Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act

An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

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 Old Age Security Act to preclude incarcerated persons from receiving benefits under this Act while maintaining entitlement to benefits for, and avoiding a reduction in the amounts payable to, their spouse or common-law partner under this Act.

Elsewhere

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

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 18th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I believe that you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, be deemed read a third time and passed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1 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 speak to Bill C-31, Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act. With this legislation, the Government of Canada intends to amend the Old Age Security Act to suspend old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits for incarcerated criminals.

Let me remind the House of what the bill sets out to do. Once passed, it will suspend old age security benefits to prisoners in federal penitentiaries who are serving sentences of two years or longer. Then in provinces that have agreed to help us implement the bill, an information sharing agreement will be signed, which will allow us to suspend old age security benefits for individuals sentenced to a term of 90 days imprisonment or more in that province or territory.

We want to see these changes implemented as soon as possible and the support of the provinces and territories will be vital to getting that done. It is important to note that this government has taken steps to minimize the impact of innocent spouses and common-law partners. The proposed bill ensures that low income spouses or partners of the prisoners will not lose their own entitlements to the guaranteed income supplement and the allowance. The guaranteed income supplement and allowance benefits to spouses or partners of prisoners will be adjusted so they are based on the income of the spouses or partners who are not incarcerated rather than the combined income of the couple.

The bill would bring the Old Age Security Act in line with other federal and provincial government programs and would suspend benefits to the incarcerated. Across the country, seven provinces and one territory already suspend social and income assistance to inmates.

There are international precedents as well. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia among others, also suspend the payment of state pensions to prisoners.

The purpose of old age security is to help seniors, especially those living on a fixed income, to meet their basic needs. It is an important program that recognizes that seniors helped build our great country.

Prisoners do not have to worry about these costs. They do not have to worry about things like paying rent or buying groceries. That is because their basic needs are already paid for by taxpayers. Hard-working taxpayers should not be paying twice. Prisoners should not be receiving old age security benefits. Our Conservative government believes that Canadians who work hard, contribute to the system and play by the rules deserve government benefits such as old age security. It is wrong and obviously unfair that prisoners who broke the law continue to receive the same benefits.

The bill is another example of our government's commitment to ensure fairness for hard-working taxpayers and putting victims and taxpayers first, ahead of criminals. The response we have heard from families of victims and victims organizations have proven to me that the bill is truly the right thing to do.

Let me name just a few of the people who support the bill: Sharon Rosenfeldt who is the mother of one Clifford Olson's victims and president of Victims of Violence; Ray King, the father of another victim of Clifford Olson; David Toner, president of Families Against Crime and Trauma; Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu; and Kevin Gaudet, Canadian Taxpayers Federation as well.

Ms. Rosenfeldt and Mr. Gaudet appeared before our committee during our study of the bill. Ms. Rosenfeldt's son was tragically murdered by Clifford Olson. For years she has been a tireless advocate for victims and their families. She urged for the passage of the bill. It is common sense that one cannot benefit twice at the expense of Canadian taxpayers. That is why Canadians are upset and outraged. The bill is important for the principles of fairness.

Mr. Gaudet informed the committee that their petitions in support of the bill received close to 50,000 signatures from Canadians across the country in only six weeks. He spoke about how it was not just victims and stakeholders who wanted the bill passed, but countless everyday Canadians cared so much about the bill that they had taken time out of their busy lives to voice their opinion.

When the minister spoke, she said that she had received more correspondence on this issue than almost any other. I have heard from several of my constituents and I know MPs from all parties in the House have also heard from their constituents. Canadians across the country have told us they do not want these benefits going to prisoners. We understand why they feel so strongly about this issue. Canadians are telling us they want the bill passed and they want it passed soon.

I am pleased to report that after extensive study at committee, the bill was passed, but we still have a way to go. We must complete report stage and third reading of the bill, as we are doing now. Then the hon. senators must study it and pass it before it becomes law.

I urge all parties to not unnecessarily delay the bill. Let us get the bill passed so we can ensure that mass murderers like Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo and Robert Pickton do not receive these benefits while in jail. It is what Canadians want and expect. It is the fair and right thing to do.

