Mr. Angus Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):
Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate, members of the House of Commons, relatives and friends of Agnes Macphail: I consider it a distinct privilege to have the opportunity today of taking part in this ceremony. It was my good fortune to know and work with
Agnes Macphail for a period of more than 20 years, for 10 years in this house and for more than 10 years outside this house.
Although Agnes Macphail was the first woman member elected to this house, I am convinced that she was not elected because she was a woman. I am glad this is the case. I am certain that the hard-headed and practical farmers of Grey county had no such romantic or chivalrous ideas in mind when they elected Miss Macphail to parliament. They elected her because she was interested in and understood their problems. They knew she would devote her energies to trying to find a solution to those problems, and they were not disappointed.
Agnes Macphail was not, however, a person with only one interest, important as that interest was and, perhaps, claimed her first attention. She was a person of warm human sympathies. She was anxious that everyone should have the opportunity to make the best of his or her life. In this house she pleaded for better social services, pensions for the aged, the blind and the disabled, and for a greater interest in education. More than anyone else in the house at that time, and indeed perhaps more than anyone else in the country, she was responsible for the appointment of the Archambault commission on penal reform. Consequently she was responsible for the beneficial results which have flowed from the recommendations of that commission.
Her wide human sympathy was never better illustrated than during her first term in parliament when, although she was representing farmers in Ontario she made a visit to Cape Breton to look into the plight of the coal miners and their families who were suffering intensely in the Glace Bay area, at a time when that subject was being aired in this house.
As has already been said, Agnes Macphail was an able parliamentarian. When she spoke she was always given the attention of this house, not because she was a woman and the male members were anxious to be on their good behaviour, but because she always had something worth while to say and she said it in a striking manner.
I am glad today on behalf of the group with which I am associated in this house to have the opportunity of paying tribute to one who will always be remembered not only as the first woman member of this house but as a great humanitarian and an outstanding Canadian.
Subtopic: AGNES CAMPBELL MACPHAIL