An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Diane Finley  Conservative

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 amends the Citizenship Act to reduce the distinctions in eligibility for citizenship between adopted foreign children and children born abroad of Canadian parents.

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.

December 14th, 2010 / 9:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

I would appreciate that. Bill C-14 essentially makes it easier to acquire citizenship, but it is Bill C-35 that allows us to give our children our citizenship.

December 14th, 2010 / 9:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

At the risk of having you repeat what you said, I want to check some information. There is the regular immigration process and there is the direct route to citizenship. Bill C-14 facilitated the direct route to citizenship for parents who adopt a child. Is that correct?

I am going back to some of the testimony we heard from parents who were very happy with Bill C-14 in the end and are not opting for the direct route to citizenship.

What is the benefit of going through the regular immigration process? Is this the additional option that they have and that you referred to earlier?

December 14th, 2010 / 9:05 a.m.
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Director, Legislation and Program Policy, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Nicole Girard

In fact, the current act gives equal treatment to children born abroad to Canadian parents and children who are adopted abroad by Canadians and acquire citizenship directly. As well, children born in Canada to Canadians and children who are born abroad to Canadian citizens and naturalized are treated equally with regard to transmission of citizenship.

This is as a result of two fairly recent changes to the Citizenship Act. In 2007, Bill C-14 gave parents who adopt children abroad direct access to citizenship. Previously, there was a two-step process. Parents first had to sponsor a child for him to obtain permanent residence in Canada and then apply for citizenship. In response to calls from parents for faster, more direct access to citizenship, the law was changed to allow parents to apply for citizenship directly, without having to go through the permanent residence stage. When the law changed for the second time more recently, on April 17, 2009, the changes imposed a first-generation limit on children born or adopted abroad, once again to minimize the difference in treatment between children born abroad to Canadians and children adopted abroad by Canadians who access citizenship through the direct route.

December 13th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Putting aside those born abroad, the 800.... The only way to change that is really by changing the law. Is there any way that we could amend Bill C-14or the Citizenship Act? It really wouldn't have anything to do with whether the second-generation cut-off would change, right? Is there any way that we could get around this problem through the adoption law?

December 13th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Okay. Thank you.

About 80 parents in Canada chose the citizenship route, so their kids will have the second-generation cut-off. It's almost like cancelling Bill C-14, because Bill C-14 gave the parents a choice to bring their kids in as citizens rather than as landed immigrants, and that was because of a whole ten years of campaigning.

Am I correct that when we put in Bill C-14, it was fast-tracked here because the Canadian parents were saying that by coming as citizens you would have immediate health care, whereas for permanent residents it's three months before you can have health care? Am I correct?

I think the benefit is to arrive as a Canadian citizen. Maybe you can name some of those benefits.

December 13th, 2010 / 3:45 p.m.
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Director, Legislation and Program Policy, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Nicole Girard

The explanation goes back to the amendments to the law that I described. These amendments were made in response to criticism from adoptive parents. Before the law was first amended in 2007, some parents were critical of the fact that they had to go through the immigration process and then the citizenship process. With Bill C-14, the comparable groups were children born abroad to Canadian parents and children adopted abroad. With the subsequent changes to the law, including the first-generation limit, the two groups were treated the same way. We continue to minimize the difference between these two groups of people born abroad. Moreover, I think that before the 2007 changes, the court had ruled that the two groups were comparable.

November 30th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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As an Individual

Elspeth Ross

The problem with Bill C-14 is that it was supposed to make it equitable and faster to come home with your adopted child from another country and have the citizenship automatically. Some people are choosing not to go that route, and there are two reasons. One is that there's a possibility of not getting through. People stall in other countries for a long time in not being able to get the automatic citizenship. So some people would choose to adopt by the old way and go the permanent residency route instead. Some people are advising that people should go that way instead.