I urge the House to get behind the bill to pass it as soon as is possible.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not disagree with the bill and where it is headed. However, I am very concerned with the fact that the victims of crime initiative has seen a 41% cut since 2005. When we add that up to the more than 70% that has been cut from the crime prevention programs, which stop people from becoming victims in the first place, I wonder where some of this revenue would be used. Could the government use some of the revenue it has saved to restore the cuts it has made to important programs that help victims.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, there probably is not a government in history that has done as much for victims as we have.

We created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to serve as an independent resource for victims, at $1.5 million per year. We have a victims fund to provide resources for victims of crime in the support of provincial and territorial services and NGOs.

Support for victims is a priority of this government. We have provided funding of $5.25 million over five years for the creation and enhancement of child advocacy centres across Canada to help better serve young victims and victims of crime.

We certainly have done significant things for victims of crime. In this case, the bill addresses not only those who are victims of crime, but those who are associated with victims of crime. It requires immediate passage. It is important to put the interests of victims ahead of the interest of prisoners and the entitlements of prisoners.

I would ask the member and his party to get behind the bill, not drag their feet, but have it passed as soon as possible.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the saving to the government will be $2 million when the bill passes, but the savings as a result of the provinces signing could be as much as $10 million a year.

Could the member tell us what the situation is with regard to the provinces? Has the government talked to the provinces about this? If so, what is the response it has received from the provinces? Does the government have a commitment from any or all of them to participate in this program and how soon would this roll out?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Firstly, it is not a question necessarily of just the savings of dollars, although that is important. It is the fact that Canadians are outraged with the fact that any money is spent with respect to paying old age security for prisoners when they already have their food and accommodation looked after. The very kind of things for which old age security was intended is already provided for them. Therefore, any amount of money would be too much of a payment.

The minister has certainly been in discussions with the provinces and a number of provinces are on board. I would expect that there would be a good take-up rate on this. We would expect this to go forward as soon as possible. We urge those members, as we are urging the House, to move the bill forward as quickly as possible to the Senate and eventually get it passed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to support the bill, as it looks like most members are going to support it. No one is foot-dragging or delaying it. However, I have three points.

The parliamentary secretary said that one of the rationales for removing these OAS payments was that they were prisoners who broke the law and should not receive benefits. If that were the rationale, then we would be removing benefits from anyone who broke the law at any time.

We are doing this, and I think the member has already said it, because these individuals in custody are already being supported with food and shelter and other amenities. Is that not the reality? In fact, we pay prisoners something like $5 a day. That is $100 a month. We pay prisoners an allowance per diem. Therefore, if the government were consistent with this, it would remove the $5 a day.

Will the member agree also that this does not apply to the Canada pension plan payments, which is a separate pension plan entitlement that prisoners in custody will continue to receive? Unless they defer them to age 70, they can start receiving them at age 60 if they wish.

Would the member not agree with what I have just said so we can keep a balance in the way we are explaining the rationale of this legislation?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the member seems to be leaning toward supporting this bill. That is a good and admirable thing.

He stated what the underpinnings of it were. The constituent from Redvers, Saskatchewan who wrote to my office set it out very succinctly. He said the principle upon which this bill should rest and the reason it should be passed is that meals and accommodation are already provided and that costs taxpayers a whole lot of dollars. People do not think taxpayers should be victimized again by paying prisoners old age security that was meant to cover things like food, shelter and so on.

There is the issue of victims and those associated with them watching as prisoners set up savings accounts and accumulate dollars. It is an affront to them. They think it is outrageous. It is something they cannot tolerate. They want us to take that benefit away. The specific reason is that provisions are already made at great cost to taxpayers. Taxpayers and those close to victims should not be victimized further.

I suggest that the member not only think about supporting the bill but that he get his colleagues to support it as well so that it can be passed as quickly as possible.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in 1979 the Conservative government of Joe Clark changed the rules to make federal inmates eligible for these pensions in the first place. I am very interested in knowing what the rationale was for the Conservative government's decision at that time.

