Margaret Anne MITCHELL

MITCHELL, Margaret Anne, B.A., M.S.W.

Personal Data

New Democratic Party
Vancouver East (British Columbia)
Birth Date
July 17, 1925
author, community-development worker, social worker

Parliamentary Career

May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
  • Deputy Whip of the N.D.P. (January 1, 1989 - January 21, 1990)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 424 of 424)

October 17, 1979

Mrs. Margaret Mitchell (Vancouver East):

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Employment and

Oral Questions

Immigration. In view of the fact that the Conservatives promised during the election campaign to rescind regulations that restrict unemployment insurance benefits for part-time and seasonal workers, most of whom are women, and in view of the fact that today at a meeting of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women the minister betrayed this promise of action in favour of the usual study, will he please tell the House why further study is needed, and when can the women of Canada who have worked on part-time or seasonal jobs collect their rightful unemployment insurance benefits?

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October 16, 1979

Mrs. Margaret Mitchell (Vancouver East):

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured tonight to stand before you as a new member in this House. 1 am very proud to be following in the tradition established by Harold Winch, who represented the great riding of Vancouver East for almost 20 years. I congratulate you, sir, on your recent appointment, and also my colleagues, particularly those who were elected for the first time.

I especially want to congratulate the nine women members who were elected to this House, and I would say to the last speaker that this does not include "the seven sisters", one of them named Esso. I am sure from my own experience that these women have worked very hard, perhaps twice as hard as our male colleagues, to be nominated and elected. As women candidates we convinced the electorate that a woman's place is in the house, House of Commons. I think, however, we still may have to convince this House.

I say this having recently completed an orientation workshop for new members, where many excellent panelists, all of them men, consistently referred to members as "he" and to spouses as she . As a result my husband is now demanding equal access to the parliamentary women's lounge! Despite those male biases, however, I want to commend the organizers of the workshops. They were very helpful to new members. Undoubtedly under present government policy there will soon be an equal number of top women civil servants to sit on such panels the next time around.

Because we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the person case when women, were finally recognized as persons under the British North America Act, I want to raise several related questions from my impressions as a new member on the Hill.

Why, for example, Mr. Speaker, are there only male security staff, and only female servers in the parliamentary dining room? Why is there no daycare service for parents who work here? How can a woman messenger, whose take home pay is $380, support six children? Why should the staff on this Hill

not be unionized and have decent rates of pay similar to civil servants?

It seems to me that what is done on this Hill should be a model for the nation. If we are committed to equal rights for all Canadians I wonder why we are not leading the public service and public opinion by adopting an affirmative action program. Surely affirmative action and collective bargaining rights for workers are long overdue.

I want to concentrate tonight on two main topics raised in the Speech from the Throne. These topics are vitally important to the future of Canada as well as to the people of Vancouver East, my riding.

First of all, as immigration critic for the New Democratic Party I will speak to the need for a more just and fair immigration policy that will protect the rights of Canadians and that will provide adequate funding for settlement services for new Canadians.

Second, because I am told that a maiden speech may cover the waterfront, I will raise important issues related to the Speech from the Throne proposal to build an effective Canadian merchant marine.

We need a more just immigration policy that will protect the rights of every Canadian as well as every immigrant; that will provide realistic settlement services for new immigrants, and that will treat refugees fairly regardless of their country of origin. Every person in this House, except one, is either an immigrant or a descendant of an immigrant. The exception, of course, is the hon. member for Nunatsiaq (Mr. Ittinuar), who has aboriginal rights. So other members had better listen to him carefully when he speaks on self-determination.

Our history shows that Canada has grown and flourished after every major wave of newcomers. I am told that every immigrant creates 1.5 jobs. Immigrants work hard, repay many costs, bring skills, have strong family ties, and contribute richness to our culture.

I have lived for 20 years in a neighbourhood in Vancouver East that has over 18 nationalities on our two short streets. People work hard to purchase and improve their homes, to educate their children, and to improve their neighbourhoods. There is mutual respect between new and old Canadians because people know and help each other.

Why is it then, that the question of immigration and particularly of refugees, is the most emotionally charged topic on every hot line show across this country?

During times of high unemployment and economic insecurity, prejudice flares. People fear their jobs will be threatened by newcomers who may work for lower wages and longer hours. Labour feels that unions will be undermined and workers exploited. What does government do ? Instead of creating more union jobs for unemployed Canadians and refugees, instead of at least maintaining Canada Works jobs to help provide services for newcomers, the present government has cut Canada Works funds at the worst possible time. In Vancouver East funds were cut from $1.2 million to $35,000-from over 150 to a mere three jobs. Mr. Speaker, Vancouver East is an

October 16, 1979

area that has over 18 per cent unemployment. It is also the community that is hosting the majority of the boat people in British Columbia. So the poor pay again for the humanitarian gestures of the rest of us.