The second reason is that the automatic citizenship means that for internationally adopted children, if they live outside the country as adults and have children, their children won't be able to be Canadian citizens. This was something that totally caught everybody off guard when it happened. It was completely another issue and was entirely caught up in a different problem, and adopted children got caught in it. Our joy over Bill C-14 turned to dismay, although we were extremely happy over the deportation provision that it brought in so that criminality couldn't be a reason for sending them away afterwards.

November 30th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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As an Individual

Wesley Moore

First, regarding Bill C-14, as I alluded to in my opening remarks, there is an issue with it. We went through the Bill C-14 route when we adopted our son from South Africa last year. It was a wonderful experience, in that we came home with a Canadian passport. We came home with the shiny white temporary passport, and we appreciated that route.

The ability for him to carry on citizenship is an issue that came with that bill. As I alluded to, we have a biological son who is now almost four months old, and we have an adopted son who is three years old. If our biological son were outside of the country he could pass on citizenship, and that's great. If our adopted son, who is from South Africa, were outside the country, he could not pass on citizenship to his children. That is a substantive issue. The legal standing in Canada is different, and it should be remedied.

I may be unique in the fact that I did not experience a need for a substantive amount of post-adoption support. I know there are a lot of issues that come with adoption, especially of older children. I know you've heard a lot of stories. What I find to be a bigger issue with adoption, frankly, when you go internationally, is the upfront costs. International adoptions cost about, as I said, $20,000 to $50,000. For instance, to adopt from South Africa we had to spend almost a month in South Africa. It was a wonderful place to spend a month, but it was a month abroad. If you adopt from Russia, you have to fly there two or three times in the adoption process. That's expensive. To adopt internationally is cost-prohibitive.

As I said, there are 30,000 children, so it depends on what your calling is and on whether you feel you're called to adopt domestically or called to adopt internationally. That's a personal and individual choice.

November 30th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you for coming and welcome.

I am going to try to summarize the main needs. We've heard other witnesses before you. Am I wrong to say that your main challenges are especially post-adoption? Perhaps you disagree. We will come back to this and you can answer then.

I understood that you don't have support groups and that you need to network. You would like adoptive parents to get the same employment insurance benefits as biological parents.

I am speaking to those who have received the benefits: is a 55% benefit rate sufficient? I know that, in Quebec, the benefits go up to 70% of insurable earnings. There is even a maximum insurable salary of $62,500. At the federal level, the maximum salary is around $43,000. Could you also tell me whether this benefit rate was sufficient for you or if you needed more? That's probably the case.

My other question is for Ms. Ross. You talked about Bill C-14, which is meant to speed up the adoption and citizenship process. From listening to you, I get the impression that it has not quite been meeting its objective. I would have liked to hear you talk more about the bill.

Mr. Moore, I am listening to what you have to say about the main needs.

November 30th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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As an Individual

Elspeth Ross

Three minutes is enough.

I have the same recommendations as the Adoption Council of Canada because of the lack of information: stats, publishing, and what not. But I have some new recommendations for you.

One is that the government support or preferably adopt Bill C-569 of MP John Rafferty, calling for a national strategy for FASD to commit the government to develop a national plan for treatment and prevention, which we don't have at the moment.

On citizenship, Bill C-14, from 2007, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, was applauded for bringing equality to adopted children. It did the opposite. Lawyers from the Canadian Bar Association recommended that adoptive parents use the permanent residency route instead of the direct citizenship route because the new faster route has no appeal. Now adoption advocates are recommending the permanent residency route again because the other creates a two-tier system. Now I have the same recommendation that the Adoption Council of Canada had: to amend the regulations accompanying Bill C-37 so internationally adopted children have the same legal status as children born in Canada and are permitted to transmit their citizenship by descent to children born abroad.

One thing that Bill C-14 did right was to ensure that adopted children can no longer be deported for criminality if their parents did not obtain their citizenship. Before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in June 2006, an official from CIC said "...to respond to charter concerns, all adopted persons would no longer be prevented from acquiring citizenship for any criminality...”. She said it was an equity matter.

