House of Commons Hansard #96 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

moved that Bill C-481, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code (mandatory retirement age), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Laval—Les Îles, I am proud to rise in this House to speak to Bill C-481 at second reading. The bill we are discussing today would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code regarding mandatory retirement age.

My bill has three main objectives. The first is to repeal subsection 9(2) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This amendment would ensure that unions and federal employees' organizations would no longer have the ability to exclude, expel or suspend an individual from membership in the organization because that individual has reached the normal age of retirement for individuals working in positions similar to the position of that individual. To clarify, this means within the same professional group, but not necessarily in the same organization.

The second objective is to replace paragraphs 15(1)(b) and 15(1)(c) of the Canadian Human Rights Act with the following for paragraph 15(1)(b):

It will be possible to terminate the employment of an individual who has not reached the minimum age that applies to that employment by law or under regulations that may be made by the Governor in Council.

The third objective is to repeal paragraph 235(2)(b) of the Canada Labour Code. By repealing this paragraph of the Canada Labour Code, the legislator is ensuring that the employer will be obligated to pay severance pay to an employee who reaches an age at which the individual is entitled to receive a retirement pension from a complementary pension fund.

Many public service employees subject to union agreements do not want to give up their severance pay, which is a one-time payment. For many people, particularly single mothers or newcomers into the Canadian labour force, being able to stay at work longer is an important part of their career plan. Many who have been unable to save enough for retirement are depending on the extra money as part of their transition into retirement.

According to a 2008 Statistics Canada survey, only 29% of older workers indicated that their workplace pension would be their main source of income and only 14% have RRSPs. These preliminary results were recently presented by Jean Pignal, from the surveys division of Statistics Canada, at a workshop in Ottawa.

For the information of members, according to the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada website, approximately 12,000 federally regulated businesses and industries are employing 840,000 people, or 10% of Canadian workers under the Canada Labour Code, who would be affected by this bill if it were to become law.

Before I go further in the time I have, I will briefly inform the House of the genesis of Bill C-481. I will not go into lengthy detail about the cases that sparked my bill because there are several layers to these cases, including a Federal Court judicial review.

On August 28, 2009, in its second decision, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that it was discrimination based on age for Air Canada to force two of its pilots to retire because they had reached age 60. According to the tribunal, the Air Canada Pilots Association had knowingly signed a union agreement with Air Canada that violated section 15 of the charter prohibiting discrimination on a number of grounds, including age.

The tribunal also ruled that not only had the Canadian Human Rights Act been breached because it prohibits discrimination based on age, but paragraph 15(1)(c) of the Canadian Human Rights Act is contrary to the charter because it perpetuates the prejudice with the following statement:

an individual’s employment is terminated because that individual has reached the normal age of retirement for employees working in positions similar to the position of that individual;

Bill C-481 aims to revoke that paragraph.

The tribunal based its first decision, which was set aside by the Federal Court in its judicial review, on its perception of what was normal, especially whether other airlines had the same requirements. In fact, not all airlines have the same requirements, at least not all Canadian airlines.

The earliest available statistics show us that between 1920 and 1922 it was normal for males to have an average life expectancy of 59 years and for females 61 years. However, in the 21st century we have a vastly different Canadian population than in the early 1900s. Today, life expectancy for males is 78.3 years and for females 80.7 years on average. In other words, what was normal then in terms of age is certainly no longer normal today.

The original conditions for mandatory retirement were unquestionably based on the social reality. Following the second world war, workers demanded stable jobs, better access to health care and safe workplaces. Workers asked for permanent economic security despite dips in the economy. The government listened to these concerns and created a number of social programs.

However, as unions gained strength in speaking for workers' rights, the mandatory retirement age of 60 became normal practice in union agreements. Today, in the 21st century, our social environment dictates a different course of action.

As federal legislators, it is our duty to set the standards in our laws. Our charter gives us that guidance. Transport Canada, in case my colleagues are not aware, sets the licensing policies for all our pilots. There are very stringent rules.

If this section of the Canadian Human Rights Act remains, it would continue to set a blanket standard for all organizations without paying attention to the charter or the specific norms that dictate policies within that organization, even though work positions may appear to be similar.

Just a few days ago, on November 8, 2010, the tribunal ordered Air Canada to compensate George Vilven, 67, and Neil Kelly, 65. Air Canada must reinstate these two former employees with the level of seniority they would have reached had they continued to work. They must also be compensated for lost wages and benefits associated with their seniority as well as for the pain and suffering they endured.

