Evidence of meeting #30 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was countries.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

I don't.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Now, they fought it to the wall. Your government fought it to the wall, in 1999 and 2003, in the courts. There were a couple of different cases.

What was it that was so important that they had to take it to the highest-level courts and run the parties who were challenging the law...basically until they ran out of money? What was it that was so important?

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

In 1999 a charter challenge against the residency requirement was rejected because the detrimental effects of the 10-year residency requirement did not “comprise a category analogous to those described” in section 15 of the charter; section 15 of the charter identifies a specific set of discriminatory criteria that warrants the court's specific attention, but it does not mean that discrimination or hardship doesn't exist because it isn't included on this list.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

But why did the Liberal government of the day challenge that? I'm not asking what the reason for the court challenge was. Why did the Liberal government of the day--

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

As I said to you before, I'm no lawyer, but there may have been some point of law that warranted fighting the challenge that doesn't pertain to whether or not we should lower the residency requirements as a matter of decency.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Michael Savage

Thank you very much, Mr. Lake. That was five minutes.

Monsieur Gravel, cinq minutes.

May 13th, 2008 / 9:55 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Perhaps I'm a bit naive. I'm not yet used to parliamentary practices. I was only elected a year and a half ago. Ms. Beaumier, thank you for your bill. I can't believe that these kinds of discussions can be held. Mr. Lake objects to the $300 million intended for seniors, but the government has just allocated $30 billion for the armed forces, which doesn't seem to cause a problem. I find that a bit sad. If the goal is to improve the lot of our seniors and of seniors who come from elsewhere, but who have integrated into Canada and Quebec, it seems to me we could stop going back and criticizing those who were in power for not taking certain measures. Instead we should consider the present situation. I believe we must build the future and stop looking back on the past.

I often hear the Conservatives—and this is part of their method—criticizing the Liberals for not doing one thing or another when they were in power. Perhaps I'm naive, but I think we have to improve the lot of our seniors. Bill C-362 will help seniors who come from elsewhere but live in Canada and Quebec. But there's something else.

When the issue of seniors arises in the House, I often hear Ms. Yelich compare Canada to countries that mistreat their seniors. Why instead wouldn't we compare ourselves to the best countries in the world in this area? I believe we should always have that kind of objective in view. I'm a priest, and I've always been told that, as a Christian, I should draw inspiration from Mother Teresa and try to imitate her rather than those who do not act fully on their Christian faith. The point is always to try to imitate the best. That's what I try to do. I don't yet come up to Mother Theresa's ankle, but I'm trying. I figure it should be the same thing for a country. There are seniors in Quebec and Canada. Could we become the best country in the world in the treatment of our seniors? If that's the case, we should stop comparing ourselves to countries that mistreat their seniors.

I'm here in the committee today because I'm concerned about the lot of seniors. This is my file. I read your bill, and, in my opinion, anyone who votes against it does not deserve to be an MP. I don't know how members who vote against this kind of bill can be elected. My colleague Mr. Lessard asked earlier whether the Liberals had a real desire to change things. That's what concerns me. The Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-490, which is at the second reading stage. I heard a speech by a Liberal who is very positive. However, I'm afraid we'll get to third reading and then vote against the bill. That's the kind of thing that disappoints me. It's as though we wanted to have a clear conscience with constituents or citizens who elected us. If that's really the case, I think that's dishonest.

We have to work for people. We are at the service of the public, not our own. We're not here just so that we can stay elected, but really to help the public. A bill for seniors must serve to help them and not to get us elected. I hope that's also what you believe, Ms. Beaumier, and that your party will support that kind of position. I would like to hear your comments on that subject.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Well, I think that was a nice little.... I don't mean to be pejorative here, but that was a nice pep talk. I will send your comments around to every single member of my party in hopes that those who are wavering....

I haven't had any criticism, except perhaps from one member. I've had no criticism on this bill, and people are generally supportive of it within the Liberal Party. I can't begin to speak for the entire party. When we have private member's business, we don't vote in a block. It's a free vote. But as I say, there's only been one member who has indicated to me that he's not supportive of this, and we may be able to tie his arms behind his back and chain him to his desk so he can't vote against it.

And Mr. Gravel, don't worry; you've only been here a year and a half. I've been here 15 years. I'm still naive, and I'm still not used to being a member of Parliament. I know that everything works very slowly.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Michael Savage

You have 10 more seconds, if you like.

10 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC

Of course, Bill C-362 doesn't resolve everything. Are you also in favour of Bill C-490, which we introduced?

10 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

You know what? Confession, confession: you show it to me, okay, and maybe.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Michael Savage

Thanks for your answer. There's no more time to go into all the discussions on Bill C-490. Some other committee, or perhaps this one, will have the benefit of that.

Madam Beaumier, I want to thank you very much for bringing this. Again, congratulations on getting it to this point.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Thank you.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Michael Savage

We have a number of people who have been waiting patiently. I'm going to suspend the meeting for a couple of minutes while we seat our witnesses.

10:07 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Michael Savage

We're going to resume our study of Bill C-362.

To our witnesses, we are delighted and honoured to have you with us today. The hearings will be in English and French.

We do understand that coming before a parliamentary committee takes a bit of getting used to. Please be assured that we're all very friendly and very pleased to have you with us. Again, we're honoured by your presence here today.

Resuming on Bill C-362, we have with us a number of people. From the Old Age Benefits Forum of Canada, we have Balkar Bajwa and Kuldip Sahi. We thank you for coming. From the Old Age Benefits Forum of Vancouver, we have Balwinder Singh Chahal. From the Immigrant Seniors Advocacy Network, we have Samuel Olarewaju and Kifleyesus Woldemichael. And as an individual, we have Raymond Micah.

Each group will have five minutes to present. We understand that at one point in time, when we had less witnesses, you may have been told ten minutes. We do have questions we want to get to. All the members are very anxious to discuss this bill with you.

We will start with the Old Age Benefits Forum of Canada.

Mr. Bajwa and Mr. Sahi, you have five minutes.