Department of Social Development Act

An Act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Ken Dryden  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes the Department of Social Development over which presides the Minister of Social Development. This enactment also sets out the Minister’s powers, duties and functions, as well as the rules applicable to the protection and the making available of personal information obtained under departmental programs, other than those governed by similar codes found in the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is not sloppy legislation. If the hon. member across says that it is sloppy legislation, then he had better go to all these groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and tell them that all of them are wrong, if that is what he thinks. The hon. member across is entitled to say that all of the agricultural groups are wrong and maybe he can go tell them that they are wrong.

I understand tomorrow will be a big lobby day on the Hill for some of the agricultural industries, particularly in supply management. The reason I know this is that I am sponsoring the event, which will be a large social event. Perhaps the member could tell them how they are all wrong in supporting this bill. They will be pleased to know how the hon. member thinks he is so much smarter than all of them. They might have a different opinion of the hon. member after he has told them that but he is perfectly entitled to do so.

I will be at the lobby event tomorrow shaking hands with the hon. member when he enters the room to explain all this to my constituents, agricultural constituents and all the others across Canada who support the bill.

Just in case the hon. member and others did not get it, I will repeat what I said. The industry organizations wrote, as in paper, to the Minister of Justice before this legislation was introduced and requested it. All these agricultural organizations and everyone else who asked for the bill, who the hon. member says are wrong, wrote and requested this. With no disrespect, these people know a little bit more about agriculture than some of us and they are in favour of the bill.

These same groups wrote again to the minister in February 2005, three months before Bill C-50 was introduced, and again requested its introduction. I just happen to have the text of that letter here and it says, “We once again ask you to move forward with the reintroduction of Bill C-22”. Bill C-22 was the original bill as I indicated a while ago. People in the agricultural sector asked, not only once for the bill but they wrote a second letter asking for it again.

The moral of this story is that no matter whether one lives in urban Canada or rural Canada the issues are not that different. There will be people on the margins here and there, on the extreme side one way or the other, but no one can tell me that my constituents who work in agriculture are less conscious of proper animal husbandry and less conscious of issues involving cruelty to animals than people living in the urban parts of my constituency who may never have been inside a slaughter house or anything close to it. One might know more about how it is done than the other, and as someone who was raised on a farm I believe that, but that does not mean that one group is less concerned about animal welfare than the other.

When it is time for a cow to give birth, how many of us know that a farmer will be up all night attending to it? They take a lot of care in feeding their animals. Sometimes they are more careful with feeding their animals than they are with their own diet, but that is another matter.

All of that is to say that this is good legislation for either rural or urban Canada and it is supported by rural Canada.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I would have a comment. This is a good bill to the extent that the minister has put his foot down and will finally be legislating against animal cruelty. There is a problem, however. The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke illustrated it perfectly. We are mixing apples and oranges, mixing the gun issue with the hunters, pets, poultry farmers and auctions. Everything is all mixed together.

The committee will have to go back to the drawing board and develop categories within the bill. That is what matters. When Bill C-10 was discussed, this was already a problem. The same happened when we discussed Bill C-22, and it is happening again with Bill C-50. Everybody mixes everything up. How can we ever arrive at safeguards for everyone—aboriginal people, farmers, hunters, fishermen—as well as the industry? This can never be achieved because it is such broad legislation.

I hope the minister will listen to what animal welfare groups are asking for to fight animal cruelty.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I refer again to the main point I was making in my speech. Bill S-24 would be much preferable to the present bill. I would like to read a bit more of this legal brief rather than give my opinion and the question the member has asked will be answered.

These concerns are met by the provisions of Bill S-24 in s. 445.1(1)(a), namely, “Everyone commits an offence who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird”. This offence extends to activities which do not result in the death of an animal, and to those which do.

The second point made in the Lang Michener letter is:

The phrase “regardless of whether the animal dies immediately” in s. 182.2(1)(b) prevents any participant in recreational hunting or fishing charged under this section from making the argument that because the death of an animal is immediate the death should not be considered to be brutal or vicious. Depending on the circumstances of the case before the court, such an argument may or may not succeed but it is not reasonable to prevent an accused from making this argument. Immediate death is a widely accepted definition of humane killing and this section attempts to change this standard. It is a commonly held view that it is more humane to kill an animal promptly and exactly than to allow an animal to suffer for a long period of time. In R. v. Jones, the judge found that it was more humane to kill an animal quickly and cleanly than to allow it to suffer a prolonged death.

I want to get to point three, which goes beyond what the member has asked. This is a very important part of this legal brief. It reads:

If Bill C-50 becomes law, animal rights groups will harass and prosecute anglers and hunters. Liz White, a director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, one of Canada's major animal rights organizations, stated:

“The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it”.

In the second reading of Bill S-24, Senator Bryden quotes Dr. Bessie Borwein, Special Advisor to the Vice-President of Research at the University of Western Ontario:

“There are animal rights groups in Canada that have specifically and publicly stated their intention to use Bill C-10 [previous versions of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50] to further their agenda. They say they will use the law to press charges and to test it to the utmost. They will use peace officers or authorized organizations like the SPCA or humane societies sympathetic to their cause in order to press this...”.

That is where I rest my case and that is why we oppose the legislation. Unless amendments are made to protect these traditional hunting and fishing activities I cannot accept what the members opposite are telling me.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I as well am very pleased to participate in the debate of Bill C-50. Over the summer I received many complaints about Bill C-50. I am glad I have a chance to share these concerns with my fellow MPs before the bill goes to committee for further work.

The government has been at this since December 1999. We have had this bill around in one form or another for the last six years. We have seen Bills C-17, C-15, C-15B, C-10, C-10B and C-22. Now it is called Bill C-50 and the Liberals still do not have it right.

I am going to be giving members some legal opinions rather than just discussing some of my own opinions. I am going to read into the record a brief from a lawyer. Before I do that, I want to make a couple of personal observations about the bill based on my own experience on this issue.

Our young people really need to experience our natural created environment. Fishing is a wholesome sport that makes our young men and women appreciate the world around them. This is not something only for our aboriginal people. Getting close to nature is a very healthy, therapeutic experience that has no substitute. It is a wholesome alternative to some of the activities our youth can get involved in and that lead to serious problems for them and society. We should be encouraging more outdoor activities that bring us closer to the created world. As it stands, Bill C-50 would discourage some of the activities that our young people could engage in to appreciate the world around us, activities such as hunting and fishing.

I would like to see hunting and fishing promoted. That would do more to preserve the environment than any big government program or course of study at some educational institution. Participating in activities like hunting and fishing provides an incentive to maintain a healthy, natural environment. That is why we need to make an amendment to proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(b). Without an amendment, we will discourage many of youth from getting out into the great outdoors. We will also discourage people who normally would want to preserve the environment from doing so.

Those are the two personal notes I wanted to add for members before I get into the legal critique of the bill.

I am going to read into the record a letter written by Mr. Peter R. Hayden, Q.C., of the Lang Michener law firm. This legal opinion was prepared on behalf of the following organizations: the British Columbia Wildlife Federation. the Alberta Fish and Game Association, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Fédération québécoise de la faune, the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Canadian sport fishing industry and the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association.

This letter from the Lang Michener firm was written to our Minister of Justice, the Attorney General of Canada, here in Ottawa. It states:

We wish to register our strong support for the swift passage of Bill S-24 introduced by Liberal Senator John Bryden and to state our opposition to the passage of Bill C-50.

Bill S-24 accomplishes the Government's primary objective in the reform of animal cruelty provisions, namely increasing the maximum penalties for existing offences of animal cruelty, as is done in Bill C-50. We object to the balance of Bill C-50 because, as Senator Bryden says of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, they would substantively change the law of animal cruelty, and negatively impact “Canadians who hunt and fish lawfully”.