In fact, the tribunal was even harsher in its criticism and called on Air Canada and its union to pay for wilful and reckless damage. Unfortunately, the Human Rights Tribunal does not have the power to extend its decision to other cases. The decision rendered is only pertinent to these two complaints.

The tribunal cannot force Air Canada and the association to stop signing agreements that include mandatory requirements. Therefore, this clause, according to the tribunal in its remedial actions, remains operative. Only we as legislators have the power to repeal the defence now being used to terminate employees in any federally regulated employee organization by amending the law as it now stands.

It has long been recognized by the courts that this is a complex issue and can only be resolved by the legislature.

In 2006, when the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was considering gradually raising the maximum age limit for pilots to 65 years, the Government of Canada said it agreed with the idea but its official response was negative because Canada wanted to eliminate the age limit, given that section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. Canada does not reduce the privileges of a pilot who has reached the age of 60. Canada does not object if a pilot who is over 60 and holds a valid medical certificate from an ICAO contracting state pilots a registered foreign aircraft in Canadian airspace.

Research shows that, according to current trends, abolishing mandatory retirement should not have a significant impact on the average age of new retirees or on the total number of years worked. For people concerned about the consequences—I have spoken to many of them—the research indicates that two-thirds of older workers choose to retire before age 65, 43% of all workers retire before 65 and the average retirement age for all workers was 61 in 1991. In addition, 11.8% of Canadians between 65 and 69 years of age were part of the labour force in 2001. Immigrants and women may remain in the labour force longer to build up larger pensions. Employers are better able to plan for turnover.

I call upon my colleagues to pass the bill as quickly as possible so we can continue to uphold the hard-won rights of citizens of Canada and all those who fought and continue to fight for the type of democracy in which we are so privileged to live today.

I would like my colleagues opposite to remember that Brian Mulroney's Conservative government, in 1986, accepted the principle that served as the basis for the sixth recommendation in the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Equal Rights, which suggested that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended so that employers could not invoke certain grounds.

Since then, we have made a number of changes and we must continue to build our labour force. The unions I have spoken to are prepared to implement these changes. A number of them went before the Canadian Human Rights Commission on behalf of their members and won their cases.

History holds our everyday lives together. Let us not be stuck in tradition because of the implemented laws that were necessary then. Let us use reasoned experience to guide us as legislators in the 21st century to continue to do the right thing for Canadians.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very impassioned appeal for those who want to continue to work beyond the mandatory age of retirement. I understand the sensibilities of folks who want to do that.

Unfortunately, the examples often used are for less onerous professions. It is not for people who have been slinging blocks for the past 45 years and think they can continue to do it, or for others who do manual labour.

My question is from a human resource perspective because I have had this discussion with resource managers before. When an employee has reached the age of mandatory retirement but does not want to retire, sometimes the resource management team of the company or the agency the person works for will keep that long-standing employee even though the employee is about to reach the age of retirement.

However, if the person is no longer capable of doing the job but the person wants to continue working, what happens if the employer says that the person cannot continue working?

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize, but I had no audio during the member's question. I heard the preamble, but I did not hear the question itself. Would the member mind repeating the question? The audio was not working properly.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is on the question of an employee who has reached the age of mandatory retirement under the present legislation, but wishes to stay beyond retirement age. However, the employer does not wish the employee to stay because the employer is fully aware that the employee is no longer capable of performing the essential duties of the job. If the employer says he or she does not want the employee anymore because the employee cannot do the job, what does the employee do? Where does that leave the employee if the employee does not intend to retire?

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about two different things. I am talking about one thing and I think that my hon. colleague is talking about another. I am talking about equal circumstances where the employee is doing a good job and there are no complaints on the part of the employer.

We are talking about a certain type of employer. We are talking about the Government of Canada and companies that are linked to the Government of Canada but are at arm's-length.

The kind of situation I am talking about is when an employer has no complaints, but tells an employee who is now 65 years old that he or she must retire.

Bill C-481 is not concerned with people who are not doing their jobs correctly. If an employee is not doing his or her job correctly, then the onus is on the employer to present that to him or her.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the age of 65 actually has its genesis back at the time of Bismarck when people at the age of 65 were referred to as the “unnecessary eaters”, but as the member pointed out, we have a longer life expectancy. In fact, some people who have not been sufficiently able to provide for their pensions need their job, and so I very much support this bill.

