Mr. H. W. WINKLER (Lisgar):
In speaking to this resolution I desire to make special reference to a comparatively small class of the blind. Before doing so, however, I wish to refer briefly to the debate that occurred on this subject in the house last year. On January 31, 1935, no less than fifteen members spoke on this matter and I think advanced about every good reason that could be given for payment of pensions to the blind. The resolution before the house then was substantially the same as the one now before us, except that to-day's resolution says that-
-the government should consider the advisability of extending the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act to blind people over forty years of age.
On January 30, 1935, the hon. member for North Waterloo (Mr. Euler), in concluding his remarks, asked this question:
I would like to ask the hon. member why he confines it to people over forty.
Then on January 31, on the motion of the then Minister of Labour (Mr. Gordon) the question was referred to the committee on industrial and international relations. On April 3, after witnesses had appeared before bhe committee, the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) said that they-the witnesses-asked:
... that special consideration be given to the unemployable blind of any age. We never considered that aspect at all. They asked that they be taken care of by a bill, separate from the Old Age Pension Act if possible, but we never embodied that consideration in the report.
I should like to refer briefly to the information in bulletin No. 43 issued by the bureau of statistics in 1935 in relation to the 19fcl census. It gives the total number of blind
in the year 1931 in Canada as 7,343. I have calculated some percentages from the figures given on page 2 and find that of the blind about 9 per cent are under twenty years, 25-3 per cent are under forty-five years, and 41-5 are over seventy years of age. Using these figures as a basis, approximately 10 per cent of the blind are under twenty-one years, 21 per cent are under forty years, and approximately 11 per cent are between the ages of twenty-one and forty. It is particularly with regard to that class that I want to speak to-day.
Considering all classes in regard to the benefits conferred by the government, we find that education is provided for the blind up to the age of twenty-one years. There are a few good schools for the blind in the dominion; the provincial governments, I am informed, pay the expenses of blind young people up to the age of twenty-one, and these benefits apply to approximately ten per cent of the blind. In all the provinces except two, as was pointed out by the hon. member for Wood Mountain (Mr. Donnelly), the old age pension at the rate of 820 a month is provided for those over seventy, and that represents 41 per cent of the blind. But no government benefits whatever at present go directly to blind people between the ages of twenty-one and seventy, comprising approximately 48-5 per cent of the blind.
By this resolution it is proposed to consider the extension of the old age pension to those between forty and seventy years of age, or to approximately 37-5 per cent of the blind, or roughly 2,750 people. According to the 1931 census that would leave the blind between the ages of twenty-one and forty receiving no direct benefits from any government whatever, and that class comprises approximately 11 per cent of the blind, or about 800 people. Let me therefore give special consideration, Mr. Speaker, to the plight of these 800 people between the ages of twenty-one and forty who are receiving, and would receive under this resolution, no benefits whatever.
We know that when a young person without physical disability leaves school and is thrown on the world, especially in these days, finding a vocation is a difficult problem. We can, I think, safely multiply those difficulties by many times in the case of blind young persons who are looking for some occupation upon leaving school. If ever there is a time when a blind person needs assistance, it is when he or she leaves school and is seeking a vocation. I submit that the blind of that age, if of any age, should receive special consideration. This is the period of readjustment, and it determines to a great extent
Pensions for the Blind
the type of citizenship we are going to have among our blind young people. The resolution before the house therefore does not meet with the most urgent requirements of the blind people as a class.
Furthermore, when we consider the requirements of the blind person of the age of twenty-one, let us say, it is found upon inquiry that the average active industrious young blind person requires a guide, and unless a member of the family or some child is willing to act in that capacity, it will cost from $8 to $10 a month to have someone act as a guide and take the blind person about. Deduct that from the $20 which is not even offered to this particular class under this resolution, and you can see how badly off they would be. I maintain that this is an additional reason why the resolution is entirely inadequate.
If I thought that in this resolution lay the only hope of the blind in that age class, I would support it as it stands at once, but I am sure I voice the opinion of a great many people in this house and in the country when I say that we are looking to the government to bring down legislation which will consider the rights and requirements of our blind people irrespective of age.
Topic: PENSIONS FOR THE BLIND
Subtopic: PROPOSED EXTENSION OF BENEFITS OF OLD AGE