In June 2008, the first of a number of adoptees who were under threat of deportation received their Canadian citizenship. A few of us protected Gilberto Currie, adopted from Brazil. We protected him for five years and kept him from being deported to Brazil until the bill was passed. We do not know how many adoptees could have been in the same position.

The fact that people are still choosing to adopt internationally by the permanent residency route leaves the possibility that parents may not obtain citizenship for their children, which can create great hardships if the adoption fails. Children who come to Canada to be adopted and whose adoptions break down before they obtain citizenship are still under threat of deportation today. This must be stopped. Canada must not bring children here in inter-country adoption only to send them back to a country they have not seen since childhood, where they know no one and do not speak the language.

Mario Perez came to Canada from Mexico to be adopted at the age of five and was deported to Mexico in 2006 at the age of 22. Efforts to prevent this failed, and he still wants to come back. We are now supporting Tina Desrosiers, who came to Canada—

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 7:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-467 which was brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South.

As all members of the House are aware, this private member's bill stems from the passage in the 39th Parliament of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls upon the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, as children born in Canada, such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada.

The government supports the intention of Bill C-467, although we are concerned about some unintended consequences. Our success as a country is no accident but a result of an abiding belief in values such as liberty, human dignity and freedom of conscience and where harmony is the rule rather than the exception. We are an open and tolerant society, renowned for our respects for democracy and for the freedoms that come with that. We celebrate our different cultural traditions but not at the expense of sharing common Canadian ones.

That is fundamental. We need to preserve the value of Canadian citizenship along with an abiding connection to our past and to one another, where citizenship means more than access to a convenient passport.

Within the past three years, the government has passed significant laws that would correct flaws in citizenship legislation. Bill C-14 and Bill C-37 reflect clear and bold reaffirmations of our values and the principles that define us as a country.

Under the old rules, it was possible for Canadians to pass on their citizenship to endless generations born outside of Canada. To protect the value of Canadian citizenship for the future, the new law under Bill C-37 put a limit on citizenship by descent to one generation born outside of Canada, similar to the rules in other countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Citizenship Act
Private Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:20 p.m.
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St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-467, brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South.

This private member's bill stems from the passage, in the 39th Parliament, of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls on the government to treat children born to or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel and federal and provincial public servants, as children born in Canada such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.

First of all, I would like to commend the member for Vancouver South for his commitment to this issue, and I would like all hon. members to know that the government supports the intention of Bill C-467. However, we have some technical concerns with the bill in its current form, as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have, as the member points out, some unintended consequences.

Nevertheless, I am confident that we can address these concerns together, with the co-operation of our parliamentary colleagues. The bill will have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants and our military serving abroad.

I would like to share with my hon. colleagues a very brief overview of Bill C-37 and the reasons that led us, as a government, to restore citizenship to lost Canadians and to include a clear limit on citizenship by descent.

Members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will recall many witnesses who testified three years ago this spring as they shared their love for this country as proud citizens. They shared their dismay and their frustration when they described how it felt to discover that their citizenship was not, in fact, recognized by the law.

The public outcry was enormous, and that is why the government corrected the legislation. When Bill C-37 came into effect a year ago, it restored or gave citizenship to most people who were known as lost Canadians. Changes to the law restored or granted citizenship to the vast majority of those who lost or did not have it due to outdated provisions in previous legislation.

The changes meant that people who became citizens when the first Citizenship Act came into force in 1947, and people born or naturalized in Canada after 1947 and subsequently lost their citizenship, would reacquire their citizenship unless they formally renounced it or had it revoked because of fraud. Foreign-born persons adopted by Canadians between January 1, 1947 and February 15, 1977 would also be eligible to apply for citizenship. Complex rules that required some citizens by descent to take steps to apply to keep their citizenship were simply eliminated.

The new law also set a limit on citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad. That was done to uphold the value of Canadian citizenship by requiring a real and concrete connection to Canada.

Hon. members will also recall debate of Bill C-14 in 2007 and the steps Canadians adopting foreign-born children had to take before their children could become Canadian citizens.