Specifically, we object to s. 182.2(1)(b), which, for the first time in Canadian history, makes it an offence to kill an animal brutally or viciously without defining those terms and does not exempt from this offence normal hunting and fishing. This new offence will be used by animal rights activists who will employ provisions of the Criminal Code to bring private prosecutions to harass lawful anglers and hunters.

For the reasons cited below, the oft-cited defences of legal justification, excuse, and colour of right in the Criminal Code would not be of much assistance to an angler or hunter charged under Bill C-50.

While you and your Department have said that the offence of cruelty to animals is not intended to forbid conduct that is socially acceptable or authorized by law, such as hunting and fishing, Bill C-50 will have the ultimate effect of intimidating anglers and hunters who will be discouraged from participating in the outdoor heritage activities of hunting and fishing for the fear of prosecution.

This legal brief continues under the title “Support of Bill S-24”. It states:

According to the Department of Justice, the primary objective in revising the Criminal Code's animal cruelty sections is to enable the courts to impose longer sentences commensurate with the severity of the animal cruelty offences. Bill S-24 achieves the goal of increasing penalties that may be imposed in cases of animal cruelty and allows the Crown to proceed either summarily or by indictment to achieve a result suitable to the crime committed. Bill S-24 also retains many current sections and offences under the Criminal Code, which has the additional advantage of leading to certainty of interpretation of these sections owing to the well established body of decided cases on the current animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code.

The next subtitle is “Anglers and Hunters Do Not Support Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

The Associations on whose behalf we are writing to you do not support Bill C-50. We understand that you received a letter dated November 22, 2004 (the “Coalition letter”) purporting to be from all of Canada's animal-based sectors, which outlines the group's position of support for the “swift passage” of certain amendments to the Criminal Code “as rapidly as possible”, namely the proposed animal cruelty provisions as contained in Bill C-22 which are the same as Bill C-50, with the exception of the provision for the protection of existing aboriginal or treaty rights in s. 182.6.

The Coalition letter did not in any way represent the interests of Canadian anglers and hunters. We note that these Coalition members have since sent a letter to Senator Bryden joining the Associations in registering their full support of Bill S-24 and their support of the rationale presented by Senator Bryden in moving second reading of Bill S-24.

The next subtitle is “Problems with Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

We have serious concerns about Bill C-50 and we have set out below what these concerns are.

The Department of Justice has clarified that beyond increasing penalties for existing animal cruelty offences, the objective of Bill C-22, and accordingly Bill C-50, is to “simplify, modernize and fill gaps in the offence structure of the animal cruelty regime”. As Senator Bryden says, the changes to animal cruelty law in Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, amount to significant changes to the law which should require very careful and open debate.

Let me emphasize that phrase: “significant changes to the law”. I would also like to read for members a quote from a footnote in this letter, referring to Liberal Senator John Bryden speaking in the Senate:

[T]hese housekeeping amendments went further than modernizing language and simplifying the law. Arguably, they would be substantively changing the law....If there is a consensus that the law on cruelty to animals needs reforming, then let us have that debate, but let us do so honestly, openly and in a transparent manner, engaging the Canadian public and parliamentarians as these important issues require.

Let me continue with the Lang Michener letter to the justice minister:

To that end, we would like to set out our serious objections to Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, on behalf of the Associations.

  1. S. 182.2(1)(b) makes it an offence to kill animals brutally and viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately.

Hunting and fishing necessarily involve the killing of animals. Animal rights groups consistently attempt to portray these traditional Canadian heritage activities as inherently brutal and vicious. Under Bill C-50, a hunter or angler may be prosecuted and convicted of the offence of killing an animal brutally or viciously for engaging in normal hunting and fishing practices.

The killing of animals simpliciter has never been the activity the legislature intended to prevent. The killing of animals is a necessary result of most animal use industries and of hunting and fishing. Canadians' concerns regarding animal cruelty do not relate to the act of killing animals--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50, amendments to the Criminal Code in relation to cruelty to animals.

Members who have been in the House longer than I will remember from the last Parliament when the bill was Bill C-22. This legislation has been before this House consistently since 1999 when it was first introduced in an omnibus criminal law bill, Bill C-17.

Canadians from all walks of life have expressed and continue to express support for stronger animal cruelty laws. I know the minister continues to receive countless letters in support of these amendments. I have certainly received letters and heard concerns from my constituents. As MPs we hear from a lot of people. I heard from someone this morning in relation to the puppy mill in Quebec which my NDP colleague spoke about previously. This issue is very much on the minds of Canadians.

For various reasons the bill has never passed both this House and the other place in the same form. It is true that when it was first introduced, a degree of discomfort was felt by a number of industry stakeholders, farmers and animal researchers, about the potential negative impact of the legislation on their activities. These are legitimate concerns and they have been addressed.

Over the past five years, significant work has gone on in Parliament, in the chamber and in committee, as well as in meetings and discussions with concerned parties to bring a greater consensus in support of this legislation.

In the summer of 2003 when a final set of amendments were made to the legislation, a broad based coalition of industry groups came to feel more comfortable with the legislation and in fact supported these amendments, alongside animal welfare groups and veterinary associations. These groups even wrote to urge the minister to re-table this very legislation.

Since that set of changes, not just those people who advocate for the interests of animals, but also many of those whose livelihoods actually depend upon the use of animals are now eager to see these amendments become law. Those groups include organizations representing the agricultural sector, trappers, fur farming industries, and the animal research community. This indicates that we have addressed a wide range of concerns.

One of the objectives of the reforms is the enhancement of existing maximum penalties for animal cruelty. Today even the most heinous mutilation or torture of animals can result in only six months' imprisonment or a $2,000 fine. There is widespread consensus that these maximum penalties are too low to deter or denounce behaviour that we know happens across this country. Our views toward animals have changed a lot in this country and in this world over the past number of years.

Part of the penalty enhancement reform involves making these offences dual procedure and giving the Crown the ability to proceed by indictment in the more serious cases. In those cases, the maximum penalty goes up from six months in prison to five years, and the ceiling of $2,000 is removed, in keeping with the sentencing for all indictable offences in the code.

There are more specific sentencing measures in addition to these general standard ones. Currently there is a two year maximum on orders preventing the offender from owning or possessing animals. This two year maximum ceiling will also be removed so the courts will have the power to make an order for any length of time the court considers appropriate.

In addition, Bill C-50 will introduce a new power for the court to order, in addition to any other sentence, that a convicted offender repay the costs of taking care of the animal in question. If a person or organization took in the animal after the cruelty incident, the person who committed the offence would be responsible.

In every province there are statutorily created societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. We all know those. These agencies are under a legal obligation to protect animals from cruelty by seizing and caring for them when they are in distress, for example a puppy mill, yet these statutory bodies receive very little in the way of public funding. When they take in an animal that has been abused, care for it and provide veterinary services, food, shelter and comfort, they generally do so with money obtained from public donations.

We all know people in our communities who do this kind of work. In my community of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, I think of people like Judith Gass, a former Progressive Conservative candidate in the 1993 federal election, who does great work. I also think of the many vets in my riding who talk to me about the concerns they have when they see animals in distress.

Bill C-50 will make it clear that the offender may be found responsible for repaying the costs associated with his or her criminal act. That is good sentencing policy. By holding the offender accountable for the costs, we do a better job at educating the offender about the consequences of his or her crime and hopefully this contributes to his or her rehabilitation.

Law reform is about more than adjusting numbers. It is also about making sure the substance of the law prohibits all forms of misconduct and does so in the clearest possible language and provides the most coherent structure of offences. Bill C-50 also contains a number of elements that accomplish this important set of objectives.

