Air Canada and Its Affiliates Act

An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Lawrence Cannon  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Dec. 10, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment extends the application of the Official Languages Act to certain affiliates of Air Canada and deems the articles of ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. to include provisions respecting the location of its head office and the right of persons to communicate with that corporation in both official languages.

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.

Official Languages
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 26th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I knew she would react if I said “du-Renard” instead of “du-Nord”. I did that on purpose.

This motion is important. In 1988, a private company decided to buy Air Canada, knowing that it was subject to the Official Languages Act. It knew what it was getting into when it bought Air Canada. It knew that Air Canada was subject to the Official Languages Act. Air Canada belonged to Canadian taxpayers. That was the rule then and that is the rule now.

Knowing that it was subject to the Official Languages Act, Air Canada decided to create small subsidiaries that were not subject to the Act, even though it states the contrary.

What does the committee want? It wants the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to introduce a bill that would require Air Canada, its subsidiaries and its partners to comply with the Official Languages Act. It is not asking for much. We have been calling for such legislation since 2005. The previous Liberal government, in the person of the hon. Jean Lapierre, introduced the first bill, Bill C-47.

In 2006, the Minister of Foreign Affairs introduced Bill C-29. In 2007, the same minister introduced Bill C-36. Today, the government is claiming that it is considering how to draft a bill. It is wondering how to draft a bill when the Standing Committee on Official Languages has been talking about this for months.

The Commissioner of Official Languages said he was disappointed at how long it was taking to pass new legislation, and he is concerned about the ongoing legal vacuum. He says that the new bill must clearly and adequately protect the language rights of travellers who do business with Air Canada, but also the rights of the company's employees.

In 2006, the commissioner appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages to talk about Bill C-29. He was worried about what would become of the language rights of travellers and the rights of Air Canada employees to work in their own language in a new entity of the Air Canada group.

He talked about a new bill that would protect those rights, and he said the bill should clearly and specifically name the entities that would be subject to the Official Languages Act. The bill should give the government the power to require by law or order that any other entity that might be created in future as a result of restructuring also be subject to the act. It should also provide for imposing language obligations on any entity that replaces a named entity, such as Air Canada or Jazz, and provides air and related services. The new bill should specify that Jazz and Aveos are subject to the Official Languages Act.

The year is 2010. On March 11 this year I was on Air Canada Jazz flight AC8742. Air Canada masquerades as Jazz to cover its tracks. It leaves Montreal for Bathurst. No one should tell me that Montreal is not French. And Bathurst, counting the Acadian peninsula, is 80% French. A local man was arriving home from Fort McMurray, Alberta. He asked for a glass of water and the flight attendant replied, “I don't understand you.” Is that normal? I complained to Air Canada about this incident.

On March 29, I was on flight AC8739 leaving Bathurst, New Brunswick, for Montreal, Quebec. The same flight attendant was on duty. I asked her for a glass of orange juice and I got a glass of water.

It seems to me that “verre de jus d'orange” and “orange juice” sound similar.

I filed another complaint with Air Canada and with the Commissioner of Official Languages. I learned that Jazz does not fall directly under the Official Languages Act, but Air Canada does. Air Canada's response came from Jazz, which told me that the attendant had taken tests and that, according to their information, she had passed. My goodness, when someone does not know the difference between a glass of orange juice and a glass of water, there is a big problem.

This becomes serious when there is an emergency on board. Which cassette will they put in the player? Which cassette will they put on when the plane is going down? We have talked about this for years and years. It is time for the government to take action. The government told us today that it has a firm position on the Official Languages Act but the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages told us earlier this week that passing bills on bilingualism divides Canadians. This is not a government that respects our country's Official Languages Act. It is shameful.

