Honorary degree citation - Madeleine Parent*
By: Elizabeth J. Sacca, June 1984
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Madeleine Parent, union leader, whose loyalty and commitment have helped oppressed worker groups to better their labour conditions. In honouring her, one honours people who have shared her commitment in working for autonomous Canadian unions and the rights of women. Her achievements reflect their collective achievement.
Madeleine Parent's union work began in 1940 with a strike by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Of this action she has said, "the overwhelming majority of striking workers were women, and francophone women, and their interests were being betrayed by the union leadership". She committed herself to becoming an organizer in an area where women would be working.
She served as secretary for the A.F. of L's National Committee for Organizing on behalf of the War Effort.
She organized workers in textile industries in St. Henri, Valleyfield and Lachute, continuing in the face of establishment opposition, violence towards strikers in 1947, and imprisonment.
In 1952 she and Kent Rowley began the long task of building an independent Canadian union movement. In 1968, in Ontario, they founded the Confederation of Canadian Unions as a pluralistic alternative to the big international unions. Her work through the 70's in Ontario has also involved and won human rights issues such as the abolition of closed-circuit TV monitoring of women textile workers.
After her retirement she returned to Québec, working and advising women in the CNTU at Valleyfield, and continuing to present briefs and positions to arbitration boards.
Madeleine Parent's union activiities have always been linked to her work for women's rights. She has spoken out repeatedly on discrimination in the work-place against immigrant women, and for equal pay for work of equal value.
As a union leader she has addressed some of the major issues in the workplace and within the unions themselves, particularly the impact of technology on workers and the pitfalls and power of union bureaucracy.
These achievements reflect the ability to articulate and address injustices suffered by many. In honouring her one honours the workers who share this understanding.
Mr. Chancellor, it is a privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Madeleine Parent, so that you may confer on her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.