The gist of the previous member's question was whether or not there is a presumption here that in all cases, for example, a firefighter or police officer, although those are not federal, the employee would still have the physical and mental capability to do the job, and would in all other respects be able to discharge the responsibilities of that position, with the only issue being that the individual has reached the age of 65.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, 65 is not a magic age. It does not happen that the employee does his or her job well at the age of 64 and nine months, but all of a sudden at the age of 65 can no longer perform his or her job. If the employee is not performing the job well, it tends to be a progressive deterioration. It is not a black and white issue.

As I said earlier, if the employer is not satisfied with what the employee is doing, then it is up to the employer to let the employee know before the age of 65. The age has nothing to do with it.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

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 rise today to respond to Bill C-481, tabled in this House by my hon. colleague from Laval—Les Îles, with some background with respect to the government's position on this bill.

The bill proposes to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code. It would, in effect, put a stop to allowing mandatory retirement within the federally regulated private sector.

I commend my hon. colleague for having reintroduced this bill, which was first introduced in this House last November.

The matter of whether we should continue to have mandatory retirement in the federally regulated private sector is something that should be explored. It is timely. Therefore, this matter can be debated and must be debated here in Parliament. Mandatory retirement, as an issue, is taking on more importance for a number of reasons. Among them is the fact that our population is aging and our birthrate is in decline.

My view, and the position of the Government of Canada, is that there is a lot of merit in pursuing what is being proposed in Bill C-481. Provided that some additional amendments are made, the government would be prepared to support this bill.

I will identify those necessary amendments in a moment but first I would like to take a few moments to talk about why the provisions in this bill are important. The worker's right to choose is one of them.

Forcing someone to retire because of age is a form of discrimination. Unless there are compelling reasons, such as health and safety concerns, workers should have the right to choose when they retire. It should be a choice based on lifestyle and financial and health circumstances. It should not be decided for someone because they have reached a defined age.

Today, approximately 10% of Canada's population continues to work after age 65. The average age of retirement in Canada is 62. Given these facts, it is worth noting that mandatory retirement policies in the federally regulated private sector currently affect very few employees in practice. How few are affected by the mandatory retirement? Less than 2% of the federally regulated employers. Among large employers with 100 employees or more, about 10% have a mandatory retirement policy. That is a major drop from about 25% in the late 1990s. Within the federal public service, the practice of mandatory retirement ended in 1986. There has been consistent progress.

Turning to my next point, Bill C-481 is important as it represents consistent progress toward current employment practices. By eliminating blanket exemptions and exceptions for mandatory retirement in the federal jurisdiction, we would help align federal rules so that they are consistent with the provincial and territorial human rights legislation.

Having said this, some modest amendments are necessary before the government can give full support to this bill. Specifically, we must consider what the repeal of paragraph 15(1)(b) of the Canadian Human Rights Act would entail. It would remove the ability of the Government of Canada to enact regulations that could set out maximum age requirements for those groups for whom specific age requirements are necessary. That regulation-making power is important, so it needs to be maintained.

There is a regulation enacted under the authority of paragraph 15(1)(b) of the Canadian Human Rights Act that supports the mandatory retirement policy currently in place for the Canadian Forces. This poses a concern to the government in Bill C-481, in its current form.

Repeal of this paragraph would pose significant challenges to the operational capability of the Canadian Forces. It also could have an impact on their ability to contain costs and to manage military personnel effectively and efficiently.

To maintain an effective and ready force, the Canadian Forces must recruit from within its ranks. It requires a continuous flow of personnel to ensure appropriate experience and expertise throughout the ranks. The longer members serve, the more wear and tear they will incur due to the physical and psychological demands of military service and the greater the risk will be of individual performance failures with consequences for mission success and the health and safety of others.

For these reasons, the Canadian Forces seeks to maintain its existing mandatory retirement policy. Therefore, amendments are needed to safeguard the government's ability to effectively manage the Canadian Forces.

There are other areas, such as interprovincial and international transportation activities where there may be circumstances that warrant a mandatory policy.

Moreover, departments whose mandates cover the affected stakeholder group, for example, Transport Canada with respect to the airline and maritime industry, may wish to propose regulations for consideration to allow mandatory retirement policies for those industries as long as they are necessary and proportional under the charter.

With respect to severance pay, the bill also proposes to amend the Canada Labour Code to remove the provision that denies employees severance pay upon involuntary termination if they are eligible for pension benefits, whether public or private. Age should not be a determinant of eligibility for severance pay. All workers should be eligible for severance pay when they are involuntarily terminated. For this reason, I support repealing this provision as proposed in the bill. Further, an adjustment period is required.