Many citizens, born in Canada, cannot afford decent housing and will never own a home-although they will pay taxes to subsidize mortgage tax credits for wealthy home owners. In downtown Vancouver over 2,000 poor people are on waiting lists for social housing, many of them single people and pensioners, living in cockroach infested rooms. I am sorry to say that they wait in vain because this government has no plans to build social housing. Why should they be joyful when over 600 Vietnamese refugees move into their over-crowded neighbourhood and others are offered CMEIC houses at subsidized rates? We know that it is not the refugees' fault that our government has failed Canadians.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, it is the immigrant and the refugee who become scapegoats, not the government. Legitimate fears grow because our government will not provide for the basic rights of Canadians to jobs, housing, and services. Prejudice based on ignorance is soon inflamed by racists. Mr. Speaker, I urge Canadians, and through you, I urge every member in this House to press the conscience of our new government to provide an antidote to this backlash. We must develop jobs and affordable housing for all Canadians- including refugees. Social housing is essential and will stimulate our economy. Tenants, too, have rights. 1 believe also that shareholders living in co-operative housing developments are deprived of the new Tory Bonanza. Tory privatization of CMHC provides no social benefits-except profits for the privateers.

I want to stress two other points relating to immigration policy. I am sorry that the hon. minister is not here tonight. Mr. Speaker, our party favours a sensible immigration policy. If we open our doors to new Canadians we must have adequate financing for settlement services. It makes no sense at all to bring hundreds of refugees into a community and expect agencies to provide extra services without adequate government funding.

In Vancouver we have a multilingual service called "Mosaic" which is the major service agency for non-English speaking people in Vancouver. This association may be forced to close down because of the ridiculous "fee for service" method of financing of the federal government. In case our colleagues across the floor have not heard of this fee for service, it was introduced by the Liberals and is being carried out by the Conservatives. It provides for no overhead costs and requires unnecessary and costly bureaucratic procedures that intimidate many people. For example, if a non-English speaking person went to Mosaic to ask the way to the post office, he would have to fill out a form saying where he came from, what he does, when he came to Canada, his telephone number, his age, and might also be required to produce documents to prove all this. The worker would then have to fill out documents in order to get paid for the service. This is ridiculous. This method of funding also does not cover the cost of service for

The Address-Mrs. Mitchell

people who do not speak English but who have been in the country for over three years. This means, of course, that many women are excluded since they have been at home raising small children and have had little opportunity to learn English.

Just as our Immigration Act discriminates against women by treating them as spouses with few rights of their own, so our federal settlement services ignore the needs of women. Immigrant women at home with small children take longer to learn English and often lead very isolated lives. They can benefit immensely from orientation programs, from ethnic home-school workers, and from training for future employment provided that babysitting is available.

The fee for service method of funding must go. Essential settlement services must be subsidized by the federal government on a regular grant system that is based on need, not on bureaucratic discrimination.

We in the New Democratic Party, Mr. Speaker, supported and prodded the government to open our doors to boat people out of common humanity and because we could not leave the burden of so many refugees to Southeast Asian countries of first asylum. But, how can the government justify the double standard that exists in our immigration policy, especially as it applies to refugees? How can Canada accept General Dang Van Quang as a permanent resident with his nefarious Vietnamese war record, while at the same time we refuse asylum to Galindo Madrid, a young political refugee who has proven that he is a responsible worker in Canada and whose life will be in danger if he is deported to Chile? Yet the decision of this government is to deport him. We also have heard this week, of the plight of six Polish refugees in Newfoundland who are being refused asylum by the Canadian government. How can we spend $117 million for boat people-and we agree with this-while we ignore the economic needs of refugees in Nicaragua, and the urgent need for economic aid in Kampo-chea? What we need is a more just, objective refugee policy based on United Nations' standards, with adequate procedures for appeal.

Many other reforms to the Immigration Act are needed. I hope the new Minister of Employment and Immigration (Mr. Atkey) will eliminate discrimination as well as including the multicultural fact of Canada, in revisions that are planned. I want to assure the minister that we will work energetically to press for reforms and revisions to the act which are essential.

Before speaking about the need for a Canadian merchant marine, 1 must mention again that last Monday a major accident occurred in Vancouver East when the Second Narrows CNR Bridge across Burrard Inlet was damaged by a Japanese freighter. As a result, there has been a serious delay in shipping grain, coal, sulphur, potash and forest products. I urge all possible government action to repair this major transportation artery quickly so that ships can once again reach bulk terminals at the eastern end of Vancouver.

