Mr. Robert Cauchon (Beauharnois):
Mr. Speaker, on April 17, 1951, I considered it advisable to draw to the attention of the house the unhappy lot of the older worker when he is faced with the necessity of seeking employment.
Certainly now, as then, officials of the unemployment insurance commission must be aware of the gravity of this problem. To the best of my knowledge, however, no further steps have been taken by the unemployment insurance commission to alleviate the financial worry and mental distress which haunts these Canadian workers.
At the time the matter was not as urgent as it now is, in the light of our immigration policy-which, understandably, tends to give preference to younger immigrants-and of recent unemployment statistics.
I feel strongly that the unemployment insurance commission has a duty to our ageing Canadian workers, the duty of directing them info new fields of employment or, if need be, of training them in skills suitable to their aptitudes and age.
Though the commission has done nothing in that matter it has not been reluctant to adopt a new policy in respect to appeals. Without, I am certain, consulting the minister it has adopted a policy surely not designed to promote the best interests of those whose welfare it was set up to serve. I am speaking particularly of those of the unemployed who wish to appeal the decisions of the unemployment insurance commission.
Unemployment Insurance Act
No longer are these appeals heard in their local courts of referees. An appellant in my constituency must travel to Montreal. Do the gentlemen responsible for this reversal of policy not realize the financial hardship it imposes? Being without a job, the labourer cannot afford the expense of his fare, his meals and transportation costs within the city, all in addition to the expenses of his witnesses. He may then find that his case is delayed and that he will perhaps have to make another trip. Under such conditions, and a natural fear of becoming involved in legal "red tape", he may forgo his right of appeal.
Upon inquiry, I have found that the principal arguments advanced in support of the policy are as follows:
1. Certain courts of referees are not qualified. Does that mean that the entire system is bad, that we should scrap it? I contend that it does not, that there are many quite capable of handling the cases brought before them. No system is perfect; certainly not the one which is now being put into effect.
2. Decisions of many boards are unwise and, consequently, costly. If that be true, the commission would be better advised to appoint competent men. The responsibility is theirs.
3. The costs of appeals heard in Montreal are lower than the costs of appeals heard in local courts of referees. This, the commission contends, is due to the longer time taken by the local courts and to the fewer cases tried. The cost of each case is thus proportionally higher.
If this argument be valid, let us adopt the same principle in the administration of justice. Imagine, if you can, accused, plaintiffs, defendants, their lawyers and innumerable witnesses, all trekking to Montreal from St. Hyacinthe, Joliette, Drummondville or St. Jean, or those from the towns and villages of the Gaspe travelling to Quebec city. Obviously, this is in the best interests of economy, but is it in the best interests of justice?
Our system of justice I am proud to say ranks second to none, and I speak from my twenty years' experience as a court reporter in the province of Quebec. This is also true in the nine other provinces. As for the judges, for them I have only praise. They fulfil their duties conscientiously and well, without for a moment forgetting their responsibility and privilege, the responsibility and privilege of guarding the rights of the individual. Indeed, it is fortunate that the judges throughout Canada do not administer justice as the unemployment insurance commission now seeks to administer it, that is,
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO INCREASE RATES OF BENEFIT, TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WAITING DAYS BEFORE RECEIPT OF BENEFIT, ETC.