Earlier, the member for Rivière-du-Nord said that when one is aboard an airplane and goes to the trouble of showing a picture of the meal one wants, only to be met with “I don't speak French” from the attendant, that is a big problem. There is a lack of will on the part of Air Canada because the government lets it do whatever it wants. The company is subject to the Official Languages Act, and there should be a law enabling authorities to ticket the company for violating the Act. The police do not tell people who break the speed limit that they are subject to the highways act and must therefore drive at 100 km/h. They issue tickets and $140 fines. The same goes for Air Canada. There should be ticketing provisions to enforce those laws.

Earlier, the member for Saint Boniface said that the member for Acadie—Bathurst was shouting. I want to say that we have no choice but to shout because the people on the other side of the House do not hear or understand us. That is the problem. We have to raise our voices to make them realize that what is going on is not right.

That became clear again on Tuesday, when the Commissioner of Official Languages said in his report that the government has a laissez-faire attitude toward official languages. The government has the nerve to stand up in the House of Commons and say that its position on official languages is firm. Instead, it should have said that it is firmly opposed to the Official Languages Act and to other laws passed in this House over the last 41 years. The government could not care less about those laws and does not respect them.

They talk about how they are spending $1.5 billion here and $2 billion there, but they are breaking every one of this country's laws and could not care less. That is what I call laissez-faire. We are not asking for much. All we want is for the government to enforce the law. How can anyone stand up in the House and fail to ensure compliance with a law passed in Parliament by a majority of the members of the House of Commons? That is all we want to know. Air Canada is subject to the Official Languages Act. Air Canada belonged to taxpayers. People bought it, and then things got out of control. They have to respect the Official Languages Act.

Official Languages
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 26th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord for the motion she presented to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I really wonder how serious the government is when it comes to bills like this.

We just heard the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for St. Boniface. She talked about the legal notice from the court and the history of the bankruptcy in 2003. She talked about all of Air Canada’s problems. When people start talking about someone’s problems, it is because they are looking for excuses.

Then she said the government is firm and complies with the Official Languages Act and she was busy seeing how to introduce a bill in the House. We already had Bill C-47 in 2005, Bill C-29 from her colleague at foreign affairs, and another one, Bill C-36.

Does the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord think the government has no computers? We can all copy and paste nowadays.

Official Languages
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 26th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saint Boniface says that her government's commitment is firm. I happen to think that the government is firm in its resolve to shut down bilingualism because it said that the subject of bilingual Supreme Court justices was dividing Canadians.

But that is not the issue here. We are talking about Air Canada. Air Canada is responsible for providing service in both official languages. Service does not mean a tape recording. Do they plan to play a tape if a plane falls out of the sky?

Jazz is not subject to the Official Languages Act. In 2006, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was the transport, infrastructure and communities minister at the time, introduced Bill C-29. Then in 2007, the same minister introduced another bill, Bill C-36. It is now 2010.

When will the government be firm and pass a bill to make Air Canada respect the Official Languages Act?

April 1st, 2009 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Noor Nizam As an Individual

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Noor Nizam. I represent the Tamil-speaking minority community of Sri Lanka, the Muslims. I have to thank the team here and the honourable Paul Crête and David Sweet for giving me this opportunity.

To go straight to the question of international relations between Canada and Sri Lanka, there have been a lot of issues among the Canadian diaspora regarding the situation that is happening in Sri Lanka. There was a change after the militancy group of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was proscribed through Bill C-36. In recent times, this has since resulted in a somewhat unique but appreciated diplomatic relationship between Canada and Sri Lanka.

One of the main things I would like to emphasize here is that in the aftermath of the situation in Sri Lanka, as the whole world is watching, what are we as Canadians going to do to fill the vacuum that will be created, especially among the diaspora?

What interest will Canadians have in helping the Sri Lankan Muslim minority community, which is 1.7 million of the population, with 40% of the population living in the northeast? It was completely sidelined by the CFA and the peace process. The Muslims played a very important role in bringing forth the peace process in Sri Lanka nearly 18 years ago.