International adoption is a complex process, as we all know, involving many layers of approval by both provincial and territorial governments in Canada and by the federal government of the country where the child lives. In many cases, adoptions must meet the requirements of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

With the passage of Bill C-14, parents of foreign-born adopted children were able to apply directly for citizenship for those children without first having to go through the steps of applying for permanent resident status. It was a clear and bold reaffirmation of the values and principles that define our identity, our country, and the notion of the Canadian family.

The goal of fixing imperfect legislation with the passage of Bill C-37 and Bill C-14 was essentially to simplify the complex rules on Canadian citizenship.

The private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned, and we once again praise the member for Vancouver South for his constructive efforts. In the coming weeks, we look forward to addressing the technical issues that would otherwise prevent this bill from achieving its rightful objective.

The government recognizes the commitment and sacrifices that Crown servants and their families posted abroad make to this country.

I am sure that hon. members would also agree that any children born to Crown servants working abroad should not be penalized by not being able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or they may adopt abroad as a direct result of their parents' service to this country.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no question that Crown servants abroad, including our military, have a connection to this country and we are confident that the changes proposed by Bill C-467 are consistent with the intent of Bill C-37.

There are a few issues with this bill that need to be examined. For example, the bill attempts to extend access to citizenship to the grandchildren of Crown servants by adding a new provision for children born abroad or adopted by Crown servants.

At the same time, it proposes to repeal a section of the act that currently allows all children born to a Crown servant outside Canada to be Canadians, regardless of the generation in which they were born outside Canada.

Similarly, right now, anyone born abroad or adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, may apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respect international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdiction on adoptions. Under Bill C-467 as it stands now, children adopted by Crown servants would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship, which could indeed be problematic.

Nevertheless, I am sure that all members would agree that the bill has a worthwhile objective and that, as Canadians, we should support our Crown servants posted abroad, especially and including military families, and recognize their sacrifice, their commitment and their strong connection to Canada.

That is why I am confident the intent of Bill C-467 can be achieved by expanding the current exception that exists under the law to ensure that the children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside our country.

To ensure that the good intentions of Bill C-467 are achieved, I look forward to working co-operatively in the coming weeks with the member for Vancouver South, and all members, toward some constructive amendments.

We have a committee that is currently working on Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act. We are working our way through it. As members know, it is never easy at committee to come to a consensus on absolutely everything. I believe that bill is going to come back to this House, is going to be supported and is going to be passed. For the first time in decades we will have strong and positive change to our refugee act.

At the same time, I think the committee, with all four parties represented there, can come to some common agreement on the bill. The member has a critic who certainly has an open ear and a colleague who has an open ear to ensuring that we do what is right at committee.

I anticipate that we can do the same with this bill. I look forward to the day the member has the opportunity to present at committee and work with us on what I think will be amendments, necessary amendments nonetheless, that would ensure there are no unintended consequences with respect to this bill and the impact it would have on Canadians born abroad.

Support Measures for Adoptive Parents
Private Members' Business

November 24th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to contribute to the debate on Motion M-386 brought forward by my colleague and friend, the member for Essex. This private member's motion has to do with support for adoptive parents, which is an extremely important issue.

I find it interesting. The motion comes up for the second hour of debate at the same time a motion passed unanimously in the House, which said that we would continue to work toward ending child poverty. I would suggest that there is no more effective way of ending child poverty than having a child become a part of a family, a family that can support and wants to support the child, which is the case when it comes to adoptive parenting.

I really wanted to speak on this issue because I know, as do most people in the House, one couple in particular that has been married 10 years. The couple has tried to have children for 10 years and desperately want children. About five years ago, the couple found out that was not likely to happen. The couple then started the process of trying to adopt a family. It has been an extremely difficult process and it has not been successful so far.

The motion discusses an issue which is extremely important and emotional, not just for that couple but for everyone, I suggest, who thinks about this.

