An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement)
Laurin Liu NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
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Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
April 27th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today about Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (elder abuse), with a view to ensuring that sentences factor in the vulnerability of seniors.
It is easy for us to support this measure, particularly as we put forward a similar measure during the last election campaign. Basically, the bill provides that sentencing for a crime against a senior shall take into consideration the significant impact that the offence has on the victim because of the victim's age, health and financial situation. Such factors are considered aggravating circumstances that require a stiffer sentence.
The Criminal Code already provides similar measures for the abuse of vulnerable people. For example, abuse of a person under 18 years of age constitutes an aggravating factor in sentencing.
Many extreme cases of negligence and abuse of Canadian seniors have been given a great deal of media coverage in recent years. One recent case occurred in February 2011, when the Toronto police found a 68-year-old woman unconscious, frozen and starving in a makeshift bedroom located in her son's unheated garage. Cases like that, which are very tragic, occur everywhere in Canada.
According to two major Canada-wide studies carried out in the late 1980s and late 1990s, 4% of seniors living at home are victims of one form or another of elder abuse at the hands of a family member, with financial and property abuse being the most common forms. The second study, benefiting from a stricter methodology, suggests that 7% of seniors are being abused. Researchers say that these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.
In 2003, just under 4,000 incidents of violence against people over the age of 65 were reported. Of those, 29% were committed by family members. Even though not all incidents are reported, studies suggest that between 4% and 10% of Canadian seniors have experienced one or more forms of abuse or negligence at the hands of a person they trusted.
This is unacceptable and should not happen in a country like ours. Police statistics on crime in Quebec show that, between 2003 and 2007, while the number of property crimes fell, the number of crimes against seniors rose, particularly fraud and theft. Elderly people are more often victims of threats, robbery and criminal harassment.
Although I am happy to support this government bill, I would like to stress that it is only a first step in the fight against elder abuse. My honourable colleague said as much a moment ago.
Disadvantaged seniors are the most likely to be victims of abuse. The fight against seniors’ poverty must be one of our top priorities.
I would like to mention some statistics. Of the 10 provinces, the number of seniors on a low income is highest in British Columbia and Quebec. In 2003, between 122,000 and 567,000 seniors lived in poverty.
It is unacceptable in a country like ours that there are still seniors who are unable to live in dignity because of their financial situation.
It is clear to me that a detailed plan is required to combat elder abuse. This is why, in the last election campaign, the NDP proposed measures in collaboration with Quebec to stop elder abuse and allocate the necessary resources to a strategy that would include the following three measures: a telephone help line for seniors suffering abuse, the establishment of specialized counsellor positions in the area of elder abuse, and the amendment of the Criminal Code so that people convicted of elder abuse are sentenced appropriately.
Moreover, unlike the Conservatives who believe that a tough on crime approach is the best way to fight crime, we believe that we need to tackle the root of the problem by combating exclusion and poverty.
I would like to draw the hon. members' attention to the extraordinary work done by the organizations in my community in the riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles to combat poverty and exclusion among seniors.
We propose an increase in transfers to the provinces for home care and long-term care in order to guarantee a basic level of home care and to address the shortage of quality long-term care facilities.
We are also proposing measures to bring down drug prices and improve access to housing. However, above all, we believe that it is important to increase pensions and strengthen retirement security.
While it is important to increase old age security benefits, it is even more important to ensure that people who are entitled to government annuities have access to their due. For instance, we know that 135,000 Canadians and 45,000 Quebeckers are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but they do not receive it because the government is not doing everything it can to reach them. Of the seniors who are deprived of the GIS, 80% are women.
It was to put an end to this injustice affecting our most vulnerable seniors that I introduced Bill C-409 in March. My bill is intended to promote the automatic registration of people who are 65 years old for the guaranteed income supplement. It is unacceptable that the federal government has unfairly deprived, and continues to deprive, many seniors who are among the most vulnerable in our society of significant revenue to which they are entitled under the guaranteed income supplement. I hope that this bill will receive the support of my colleagues, regardless of their party affiliation.
As legislators, we must look at the big picture when we want to tackle a problem or an issue. This is why I would like to once again emphasize that it is only by tackling the issue of seniors' poverty that we will be able to improve their quality of life. I am thinking of the seniors in my riding who have to go to food banks in order to feed themselves, and of veterans across the country who are in the same situation.
I hope that this government will be able to connect the dots and I encourage it to consult some of the NDP's policies in order to find possible and necessary solutions. If it really wants to help seniors, I call on the government to reverse its decision to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67, a decision that Canadians across the country have spoken out against. According to a poll conducted a few weeks ago, 75% of the residents of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles are opposed to the increase in the retirement age. It is a policy that is not socially acceptable.
Because the government refuses to tackle seniors' poverty, I urge the government to consult the NDP's election platform and to consult us in order to come up with solutions that truly deal not just with elder abuse but the poverty of our seniors. Seniors must be able to live with dignity and we must look after them.
Therefore, I invite my colleagues opposite to be open to these proposals, because we must look after all our seniors, who have contributed so much to Canadian society, including all our veterans who went to war for Canada. I will now answer my colleagues' questions.
Old Age Security
March 15th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-409, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement).
Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour to introduce this bill to amend the Old Age Security Act, which makes registration for the guaranteed income supplement automatic and eliminates the requirement for those who are eligible to make an initial application. This bill is seconded by the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
The purpose of this bill is to correct an injustice against our poorest seniors, who are being unfairly deprived of important income that is owed to them in the form of the guaranteed income supplement.
I often speak about the importance of intergenerational solidarity, and I believe that solidarity must go both ways. As the youngest woman ever elected to this House, I think that it is very symbolic and appropriate that my first bill seeks to do right by our seniors. I hope that the members of this House will take an interest in this cause and that they will support this bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)