It's not the only concern of the Muslims. A concern of the Muslims has been the Tamils and the children. Child soldiers are a big issue. You'll note that 10 to 12 of the Security Council resolutions have never been effected by UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. If Canada is not alive to that, how are we going to help the 7,200 children who need assistance and who will come out of this war? Maybe some of them will die. What are we going to do? What is Canada's responsibility?

I'm also in the field of communication studies. I'm an educator at McMaster, but I'm making a personal representation. On this aspect, my colleagues and I are asking for the possibility of having a round table with the same method as applied to the Afghanistan round table, so that we can discuss the issue of child soldiers and bring back the child campaign that Sri Lanka had launched with the support of UNICEF.

Apart from that, we also have a very important issue on humanitarian aid and development assistance. You will see that I've brought a box to show you. This box is from Health Partners International.

Canada gave $3 million to organizations. None of this money has reached the IDPs in Vavuniya. I spoke to CARE Canada yesterday. They reluctantly accepted and said they were sorry, but nothing was being done in Sri Lanka. They had given the money to Care International. The money was given by Canada on February 26, but not a single dollar has gone there.

The Sri Lankans, Muslims, Tamils, Sinhalese, and Burghers collected money. We all put money into a till. We collected money. We got $30,000 worth of medicines from HPI, Health Partners International, as a donation. We paid for the logistics.

One of our volunteers will be flying soon. Air Canada gave us a free ticket. I have to thank the honourable David Sweet for helping us. SriLankan Airlines is carrying it for free.

This is the humanitarian aid that Canada has to give. You don't give $3 million and forget it and then tell the world to look at what Canada did. What did they do?

I am a Canadian. As a Canadian, I'm asking Canada this. Why can't you give us more money to send there? Should we collect money to send humanitarian assistance to our kith and kin, our extended families, our own communities, the Tamil-speaking community, and the Tamil-speaking Muslim community? There's no difference among us. We are one people. We are one nation. I'm a Canadian.

Gentlemen of the committee, my appeal to you is this. Tell CIDA to stand on their own feet and not to play the old games or help the old club members. Look at projects like this. Do not use criteria that knock us out because we don't have three years of experience, we don't have audited reports. In emergency and disaster relief, you don't require all that. You stand on your feet and make decisions.

We are appealing to the Canadians. It is your money. Canada is known for giving. But your own MP here, Mr. Dan McTeague, has said how $200 million given to the tsunami fund has still not been used. Red Cross, for example, and this is dated very recently: $200 million for the tsunami still not accounted for. I have evidence here. If my statement is wrong, you can prosecute me.

There was $3 million given to organizations, with $500,000 given to CARE Canada. Not a single cent has gone, sir--not a single cent. There are 700 pregnant women suffering there without medicine. Children are suffering.

The Sri Lankan government may be doing what it can, but that's not our territory. We can't get into government territory. We can get into civil society territory. That is the territory where we can fight and work. We want you to consider these things positively.

And please, understand that the Muslim community also has suffered. We have suffered genocide. We were killed--174 people in a mosque in Kattankudi. In 1990 we were chased away--80,000 people.

I'm not blaming anyone here. I am blaming the conflict. I'm blaming the international community. International NGOs have been completely unfair in representing the facts.

I have evidence here to show that the international press and the media.... And I'm a media scientist. I write journalistic and investigative articles about terrorism. My articles are respected by the U.S., the British, and the French. But what I'm saying is that they don't follow the ethics and codes of journalism; they just write spontaneous articles, which has in fact created the problem between Canada and Sri Lanka.

What we're asking is that you give the opportunity for young people.... We have to do it. Sir, don't allow the next generation of Tamil young people here in Canada--Tamil-speaking Tamils and Muslims--to become a community filled with hatred. If you allow the gap to remain, this next generation will grow with hatred. That will create a much bigger conflict between the two countries. Let us help our kids here to understand, to accept the situation in the Sri Lanka, to help the kids there and work forward.

Thank you very much.