I know the joy of children. My wife, Linda, and I have five grown children.The youngest two are 26. The oldest is 31. We have two sets of twins. I know the joy they have brought us, and continue to bring us. I cannot imagine my life without our children. I know my wife feels the same way. Now there are grandchildren, which is just a lovely, wonderful experience. We are blessed that two of our children have had children. We have three grandchildren, the youngest being a four-month-old granddaughter, Claire, who is just absolutely gorgeous and a delight, as are the two, two-and-a-half-year-old grandchildren.

The joy of children and family is something that most of us understand. It is something that, quite frankly, is more important than anything else I can imagine.

I applaud the member for Essex for seeking to assist families that have been brought together by adoption.

What he has proposed in his motion, specifically, as was mentioned by previous members, is that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be instructed to examine current federal support measures that are available to adoptive parents and their adopted children, recognizing and respecting provincial and territorial jurisdictions in this regard, and following completion of this study, to report back to the House.

What does my friend, the member for Essex hope to get from the study? I really cannot speak on his behalf, but I know what I hope will come from this. I sincerely hope this group, after examining the situation, will come back to the House and recommend that adoptive parents be given the same maternity benefits that are now available to parents of children who are not adopted.

I believe family is the basic building block of our society. Everything starts with the family, as my colleagues who have spoken before me have said. Helping families has been a key priority of our government since 2006, and I want to talk about this a bit.

In all our actions to support family, this government has been guided by the principles of choice and opportunity. We believe Canadian parents can be trusted to be do what is best for their children. Our role is not to dictate their choices, but to give them the resources they need to act on this decision, whatever it may be.

Let me start by putting this issue into context by giving a brief outline of the benefits and plans that now exist for parents, specifically, with reference to the employment insurance special benefit system.

The system provides help to Canadians for periods when they cannot work, such as sickness, caring for loved ones or, in the case of the context here, the birth or adoption of a child. When it comes to the issue at hand, the employment insurance special benefits are intended to support parents in balancing the demands of work and family by providing the flexibility they need to stay at home and care for a newborn or newly adopted child.

I can also happily add that our government has put forward Bill C-56, which would extend all of these special benefits, including maternity and parental benefits, to self-employed Canadians, for the first time, on a voluntary basis, which is an important component. I support this measure. Hard-working Canadians do not have to choose between family and work responsibilities any longer.

Maternity benefits are available in the weeks surrounding childbirth and can start up to eight weeks prior to the expected date of birth. These benefits are available to biological mothers, including a birth mother who places her child for adoption. In effect, the 15 weeks of maternity benefits allow a birth mother to be protected from an earnings loss caused by her physical inability to work or to seek work in the weeks surrounding birth.

Some concerns have been expressed that adoptive parents do not have the same access and number of weeks of benefits as biological parents do, which is 15 weeks of maternity benefits offered exclusively to birth mothers. Who knows, this might come out of a study done by the committee.

However, in 2007 the Federal Court upheld the 15 weeks of maternity benefits when it confirmed that there was a distinction between biological mothers and adoptive parents. Biological mothers endure the physiological burdens of pregnancy and childbirth. It is for those reasons that the 15 weeks are offered. Maternity benefits are provided to replace the lost income for those reasons.

The Federal Court endorsed the constitutionality of that arrangement and the Supreme Court, in 2008, declined to hear an appeal in the case. I believe that is appropriate. It is certainly not up to the courts to make our law. That is the role of Parliament. What we are discussing here is the possibility of changing the law and making new law when it comes to this maternity benefit.

As well, all parents can access 35 weeks of parental benefits for the purpose of remaining at home to take care of and bond with their newly born or adopted child. That is available already. These benefits can be shared by both parents.

To return to adoption itself, in Canada, as many in the House are aware, this is an issue that falls under provincial jurisdiction. However, the federal government has a role. The committee that does a study and any debate that may take place in the House certainly would respect the jurisdiction of the provinces when it comes to these issues.

Our Conservative government introduced and saw pass Bill C-14 two and a half years ago. It grants permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship to internationally adopted children and makes that process much quicker and easier. This measure was widely praised and I think it is an example of a job well done by our government.

