Mrs. GLADYS STRUM (Qu'Appelle):
Mr. Speaker, the entire house has listened with a great deal of interest and satisfaction to the reports from the various delegates to the San Francisco conference, and the discussion on its merits from all parts of the house has done credit to this body.
The ramifications of the provisions of the charter have ben so ably dealt with that there is very little left to say. I shall deal only with those aspects which have not as yet been mentioned.
United ft'ations Agreement
The first paragraph of the charter states:
We, the peoples of the united nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom ....
This is a worthy objective, nobly conceived. Our task is twofold: first, to see that in Canada the terms as laid down by the charter shall apply and, second, that in the international field nothing is left undone to promote the conditions that will make possible realization of these aims. What are these equal rights of men and women? How shall we approach the objective to "promote social progress and standards of life in larger freedoms''?
The biggest question mark to-day on the Canadian horizon is jobs; jobs, and how much does the job pay? We must begin right there *with the interpretation of the San Francisco charter and with the words "equal rights of men and women." The right to work at decent pay is a fundamental right without which there can be little freedom. Certainly for the able-bodied adult, freedom from want and freedom from fear hinge on this simple need.
Can Canada really afford this simple freedom for women, or shall women be asked to retire from the field of gainful employment and paid labour? I submit to the house, Mr. Speaker, that no one has ever objected to *women working. The only thing they have ever objected to is paying women for working. Many women will have homes that will absorb their time, and sufficient income that they will not want to seek employment outside their homes. Most women are happiest when these two conditions are comfortably met. But as I look over the "Canada Year Book" for 194344 I find that in many industries women played a very important part in production. In the processing of sausages and meat, butter and cheese, animal oils and fats, fish curing and packing, and related industries using fur, hides and leather from animals, slightly over a quarter of the jobs were held by women. Some 13,047 persons were employed, of whom 3,520 were women. In the textile trades and industries almost one-half the workers were women. They handled cotton, wool, flax, silk and synthetics. They made bags, tents, sails,
rope, clothing, hosiery, gloves, hats, caps, thread and so on. Of the 11,721 persons employed, 5,843 were women. In the processing of wood and in the making of paper products, bags, boxes, printing, bookbinding, beekeepers' and poultrymen's supplies, boat-building, the planing of sashes and doors and flooring, coffins and caskets, carriages and sleighs-all these things were listed, and women were not excluded from one of these industries. Of the 20,543 jobs, 6,921 or more than one-third were held by women.
It will be said that this was a period of abnormally high employment, and now that the war is over most of the women can go back to their homes and take their bread and cake from their husbands, their fathers, their brothers, or, if the worst comes to the worst they can go on relief and be sweet and thankful for it. I wish to point out that while it was a period of abnormal activity it was also a period of abnormally high marriage rates. Thousands of young women left the labour market to marry and become mothers. The birthrate, too, was abnormally high. The last available figure is for 1942, when it reached an all-time high at 272,313, an increase of 17,000 over the previous year. Naturally these young wives and mothers will, in the main, be only too happy to stay at home and enjoy the privacy and comfort of a happy home, and their reward will be the hapiness that comes from seeing the growth and development of sturdy, well-fed youngsters, provided that their husbands have jobs which will support them. The family allowance is crutch under family income, to supplement it. It can never begin to meet the needs of a robust, growing family that seems to be always hungry and always in need of a new pair of shoes.
Women who seek employment for pay do so for several reasons. First, there are the unmarried women who desire to be self-supporting. Many have dependents; parents unable to earn but not yet pensionable; parents unemployable but under seventy, or other relatives unable to take care of themselves, or perhaps brothers or sisters who are taking advanced training in educational fields. Second, there are the married women, mothers and wives, who must earn to supplement the family income. This needs very little explanation. Many wives have always worked to avoid hiring help in the family store or post office. For the same reason wives take jobs in other people's stores, post offices, factories and offices, to add to the family income. Many homes now owned by families
United Nations Agreement
never could have been paid for had it not been for the mother's earnings which helped to supplement the father's income.
Then there is the next group of women, whose talents and training do not lie in the domestic field. I should hate to see a law or custom that would impose upon all males the same sort of employment. I should think it would produce many misfits if we expected every man to make his contribution to the community as a plumber, a janitor or even as a lawyer. By the same token it is unfair to expect that every woman will love housework or be skilled in its many branches. To be a good mother does not require that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth do the royal laundry. Other people are paid to wash Her Majesty's dishes. In fact I have never seen it suggested that the royal family was anything but a model of contentment. It is a medieval hangover to suppose that every successful wife and mother must personally perform the duties of the household; in fact it was never required of women who had the means to pay others to discharge these duties. If the training and ability of the individual woman, be she spinster or wife, fit her to accept gainful employment in the professions, in business or in industry, it should be her right to accept such employment. In fact any attempt to deny her this right is a violation of our solemn pact endorsed by the Canadian delegation and by us in the San Francisco charter.
The next argument against women being gainfully employed may be that women depress wages. The simple remedy for this objection is to pay a certain wage for a job regardless of whether the applicant is male or female. When you buy a bus ticket, a railway ticket, a meal or a book the vendor does not ask you whether the purchaser is male or female, nor does the price go down if the purchaser is a woman. For their own protection men must insist that equal pay be given for equal work.
Finally, there is an urgent social and moral problem involved in the right of women to economic independence. Our Doctor Bates of the health league of Canada has cornered every member of this house, either in groups or individually, to gain support for his attack on disease. He is especially concerned, and rightly so, with preventive work. I need only remind hon. members of his V.D. clinic, where many thousands of cases are receiving treatment with penicillin. It was, I am sure, a revelation to all of us to hear Doctor Bates relate his conversation with the young Russian doctors who visited his clinic. Their statement, that at the outbreak of war they did not
have enough V.D. cases in Russia to demonstrate its ravages to the medical students, came as a blow to us, and in comparison with our record fills us with shame and envy.
Equally significant was the statement that this was the result of placing women on a plane of economic independence. If we are ever to approach the position where we can say with pride, as a nation, that we have eliminated forever the scourge of venereal disease and prostitution, then we must hold as sacred the right of every person, man and woman, to maintain self-respect, and natural pride in honourable work, paid for at a level that will provide happiness, security and cultural advancement.
In closing my plea for taking seriously our solemn declarations at this milestone in the world's history, I wish to state that the urgency of our task is matched only by its magnitude. It is our only hope. It is our next step. Our task would be simpler of achievement if every nation shared our inherited religious practices, the inherited colour pigment of our skins. But the time to act is now. We cannot wait to make the world all Christian, or all democratic. We must take this contemporary world, and under the urgency of our need for peace we must learn to live together, or cease to live at all. This is an attempt to find a method, and incomplete as it must be at this stage, it merits the support of Buddhist, Hindoo and Christian alike.
I am very happy to 'be able to support the provisions of the San Francisco charter, to be applied throughout the world, and especially am I concerned that they apply here in Canada; that there be written into Canadian statutes "the equal rights of men and women."
Topic: UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic: APPROVAL OF AGREEMENT SIGNED AT SAN FRANCISCO, JUNE 26, 1945