The amendments will create a new offence that directly targets the wilful killing of an animal with brutal intention, such as by strapping an explosive on the animal--we have heard of that--or fastening the animal to a railway line. These types of acts, which most people consider impossible to imagine, are perhaps the most despicable form of cruelty we can imagine and may not be caught by our existing law if the person had or could prove a legitimate excuse for killing the animal. We are closing this loophole so that even when the law allows a person to kill an animal, he or she cannot do it with the intention of being brutal.

Euthanasia, slaughter, hunting practices could be humane. The hallmarks of humane euthanasia are that the methods are tried and true. They involve a minimization of pain and suffering. They are reproducible and reliable and do not pose any risk of failure or risk of harm to others.

Sometimes a person who kills an animal has another set of intentions reflected in acts that are not reliable methods of killing, which pose risks to that person or to others and which have uncertain and non-reproducible effects. Exploding an animal in a microwave, which we have heard of, or dropping it from a tall building are examples. If someone kills an animal with that state of mind, there is a good chance he or she is being deliberately brutal. The law must clearly prohibit and sternly punish this type of behaviour.

Another set of changes will clear up some of the language that is currently confusing. The code now has a set of offences in relation to cattle, a set of offences in relation to animals that are kept for a lawful purpose, and another set of offences for all animals. This produces duplication and some overlap. There are also omissions. For instance, there are special provisions on cockfighting and the keeping of cockpits. We know, sadly, that dog fighting also happens in our country. Why should our law not also prohibit that? There is no reason.

Bill C-50, a comprehensive law reform package in this area will rectify that deficiency. It will also remove current language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”, which is a phrase that can do nothing except confuse. It will also remove the nonsensical notion of wilful neglect, which does not exist anywhere else in criminal law because it conflates two entirely different concepts. Wilful means deliberate and intentional, whereas neglect means inadvertence. Combining these two into one concept is bad criminal law. Bill C-50 will rectify that.

The bill will also provide a definition of animal when none currently exists. That definitely will be a “non-humane vertebrate”, for example. Today, there is no definition. This means that a worm or a snail or any possible living creature would probably be included. Since many industry groups have expressed concern over such an interpretation, Bill C-50 brings desirable clarity to the question. Without Bill C-50, the question of the scope of the law remains open and it leads to uncertainty.

Finally, Bill C-50 will create a new part of the Criminal Code with the title “Cruelty to Animals” as a chapter devoted just to these offences. This will permit the offences to be taken out of part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”.

I am aware that this change has been the subject of debate and discussion, but let us be clear about it in the bill. This change will not and cannot have the effect of altering the legal status of animals as property. The fact that animals are property is a result of property law, which is within the constitutional authority of provinces, not of this Parliament. The common law of this country and that of our Commonwealth cousins bears out centuries of jurisprudence that firmly establishes that animals are the property of the people or of the Crown. There are some people who would disagree with that. There are people who were referred to earlier as radical in this cause. This is a mainstream bill. This is not an extreme bill. It is legally impossible for the relocation of offences from one chapter of the Criminal Code to another to have any effect whatsoever on the legal status of animals as property.

The bill reflects the mainstream and widely held view of Canadians that the people with whom we share this planet are worthy of more respect than maybe we accorded them years ago. The bill is a meaningful and reasonable solution that addresses the needs of many stakeholders, people who work with animals, people who own animals, as well as people who just like to be with animals. The bill provides a sensible solution for all Canadians. I urge the adoption of Bill C-50.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

It has been a great source of frustration for many Canadians that the government has been attempting to legislate changes to animal cruelty offences since 1999 without success. Several versions of this bill have wound their way through the House and Senate only to die on the order paper. The parliamentary secretary did go through those previous versions. There were concerns that the proposed amendments could have criminalized some common and lawful activities such as catch and release fishing, trapping, hunting, and even some farming practices.

We are not just talking about our friends the animals, which is how urban people might view animals, and we have lots of animal friends. I have a dog who is a friend. Animals are also used in the context of agriculture, and those animals are not necessarily our friends. We have to recognize that animals play a dual role in our society. I recall the 2% strychnine solution being argued here regarding our friends the gophers. Gophers destroy thousands of acres of land every year and kill or hurt other animals that fall into gopher holes. We have to remember that all animals are not our friends.

Throughout the debates on these bills, Conservative MPs and senators strongly expressed their desire to prevent abuse of animals, but sought legal protection for those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The Senate was ultimately successful in amending Bill C-10B to narrow the definition of animal and to ensure that current legal defences for legitimate practices would be maintained.

Bill C-10B was reprinted in the House of Commons as Bill C-22, and was supported by the Conservative Party in light of the Senate amendments. However, the bill died at committee in the Senate in May 2004 before the last general election.

As the parliamentary secretary has explained, this enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

One of the things we have to realize is that these changes to the Criminal Code will not make it easier to prosecute animal offences. It is very difficult to prosecute animal offences. We hear about all kinds of horrendous examples such as skinning a cat, or putting cats into microwaves, those kinds of things. The point is that these changes will not make it any easier to prosecute those types of offences. The injustice that is often done is a result of inadequate evidence to prosecute the offence.

I am not necessarily opposing these amendments. We have voted on them many times already. I am suggesting that when there is a conviction, meaningful sentences should be put in place. There have been philosophical debates about whether an animal is property or whether it is not quite a human being, as some animal rights activists would have us believe, but the point is that appropriate penalties need to be in place so that when these difficult cases are successfully prosecuted, meaningful sentences are imposed.

One of the concerns that many animal groups involved in agriculture, fishing and hunting have mentioned to me about the current bill is that it would make it illegal to brutally and viciously kill an animal regardless of whether or not the animal dies immediately. I have a lot of concerns about that particular provision because it really takes an urban person's point of view about the killing of an animal. Many urban people look at the practice of killing a particular animal as being brutal and vicious and therefore that practice should be stopped. The real point we need to consider is not simply whether it looks brutal or vicious, but whether the animal in fact dies immediately. We want to minimize the animal's pain. I think all of us are agreed on that.

I am concerned that what we are doing here is taking a key relevant factor in determining whether or not something is brutal or vicious and making it irrelevant. We need to take a look at that particular issue. That more than any other issue has raised concerns for the groups who depend on animals for their livelihood.

I have no concern about raising the penalties. If there is genuine cruelty to animals and a prosecution is successful, we need to prosecute those cases vigorously and impose appropriate penalties.

There is one thing I find remarkable about Liberals. I wish Liberals would speak as passionately about human victims as they sometimes do about animal victims. I am very concerned about human victims. This is perhaps an appropriate segue into that entire issue.

I raised in question period the issue that under Bill C-70 a judge will be able to impose house arrest on someone who rapes a woman. The minister said that there would be exceptional circumstances where that would happen. I asked him in question period today under what exceptional circumstances should people who rape women serve their time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing.

I am concerned about brutality toward animals, but I am also very concerned about the brutality that we demonstrate to other human beings. When we catch those animals who commit crimes against their fellow human beings, we say we should leave the door open for exceptional circumstances so that the poor rapist can serve his time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing and I dare say most Canadians are.

I am concerned about drug dealers who are peddling poisons that kill our children. I am concerned about that. Yet under the Liberals' Bill C-70, drug dealers who are repeat offenders can get house arrest. I wish Liberals would talk as passionately about keeping those kinds of animals behind bars, those who would do that kind of thing to our children and fellow citizens.

I have pointed out a very practical problem with this bill. I hope the parliamentary secretary looks at that particular issue. At the same time I would encourage the parliamentary secretary to ask the Minister of Justice what he is doing in Bill C-70 to allow vicious, brutal rapists and drug dealers who are destroying our youth and communities to get house arrest in exceptional circumstances. We were assured by past justice ministers, Allan Rock and others, that it would never happen that conditional sentences or house arrest would be used for violent offences.