In the time remaining, I cannot go through the rest of the things our government has done to help families. In most cases, the things our government has done apply to families whether they have adopted children or not.

Once again, I thank my friend and colleague, the member for Essex, for bringing this motion to the House. I support the motion and I encourage every member in the House to support it. It simply asks for a study to be done to determine what is available and perhaps come up with recommendations on what should be available to parents who choose to adopt children.

Support Measures for Adoptive Parents
Private Member's Business

October 30th, 2009 / 2:15 p.m.
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Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to contribute to the discussion on Motion No. 386, as introduced by my colleague, the member Essex. I commend him for his interest in this matter. We should always be interested in ways in which our government and our society are dealing with families, whether it be through law programs or tax treatment.

As we know, most aspects of adoption come under provincial jurisdiction, and my colleague's motion recognizes this fully. Our purpose here is not to intrude into areas of provincial competence, jurisdiction or responsibility. However, even given the province's jurisdiction over adoption, the federal government does have a number of support measures available to adoptive parents, and it is those supports that we propose to examine and evaluate in the study proposed by the motion. I look forward to the motion coming before the committee for study and I am sure we will examine it from the various perspectives, many of which have already been raised today.

I would like to discuss some of the supports that we already provide. Our Conservative government introduced and saw passed Bill C-14 two and a half years ago, which grants permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship to adopted children. I was part and parcel of the process when I was parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. What that bill does is make the process much quicker and easier. This measure was widely praised and it is an example of a job well done by our Conservative government.

Adoptive parents are also eligible for a range of supports that our government provides to families with children, including the adoption tax credit, which helps defray the costs of adoption at tax time.

An important consideration is the costs, both in terms of time and money, associated with adoption. I think we can return to this item and its broader considerations later in my remarks and in the study this motion provides itself.

Adoptive parents also receive the universal child care benefit, which was introduced by this government for each child under the age of six years.

Adoptive parents receive the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement for families at low and middle income levels and the child tax credit for parents of all children under the age of 18 years.

I can say that both those programs have had significant financial assistance for low and middle income families.

As I said, working adoptive parents are able to access, in great numbers, the most visible and well-known of these supports, which are parental benefits through the EI system.

Women's access to EI benefits, such as maternity and parental benefits, is very high. Ninety-seven per cent of women working full time have enough hours of work to qualify for special benefits. This is the same level of access as for men. Among women working part time, 62% have enough hours to qualify for special benefits.

So those are some of the specific benefits offered by the federal government.

I will say a bit more about them shortly but, before I do, I again want to emphasize that we believe the family is the basic building block of our society. Everything starts with the family. I have said on many occasions that as the family goes, so goes the nation. Helping families has been a key priority for this government since 2006.

In all of our actions to support families, this government has been guided by the principles of choice and opportunity. We believe that Canadian parents can be trusted to do what is best for their children. Our role is not to dictate their choices but to give them the resources that they need and let them make the decision. This is very fundamental to the programs that we have undertaken.

As a parent myself, I certainly appreciate the wisdom of our government in its approach.

One of the first things we did in 2006 was to begin getting child care funding into the hands of Canadian parents. The centrepiece of our universal child care plan is the universal child care benefit. This benefit, of course, was introduced by the Minister of Human Resources and has proven to be very popular with parents from coast to coast to coast.

The benefit of $100 a month is paid to parents for all children under six years of age. Parents can choose the child care option that best suits their needs, whether that is care from a parent at home, help from family, friends or neighbours, or some more formal child care arrangement.

Of course, the universal child care benefit may also be used to purchase other things equally as important to children and their well-being, such as early learning materials.

We are adamant that parents maintain this freedom over their households and the raising of their children.

As I and many of my colleagues have said, parents know best how to run their homes and how best to raise their children.

Continuing on the track of how parents could use the UCCB, as it is sometimes referred to, they may even wish to deposit all or part of that benefit in a registered education savings plan, which can prolong and enhance the value of the benefit many times over in the long term.

