Bill C-45 (Historical)
Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act
An Act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Albina Guarnieri Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
December 11th, 2006 / 5:20 p.m.
November 27th, 2006 / 3:45 p.m.
Special Assignments, Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association
Mr. Chair, I would add to Tom's comments that all of our members are veterans or their immediate spouses. We also are tied in with a number of regimental and corps associations within the armed forces. That allows us, as Tom mentioned in his opening comments, to have serving members on our board.
On my own committee looking at the development of Bill C-45, the new Veterans Charter paper, I was fortunate to have two injured members of the Canadian Forces. They brought a special poignancy to the discussions, and the points they brought forth weren't academic. They weren't based on legal jurisdiction or who was concerned. They were talking about themselves and their families and how the new Veterans Charter was going to affect them in the future.
That immediacy of the input that we can provide is much different from that of, say, the Royal Canadian Legion—of which I am an active member, I might add—which has a large office here in Ottawa, is well staffed, and has a command structure across the country, as everybody knows. They have 400,000-plus members; however, their contact with the serving individuals is much less common than that of a group like ours. They certainly have contact, and they do a very good job in a number of aspects, not the least of which is providing advice to claimants for Veterans Affairs benefits.
Opposition Motion--Canadian Forces
Business of Supply
November 2nd, 2006 / 11:45 a.m.
Roger Gaudet Montcalm, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to pick up where the member for Saint-Jean, a proponent of defence, left off, because he is a longstanding member of this House. I also want to thank the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for his good advice on veterans affairs, because I am new to this issue.
The Bloc Québécois and I support the motion by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. Veterans are too often neglected by the government, which seems to care about them only once a year, in November. In fact, Veterans Week is almost upon us. The steps proposed in this motion would improve the lives of veterans and their families.
We believe that other steps should be taken to further improve the lives of veterans. Although it was recently enhanced, the current system is still unfair in many respects. Hon. members will recall that in May 2005, Bill C-45 was adopted after being fast-tracked. It instituted the new Veterans Charter, which took effect that year. Despite this improvement, there is still much to be done.
The federal government is dragging its feet when it comes to veterans. We have only to think of Gagetown, for example, the inadequate treatment of post-traumatic stress and the ombudsman's repeated requests. This clearly illustrates the government's inaction on this issue. The federal government must act and close the gaps in the current system.
The first mesure proposed by the NDP reads as follows:
1. amend Section 31 (1) of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act so that second spouses of CF members and veterans have access to pension rights upon the death of the Canadian Forces member or veteran;
This section of the act is absurd. In other words, someone who marries a retired veteran over the age of 60 can never receive the benefits available to other military widows. This rule is nothing but discriminatory and is unwarranted. We believe that it should be eliminated, in order to place all spouses on an equal footing. It is important to remember that life expectancy in Canada is around 80 years. A marriage at 60 therefore should not last more than 20 years. In comparison, life expectancy in Caesar's Rome was only 20 years.
The second mesure reads as follows:
2. extend the Veterans Independence Program (VIP) to all widows of all veterans, regardless of the time of death of the veteran and regardless of whether the veteran was in receipt of VIP services prior to his or her death;
This measure would broaden the eligibility criteria for the Veterans Independence Program. Basically, this program offers home care services to disabled veterans and, after death, to family members who need it and who provided a significant level of care to the veteran.
We think that expanding the program could be a good idea. This proposal goes much farther than the motion put forward by the Standing Committee on National Defence and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, which included some details. It was very long, so I will not read it. I think everyone is familiar with it. However, before helping all widows of veterans, we think it makes sense to extend the measure to all veterans themselves. The current proposal raises a paradox: widows of veterans will benefit from more services than spouses of veterans. Furthermore, they will get more help after their spouses die. This inconsistency must be corrected because widows would receive more services than they did when their spouses were alive.
I will now read the third measure:
3. increase the Survivor’s Pension Amount upon death of Canadian Forces retiree to 66% from the current amount of 50%;
We agree with this one. This measure seems fair. Upon the death of a veteran, his survivor should not be forced to move to maintain her quality of life. I think this is a very good idea. Currently, some expenses, such as housing, travel and furnishings, can be shared.