I must also call attention to a precedent taking place in the Canadian Arctic. Hon. members may not be aware of this

October 16, 1979

The Address-Mrs. Mitchell

situation but it is of considerable concern to maritime unions and is a situation apparently condoned by this government. 1 refer to the issuance of work visas to foreign nationals. These foreign nationals make up the crew on the dredge "Aquarius" under charter to Dome Petroleum. This is a Dutch ship sailing in the western Arctic. While there may not be many unemployed seamen in Edmonton where these visas were issued, I know there are many in Vancouver who deserve these jobs. 1 ask the Minister of Employment and Immigration, through you, Mr. Speaker, to rescind these visas in favour of Canadians.

I want to speak now of maritime issues and the need for a Canadian merchant marine. The port of Vancouver stretches from the northern border of the Vancouver East riding framed by towering coastal mountains, which incidentally are covered by daffodils all year round! From this beautiful port ships from around the world carry our raw materials to other countries to be manufactured, and they are then sold back to us. These ships are registered under foreign flags and are manned by foreign crews and pay no harbour dues to Canada.

There are many residents of Vancouver East who work on the waterfront as longshoremen, in fishing plants, in ship repairs and related businesses. However, since waterfront industries lack stability, their jobs are sporadic and seasonal, and we all know what they are likely to get in the way of unemployment insurance with the new cutbacks for seasonal workers. Our shipyards in Vancouver East live from day to day. Employment fluctuates from about 200 to 1,500 workers, depending on available contracts for small coastal vessels. Skilled seamen who used to sail on Canadian ships and shipbuilders who worked in busy war time shipyards are retiring, and with them their skills are disappearing. Our unemployed young people are not learning these trades. If Canada had a merchant fleet there would be a steady flow of work and regular apprentice training for these Canadians. Unemployment rates would be reduced to an all time low, not only in Vancouver East but also in the maritimes.

Canada is a maritime nation bounded on three sides by the largest coastline in the world. Until the Second World War, Canada was a leading nation in the shipbuilding industry. We had a merchant marine of which we were proud. Now Switzerland and Luxembourg have bigger fleets than we have. The Liberal government deliberately destroyed this heritage after World War II. Merchant ships were sold off, and skilled seamen and shipbuilders were put out of work. In their place foreign ships were allowed to exploit our trade thereby building up huge trade deficits.

The importance of shipping Canadian cargo in Canadian ships cannot be overstated. For example, in 1977 we paid $2.5 billion in freight charges to foreign shipping countries. If Canada had had a merchant marine this money would have gone to Canadians. In effect it would have wiped out half our trade deficit for that year.

Now, as a bedtime story, I must move on to the tale of that great Canadian pioneering industry, namely, the Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR boasts about its Canadianism as it

reaps profits with vast donations from the public treasuries, and it has done since 1880. The shipping record of Canadian Pacific Bermuda Ltd.-and 1 emphasize Bermuda-is a national disgrace. Yes, they have a modern deep sea fleet of over 30 merchant ships, but they are registered in Bermuda. Not one of these CPR ships is registered in Canada, built in a Canadian shipyard, or manned by Canadian seamen.

In 1978 the Liberal government gave CPR subsidies of over $100 million, with many more millions in tax deferrals and other corporate welfare gimmicks, to assist in this treachery against Canada. If this is what the new Conservative government calls privatization, God preserve our country from the privateers, and from the Tories too.

I hope, and the people of Canada hope, that we are entering a new era. We expect this government to act on the Darling reports and on the four or more subsequent reports that Otto Lang ignored. The time is right for major stimulation to our maritime industries in the east, in the west, and in the north where the promise of offshore resources is a challenge to us to develop new technologies for the Arctic. We welcome the throne speech that promises an effective merchant marine and we will watch closely for further details.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to refer this government to a plan of action that was strongly endorsed by both labour and management during recent months. This practical plan was proposed by none other than our own outstanding leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent): (1) repatriate existing Canadian owned fleets; (2) require that Canadian bottoms carry Canadian goods in Canadian waters; (3) stimulate shipbuilding with loans and grants carefully planned; (4) guarantee that future shipping of petroleum and mineral products from Arctic sources is owned, developed, built and manned by Canadians; (5) adopt the UN shipping convention rule which guarantees that at least 40 per cent of Canadian goods will be carried on Canadian ships; (6) instigate training programs for a whole new generation of maritime workers.

I look forward eagerly to this session in which I hope we will be able to solve some of these problems. I know the people of Vancouver East share my concerns.

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