May 6th, 2008 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising this issue in the House again. I know she cares deeply about seniors issues, as do all members of the government.

It must have been frustrating for the member during her three years with the Bloc Québécois when she had to sit idly by while it was completely incapable of accomplishing a single goal on the seniors file.

Thankfully, Canadians now have a government that not only takes seniors issues seriously, but a government that is actually getting things done. We have spoken about this important issue in the House several times and once again I would like to point out to my friend from Rimouski that income for Canadian seniors has risen dramatically over the past 25 years.

According to Statistics Canada, the income of Canadian seniors has more than doubled during that time and the rate of poverty among seniors has been cut from 21% in 1980 to less than 6% today. Although we must recognize these facts, it is imperative that we also recognize that we cannot stop working hard to further reduce these numbers. I state this because even one senior living in poverty is one too many.

That is why this government has acted, and acted quickly, to support seniors issues and that is why, within months of being elected, this government introduced Bill C-36 to strengthen the Canada pension plan and the old age security programs for all seniors.

We have simplified the application process. We changed the rules so that seniors do not have to apply year after year for the benefits that they deserve, changes that the previous Liberal government never made during the 13 years it was in power.

In an effort to further reduce the number of seniors living in poverty, this government has overseen two increases to the guaranteed income supplement. Effective January 2006, we raised the guaranteed income supplement by 3.5%. We did this again in January 2007.

These measures are providing all single recipients of the guaranteed income supplement with an additional $430 per year and $700 more per year for a couple. These increases will raise the total guaranteed income supplement benefit by more than $2.7 billion over the next five years. This will benefit more than 1.6 million GIS recipients and this will include more than 50,000 seniors who were not eligible for programs under the previous Liberal government.

Again, I want to thank the hon. member across the way for her question tonight. I want to assure her that Canadian seniors finally have a government that is interested in their issues and a government that will get real results.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

April 17th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) or, as I prefer to call it, the investigative hearings and preventive arrest.

This bill is a follow-up to Bill C-36, which went through the House of Commons and through the Senate in time for the provisions of investigative hearing and preventive arrest to be continued because they were sunsetted and were about to end in February 2007.

At that time there were some discussions and agreement that perhaps some enhancements could be made. The Senate has considered some enhancements to what was Bill C-36. At least the bill was passed in time for these provisions not to lapse. Now we have before us an improved former Bill C-36 in the form of Bill S-3.

I will comment in a moment on the enhanced provisions, but I would like to set the stage for a moment. It is my own view, and I think largely the view of this side of the House and our caucus, that this bill is needed for a few reasons.

First, the threat of terrorism is still with us. The threat of terrorism has not subsided. We saw not too long ago in the newspapers and other media a case in the United Kingdom where a cell of alleged terrorists had been plotting to blow up aircraft that were destined for Canada and the United States. Admittedly, they will be facing those charges in court, but there have been terrorist events preceding that.

I think we need to be ever vigilant. In fact, in Canada we should be somewhat proud that we have had a regime in place that perhaps has been successful in thwarting any attempts to compromise our national security. Having said that, we need to be ever vigilant because the terrorists do not sit idly by. It is known that al-Qaeda has Canada on its list of targets. It is no secret that our troops are in Afghanistan and that causes some consternation among certain parties. I believe this anti-terrorism regime and these provisions are still needed because terrorism is still around us and still a threat.

I also believe these provisions are needed because I do not subscribe to the argument that because we have not had a terrorist event in Canada since the original Anti-Terrorism Act was enacted that we do not need these provisions any more. To me, it is sort of tantamount to saying that if one's house has not burned down one does not need fire insurance. I think that is folly for an argument and we need to have these provisions in place to ensure we do not have a fire in our home.

Third, I think the concerns of some, when these original provisions were enacted, that they would be used in a less than judicious way by the law enforcement agencies, has proven to be wrong. The fact is that they have never been used but that should not mean that we do not need them because we do. We need to have this tool in the toolkit of our law enforcement people in Canada so that if the day comes, and hopefully it will not, they can resort to it.