I want to see some amendments to this bill. I think it is moving in the right direction. We have had this debate over and over. I remind the parliamentary secretary that he should show the same concern for human victims as he does for animal victims.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Northumberland—Quinte West
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the provisions of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code relating to the cruelty to animals.

The legislation has a long and notorious history in Parliament. Members will no doubt remember that the legislation has been before the House on a number of occasions over the past five years. These animal cruelty amendments were first introduced in Parliament in 1999 as part of an omnibus criminal reform bill called Bill C-17 but died on the order paper. They were later reintroduced as another omnibus bill, Bill C-15, in a subsequent Parliament. That bill was split into two portions and the portion which contained the animal cruelty amendments again died on the order paper. The amendments were next re-tabled as Bill C-10 which were again split and again the portion with animal cruelty died on the order paper. In the last Parliament, these amendments were known as Bill C-22. Today we are discussing the same amendments in Bill C-50.

The history of the bill is a long and winding road, which includes two highly unusual incidents of bill-splitting and several messages being sent between this and the other chamber. Given the occurrences of rare parliamentary procedures and ping-ponging of the legislation, a person unfamiliar with this history might come away with the impression that the legislation is still controversial and lacks broad base support.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the members that in actual fact this House has passed this legislation several times in the last two years with support from members on both sides of the House. In addition, hon. members should recall that the legislation has a history of accommodation and compromise that has brought together groups that advocate for animal welfare, as well as groups that advocate for people whose livelihoods depend upon the use of animals. Let me explain.

Over the past five years there has been spirited and comprehensive debate about the impact of the legislation in both this House and the other place, in committees in both places, in the public domain and in the media, not to mention the innumerable meetings between stakeholders and various government officials. As a result, specific amendments have been made on a number of occasions to this bill. These were not legally necessary changes, I would submit, but were adopted by the government with a view to providing greater clarity about the issues of concern.

These accommodations did not compromise protections against animal cruelty. The end result was that a large number of industry stakeholders came to support the legislation. The ministers received the written support of a broad based coalition of industry groups, including a letter from earlier this year urging the government to re-table these very amendments just months before this bill was tabled.

This coalition of stakeholders includes representatives from the agricultural sector, animal research and the trapping industry. The legislation is not meant to and will not negatively impact on the lawful and humane animal related industries and these industries have now acknowledged that. Of course, animal welfare organizations, as well as veterinary associations, police associations and provincial attorneys general, continue to support the legislation wholeheartedly.

The only difference between this legislation and that which was last passed by this House as Bill C-22 is the inclusion now of a non-derogation clause that reaffirms the applicability of existing constitutional protection for traditional aboriginal practices. This was included after discussions between the minister and concerned senators over the potential impact of the legislation on aboriginal persons.

In every other respect, the legislation we have before us today mirrors exactly that legislation which was passed by this House many times already and which stakeholder groups on all sides of the issue urged the government to re-table.

With that brief history, let me make a few basic points about the legislation.

The first point to note is that Bill C-50 is not about new law. It is about better law. The criminal law already contains a range of offences that prohibit cruelty to animals and has since 1893, but the law is a messy jumble of archaic terminology and piecemeal amendments made on a few occasions since 1893.

The first goal of the bill therefore is to modernize, simplify and rationalize the law as well as to fill in certain gaps in legal protection. This objective is accomplished by a variety of measures, including: removing the distinctions in the law that originate from another century; removing overlapping offences; improving the coherence and functionality of the law by removing problematic language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”; eliminating the illogical notion of “wilful neglect” that is not found anywhere else in our criminal law; and filling in gaps by creating new offences of killing an animal with a brutal or vicious intent and training an animal for the purpose of fighting another animal.

One other change that bears mentioning is the creation of a new chapter of the Criminal Code devoted specifically to animal cruelty. The new chapter would not change the legal substance of offences but would allow us to stop categorizing animal cruelty as property crime and to symbolically reflect that animal cruelty is most appropriately characterized as a gross violation of public standards of acceptable behaviour, as oftentimes it is a serious offence of violence. In fact, there is increasingly scientific evidence of a link between animal cruelty and subsequent violent offending against humans, particularly in the context of domestic violence. The women and children who are forced to witness animal cruelty know that it is not about property damage and it is time our Criminal Code recognized this reality.

The second goal of the amendments is to increase and enhance the penalty regime for animal cruelty offences. The way that society traditionally recognizes the seriousness of a particular conduct is through the penalty that it prescribes for that conduct.

Bill C-50 would make the law more coherent by clearly distinguishing criminally negligent conduct from wilful cruelty for the purposes of providing different sentencing ranges. The person who keeps too many cats and is unable to care for them all commits a different kind of criminal offence than one who skins a cat alive, and Bill C-50 would ensure that penalty ranges reflect this.

The current maximum penalty for animal cruelty, six months in prison or a $2,000 fine or both, would be increased accordingly for both kinds of crime. For intentional cruelty, which would be made a hybrid offence, the maximum penalty on indictment would be increased to five years and on summary conviction to eighteen months. For criminally negligent offences, the maximum sentence would be increased to two years.

Another change is the removal of the current two year cap on orders prohibiting a convicted offender from owning or living with animals. The length of a prohibition order would be in the discretion of the judge and he or she would make the final determination. The courts would also be given a clear power to order a convicted offender to repay to a person or to an organization, which most likely would be the animal welfare society, the costs associated with the caring for the animal the offender was convicted of abusing.

These penalty enhancements, coupled with the other set of reforms that bring greater simplicity, coherence and rationality to the laws, will work together to signal to judges, prosecutors, police and the general public that the abuse of animals is about violence and that cruelty is a matter of serious criminal law.

To be effective, good criminal law must not only provide adequate penalty ranges, it must also be clear, coherent, complete and must reflect the true nature of the misconduct and the societal values at stake. The full range of legal reforms is necessary to bring our 19th century criminal laws in this area into the 21st century.

Over the course of many years that animal cruelty amendments have been before Parliament, Canadians have consistently voiced their strong support for legislative change in this area and their expectation that the legislation will be passed without delay. I urge all members in the House to ensure that occurs as soon as possible.

Department of Social Development Act
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June 8th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-22.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

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June 8th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Simard Beauport, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to talk about Bill C-22, to establish the Department of Social Development. With all the questions and odd things heard recently, I believe it is very important to put certain elements back in their proper context.

When we say we are interested in obtaining the money we pay in taxes in order to develop the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, we are not begging or asking for something that does not belong to us. It is about delivering services to the people policies are designed for, and not about duplication, encroachment, petty politics or the development of very complex, piecemeal programs within huge departments that duplicate public services. That does not help anybody.

I understand the NDP is having considerable difficulty with these data, because it thinks Ottawa knows best. It is not surprising that often, despite its sometimes noble objectives, it is so far removed from the heart of Canadians and so misunderstood by the public.

The New Democratic Party has the sort of vision that whatever comes from Parliament Hill and flows toward the provinces is a good thing. Rather than debate things where they have to be debated, they think that in the case of whatever is called local development, whatever comes out of the communities or whatever is done in the provinces, a short cut, a national standard, a national program, the great department will replace an integrated approach, proximity of services and provincial accountability. However, they are mistaken, and this is not the way to get support from people.

Maybe it is the way it is done in certain ridings on the west island, I do not know, but I have a hard time imagining someone in my riding saying: “I am suffering from my missing pan-Canadian program. It is hurting me. I have a big problem. You know, I never got my pan-Canadian cheque. I do not have my pan-Canadian day care. I have a fine Quebec day care. The people are nice, but it is not pan-Canadian. It does not have a Canadian flag, and my children are suffering. Public services are suffering too”.