Through the UCCB, our government is providing about $2.5 billion each year to families and is helping about two million young children. We are also helping parents cover the cost of child care through the child care expense deduction. For the average family, the universal child care benefit, together with the child care expense deduction, offsets well over one-third of the cost of non-parental child care if that is the direction the parents wish or chose to go.

We know that many Canadian parents worry about finding good professional care for their children. The demand for child care services simply exceeds the supply. That is why the universal child care plan also provides for the creation of child care spaces.

Since 2007, the Government of Canada has transferred $250 million per year to the provinces and territories for this purpose. Tens of thousands of new spaces have been created across the country. The provinces are also using these funds to improve the quality and affordability of their child care services.

In 2007, our government also introduced a 25% investment tax credit for businesses that create new child care spaces for their employees.

It is important to remind the House that this funding is in addition to the extension of existing funding for agreements with the provinces and territories for early childhood development and early learning as well as child care. This funding totals $1.13 billion this year and will grow to $1.3 billion by 2013-14 under the renewed Canada social transfer.

Few things matter more than ensuring our children can get the best results for a best possible start in life. This means doing everything we can to reduce poverty and improve access to education so that every child has the opportunity for a full and rewarding life.

With the working income tax benefit, we are helping low- and modest-income Canadian families make it over the welfare wall by making work more profitable. The tax-free savings account introduced by our government in 2007 is a groundbreaking measure that allows Canadian families to shelter some of their hard-earned income. It is a powerful incentive for Canadians to save to buy their first house or to invest in their children's education.

In 2007, we also announced the child tax credit which provides families with tax savings of over $300 per year for each child under the age of 18 years. I am happy to confirm that the child tax credit has taken about 180,000 low-income Canadians off the tax rolls. We are providing $9.5 billion a year to families with children through the Canada child tax benefit, including over $3.7 billion to low-income families with children through the national child benefit supplement.

In hearings before the HUMA committee, many witnesses have indicated how beneficial these two programs are to low- and middle-income families. In Canada's economic action plan we raised the income level at which these two benefits start, providing additional support for low-income families.

We need to ensure that the coming generation can compete in the new global economy. That is why we are providing new opportunities for post-secondary education. We have improved the registered education savings plan, RESP as it is commonly known, to help parents save for their children's post-secondary education. We have eliminated the limit on annual RESP contributions and increased the lifetime limit.

Also as a result of changes made through Canada's economic action plan, more low- and middle-income families are now eligible for the national child benefit supplement, which in turn allows them to qualify for the Canada learning bond.

We also want to offer more choice and opportunity to aboriginal families. Working in collaboration with aboriginal communities and the provincial and territorial governments, we support child care, kindergarten and aboriginal headstart, as well as social and health promotion programs for aboriginal people.

In addition, under agreements with the provinces of Ontario and Alberta, we provide funding for on-reserve child care services comparable to services offered by those provinces to families living off-reserve.

Our government also works in cooperation with the provinces and territories through federal initiatives, such as the community action program for children and the Canada prenatal nutrition program.

These initiatives provide long-term funding to community groups for programs that address the health and development of children and families who are judged to be especially vulnerable.

If time permits, let me summarize what the government is doing for families with children.

As I have said, we are providing $5.9 billion in this fiscal year alone in support of early childhood development and child care through measures to the provinces and territories, direct support to families and tax relief for families. Let me recap. That is $1.13 billion to the provinces and territories to support early childhood development and child care, which will increase to almost $1.3 billion by 2013-14.

I would encourage all members of this House to engage proactively in the process when this motion comes before the committee. There are many angles and aspects to this motion that can be reviewed and pursued. The committee itself will look forward to the representations made by the various members of this House and the witnesses that appear before the committee.

Support Measures for Adoptive Parents
Private Member's Business

October 30th, 2009 / 2 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion before us proposes that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, of which I am a member, examine current federal support measures that are available to adoptive parents and their adopted children.

