a bill on the order paper to amend this clause. My bill, C-143, referred to section 3 of the act to which I added the following:
(c) without restricting the generality of the foregoing, the words "labour force" includes a woman who has been engaged in the domestic services of her home for a period of not less than three years.
In other words, Mr. Speaker, I wanted the definition to make sure that a woman who had been engaged in look-
Adult Occupational Training Act ing after the domestic services of her home for a period of three years would be considered to have been a part of the labour force and consequently eligible not only for training but for the training allowance. I realize very well that the minister has been besought and besieged by groups of women and has been embarrassed by the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. In this new Bill C-195 he has sought to correct this particular form of discrimination against women in the home. Clause 1 of the new bill provides:
1. Section 3 of the Adult Occupational Training Act is repealed and the following substituted therefor:
"3. In this part, "adult" means a person whose age is at least one year greater than the regular school leaving age in the province in which he resides."
Anyone who reads that is apt to wonder why I am now seeking to introduce an amendment, because they could assume that it is plain that an adult is a person whose age is one year greater than the school leaving age in the province in which he resides, and presumably a woman is an adult. It might be asked why I want this spelled out. That is what I want to make plain this afternoon, Mr. Speaker. As it reads now, this section leaves it wide open that women can get training and allowances presumably on the same basis as male adults. I know the minister intends that in his legislation because he has been very sympathetic to this approach, but I am moving this amendment because women all across the country are concerned that they have not been able to get specific guarantees from the minister that this is so.
I should like to put on record the reasons I am worried enough to bring in this amendment. When the regulations to this bill come out, unless they are clear and definite on this point, women-and some men, too-will be asking me where I was when the legislation went through. They will ask, "Why didn't you get it clarified beyond any doubt?"
On May 4, when the minister introduced the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women to this House, he said:
The bill to amend the Adult Occupational Training Act which received first reading last week in the House of Commons will provide women-
The minister did not underline this, but I will.
-who have worked one year at any time in their lives the opportunity to receive training as well as training allowances for the first time.
The minister knows as well as I do that any woman, except a few parasites, has worked more than one year at any time in her life. I could not help but conclude that the minister still had in mind the idea of the labour force and the necessity of being part of the labour force in order to qualify. Listen to these words again:
the bill will provide women who have worked one year at any time in their lives-
That can only mean they have worked for one year in the labour force in their lives; it does not make sense otherwise. All women have worked more than one year in their lives, Mr. Speaker.
-the opportunity to receive training as well as training allowances for the first time.
I replied for our party to the ministerial statement. I asked the minister about this and he nodded his head in
June 23, 1972

Adult Occupational Training Act
affirmation. I said I hoped that Hansard would record the nod. I might have had my fears allayed by that nod. But on May 5, during second reading of Bill C-195, an act to amend the Adult Occupational Training Act, the minister said:
I think the change will do much to remove the unintentional discrimination that has been directed toward women in the work force. The three year work rule made it extremely difficult for the department to help upgrade a widow or a woman who, for one reason or another must return to work to support her children, a chronically ill husband or someone else in her family by providing such simple courses as shorthand, typing, dictation and other work of this nature.
The words "must return to work", if they are to mean anything, must be construed as "must return to work in the labour force". That is the only possible meaning one can give them. Again, this made me worry about the type of regulations that will come down. I wondered if they would be clear, or would lead to all sorts of red tape or wrangling as has happened in far too many cases where discrimination has been involved.
I do not think the minister used those words intentionally; but he used them, and that is what worried me. He suggested this will make it easier for women who must return to work, to do so. I suggest that such provision will not help those women who want to take advantage of this legislation but who have never been members of the work force. I am talking about women who married when they were young and perhaps had children, perhaps the husband has died, perhaps the husband is chronically ill or is a drunkard or helpless and is not much use as a breadwinner. Women in that position desperately need training and the training allowances without which they cannot make the necessary arrangements that will permit them to be away from home while they are undergoing training.
I wish the minister would listen, Mr. Speaker, because I shall present one or two further pieces of evidence in support of my contention. On being questioned by the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville (Mr. Nystrom), a member of my party, on whether farmers' wives or housewives on farms would qualify for manpower training allowances under this act, the minister said:
I will answer that in my usual direct fashion by saying that when we get to the committee stage the whole question of women in the work force will, I am sure, be thoroughly discussed.
Then he said that no doubt we should want to ask some basic questions about the definition of one-year training and whether or not work done in the home by the farmer's wife, for example, or a woman in a similar situation could be defined by regulation. That statement worried me because the question was not answered. Here, again, the minister could have given a categorical yes or no answer; but he did not, and that worried me.
I read the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, a report which was so carefully prepared by Mrs. Paltiel under the direction of the minister, and found on page 23 this reference to amendments to the Adult Occupational Training Act:
This would remove a major obstacle and vastly improve the opportunities for training for women who require it for re-entry into the labour force.

Again, the significant words are "for re-entry into the labour force". When I saw this last piece of evidence-and one must admit, Mr. Speaker, that I am not presenting merely a single piece of evidence-I could not help but worry again. I worried precisely because in the time I have spent here I have learned that provisions must be spelled out clearly in legislation, otherwise regulations over which we exercise no control whatever may be fudged-up or so confusing and messy as to lose sight of the end the legislation was intended to bring about.
So I say to the minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, that the women of this country want their rights in this act spelled out so that they are clear beyond any doubt. I introduced my amendment because women of this country have had a long, hard fight asserting their rights, and the right enshrined in the amendment is tremendously important for women. Many women across this country need the benefits of this legislation. Women in the home, in the cities and in the country want to supplement the income of the home. They might be the only breadwinner in the home, or perhaps the husband is a cripple, helpless, or no use as a breadwinner. Women need this legislation for supplementing the income of the home.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister to make a clear and definite statement this afternoon on whether the definition of a person who is to be eligible for training and training allowances is to include a woman "who is engaged in the domestic services of her home whether or not she has at any time been a member of the labour force." That is the definition for which I press. I want this language in the act to be clear and plain. I trust the minister will do as I ask, on behalf of thousands of women across this country who want to know whether they will be eligible for the training allowance or for training once this act is proclaimed.

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