Personal Data

New Democratic Party
New Westminster--Coquitlam (British Columbia)
Birth Date
April 1, 1943
executive assistant

Parliamentary Career

November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  New Westminster--Burnaby (British Columbia)
  • N.D.P. Deputy Caucus Chair (January 1, 1990 - January 1, 1991)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
  New Westminster--Coquitlam (British Columbia)
October 14, 2008 - April 13, 2009
  New Westminster--Coquitlam (British Columbia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 157 of 158)

April 12, 1989

Ms. Dawn Black (New Westminster-Burnaby):

I am

sure that we are pleased with the extension to parental benefits, but I would remind the Minister that this initiative was pushed on the Government by the courts of Canada. Women may have the right to appeal an unfair penalty through unemployment insurance, but we know that the immigrant women of Canada do not appeal in many instances. They do not have the same access in our society to the appeal process. What assurances can the Minister give that no women will be unfairly penalized through these new measures?

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April 11, 1989

Ms. Dawn Black:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question to the Member from Kitchener (Mr. Reimer) deals with the early part of his statement. He was waxing on very eloquently about the rosy conditions for the children and women of Canada. He quoted a number of statistics, but he did not say where those statistics came from. I would like the Hon. Member to know that there is today another side to Canada, the side that we never thought we would see. Two societies are forming in Canada.

We see in Toronto and in other major urban centres the plight of the homeless. I know that in my own riding of New Westminster-Burnaby and around the Vancouver Metropolitan area, there are food banks now in operation that were created in the early eighties as a very temporary measure. We have children attending school hungry, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the Hon. Member what he has to offer these Canadians in the face of real poverty.

My second question deals with the issue of abortion.

The Address-Mr. Reimer

He raised the issue of abortion. I would like to know if the Member is proposing recriminalization in Canada of abortion and if that is the position of his Government.

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April 10, 1989

Ms. Dawn Black (New Westminster-Burnaby):

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to address this House in response to the Throne Speech given by the Governor General last week. The Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) showed his contempt for the Constitution of Canada by saying that he did not think it was worth the paper it was written on. Well, I would like to say that his comment would apply better to the Throne Speech and the comments that were not made on the issue of equality of women.

I have received many letters, Mr. Speaker, from groups and individuals concerning the Government's funding of anti-equality groups. How should they view the assurance of a commitment to equality in the Throne Speech in light of funding to a group which opposes women's inclusion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

A recent article in Saturday Night quoted some Tory Members of Parliament on the subject of women's rights. I do not know if these Members actually said these things, but if they did, it does show an appalling lack of appreciation for what the women who have gone before us have done and for what was accomplished by the women who are struggling.

I speak of women like Agnes MacPhail, who was the first woman Member of Parliament and a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation who overcame incredible barriers to sit in this Chamber. I speak of the women of Canada who struggled long and hard to win the right to vote for the women of Canada, and I speak of the women today who staff shelters for battered women, the rape crisis centres, women who are still fighting and winning in the courts, women who are attempting to change policy and build a future where our children can live in peace with our world neighbours, each participating as full and equal citizens.

These women working together in groups to provide services and to promote positive change are the women who deserve support from the Government, not groups who are trying to turn back the clock.

April 10, 1989

Yet another example of the Government's failure to live up to its pretty words about equality is in the area of language training for immigrant women. During the election campaign, the Government threw some money at language training, but continued to refuse to remove the discrimination against immigrant women inherent in government language training programs. Government policy still makes it very difficult for many immigrant women to learn an official language of Canada and escape their job ghettos, as they are not eligible for the same training allowances as most immigrant men.

I was pleased to see in the Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, that the Government is now prepared to bring its unemployment insurance program in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I hope that this means that natural fathers will now have the same parental leave benefits under the UI program as do adoptive fathers. I sincerely hope that it does not mean that all adoptive benefits will be taken away. This Government has deliberately imposed inequality on young Canadian families by putting the onus on natural mothers to take care of infants.

In the Throne Speech, the Government promised to amend the unemployment insurance program to supposedly improve the program's fairness. Everyone who has suffered from this Government's idea of fairness has taken this to mean, especially in light of deficit reduction, cuts to the UI program.

The Minister of Employment and Immigration (Mrs. MacDougall) said that those who need UI benefits would continue to receive them. There are already many who need UI benefits who are not currently receiving them.