I want to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of having the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities examine this important issue. Adoption is an extremely complex process, from an administrative but also and especially an emotional and psychoaffective standpoint, for both the adopted child and the parents.

In fact, adoption is nothing like it was in the 1970s, for example. Today, in Quebec at least, adopted children come from outside as well as inside Quebec, which means that in about 50% of cases, adoption is also a process of cultural adaptation as well as a source of much family upheaval, as my colleague said. Both the parents and the children can find themselves in situations that are very hard to manage. In other words, they need support.

I am glad to see that the motion seems to recognize that Quebec and the provinces have jurisdiction over adoption. Moreover, Quebec already has very clear, well-established policies on post-adoption services, which I will describe later. In 1999, the Department of Health and Social Services formed a committee to study post-adoption services, which made 11 recommendations in its report.

The committee developed some general guidelines that echoed throughout these 11 post-adoption support recommendations. There were six, and I will mention them briefly: focus on preparation, a step that is often forgotten; work from the premise that that adoption is never easy, either for the parents or the children; “normal” support is better than “marginalizing” support. One of the major challenges for parents and children is finding a way to form family ties that are as normal as possible. So that starts with the support they receive. It is also important to identify and focus specifically on certain key moments: waiting to be matched, the matching itself, the arrival of the child, the child going to school, the adolescent's search for identity, and so on. The support must also be as proactive as possible, meaning that insofar as possible it should be provided in a positive light, rather than as a means of addressing shortcomings. Lastly, it is important to use and improve the existing network of services, instead of developing marginal parallel networks. This means using the existing resources and knowledge, in order to normalize the support, as I mentioned earlier, but also to provide comprehensive multidisciplinary support.

That is why the department of health and social services gave the local community service centres, or the CLSCs, and the youth centres, the mandate of providing post-adoption support in a number of different forms, namely medical, psychological and psychosocial.

Beyond this direct assistance, the Government of Quebec also provides financial assistance to adoptive parents by way of parental leave identical to the leave biological parents receive, which, unfortunately is not the case for Canadians who currently do not have access to maternity leave benefits under the employment insurance system.

The Quebec government also gives a refundable tax credit equivalent to 50% of the adoption fees up to a maximum of $10,000 per child.

In other words, Quebec has developed, with great success I might add, adoption policies that focus on the well-being of the child. That means that any adoption has to give primary consideration to the needs, interests and rights of the child. What is more, the Government of Quebec is following the provisions of the Hague Convention of May 29, 1993, on the protection of children and cooperation in respect of inter-country adoption, by reporting to the countries of origin on the progress of the adopted child in his or her new environment, according to the criteria set out by the child's country of origin.

In summary, I completely agree with the need for comprehensive and structured supports so that parents and children can go through the adoption process with the least amount of turmoil possible. I cannot stress enough—and I am very pleased that this is stated in the motion—the need to respect the fact that adoption is an area under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and that federal interference in an area where Quebec has clearly developed its own practices is out of the question.

The passage of Bill C-14 in June 2007 eliminated the unacceptable distinction made between Canadian children born abroad and children adopted, while respecting Quebec jurisdictions.

We believe that the federal government's role in adoption is minimal and is limited to two things: offering income tax credits and, for the rest of Canada, administering parental and maternity benefits.

In general, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle underlying this motion, which states that it would be a good idea to study ways the federal government can improve its support for adoptive parents and adopted children.

From our point of view, the federal government's role should be to ensure that adoptive parents and adopted children receive the same benefits from the federal government as biological parents and their children.

According to an Adoption Council of Canada document:

For adoptions to succeed, families must have access to key post-adoption supports—adoption competent therapists, mental health specialists, and doctors; attachment and trauma experts; and parent-to-parent mentors....

In Canada, most adoptive parents lack access to such useful services.

In my speech, I have made it clear that this does not apply to Quebec cases at all. However, I want to emphasize that such inadequacies do not justify federal interference in this area, which comes under Quebec jurisdiction.