There is no greater responsibility of a government than to protect and safeguard its citizens. This always needs to be carefully balanced with the civil rights of its citizens. It is a very delicate balance. I do not think anyone would be as naive or as vain to think that we always have the balance right. It is never an easy task but we need e to deal with it and that is why this bill is before this Parliament. As parliamentarians, we need to wrestle with these issues and deal with them.

We have a group in Toronto that was rounded up a couple of years ago, the Toronto 15. There is some confusion I think among Canadians about how these people were charged and rounded up. The fact is that provisions of the Criminal Code were used to arrest these people.

One could argue that if we used the provisions of the Criminal Code there, why could we not always use provisions of the Criminal Code? It is a good point but it is not a compelling argument because in this particular case the police had informants. They had information and certain evidence.

At the end of the day, of course, these people are being tried and dealt with by the prosecutors, the courts and the police. Some of them have already been released. If they were completely innocent, it is unfortunate that they had to be incarcerated for a period of time. I am not sure if some of them got out on bail but it is always an unfortunate event if people are arrested and then not subsequently charged. However, in this particular case, the police had sufficient evidence and arrested them under the provisions of the Criminal Code.

This type of situation does not always exist. We know that terrorists communicate, sometimes in encoded ways, sometimes electronically, sometimes in various shapes and forms, and our investigative forces, law enforcement and other security forces in Canada, have ways of tracking this type of communication traffic. There will be a time, and perhaps there has been already one that we are not aware of, when the law enforcement agencies will pick up something that indicates that perhaps a terrorist event is about to be committed but they do not have sufficient evidence to lay a charge or to have these people arrested.

I had the good fortune and honour to serve on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We investigated, exhaustively, the anti-terrorism legislation in Canada when it was up for review after five years. I will never forget the testimony of a gentleman who came from the United Kingdom. I forget his exact title but he was responsible for overseeing the anti-terrorism provisions in the United Kingdom.

The analogy he used was that if the police pick up information that a bank is about to be robbed, what they can do in a case like that, and they often do, is stake out that particular site. If the crime is perpetrated, then the police are there, they arrest the criminals and that is it. However, we cannot do this with a terrorist attack.

People move, and we see it all the time in various shapes and forms, different guises, perhaps with munitions strapped to them and it is often impossible to stake out. We could stake it out but then the terrorist event could happen and innocent people could lose their lives. Therefore, it is not really susceptible to that same type of action by law enforcement agencies.

I want to talk briefly about what the Senate has done to improve these provisions of preventive arrests and investigative hearings.

First, the Senate amendment calls on law enforcement to convince a judge that all reasonable attempts for the collection of information about potential or prior terrorist activity has been done before an investigative hearing is ordered.

An investigative hearing would be when the police bring together a group of people to seek out information about a possible terrorist activity. In my own judgment, I am more interested in the proactive view of how these provisions would be applied. I am not that interested in how they could be applied retroactively because I think the whole idea of the anti-terrorism legislation is to prevent a terrorist event, not go back in time, but, nonetheless, I know there are others in this House who feel differently about it. However, we need to at least have the provisions that would look forward to any proposed or possible terrorist event in the future.

What these amendments do is say that law enforcement must have to convince a judge that all other reasonable efforts have been made to deal with this, without having an investigative hearing. At an investigative hearing people are rounded up and asked to come before a judge and there are questions, and it is somewhat of an infringement on civil rights.

Nonetheless, a judge is involved within 24 hours. In other words, a hearing has to be conducted in a very swift fashion, and the same applies to preventative arrests. In fact, the people under the provisions of our law have to be released within 24 hours, and as others in this House have pointed out, these provisions are actually less onerous than those in countries like United States, United Kingdom and Australia. These amendments in the Senate call for that.