I received a letter from a woman in British Columbia who was experiencing a very difficult pregnancy. Her work involved standing at a cash register all day, and this contributed to heavy bleeding. She qualified for UI medical benefits for a time while she was going through this experience, but when the time came for her to then collect on maternity benefits, she discovered that she was ineligible for benefits because of medical benefits. Is this the fairness the Government is talking about?

Max Yalden, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, stated last week that women and visible minorities in the Public Service fare worse than in the labour force at large. I am pleased to see that the Government is finally recognising its failure in this area. It mentioned the task force on barriers to the employment and promotion of women in the Public

The Address-Ms. Black

Service. The issue of workplace discrimination against women and minorities is already well documented. It has been studied to death.

Women have been telling the Government for the past decade how totally unfair the Government is as an employer. We have already seen Nicole Morgan's excellent report on women in the Public Service to attest to this fact. I have a prime example of the Government's commitment to women in the Public Service. There is not one word in the Throne Speech about enforcing the Government's own employment equity targets or legislation. As well, in the area of pay equity in federal jurisdiction, employers are not required to prepare pay equity plans. This leaves it up to the individual to research his or her own discriminatory situation and make a complaint on their own to the Human Rights Commission. There must be enforcement.

All of this means that the Government has no commitment to equality, except on paper. The idea that I would like to convey is that if the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulro-ney) has a commitment to equality, let us see him enforce his own legislation.

Mr. Yalden also speaks of major delays in the Public Service pay equity study. This study has not produced any results in four years. I quote the Human Rights Commission Report:

Administrative delay and bureaucratic infighting remain more the hallmark of the program thus far than any genuine move toward pay equity. Either Government means business on equal pay or it does not.

I suggest that it does not.

The Throne Speech did contain one sentence about the Government remaining committed to a national child care program. How can the Government remain committed to such a program when it was never committed to a truly national program with national standards in the first place?

The one sentence in the Throne Speech about child care seems to mean that the Government remains committed to an inadequate piece of legislation. Child care advocates unanimously denounced this legislation. The Prime Minister's commitment to child care was so great that he refused to wait just a few short hours before the Senate passed the Bill before calling the general election. His commitment was so great that he stated on national television that he did not need to consult with child advocacy groups. Now I am very much afraid that with the Government's fetish about deficit reduction, it will be the children of Canada who suffer from deficit reduction.

April 10, 1989

The Address-Ms. Black

I want to commend the Government on its annouce-ment of a royal commission on new reproductive technologies. As you may know, this is a New Democratic Party policy and, as such, New Democrats have been calling for a royal commission for many years. It only goes to show, as others have said, that New Democrats have a policy that is worth stealing.

A royal commission is necessary. It is very necessary in order to gather information on how new reproductive technologies will affect our family structures, to determine the legal status of surrogacy contracts and of children who now have two biological mothers.

We need to think about what regulations are necessary to prevent the commercialisation of women's reproductive capacities so that poor women are never in the future used as baby factories. We need a royal commission that is impartial.

I have some concerns about the royal commission, however. These new reproductive technologies have been developed and administered overwhelmingly by men. It is important that at least 50 per cent of this royal commission be made up of women and for all of its members to be aware of women's equality issues. The mandate should include specific consideration of women's reproductive health and women's rights. Since the New Democratic Party policy on a royal commission was used, I hope the Government will also use the caring philosophy behind that policy.

I also would like an assurance from the Government that this royal commission will be given a mandate to travel across the country and receive input from women's groups and women involved in the process, as well as the medical and legal experts from all regions of Canada.

The Government has side-stepped the issue of abortion again. The Throne Speech contains only a vague reference to abortion, but absolutely nothing about the prevention of unwanted pregnancy, which is surely the real key to reducing the number of abortions in Canada.

Within the past four years the Government has cut the funding to Planned Parenthood by $61,000. The Government is now talking about cuts to the Unemployment Insurance Program, which comprises maternity leave, and economically harsh measures to cut the deficit, which will make it even harder for young mothers to survive economically.

I share the concern of my hon. friends who have spoken to the Throne Speech on the question of the universality of programs. The Government has already short-changed mothers and poor families by deindexing family allowance. I hope no other step-by-step destruction of the Family Allowance Program is planned. The Throne Speech seems to be rather vague on this matter.

In my riding we have two food banks that have been running for a number of years. We also have children who go to school hungry. That is the reality of poverty. It strikes young children. It strikes senior citizens attempting to get by on very limited pensions. It strikes young families who are caught in a never ending struggle against a never ending cycle of poverty.