I do not think so and I cannot imagine people asking me for a pan-Canadian system, duplication or Canadian day care over Quebec day care. I do not know how they do that. Do they want a Tim Hortons beside a Dunkin' Donuts? What are they trying to do?

If they are trying to help people in need, to undertake real social development, really increase resource efficiency, do they need to create department after department? Do they need to create little program after little program? Do they have to create things that already exist? Do they need to negotiate 10 years each time over financial compensation for day care and parental leave? Is that serving the public? I do not think so. Really, it is doing the public no service.

And what about the creation of the Department of Social Development? With respect to programs for people with a disability, yes, everyone supports virtue and opposes vice. We all like apple pie. However, we do not agree with having a number of cooks making different apple pies in different ways for the same person. In the end, it does not work. It produces bad results. It is expensive and cumbersome. So, the government wants to create Canadian departments, especially to promote its importance and not with a view to efficiency in areas of respective jurisdiction.

So, there is a fundamental problem because the federal government has spent more—the Comité Léonard proved this—in areas under the jurisdiction of the provinces and of Quebec then in its own areas of jurisdiction.

Given what happened with the HMCS Chicoutimi , the Halifax class frigates or the HMCS Toronto , would it not have been better to what it has to do instead of trying to do what others do very well? Why not apply this to post-secondary education?

I had hoped that this would be clear to the NDP as well in terms of Bill C-48. There is no need to duplicate departments responsible for education and standards. Why duplicate, why redo what is being done well? For the pleasure of saying, “I am in education too; I am in social development too” or for the pleasure of seeing the Canadian flag everywhere?

There was the sponsorship scandal; will there be a social sponsorship scandal? More money will be spent, less and less effectively, on regional development simply to show that it too can spend, even if it makes no sense, even if it has nothing to do with integrated management policies, even if it is removed from the public, and even if it causes both systems to fail. There is a will to centralize.

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June 8th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Boulianne Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-22, concerning the creation of the Department of Social Development.

First of all, there is always a need to establish a premise when dealing with legislation coming from the federal government. At the same time, one has to lay out the Bloc's stance, which is very clear and always inspired—as my colleague mentioned a while ago—by the defence of the interests of Quebec and that always involves the areas of jurisdiction.

Currently, of all federal parties, the Bloc Québécois is the only one that always defends its jurisdictions and guards them jealously. It always defends the regions and the economy of each riding.

The Bloc definitely, categorically and unequivocally condemns the systematic interference by the Liberal government. It is indeed a bad habit that has been going on for a long time. Suffice it to look at the context. It is a constant habit in regard to new legislation. The previous few bills are still getting one foot in the door and trying to pry it open, in terms of Quebec's jurisdictions.

This department, just like the others, has a mandate to interfere in the jurisdictions of Quebec and of provinces in general. There is an absolute need to denounce the creation of such a department, as much for the reasons of operations and effectiveness we outlined earlier, as for reasons having to do with interference.

A structure like the one being proposed, no matter how it is defined, does not achieve the desired effectiveness if there is not the political will to resolve the problems. That is what is lacking in the government.

Earlier my colleague spoke of poverty among women, seniors and children. It exists in Canada. The statistics are quite clear. In fact, the government is criticized for not having the will to do anything about it. So, it does not matter what structure is implemented, if there is no will to resolve the problems and defend the interests of the people, it will not work.

If the Canadian government put as much effort into defending Quebec's interests as it does into interfering in its jurisdictions, things would be much better and many problems would be resolved.

This government has a reputation that precedes it when it comes to interference. My colleague gave a number of examples earlier. Even though the government would have us believe that it wants to respect federal jurisdictions, as well as those of Quebec and the provinces, we in the Bloc are quite skeptical. We do not believe this government in the least, quite simply because it wants to cross the line, yet again, and grab powers that belong to Quebec.

There is no shortage of examples of encroachment. It happens regularly. Just look at labour force training—I will come back to this later—health, municipalities, or the millennium scholarships that caused so many problems. There is also child care, which my colleague mentioned, the environment, the community sector, volunteerism, social housing, education. The list goes on. The fact is that these problems have not been solved and the solutions provided do not necessarily correspond to the interests of Quebeckers.

Take health for example, for which the vision is quite centralist. The government talks about plans. It is going to make the governments of Quebec and the provinces accountable. It will require certain indicators and evidence-based benchmarks pretty much everywhere. All that to implement a pan-Canadian system, which is what it has done in other sectors.

It is unfortunate, but the pan-Canadian system, whether for health or other areas, does not always correspond to the interests and desires of Quebeckers. That is true for health. These problems are practically insurmountable because the real needs are not being met.

It is the same thing with the labour force. The federal government talks about an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces, but what kind of agreement is it?

If they say that it covers duplications, what about opting out? This is always done unilaterally. They do not know what they want to do with regard to the kinds of customers and the labour force. Indeed, once again, this is a Canada-wide idea, which is not necessarily relevant to Quebec's reality.

And so, from one bill to the next, the encroachment is systematic. We learn something new every day. Again, not too long ago, the Prime Minister announced that the municipalities would have other responsibilities. There was a vote on a bill designed to add cities to provinces. There is always this bad habit of systematically encroaching on Quebec's plans.

The same thing goes for the environment. The Kyoto Protocol is not a success. It is a failure for the minister. None of the efforts made by Quebec were acknowledged. The government gives the large polluters the freedom to pollute or to expand. It is very easy. None of the efforts made by Quebec were taken into account in that context. What they are doing for the environment is setting up some sort of environmental assessment process which, once again, does not meet the needs.

By nibbling away at Quebec's authority and jurisdiction, the government is drifting further and further away from Quebec's interests and the cure for its problems.

There are other examples. However, I will stick to municipalities. My colleague provided answers earlier. That is important. The proposed new agreement on transferring the gasoline tax is one more systematic intrusion. In my opinion, it is bad for Quebec, Canada and democracy. When a minority government arrogantly meddles in the powers of Quebec and the provinces, a dead end is reached at some point. The price must be paid.

Let us come back specifically to Bill C-22. Here again, the government talks of social development, which is not the federal government's prerogative. It is in fact under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction. Quebec developed social development. The federal government cannot, just like that, give itself powers and jurisdictions over health and education.

The Bloc cannot support this bill, because this would support the fact that the federal government has always played a role in social development. That is mistaken. We cannot ratify a bill that is erroneous.

If, for example, the Bloc agreed to the creation of this department—my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse mentioned it earlier—it would open the way to consolidation of federal intrusions in social development in the future. This is a field that it has, however, ignored.

Over time, this would also mean accepting the waste that will occur. This was mentioned several times. In fact, my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has mentioned this in his question earlier. How will we be able to control this waste of money?

I said at the beginning of my speech that this is not about explaining a structure and putting public servants into it; the government must have the political will to solve the problems. Otherwise, this is totally useless.

We cannot approve this. It is unfortunate because, in the beginning, we had come to some agreements and the federal government had made commitments. Indeed, the government and the Prime Minister had said that they would respect Quebec's jurisdictions. They did exactly the opposite.

For example, they had accepted the Bloc Québécois subamendment that required the government to fully respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, while promising more money for social programs. This was not followed through. We cannot rely on this government in any level of intervention, whether it is political, social or economic. It does the opposite of what it must do, or it does not respond. It avoids the problems.

We were also supposed to sign agreements on parental leave. We are constantly asking questions to know where we are on this. We have seen judgments. In this regard, Quebec's jurisdiction is extremely important.