Surely when the minister was formulating this bill, discussing it in caucus and coming up with the rationale for doing it he would have looked back to find out why the Conservative government of Joe Clark started giving pensions to prisoners in the first place. Was it because of a court case? Are there any records to indicate what the rationale was in the first place? We understand the government's wanting to get rid of the payments now, but the question is why a Conservative government started doing it in the first place.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I certainly would not propose to speak for Mr. Clark or anyone else in history. Certainly this government is not supporting that.

One of the member's colleagues in the NDP raised the issue of universality of pensions and felt that in some fashion prisoners are entitled to receive pensions. I am certainly not an advocate of that. I do not think they are entitled to them or that universality is a challenge to that. If a person commits a crime, there are consequences that follow.

Pensions are not taken away from prisoners forever. Pensions are suspended only for the time the individuals are incarcerated. We have gone so far as to ensure that their spouses or common law partners are not disadvantaged and receive entitlements based on their income and not the incomes of both parties.

This is a fair piece of legislation. It is legislation the public expects. This government has been very quick to respond to this issue. For 13 years the Liberal government did nothing on this issue, but we took action in weeks or months. It has been a very quick and precise response to the public and one which the public expects not in years but weeks and months to get the bill through. If we had a modicum of co-operation, we could do it even quicker.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to be here to speak to issues, especially things that we went on record some months ago as supporting, without having to listen to some of the rhetoric. I heard my colleague behind me use words that are inappropriate in the House, and I will just leave it at that.

It has been suggested that we on this side of the House are not supporting this bill. It has also been suggested that this has been a fast process. The bill was introduced in June. This issue was brought up first by the media, by the way, not by anybody else, in March. It took until June for the legislation to be introduced. Here we are on November 16 finally getting a bill passed. That has a lot to do with the fact that the committee worked very well with the intent of getting the bill back into the House. Otherwise who knows how long it would take to get it here?

Some of us are concerned and frustrated when we hear the other side say that we are not helping. We are the ones who have been pushing this forward since it was first announced in the media. The government has been advancing it at nothing short of a snail's pace. Let us be clear on that point.

The committee has done a good job. After all, it was a little more than a month since the committee was asked to examine Bill C-31. Members of the committee took the bill seriously. They did their homework and asked questions to make sure that we avoided unintended consequences. Hence the bill is now before us and it could be passed very quickly here and in the other place. It is fair to say that the committee members did a quick and thorough job of reviewing the bill, contrary to, as I indicated earlier, what the government did not do.

My primary concern stems back to the pace that business is being advanced in the House. A proactive government would move quickly on issues that concern Canadians and parliamentarians.

Most members know that Bill C-31 is legislation that is relatively simplistic from a legal perspective, which does not happen too often. It is not particularly controversial, nor is it divisive in its scope. After all, the entire bill, in both English and French, is less than six pages in total length. It is a very small bill.

Put another way, after more than five months of working on this legislation, we have successfully completed just 25% of the legislative process. Imagine, just 25% in five months; that is a snail's pace if there ever were one. If this is the best we can do, Bill C-31 will not pass into law until July 2012, long after when every reasonable person expects the next election to be held. We know what will happen. An election will be called; everything will die on the order paper and nothing will ever get done. This could have been done in September. The bill could have passed in September and gone to the other place. It is not often that we are asking the government why it is not moving something forward faster, but this is a very simple and small bill and it could have been passed by both houses by now.

This means the government wants to talk about this bill more than it wants to pass it. It wants to say that it is tough on crime more than it wants to back its rhetoric with real action. Most particularly, the government is clearly more interested in optics than it is in the elements of governing as responsible Canadians.

Permit me to be completely clear though. We are of the belief that the changes are long overdue and we do not oppose them. In fact, we support them. As I have said before, from the Liberals' perspective, we are certainly prepared to fast-track this legislation. I indicated in June when the minister introduced the legislation that we were prepared to fast-track this bill.