Here is the fourth measure:
4. eliminate the unfair reduction of Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) long term disability benefits from medically released members of the Canadian Forces;
On October 30, 2003, in a report entitled Unfair Deductions from SISIP Payments to Former CF Members, the ombudsman asked the government to correct this major systemic problem. Two years later, he reiterated this request in a letter to the minister on October 26, 2005. Here is what he wrote in the conclusion of his 2003 report:
The SISIP long term disability insurance plan is supposed to ensure that members who are medically released because of service-related illness or injury receive a reasonable amount of income while they are unable to work. These former members, who are forced to depend on their long term disability insurance benefits for income, should not lose the financial benefit of the disability pension they are awarded under the Pension Act as compensation for their illness or injury, especially when their injured colleagues who are able to continue serving can collect their disability pensions through VAC and still receive their pay cheques. I hope that the Minister will take the necessary actions to obtain Treasury Board approval so that the SISIP long term disability insurance policy can be amended to rectify this unfair situation and that those who have lost the financial benefit of their disability pension, while their serving colleagues continued to receive it, can be reimbursed.
I will now read the fifth measure:
5. eliminate the deduction from annuity for retired and disabled CF members.
It is unacceptable that the disabled person receiving a benefit to compensate for a disability has his pension reduced. This situation is similar to the preceding one. The government wants to save taxpayer money. However, there are limits. Benefits paid to the disabled do not represent, in our opinion, a source of income; they are used to pay for additional daily expenses arising from the disability. These benefits are used, for example, for special transportation or to modify a residence. Other veterans do not incur such costs.
There are other considerations as well. These measures are but a step in the right direction. Other problems are also important, perhaps even more so than those to be addressed by this motion.
The purpose of this motion is to improve the system for those already using it. But what about those excluded, those whose sacrifices we refuse to acknowledge? What about those soldiers exposed to defoliants in Gagetown, and soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome left to cope on their own? The government should be aware that early treatment of these illnesses can greatly diminish their symptoms.
What is even more disquieting is the fact that no just yesterday, November 1, the ombudsman for the Canadian armed forces, Mr. Côté, said that when the report was submitted on the dangers to soldiers from exposure to a polluted environment, the army was not even able to list the soldiers who had been posted to Kuwait during the Gulf war. He said too that the army would also be unable to follow-up on the soldiers who had gone to Afghanistan. This kind of list is essential, however, for managing certain risks related to the contamination of places where soldiers frequently go. The departments responsible for the welfare of our soldiers still have their work cut out for them.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that the Department of Veterans Affairs should not just work during Veterans' Week. It should not just work with a view to getting re-elected. It should work for the welfare of our veterans, who defended us in the past and are still defending us today.
We have been working for a few months on the creation of an ombudsman position reporting to the House of Commons. This person’s mandate would come from the House of Commons, not the department. As a result, there would not be any conflicts of interest and he could comment on certain things without risking the ire of the department. He would report directly to the House of Commons.
Yesterday we met Mr. Marin, the Ontario ombudsman, who handles 25,000 complaints a year. Of all these complaints, about 25% are settled through discussions. Mr. Marin says that he does not have any problems, but he reports to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
He concluded yesterday by saying that we were the last ray of hope for our veterans, many of whom had simply lost faith in the government. He also said that the Department of Veterans Affairs has long been vehemently opposed to an ombudsman keeping an eye on it. Now this department is being told that an ombudsman will be appointed despite its philosophical objections. It is therefore up to the parliamentary committee to help the government and support this initiative so that our veterans have an ally fighting on their behalf against administrative injustice. He also told us not to inadvertently allow ourselves to be persuaded to create what could just be a facade and not a real ombudsman’s office.
I hope on behalf of our veterans that the government sets up a system that gives them an ombudsman to restore their hopes. This problem must be dealt with as quickly as possible before our veterans disappear.
Let us try to solve this problem as quickly as possible in fact and not just wait for these army veterans to disappear.
Opposition Motion--Canadian Forces
Business of Supply
November 2nd, 2006 / 11:30 a.m.
Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to mention that I am pleased to be sharing my time with my colleague from Montcalm.
Next, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, whom I met when he was a vital member of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, since the two committees were joined at the time.
I know that my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore has always been an ardent defender of veterans. He made a tremendous contribution to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.
I would also like to say that the Bloc Québécois, as a whole, will certainly support the member's motion. We also agree with the division of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs into two committees, which occurred at the beginning of the Conservative government's term. Despite my colleague's past efforts, it seems to me that veterans, at the time, were the poor relation of that committee. There was also a certain degree of incongruity, since the committee fell under the responsibility or the will of two different ministers. I therefore find the situation much improved today.
I know that my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs can now devote themselves and their efforts solely to defending our veterans, who are very much in need. These people risked their lives trying to preserve important, democratic values.