We talked about exclusivity. This is very significant.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended, and still defends, the interests of Quebeckers and, as I mentioned earlier, the interests of the regions. The jurisdictions must be respected. We, Bloc Québécois members, are not the only ones defending them. There is consensus at the National Assembly, where this principle is well recognized. We are very protective of our jurisdictions.

It is important to point out that these areas come under the jurisdiction of the Quebec government, which is often close to the public, which knows the structures well, which monitors the institutions effectively, and which maintains a very close relation with the organizations. This means the Quebec government has the expertise and the tools necessary to develop relevant policies and to provide, based on needs and following consultations, the funds required to implement these policies.

The federal government must recognize once and for all that Quebec—and the provinces—although its leeway has been considerably reduced by the fiscal imbalance—and we could talk about this at length—has nevertheless managed to implement internationally renowned quality programs. It has succeeded in establishing ties with international stakeholders, and in creating valuable models. We set an example. I will not talk about child care, because it was mentioned earlier. But it is not just child care. We are also a world model, we have an influence at the international level as regards business operations. Quebec manages to do that by fully exercising its authority in its own jurisdictions.

The Bloc Québécois will never agree to the creation of a department that has the mandate to duplicate and copy Quebec's avant-garde policies, to use them and to fiddle with them for its own purposes. Moreover, this also prevents Quebec from fully developing its own potential. Agreeing to the creation of such a department would be going against the interests of Quebec and against its development. This is not about visibility, but about respect for the integrity, security and health of all individuals.

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June 8th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to address members of the House in regard to this important legislation. By virtue of the legislation the department will have subscribed to its legal status. The bill exemplifies the ways in which the government is working to strengthen Canada's social foundations and in so doing ensure that the best possible level of service is provided to all Canadians.

I support the bill because it means Canadians will benefit from a stronger social foundation. By introducing the bill in the House of Commons, it will demonstrate its commitment to serving Canadians in a fair, inclusive and efficient manner.

I am proud to stand here in support of Bill C-22 and I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting the bill which represents so much for Canadians.

For seniors, the bill clearly states the Government of Canada's commitment to the provision of necessary support for seniors. this will help to ensure that they live with dignity. Budget 2005 provides $13 million over five years to establish a national seniors secretariat. The secretariat would work with several federal departments that have seniors' related policies and programs as well as other levels of government and key partners to address the challenges of an aging population.

The federal government must prepare for a growing and diverse seniors population while continuing to address the issues facing current seniors in Canada. At present, several departments are involved in seniors' issues. As the lead department for seniors, Social Development Canada will be home to the secretariat and will coordinate efforts in partnership with provincial and territorial governments as well as other stakeholders. They will develop approaches to respond to the needs of seniors.

Fundamentally, the department will enhance the knowledge of seniors' needs and issues and it will establish partnerships with governments, academics, seniors' organizations and individuals. This will ensure that there are future initiatives to address the challenges and needs of all ages for current and future seniors.

Voting in favour of Bill C-22 is a vote in favour of our nation's children. Investing in children and families is one of the best ways we can enhance the social and economic fabric of the country, now and into the future. To this end, the Government of Canada has put in place a comprehensive set of initiatives that reflect and support the range of families, choices and circumstances, from tax measures to joint initiatives with the provinces and territories to improve programs and support services.

While these initiatives have been put forward, more work needs to be done. The majority of the families do not have access to the kind of quality early learning and child care programs that can help set their young children on the path of success. Indeed, even children who are cared for primarily by parents at home can benefit from taking part in nursery school program for a few hours each week.

With the introduction of Bill C-22, the Government of Canada believes that the time has come to develop early learning and child care in Canada. In the 2005 federal budget the government announced $5 billion over five years to fund an early learning and child care initiative in collaboration with the provinces and territories. These initiatives will be guided by what is known as the quad principles: quality, universal inclusiveness, accessibility and development.

This new initiative builds on the success of the 2003 multilateral framework of early learning and child care and the 2000 early childhood agreement. Recently the government has been working with each province and territory to develop and announce bilateral agreements in principle. In the past few weeks the Government of Canada has signed agreements in principle with the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia that will support the development of quality early learning child care in these provinces.

The agreements in principle are based on a national vision which would build in the best practice and ensure reports on progress to Canadians. Canadians will be kept informed of the differences these new investments are making in the lives of children and families.

This will not be a one size fits all approach. We recognize that early learning and child care within each province and territory is at different stages of development and that the needs and circumstances vary. This is why provincial and territorial governments will have the flexibility to enhance early learning and child care support in the way that best meets the needs of their communities.

The mandate of Social Development Canada is straightforward. Its objective is to strengthen Canada's social foundation by supporting the well-being of individuals, families and communities through citizen focused policies, programs and services. Social Development Canada is the point of convergence for social policies and programs for children, families and caregivers, persons with disabilities and seniors. This department will also play a leading role in driving the social economy through programs such as voluntary sector initiative.

Essentially, Social Development Canada represents $53 billion at work for Canadians. Most of the money represents income support for Canadians themselves, especially seniors and people with disabilities as well as children.

The new department is working in a number of ways to ensure key social goals are met. Some of these goals are set up to ensure that an effective income security system is in place for seniors, that we help people with disabilities to participate fully in Canadian society, that we focus on the needs and interests of families and children in a cohesive way and that the role and activities of the non-profit and community-based sector in our society are identified, recognized and supported.

Ultimately, by bringing together these social programs for seniors, families and children and persons with disabilities under one roof, the department is providing a focal point for social policy at the federal level. This is our commitment to delivering the programs and services that Canadians have come to expect from the Government of Canada. It is what they need and it is what they deserve. I encourage all members to support the bill.

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June 6th, 2005 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister created the new Department of Social Development, he affirmed the Government of Canada's commitment to support Canadians at every stage of their lives.

A growing number of Canadians are entering, or are already in, the so-called golden age, reaping the rewards of a life of hard work to build a country we so proudly share today.

We only need to look around this chamber to realize how great the impact of our aging population is in our nation. Many of us, like many Canadians, are baby boomers, soon to join the swelling ranks of seniors who are transforming our country in myriad ways. The repercussions of this trend will require innovative responses from all levels of government to meet seniors' needs and take advantage of their skills and experience to better our society.

Our government's decision to create Social Development Canada signalled our understanding that we have to take a fresh approach to social policy development in the 21st century to reflect the changing face of our people and society.

Canada today is a dramatically different country than the one many of us grew up in. Just a generation or two ago, seniors represented a small proportion of the population, but many were among the poorest people in the country. Years ago we set out to rectify that situation by introducing public pensions and old age security for our most vulnerable citizens.

Here are the most significant statistics: In 2003 there were 4.6 million Canadians 65 years or older. Those numbers are expected to climb to 6.7 million by 2021. That is double what the seniors population was as recently as 2000. Even more striking, there will be 9.2 million seniors in 2041, nearly one in four Canadians.

The reverberations of these trends are being felt in all quarters, from the health system to public and private pension plans, to the voluntary sector. We need a better understanding of how we can best meet the needs and expectations of this growing segment of our population.

Canadians want the assurance they can live their later years in comfort and dignity. We firmly believe that Canada's seniors have earned that right and deserve to be treated with the utmost compassion and respect.

I personally was very involved in the work of the government's women's caucus. I was chair of the subcommittee that pushed for a task force on seniors, that worked very hard and got a commitment to increase the guaranteed income supplement. I organized a full day consultation in the greater Toronto area for all of the organizations and individuals who wanted to make presentations on what programs and assistance for seniors would look like in the future. I was very proud to be involved because the government in this last budget has put forward a plan, and we need to now look forward to a much longer plan.