When I last spoke in this House on Bill C-31, my primary concern was simple. I wanted to make sure there were no unintended consequences attached to the bill. It is a requirement for all of us as legislators to ensure there are no unintended consequences on any legislation that is introduced in the House. Even though many of us had strong feelings from the start when the media flagged this issue, our government was not aware of this issue any more than anybody else was. It was members of the media, in the kind of work they do, who discovered Mr. Olson was receiving old age security cheques, which clearly bothered all of us.

While I was anxious to punish the guilty and to ensure that tax dollars were not being wasted, I also needed to be sure we were not punishing the spouses for the crimes of their partners. We all know that the spouses pay a big enough price and I do not believe any of us wanted to add to that difficulty.

It seems that the committee members were satisfied by hearing witnesses from various organizations throughout Canada. They listened to all sides of the issues to make sure that Bill C-31 would not have a negative impact on the spouses, and that the spouses, families and children would be protected.

In my mind there would seem to be no other reason that we would not send Bill C-31 to the other place. If the Prime Minister were truly committed to its speedy passage, he could direct his Conservative-dominated Senate to pass the legislation immediately. It could all be done before we rose for Christmas, if he really wanted it done. Of course, the Prime Minister has little interest in this approach, so one would wonder how serious he is about the issue, or is he just more interested in looking as though he were serious about the issue? That is for the Canadian people to decide at the appropriate time. After all, this is just another in a recent string of examples of the government's relentless drive for good optics.

According to the recently released public accounts, lapsed funding for the victims of crime initiative last year amounted to just under $4 million, or 45% of the available funds. That means in 2009-10, the Conservatives spent $4.8 million helping victims of crime versus $6 million which they spent this year to advertise how they helped those victims of crime.

One of the motions that was introduced at committee was that the $2 million, the amount of money saved by not sending the pension to the likes of Mr. Olson, should be given to the victims of crime organization so that we could help victims in as many ways as possible. However, my understanding is that the amendment was not passed at committee.

Those commercials we continue to see in the government's massive advertising campaign fail to mention that when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament, he killed his entire crime agenda that we had heard so much about for so many years, much of which had the Liberals' support. However, once Parliament was prorogued, all of that fell off the agenda, just as this bill would if the Prime Minister were to prorogue Parliament tomorrow.

People have to understand what proroguing Parliament really does. The legislation that all of us work for, although not all of us necessarily support, is lost once Parliament prorogues. Every single bill at that time was back to square one. When Parliament resumed sitting in the spring, each one of them had to be reintroduced, one by one. That delays them, because they have to go through the same process again: first reading, second reading, consideration at committee, report stage, third reading and then they go to the other place. All that so-called big crime agenda that was necessary was lost. Some of it was not as good as it could have been; there were lots of problems with some of it, but we were supporting it. Then we had to start all over again in the spring. Yet if we listen to the Prime Minister's multi-million dollar ad campaign, we would swear that all of that legislation was in effect right now, which is simply untrue.

Call it retail politics, spin, wedge politics or whatever one wishes, but Canadians are being misinformed again and again by the government. I say it is time for that nonsense to stop and for the government to be honest about the kind of legislation that is being passed and the timelines in doing that.

In simple terms, Bill C-31 seeks to amend the Old Age Security Act to preclude incarcerated persons from receiving benefits under this act and at the same time to maintain entitlement to benefits for their spouse or common law partner. When we talk about unintended consequences, we had to ensure that the spouses and children of these individuals would not be harmed with the passage of Bill C-31.

As I have already said, the latter of these elements is, in my estimation, a pivotal thrust of this particular piece of legislation. We should never be too eager to cast a net without first ensuring that only those deserving of punishment are actually forced to endure it, and not their spouses and children.

Despite our often fierce partisan differences in the House, today we are looking at an issue that should unite all of us regardless of our political affiliation.

As we know, the old age security pension is intended to help seniors pay for their housing, clothing, food and transportation, which are expectations that many seniors struggle with each and every day.