We must be careful not to send regrettable messages to people who were wounded along the way, after their active service was complete. I use the term “wounded”, but this concept goes beyond physical wounds and also includes psychological wounds. I believe that more people now return from these theatres of operation psychologically wounded than physically wounded. It is important nonetheless to have a committee to look after their interests. We will support the hon. member's motion because there is still a long way to go.
Some progress has been made. For one thing, at the time, we had passed BillC-45, which was mainly for veterans, by providing them with a charter. We may have had good intentions in doing that, but the charter left a few things out. And my colleague is proposing important measures to improve it. Certainly there will be others, but four good measures is at least a step in the right direction. That is the reason why the Bloc Québécois will be supporting the motion by my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore.
I said that there was still work left to do. For example, just yesterday, we heard the ombudsman for the armed forces saying that the people who served in Kuwait or in Afghanistan not so long ago—four or five years ago—are having major problems.
Sometimes there are things that are hard to explain, agent orange being another example. That happened in the Gagetown area. When we are told in committee that the list of people who spent time there during the period when it was being sprayed in large volumes has been lost, we have some doubts. We conclude that the government often wants to scrimp and save on the backs of people who truly left part of their lives, whether psychologically or physically, in the theatre of operations.
The government has a tendency to move quickly. I have to say that I notice that as soon as a major problem arises and someone has left the forces, National Defence decides that it is no longer its problem, it is now a Veterans Affairs problem. I have said that to committees and I say it again here publicly.
As well, National Defence should be putting much more effort into prevention. Not to say that we are going to leave less up to Veterans Affairs, but because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Other armies—the American and British, for instance—pay special attention to individuals leaving the armed forces who are not allowed to remain for medical reasons. Here, this is unfortunately not how we think. In fact, National Defence tells veterans that their service is finished for medical reasons, and that now, because they were deployed in the theatre of operations, they are the responsibility of Veterans Affairs Canada, and they are sent there, and National Defence is no longer concerned with them. Something has to be done about this.
The first aspect of the motion deals with the fact that veterans might get married after age 60 and have a new wife, and the new wife was no longer entitled to compensation after her husband died.
We consider this to be truly discriminatory. In my opinion, the motion fixes this problem.
Another aspect of the motion that is important to us is the Veterans Independence Program, the VIP. This is not something new; we discussed it in 2002 and in 2003. The previous government had announced, with much fanfare, that it was now going to be looking after veterans’ widows, because they were entitled to home help, whether it be for housework or for yard work, so that they could keep their homes as long as possible. This is important for them.
Let us not forget that the veterans' wives also fought, perhaps not as hard as the men since they were not on the front line, but they participated in the war effort. My mother married a soldier. She married my father during the Second World War. I assure you that to hear her stories she was very worried about her husband who was overseas. This too was valuable. It is all well and good to say that people went to battle, but let us not forget the work of the women who stayed behind and kept the war economy going. An army needs bullets for its guns in the theatre of operations and since all the men were deployed to the other side of the ocean, the women did their part to keep this industry operating. We must not forget them.
The former government said it would recognize 10,000 women who would be entitled to the allowance when their husbands died. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that 23,000 women had been forgotten. At the time, we fought with our colleagues in the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs and we won the fight. We did not want to let specific dates be an impediment. If a woman lost her husband before June 17, 2002, she could have the pension. If she lost him after June 17, 2002, she could not. We thought that did not make sense. Why have a date? Why not recognize that the effort was shared by everyone and that all should be entitled? We absolutely agree with our colleague's proposal in the second item.
There are a number of other items, but I see that time is running out so I will make my closing statements. As I was saying, the Department of National Defence absolutely needs to be convinced to put an end to this division. It is all well and good to say there are two committees, but in fact and in practice, DND does not do enough to address the fallout of tragic events that people are currently experiencing.
I spoke about agent orange but I could also have spoken about post-traumatic stress syndrome. Several groups are currently pressuring the government because they are not receiving any services from National Defence or Veterans Affairs. Who is providing these services? The provincial health services. When a soldier is injured and goes to a public hospital in Quebec, the bill is sent to the Department of National Defence. When a soldier is injured but is no longer an employee of the department, he is covered by the provincial health authority. In my opinion, the Department of National Defence needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. I believe that my colleague, the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles knows it and is applying pressure in this regard.