Also, another important change is that the bill now has narrower wording stipulating the grounds on which an individual may be detained. It is useful and responsible for legislators to be precise and to not leave it open to misuse. This bill and the amendments that are placed in it allow for that.

There are other provisions that call for the review of this legislation, in fact, making it mandatory to review these provisions. Rather than as an elective, Parliament is required to review these provisions at the appropriate time and interval.

These enhancements improve these measures. We never like to infringe on the civil liberties of our citizens, but at the same time we have to have measures in place that adequately safeguard our citizens. We are blessed in this country that, although I know some would argue the other way, our law enforcement people act responsibly and we have to have continuous oversight.

The RCMP has been under the public microscope lately and I am sure it has some improvements to make. This is not a police state, and we want to make sure it never even comes close to that, but our law enforcement people generally will use these tools only when they have to.

I recall at the subcommittee we had a panel. We looked at the provisions of the former Bill C-36, and this was particularly in the context of the security certificates. Even though security certificates are outside the scope of the anti-terrorism legislation, the subcommittee was tasked with looking at the provisions of the security certificates.

There was an official who came from the Department of Public Safety and National Security with a brief and a dossier on an individual who was an alleged Iranian assassin and who was being detained under a security certificate. Of course, some of the material in the dossier had to be whited out to protect allies who had provided various information and sources of information, on the grounds that it would compromise our national security. The dossier was nonetheless a very thick dossier and the official took the subcommittee through this file, indicating why this person was being detained under a security certificate.

On that same panel, there was a representative from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. I remember turning to him at that point in time and asking whether, after hearing the profile of this particular gentleman who is being detained under a security certificate, would he like to have this person as a next door neighbour. It was kind of a risky question, but I thought it was a reasonable question to ask. In response, he said that he would not. If anyone heard this dossier, they would say that no reasonable person would want this person as a next door neighbour.

He was opposed to these kinds of provisions. I asked what the problem was and he replied that it was the process. We agreed that the process needed improvement and that is why, with respect to security certificates, that was enhanced.

We need to understand that citizens of this country want their government to have a balanced set of measures that would keep their families and themselves safe and secure in their neighbourhoods, and would have the optimal balance between those requirements while protecting the civil liberties of Canadians, which is equally important. Balance is something that we must continue to strive for in the House.

Bill S-3 provides a very good balance between those two competing elements and I certainly will be supporting it.

Old Age Security Program
Private Members' Business

January 30th, 2008 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to support the motion of the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. Seniors are as important to me as they are to her. This motion is in line with Bill C-490 introduced by the Bloc Québécois in December.

My Liberal colleague had some very interesting points to make. However, I find the comments of my colleague opposite, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, to be amazingly nonsensical. By “nonsensical” I mean foolish, silly, and just plain stupid.

When I heard the hon. member say that the Conservative government has been quite generous to seniors, I wondered what planet she has been on. I know that in two years the government has given an additional $18 to the guaranteed income supplement, when it knows that people are living below the poverty line. I do not see any generosity in that. When she argues that in 13 years, the Liberal government did nothing and that the Conservatives have done more in two years, I do not think it is right to justify doing more by comparing oneself to those who did nothing.

I am very pleased to speak to this motion. As I was saying earlier, it looks a lot like our bill C-490 tabled last December by the member for Alfred-Pellan. This bill follows up my tour of Quebec, in 2007, to identify the needs of the seniors of today and of the future.

Having realized that seniors have become impoverished over the past ten years, I met with several seniors' groups and associations in all parts of Quebec who shared with me their fears, needs and hopes. They spoke of the quality of life of seniors, of the causes of their poverty and of the solutions recommended to various levels of government. I also heard the opinions of seniors on Quebec society. The results are reflected in the bill that we tabled and that has four components. It is very much in keeping with the motion by my colleague for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

The first component is automatic registration for the guaranteed income supplement. Why? Simply because this supplement provides additional income to low-income seniors. When we say low-income we are talking about individuals living in poverty. We know that poverty takes many forms and that thousands of seniors are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement. However, they do not receive it because they do not know about it, which is also due to their poverty.