I just came from a meeting at the industry committee where we were talking about Bill C-501. This is a bill that was put forward by one of my colleagues in the other party to try to deal with pensioners and bankruptcy collapse, to deal with what happens to people who work for companies that go bankrupt. This bill deals with the impacts on current pensioners and would-be pensioners. It deals with the devastation of trying to live on $1,200 a month and the many pensioners who are in poverty as a result of their company's going bankrupt.

This is a call on the government and all parliamentarians, and we were all very serious this morning regardless of party, to try to find solutions to the problem of Nortel, for example, and other companies. How do we better protect pensions and people's contributions in this country?

For thousands of seniors who are struggling with these growing bills on a fixed income, the thought that convicted and imprisoned criminals would be eligible for the same OAS benefit as they are is quite offensive and totally unacceptable for all of us.

Moreover, given that the old age security is meant to help a recipient pay for housing, clothing, food and transportation, it seems unnecessary for prisoners to get a cheque given that their housing, clothing, food and transportation are already paid for as a condition of their incarceration. It does not make a lot of sense that we give the same amount of money to seniors out there having to pay rent and buy their own groceries and clothing and all the rest of it, and yet people in prison, regardless of what they are there for, get all of that plus their old age security.

One senior said, “Maybe I should go to jail. At least I would have some extra money and all of my needs would be taken care of”. I assured that senior that once the gate was closed it might not seem like such a good idea.

As a legislator, I see the current reality to be redundant, unacceptable and, as I indicated earlier, something that should be changed without delay, without delay. I would like to hear the government move this through at votes tonight, move it into the Senate and ask the Conservative-dominated Senate to pass Bill C-31 immediately. This is precisely why I am of the belief that Bill C-31 should be advanced, as I indicated before.

I last addressed this issue in June when the minister introduced the legislation. I said at that time that I would not seek to draw this process out for the sake of speaking longer in the House. I did not intend to do that then, nor do I intend to do it today. What is needed today is action and it is needed now.

For the sake of clarity, contrary to my colleague's asking if we would vote for it, the Liberal position has been on the record since June, maybe before that, that we would support this kind of legislation. So that there is no question whether we will, the Liberal side of the House supports the stated notions of Bill C-31 unequivocally.

The next thing we know, though, there will be a massive email campaign going around to everybody in Canada saying to go after the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc because they may not support Bill C-31. Let me be clear. We have indicated from the beginning that we support it. We are going to continue to support it. In fact, we are asking the government to fast-track it through the Senate.

We agree that convicted and incarcerated criminals should not receive societal benefits, like the monthly old age security cheque. On a purely personal note, I would take this belief one step further.

I, like most Canadians, was horrified as I watched the trial of the former Colonel Williams. This person is now sitting in jail, but upon his formal retirement he could be eligible for a pension that he earned while a member of the Canadian Forces, a time that coincides with the time he committed his heinous crimes. There is something fundamentally wrong with the notion that he will be rewarded on the same scale as Canada's veterans of the war in Afghanistan. There is something terribly wrong with that.

Canada's pension systems, both public and private, need a great deal of attention. The Canada pension plan, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement and the various private options available are good. We are grateful that we have them and that the investments were made, but we need to do better.

We need to examine all facets of these systems in a way that will close the gaps, reduce the redundancies and enhance the benefits for all Canadians. I recently released a white paper on pension reform. That document was the product of more than a year of work by nearly 20 industry and pension specialists of every partisan stripe.

Whether we addressed the creation of a supplementary Canada pension plan, the tightening of regulatory loopholes, the enhancement of regular Canada pension plan benefits or the establishment of a pension bill of rights, the focus was not on politics. It was on substantive pension reform. Our primary focus was, and is, finding ways to make pensions stronger. Some days I wish that example could be adopted more often by the government and this House.

Twenty-eight recommendations later, I am convinced that we have a winning strategy, a comprehensive, multi-generational plan that puts people and their pensions first. The white paper, which can be found on my web page, fits hand-in-glove with Bill C-574, which I introduced on October 1.

Bill C-574 is a pensioners' bill of rights. Since the Mackenzie King government, a Liberal government I should remind the House, first introduced the Old Age Pensions Act 83 years ago, Liberals have fostered a long history of creating, enhancing and expanding pensions available to Canadian seniors.