The Department of Veterans Affairs will need an ombudsman. We do not need an ombudsman for National Defence as there already is one, ho is doing both jobs. We need another one just for Veterans Affairs. Above all—and I believe my colleague will insist on this point this afternoon— the ombudsman must be independent of the minister.
It makes no sense for an ombudsman to report to the minister because the minister can exercise some control. If the ombudsman gave the minister a report and the minister did not agree, the minister could recommend to the governor in council— that is, the cabinet—that the ombudsman's contract not be renewed. That does not make sense.
The ombudsman for the armed forces and the future ombudsman for veterans must report to Parliament which, in its wisdom, will decide on how to follow up on the ombudsman's report.
I thank my colleagues for their attention and I am ready to answer questions.
Message from the Senate
May 13th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
May 12, 2005
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 12th day of May, 2005, at 4:10 p.m.
Secretary to the Governor General
The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill C-33, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004--Chapter No. 19; Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases--Chapter No. 20; and Bill C-45, an act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain acts--Chapter No. 21.
Oral Question Period
May 10th, 2005 / 2:55 p.m.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Mr. Speaker, Conservative amendments to the DNA bill have been unanimously accepted at the justice committee. These changes would compel dangerous offenders, like Karla Homolka, to provide a DNA sample to police.
I think the Prime Minister will find unanimous consent in the House to fast-track the entire bill through second and third reading, as the government is doing with Bill C-45, the veterans charter bill.
Will the Prime Minister also commit to fast-tracking Bill C-13, the DNA bill?
Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act
May 10th, 2005 / 11:10 a.m.
Albina Guarnieri Minister of Veterans Affairs
Mr. Speaker, I rise to advance an investment in future veterans, to advance the prospects of a better life for people who have served their country, and to advance a new veterans charter.
There have been discussions among the parties and in keeping with this being the Year of the Veteran, we wish to recognize the debt owed to all our veterans.
I believe this is an ideal opportunity to set aside our political differences, on behalf of those who defended our freedom, and get unanimous consent on this motion.
That Bill C-45, an act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain acts, be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at report stage, read a third time and passed.
Committees of the House
May 10th, 2005 / 11:05 a.m.
The Deputy Speaker
I declare the motion carried.
(Bill C-45. On the Order: Government Orders:)
April 20, 2005--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs of Bill C-45, an act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain acts.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
May 5th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, for the rest of today, tomorrow and early next week the order of business will be the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-12, the quarantine legislation; followed by third readings of Bill C-9 respecting economic development in Quebec; Bill C-23, the human resources bill; Bill C-22, the social development bill; and Bill C-26, the border services bill.
We would then consider second reading of Bill C-45, the veterans bill; and then Bill S-18, the census bill.
Tomorrow the government will introduce a companion bill to the budget implementation bill. We hope to debate second reading of this bill by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
We will then also resume consideration of Bill C-43 which is the budget implementation bill.
To assist members in their planning as well, I wish to inform the House that on the evening of May 18 the House will go into a committee of the whole on the citizenship and immigration estimates, and on the evening of May 31 on the social development estimates.
My hon. colleague across the way asked about opposition days. As the rules provide and call for, six opposition days are required before the end of June. Certainly our focus will be on moving the budget implementation bill forward. I would expect that we would do that.
As far as courage, I am not sure I see very much along the way certainly across the floor when in fact we have people on this side of the House who are prepared on behalf of Canadians to ensure that this Parliament works, but I see no evidence of that from my hon. colleagues across the way.
National Day of Mourning
Statements By Members
April 21st, 2005 / 2:05 p.m.
Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, “mourn for the dead, fight for the living” is the battle cry of workers throughout Canada and indeed the world. Each year in Canada a thousand workers are killed and more than a million are injured or made sick by workplace accidents or disease.
With the passage of Rod Murphy's private member's bill in 1991, April 28 was recognized nationally as the day of mourning. Part of the continuing fight for the living is improving workplace safety and health through legislation, enforcement, education and technological change. The passage of Bill C-45, the Westray bill, is also a deterrent for employers who disregard the lives of workers.
As we continue to fight for improvements in Canada, we know that the fight must also extend throughout the world. More than 1,100 miners were killed by fires and cave-ins in China in the first three months of this year, an increase of 21%. If our country pushes trade with China, we must also press for extensive improvements in safety for Chinese workers.
As I join with workers, unions, employers, and the families of those who have lost a loved one in the workplace, I ask my colleagues here in the House to join me on April 28 mourning lives lost and committing to fight like hell for the living.