On August 23, 2001, the Toronto Star estimated that 380,000 seniors in Canada were eligible for the guaranteed income supplement but were not receiving it. In Quebec, more than 80,000 people were in this situation. The reason is simple. Poor seniors often have difficulty reading and understanding forms, and the forms at the time were extremely complicated. People were also unaware that they had to apply every year. This is no longer the case thanks to Bill C-36, which was adopted last May.

There are other reasons associated with poverty as well. Poverty affects people who have never worked outside the home, who do not file income tax returns, who are aboriginal or who live in remote areas. We also think of people with poor literacy skills, people who speak neither French nor English, people who are disabled or ill and people who are homeless. There are many reasons.

If these seniors were automatically registered for the guaranteed income supplement at age 65, this problem would be eliminated. The work the Bloc Québécois has done over the past several years has drastically reduced the number of people who do not receive the guaranteed income supplement. In Quebec there are apparently still about 40,000 people who do not receive the supplement, but in 2001 there were 80,000.

The second part of our bill involves a $110 a month increase in the guaranteed income supplement. This would bring the poorest seniors up to the poverty line, as my colleague's motion says. The calculation was done in 2004, when the poverty level for a single person was set at $14,794 a year. Poor seniors who receive the maximum guaranteed income supplement are getting only $13,514 in 2007-08.

This means that that their income is $1,280 below the poverty line, or $106 per month, which we have rounded up to $110. This is not asking for much, just getting them over the poverty line. That is not too much to ask in a country like ours.

The third part of our bill concerns full retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement for people who have been given a raw deal under the current system. In May 2007, Bill C-36 resulted in just 11 months of retroactivity for poor seniors. That is not enough; we must do more. During the election campaign, the Conservative Party agreed to fix this problem. Now that they are in power, they do not want to talk about it. Nobody is asking for handouts here; we just want seniors to get their fair share from a system that ripped them off.

When one owes money to a person, one has a legal debt to that person. This is about justice, honesty and dignity. Just think of Mrs. Bolduc in Toronto who told a Radio-Canada reporter what it is like to live in poverty. Many seniors are in the same position as Mrs. Bolduc.

The fourth element our bill introduces is a six-month compassion period for seniors who lose their spouses. We know what kind of situation these people face. A six-month period would enable surviving spouses to recover from the grieving process and figure things out, because their benefits will automatically be reduced. This period will certainly offer a degree of security to grieving seniors.

The government's failure to help our poorest seniors is unacceptable. We have known for quite some time now that seniors are some of the poorest people in our society. Poverty affects their health, makes them feel insecure about their future and makes them even more vulnerable to those who claim to be taking care of them. Many newspapers have reported on violence against seniors and exploitation of the elderly. These people are in a very vulnerable position. It is disgusting that, despite vast budget surpluses, one government after another has failed to solve the problem raised by members of the Bloc Québécois.

The Bloc Québécois supports the motion by the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. That is a long name for a riding; it would be easier to call her by her name. I am asking all parliamentarians to support this motion as well as our bill, which will be debated soon in the House. It is a question of justice, fairness and dignity for all those who came before us and paved the way for us.

I would like to close with the 2006 definition of poverty by the National Council of Welfare:

—poverty is not just a lack of income; it can also be a synonym for social exclusion. When people cannot meet their basic needs, they cannot afford even simple activities. Single parents or persons with a family member who is sick or disabled often suffer from “poverty of time” as well, and have too few hours during the day to earn income, take care of others, obtain an education, have some social interaction or even get the sleep they need. This form of social exclusion and isolation can lead to other problems, such as poor health, depression and dysfunction. Poverty can quickly deprive individuals of their dignity, confidence and hope.

This often happens to our seniors who are sick and poor.

Air Canada Public Participation Act
Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)