From old age security, introduced by the Liberal government, to the Canada pension plan of previous Liberal governments and the supplement, also from a previous Liberal government, we understand the extreme importance of protecting and preserving pension security, adequacy and coverage for all deserving and law-abiding Canadians.

Bill C-574 is the next step in that process. Too often, financial illiteracy, inadequate opportunity and economic instability strip away the hard-earned savings of our seniors. That must stop.

Bill C-574 is the first bill of its kind ever proposed to better protect our seniors and their nest eggs. I am proud to have presented it. I clearly hope that all members in this House will adopt it at the appropriate time. I would urge colleagues to take part in that debate on November 23. As always, our seniors are counting on us.

Bill C-31 is yet another step that could be taken down this road. I stand ready to do whatever it takes to achieve these goals, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and with the government to pass measures geared to the same.

With the help of the government, I am hopeful that we can advance Bill C-31 quickly in this House and then, with the help of the Prime Minister, quickly through the other place.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate our hon. colleague from York West on her speech. I think we have reached the same conclusions about Bill C-31. She raised the issue of protecting victims. It would be interesting to hear more of her thoughts on this.

We are used to seeing the Conservatives introduce bills to penalize criminals even more, but they almost never introduce anything to prevent crime. Some things, it goes without saying, we can agree on, such as Bill C-31, but the Conservatives rarely or never introduce bills to protect victims.

Can the member tell us if this bill contains any elements to protect victims? If not, what measures should be brought forward to protect the victims of crime?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the committee my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour spoke to me about introducing a motion that would divert the dollars being saved in this bill to the victims of crime. That budget for the victims of crime gets cut on a continuous basis. More money needs to be made available to those very victims who have suffered so much.

I have a wonderful young mother in my riding by the name of Louise Russo. Many members in the House are aware of her. She was picking up a sandwich at a sandwich bar for her daughter after night school and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was a mob hit. Somebody went by and sprayed bullets into this upscale coffee shop with the intention of getting someone else but unfortunately happened to get Ms. Russo, as she entered to get that sandwich for her daughter that fatal night. She nearly died. She is paralyzed from the breast bone down. She is a young mother with a severely disabled child. Now there are two people in wheelchairs, Ms. Russo and her daughter.

When I inquired about what was available in the way of support for people like Ms. Russo, I found out that the maximum amount was $25,000. We have a woman who had been actively working and had a disabled child, and the only kind of compensation available to her was $25,000.

Victims of crime need to be supported in a variety of ways. Emotional support needs to be there, but clearly, financial support has to be there as well. Her ability to be employed, to have a successful job, has been taken away. In Bill C-31, some of the money could have been diverted for the victims of crime.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, a little earlier I asked the parliamentary secretary why the Conservative government of Joe Clark started sending federal prisoners OAS and GIS payments in the first place, in 1979.

It seems to me that if a government is trying to undo a measure that is on the books right now, it would first research the history of it. We know it has done it. It seems to me that it would try to find out when the measure was brought into force and why it was brought into force, and on that basis it would frame its legislative initiative. We know the government has done it, but every time I ask the government the question, I get an evasive answer. The answer is, “Well, the Liberals had 13 years and they did not do anything about it”. The parliamentary secretary did not say that his government has had five years and is just starting to look at the issue.

What prompted Joe Clark to change the rules in 1979 in the first place? Was it a court judgment that was made? Was it a caucus discussion? What were the reasons the government started sending pension cheques to federal prisoners in the first place? It is incumbent upon the government to answer that question.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I were a member of the government I would answer the question, but I am not a member of the government and I cannot give the member the answer. Maybe one of our colleagues might call Mr. Clark and ask him exactly what happened back then.

I am sure this was not done casually. I am sure there was a serious amount of investigation and study into it. This did not come up because the government of the day found out about it. It came up because the media found out about it and flagged the issue. All of us in the House were concerned about it and we felt that changes needed to be made.

If money is to be spent, it should be spent on victims of crime to try to help those very people who are victimized by the likes of Clifford Olson and others.