The 17 recommendations that were made by the task force were driven by two imperatives: first, moving forward now to address the needs of today's vulnerable seniors; and second, taking the steps needed to prepare for the growing number of seniors as our population ages.

Following a key recommendation in the task force report, the budget announced that the guaranteed income supplement will be increased, as I mentioned before. These benefits will rise by 7%, representing the biggest income hike in a generation for seniors who need it most. This is the first increase to the GIS since 1984, other than inflation indexing, and totals $2.7 billion over the next five years. Perhaps most important, this much needed increase will be there for this and future generations of low income seniors, to help those most in need to make ends meet.

These additional funds will be phased in over two years, starting in January 2006. By 2007 the increase will add up to $432 a year for a single senior and $700 a year for couples. These are amounts that will make a real difference in their lives and will also make up to 50,000 more seniors eligible for partial guaranteed income supplement benefits.

We must recognize that this is only the beginning. Our ability to move forward depends on how well we work together. Many federal departments and all levels of government have important pieces of the seniors puzzle. What we need to do is focus on aligning these efforts to achieve our collective goal of ensuring that seniors enjoy the quality of life they deserve.

That is why budget 2005 announced the creation of a national seniors secretariat within the Department of Social Development. The secretariat will work with partners in and out of government to find ways to meet the needs of current and future generations of seniors. It will also look for opportunities to mobilize the energies and efforts of seniors who have already spent a lifetime contributing to Canadian society.

Budget 2005 also announced an increase in funding for the successful new horizons for seniors program. New horizons for seniors was launched in October 2004 with an investment of $8 million with ongoing funding of $10 million annually.

The program encourages seniors active living and social participation, enabling older Canadians to continue contributing to their communities. It has proven to be very popular, generating over 1,400 applications since its inception.

In response to an overwhelming interest in the program, the Government of Canada announced an increase in funding to the new horizons for seniors program in the 2005 budget. The overall budget will be increased to $15 million in 2005-06 and will reach $25 million by 2007-08. That is fantastic news.

As a result of these increased investments, at least twice as many projects will receive funding in the first year to expand support for community based projects led by seniors. This means tens of thousands more Canadians will be able to take part in projects that build vibrant communities by including and empowering seniors.

These projects may range from harnessing seniors' experience through mentorship to expanding volunteer activities for seniors and other vulnerable groups, to strengthening relationships across generations. Any society that fails to recognize its most accomplished citizens and that misses the opportunity to put their skills to good use does a disservice to those individuals. It does an even greater disservice to itself.

For all these reasons we need this legislation, Bill C-22, to create Social Development Canada, a powerful new vehicle to advance the interests of Canada's seniors. Budget 2005 has now provided a foundation for the department to further its mandate and role to help enable seniors live their elderly years in dignity. In so doing we will create a stronger society that benefits us all.

I urge my hon. colleagues to give their stamp of approval to this legislation so Social Development Canada can carry on this vitally important work and become the voice of social development in Canada.

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June 6th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in this important debate. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

There are many convincing arguments for the creation of Social Development Canada, which is what the legislation before us today makes possible. Surely none is more compelling than the new department's increased capacity to address the needs of caregivers, society's unsung heroes, who give so generously of themselves and their time to care for aged relatives or relatives with disabilities. Here I would like to mention Caregivers Nova Scotia from my own province, one of the most impressive caregiving organizations in Canada and a leading proponent of volunteer caregiving.

A key reason for creating SDC, Social Development Canada, is to provide a centre of expertise on social policy and programs so that Canada can maintain and surpass its international reputation as a caring society.

Nothing better reflects that commitment than the decision to appoint a Minister of State for Families and Caregivers, dedicated to identifying and implementing measures to better support these Canadians. The minister of state's new role signals the importance the Government of Canada attaches to family issues and recognizes the valuable role caregivers play in our society. The minister's sensitivity and his understanding of caregivers makes him well suited to this role.

Most unpaid caregivers are middle-aged and employed full time while caring for elderly relatives and persons with disabilities. Despite the challenges of juggling work and family life, on average these Canadians provide 23 hours of unpaid caregiving per month.

Like millions of Canadians, I have been a caregiver myself, in my case to my parents, who were dying of cancer but who were able to die at home where they lived, where they raised their family, where they were comfortable and where they were loved.

Our country would be very different and much poorer if it were not for the selfless efforts of so many Canadians who care for their loved ones, and as impressive as the numbers are, they are merely a harbinger of things to come. Today's baby boomers are fast becoming seniors. Because seniors now tend to live longer and because families are becoming smaller and more dispersed, the growing demand for caregiving has grown stronger, yet the capacity for caregiving is diminishing.

The role of the caregiver is already proving to be very difficult for many families. We understand the challenges these Canadians may face in balancing their professional life, their personal health needs, and family and caregiving responsibilities. We also know that many Canadians are faced with the dual role of raising their children while providing care to an aging parent, hence the so-called sandwich generation. In 2002, 27% of people aged 45 to 64 with children at home also cared for seniors.

I have met a large number of caregivers of varying circumstances. Each has a very compelling story. At this year's Caregivers Nova Scotia annual dinner, which the minister attended, we heard of a family, for example, whose father was diagnosed with cancer and shortly after that whose child was diagnosed as autistic. These stories are becoming far too common.

Not surprisingly, Canadians have told us that providing support to family caregivers must be a priority of the Government of Canada. There is no question that it is.

Our government currently provides a range of initiatives to assist family caregivers, including: tax credits for caregivers, infirm dependants and medical expenses, the last of which was recently enriched; transfers to support provincial and territorial programs, which include child care, respite care, and home care; the employment insurance compassionate care benefit, which offers up to six weeks of income replacement to family members who must leave work temporarily to care for a dying family member; the Canada pension plan general dropout provision, which exempts up to 15% of years of little or no earnings from a person's pension calculation and could be used to cover years spent in caregiving; labour legislation supporting flexibility in federally regulated workplaces; first nations health programming such as home, community care and adult care programs; and the veterans' independence program and respite care.

As proud as we are of these programs and services, there is a lot more to be done. That is exactly what Social Development Canada has been designed to do and intends to do.

The 2004 Speech from the Throne committed the department to consult with Canadians to find ways to improve support for unpaid caregivers. Key to this process will be working with provinces and territories and engaging parliamentarians, stakeholder groups and Canadian individuals in developing a comprehensive strategy to better meet the needs of caregivers.

Considerable progress has been made. At the November 2004 meeting, federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for social development discussed working together on a comprehensive strategy.

Both the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers have made it a personal priority to advance this agenda. For instance, the minister of state is currently in extensive discussions with the real experts on these challenges: Canadian caregivers themselves. He is crossing the country to consult with unpaid caregivers with first-hand experience, as well as experts and stakeholders involved in this field.

Since launching a series of round tables in January, the minister of state has heard how caregiving responsibilities often affect the caregivers' employment opportunities and income, their out of pocket expenses and their social, emotional and physical well-being. I was pleased to join the minister on the Atlantic leg of his round tables in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

In response to what he has heard, the minister of state has pledged to make sure that SDC develops citizen-focused policies and programs that better meet the needs of unpaid caregivers and those they care for: seniors, people with disabilities, and children, among the most vulnerable in our society.

That is the real strength of Social Development Canada. SDC was created to find more effective ways to meet the changing circumstances and expectations of families, children, Canadians with disabilities, seniors and caregivers.

By narrowing the department's focus to these key areas of social development, we can concentrate on issues that fall outside the labour market, issues that sometimes tend to be overlooked when the focus is primarily on the economy. Because of the division of responsibilities between Social Development Canada and HRSD Canada, we can better identify solutions to existing and emerging social problems, such as the pressures and stress that are faced by family caregivers, and engage a broad range of partners to support community development.