The spectre of homelessness is no longer unique to other parts of the world. It has arrived on our doorstep. It is our reality in Canada.

I am seriously worried that the Government has closed its eyes to the reality of Canadian life. I am worried that the attack on universality is an attempt to demean those who most need this economic security.

The Government has blatantly neglected the needs of many Canadians by failing to address the rapid acceleration of interest rates.

This lack of concern has meant that the worsening central interest rate policy is now at a critical stage. Arbitrarily designed to cool inflation in the hot southern Ontario economy, this policy is strangling development in every other region.

Why has the federal Government failed to listen to the Canadian Premiers who have called for moderation in interest rates? Why has the federal Government turned its back on the small business person in my home province of British Columbia, which, while wishing to expand or begin a business venture, cannot afford to borrow the money to do so?

Why has the Government turned away from the young family faced with skyrocketing mortgage rates for its first home because housing prices in Toronto are out of control?

If the Federal Government were truly interested in deficit control, it would realize that high interest rates contribute to the worsening of the deficit. It knows that its own Department of Finance figures state that a 1 per cent increase in interest rates per year adds $1.5 billion to the annual deficit. Instead, the Government seems to have chosen to strike out against those who most need the help.

April 10, 1989

It will slash the Unemployment Insurance Program at a time when cut-backs and lack of job development have meant that productive Canadians, who want to work, instead must rely on unemployment insurance or welfare benefits.

The Government will introduce what is perhaps the harshest, most regressive tax in recent history, a national sales tax, which will hit hardest at low and middle income Canadians, a tax which is nothing if not inflationary.

Women make up the majority of the poor in this country. Women make up a majority of the elderly. One out of every two unattached elderly women in Canada is living below the poverty line. The Government first tried to deindex their pensions and now in the Throne Speech has announced its intention to take away even more money from these poor women through regressive sales tax. Many low-income people do not file income tax returns. They will never see this sales tax money again, and they certainly will not see it in the form of social programs after government cut-backs.

The incidence of low income in my riding is 23 per cent. Almost one quarter of my constituents will be extremely hard hit by this Tory tax measure. Why does the Government not tax the 60,000 profitable corporations that do not pay any tax rather than taxing the families of Canada into poverty?

In a rather wonderous turn of cheek, the Government has suddenly seen the environmental imperative. Canadians may be excused for approaching this pronouncement with a tinge of cynicism, cynicism which would be unwarranted had we not seen massive eliminations within the federal environmental programs just a few short years ago, had we not known that this is a Government which has no national vision of the needs of Canadians. I would suspect that someone saw a poll which said that the environment was of concern to Canadians and suddenly the Government is talking about it.

As a Member of Parliament from British Columbia, I have several concerns over the present condition of future plans for the Fraser River. One third of my province is considered to be a part of the Fraser River

The Address-Mr. Robitaille

watershed. It has played an integral part in our province's economic and social development. It is one of the largest salmon streams on the West Coast and it remains a vastly important component of my constituency of New Westminster-Burnaby.

Such a critical system can no longer be taken for granted. The reality today is that the Fraser River is seriously polluted. Emissions from pulp and paper mills, effluent from upstream communities and erosion from decimated forests have endangered the Fraser River. It is time to develop a multi-faceted approach to this situation. We must work together to see that toxins are stopped at source. The need for reforestation is immediate. Closer monitoring and strong penalties must be enforced for those who continue to discharge pollutants. Now as at no other time in our history, it is the time for commitment to the environment. I join with other Canadians in saying that the Tory record is just not strong enough in this regard.

There is talk in the Throne Speech of a caring and a compassionate society. The Government is offering a spot of compassion to the homeless people rather than shelter and food. It is offering a few minutes of compassion to women rather than concrete measures to promote equality. It is offering compassion for the dead birds of the B.C. coast rather than any sort of effective action to prevent environmental disasters. In the future Canadians want a great deal more from this Government.

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April 7, 1989

Ms. Dawn Black (New Westminster-Burnaby) moved

for leave to introduce Bill C-205, an Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, attachment and assignment of wages.

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April 7, 1989

Ms. Black:

The purpose of my Bill is to amend the Canada Shipping Act. This will affect the collection of family maintenance payments owed by those involved in commercial fishing. This would ensure that family support payments are paid and that parties to family support agreements have the means of ensuring collection of these debts regardless of employment in commercial shipping.

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