In creating Social Development Canada, Bill C-22 provides a focal point for social policy within the Government of Canada, enabling the department to become the real voice of social development. SDC's new structure helps us take a holistic approach to policy and program development. It creates new avenues for working with other federal departments, other levels of government, the private sector, the key voluntary sector and individual Canadians, and for improving the lives of children and families, seniors, and people with disabilities, as well as their caregivers.

The powers and authorities contained in this act will allow us to coordinate and develop better integrated strategies such as the one we are developing for Canada's caregivers, which will strengthen our country's social foundations and produce better results for Canadians. The example of caregiving underscores just how critical this work is to our nation. I call on my colleagues' support to carry on this vital activity by assuring this legislation passes quickly.

Department of Social Development Act
Government Orders

June 6th, 2005 / noon
See context

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, our country has many resources but none is more precious than our children. They represent the hopes and the dreams of families, communities and the entire nation. They are the future that will only be realized when Canadians elect a government that cares about supporting our most vulnerable members of society.

If anything represents the callous disregard for children and families of the government, it has to be its record when it comes to child poverty. I have listened very intently to the speeches from the government's side regarding the legislation we have before us today, Bill C-22.

While Canadians might hear all the usual statements from a party that is campaigning for re-election, let us look at the actual record of the Prime Minister when it comes to children.

Poverty among children in Canada is rising. The government says that billions are being spent. When questioned directly about the plight of children, the same inability to provide a public accounting for how dollars are actually being spent, which created the sponsorship fraud, applies to the funds that the government says are earmarked for children. The money really ends up being siphoned off for other Liberal priorities.

As finance minister, the Prime Minister oversaw a deal in 1997 that resulted in a clawback of the national child benefit supplement from the pockets of some of our neediest children. This new program in 1997 to assist Canadian families with children replaced what many Canadians called the baby bonus. It was introduced as the Canada child tax benefit, the CCTB. It included a basic benefit and a supplement, the national child benefit supplement, the NCBS.

The NCBS program was supposed to be designed to reduce poverty among low income families with children. Negotiations between federal and provincial governments around the implementation of the NCBS resulted in most provinces, Ontario included, deducting the NCBS amount from the benefits received by families on social assistance. This is what is commonly known as the NCBS clawback. This offset was a design feature of the NCBS, although provinces were not compelled to do it. Most provinces do offset but in different ways. Only Manitoba and New Brunswick do not offset in any way.

Considering the fact that the money was being doled out by Ottawa, and we know that money is power, why would Ottawa agree to allow money, which it publicly bragged was meant for our poorest children, to go somewhere else? The Prime Minister agreed to this because it created the fiscal imbalance. Of the approximately $250 million a year that the Ontario government claws back, 80% is directed to the fiscal imbalance in that province with the remaining 20% going to municipalities for programs that the gas tax, which has been spent and re-spent, promised and re-promised, should be funding instead.

The Liberal Party was prepared to see the money intended for our children be misdirected because in Ottawa the Prime Minister could stand in front of cameras and say, “Look what Ottawa is spending on our children”. In fact the Prime Minister knew that once the dollars went to the provinces, they had to cope with the federal cutbacks in the shared delivery program.

In Ontario the average monthly number of children affected by the clawback in 2003-04 was about 164,000. One of the ironies of this has to be the clawback from needy children in the greater Toronto area, the GTA. That municipality then directs some of the clawed back funds into food banks. It has been suggested by the Income Security Advocacy Centre that 13,500 children in the GTA would no longer need to use a food bank if the national child benefit supplement was restored to families on social assistance.

By the end of 2003, municipalities were sitting on a pool of $20 million in unspent national child benefit funds. Municipalities reported spending over $800,000 on reinvestment program administration costs in 2003. The money has been going to administration costs instead of to the children, money that has been clawed back from the pockets of some of our neediest children, those on social assistance.

I mention these figures in the program because I hear spending figures tossed around by the government. The minister of the new department, which Bill C-22 would legitimize, seems perplexed that the government is spending all this money, yet child poverty continues to rise in Canada. This government cannot understand why. Perhaps if the government were not so consumed with scandal, it would take the time to look at some of these programs to see if they work.

The municipalities are getting wise to the fiscal imbalance practised by the federal government when it comes to our children. In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, the council of the township of South Algonquin passed a resolution requesting restoration of the national child benefit to Ontario Works recipients.

Similar motions have been passed by councils in Mattawa, Papineau, Cameron, Hamilton, Kapuskasing, Kingston, Windsor, Ottawa and Sudbury, to name only a few municipalities.

This past weekend we heard a lot of rhetoric from the Prime Minister about a new deal for cities. Obviously he did not take the time to consult the mayors of those municipalities I just mentioned when he set up the clawback of the benefit to children.

Canadians have learned to be skeptical of a minority PM who promises anything to cling to power. I challenge the NDP finance minister to rewrite the $4.6 billion deal. Unlike other spending promises, eliminating the clawback will not cost taxpayers any more than what was promised in 1997 when the program was announced.

Ontario families who receive social assistance have an average of $115 taken away each month per child as a result of the clawback.

Most do not benefit in the reinvestment programs where some of this clawback money is supposed to be directed, which are generally not designed with them in mind. In Ontario, 80% of the money clawed back goes toward child care supplements for working families for which social assistance recipients generally do not qualify.

I know that $115 is not a lot of money to a government that is used to paying a million dollar commission for non-existent work. However, $115 is a lot of money for someone living below the poverty line. The sum of $115 per month represents a lot of money when a person is trying to adequately provide food, clothing and shelter for your children. Canadians have to ask, why is Parliament even debating the creation of this new department and the legislation we have before us today?

In another example of the democratic deficit that created the corruption associated with the sponsorship scandal, Parliament is being asked to retroactively approve a department that already exists. Now some Canadians have recognized that in order to entice particular types of people to be a member of the Liberal Party, certain inducements have to be offered.

With the former member for York Centre safely seated with his rich patronage reward in the other place, the current member for York Centre could run in a safe Liberal seat for, as they say in the hockey business, “future considerations”.

Future considerations, so it turned out, was creating a new job for the Minister of Social Development. Parliament is now being asked to retroactively approve the deal. That sure sounds familiar to me. I look forward to hearing from my colleague from Vancouver South, the health minister, and his recollections of the negotiation process.

As an old hockey player, the Minister of Social Development has some experience with trades and backroom deals. As the new goalie for children, a role I encourage the minister to assume, the time has come to make children a priority and block the shots from the PM.

The Prime Minister, as the previous finance minister, scored one goal, with an assists from Liberal MPs, that needs to be disallowed and this involves children. The Minister of Social Development should stand up to the Prime Minister and undo the deal that was made in 1997 and make national child benefit funding conditional on provinces and territories not clawing back the benefit from families receiving social assistance.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

June 2nd, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, before I get to the weekly business statement, I said at that time that I would begin to schedule opposition days before the end of May and that is exactly what I have done. There are a number more to schedule.

Today and tomorrow, of course, are allotted days. I also wish to designate next Tuesday and next Thursday as allotted days.

When the budget bills, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 are reported from committee, they will certainly become our highest priority.

In the meantime, we will proceed with third reading of Bill C-22, the social development bill; report stage and third reading of Bill C-26, the border services legislation; second reading of Bill S-18, respecting the census; and Bill C-52, the Fisheries Act amendment.

We will then turn to report stage and third reading of bills that have been or are soon to be reported from committee. These include Bill C-25 respecting RADARSAT; Bill C-37, the do not call bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; and Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill. If there is time during the next three weeks, we will also start to debate the legislation that has been introduced during the last few weeks.