We also propose that a provision be added to Bill C-481 so that there is a transition period. This is important. It would help unions and employers make adjustments to adapt to the changes. It would give them time to review their human resource policies, pensions, benefit plans, and collective agreements to ensure compliance. This is a sensible thing to do. It would ensure a smooth transition.

Abolishing the practice of mandatory retirement within the federal jurisdiction would be consistent with current Government of Canada policies regarding older workers. Canada is facing the challenges of an aging population. It is projected that the proportion of Canadians aged 65 or older will increase from 13% to roughly 25%.

In addition, the ratio of workers to pensioners is expected to shrink from four workers for every retiree to two workers for every retiree. All of this would happen by 2030. Within that period of time, these massive demographic changes will mean added fiscal pressures on Canada's ability to manage increasing health care and pension plan costs. Canada will need to retain its skilled, seasoned workers and make greater use of their talents for longer.

These measures would also benefit women and immigrant workers in Canada, two groups that are more likely to re-enter the workforce or join it later in life than others. By prohibiting this workplace practice, these workers will be able to accrue additional years of service and strengthen their financial security should they wish to continue working beyond the fixed retirement age.

Let me restate the Government of Canada's position on Bill C-481. We would be prepared to support it provided that the following three amendments are adopted. First, the bill should be amended to maintain the regulation-making power in paragraph 15(1)(b) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Second, the bill should include a transition provision to allow employers and unions to adjust to the changes. Third, the bill should include a coming into force provision.

The proposed approach makes good policy sense. Although in practice it will affect only a very small number of federal jurisdiction private sector employees, it would remove barriers to continue labour market participation for older workers. This approach would also allow the government to retain its regulation-making power with regard to imposing mandatory retirement in exceptional cases for certain industries due to health, safety, and operational reasons and to ensure compliance with international laws and regulations.

With those exceptions, we are prepared to support the bill as proposed by my hon. colleague.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is our turn to speak to the bill before us here today, Bill C-481. Basically, I believe I can sum up our feelings, our response to this bill, by saying that it is long overdue.

I find it quite interesting that, at the end of 2010, and with a bill from the official opposition no less, the government seems to accept this idea. However, we must be wary of the recent proposed amendments, because the government has already played that game, specifically, by giving the power to create regulations and implement legislation, although that is usually its way of evading the issue. It says that we can do whatever we like in the House, that we can pass any bills we like, but it will not necessarily implement them.

When a bill is introduced in the House and supported by the majority in this House, it should be implemented. However, I do realize there is a transition period.

At this time, human rights laws and the Canada Labour Code allow both employers and unions to tell people celebrating their 65th birthday that, while they may have been good workers yesterday, tomorrow they will be too old. So those workers are thanked and shown the door. The Canada Labour Code allows this. And this does not apply only to a limited number of employers; it also applies to all Government of Canada employees. Thus, when anyone who works in the public service or for any Crown corporation turns 65, he or she can be told, “Thank you and congratulations, but we no longer need you, so, good bye”.

This is one of the best examples of the difference between Quebec society and Canadian society and it must be respected. We have to wonder how this came about. It is quite simply because we are different. When we say that Quebec is not like Canada, of course that is because of language issues, because of the way we regulate our markets and because of many other things, especially because Quebec was given that right in 1982. We have been different in that respect for nearly 30 years. We are different because we said, why not? Just because someone celebrates their 65th birthday does not mean they suddenly become incompetent, that they are not needed and that we can get rid of them. Since 1982, we have not seen this type of behaviour in Quebec by either employers or unions. No one in Quebec would ever consider the idea of wishing someone a happy birthday and then never seeing them again.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, a person can be prevented from joining a union and a union has the right to expel or suspend a union member. Remarkably, the Canada Labour Code makes it possible to get rid of those people. In Quebec, we have the fundamental right to live and the fundamental right to keep working. It is the way attitudes evolve. Earlier we heard some statistics. In 2001, the Government of Canada conducted studies that found that in 20 years—in 2021—or 10 years from now, there would be as many Canadians 65 and older as children. We know that the baby boomers are beginning to retire now.

In the provinces, there has been every manner of tax and fee possible and unimaginable in order to have a health care system. What does it accomplish? Among other things, it allows us to live longer.

It also makes it possible to tell people that 65 is not old. It is one year older than 64 and one year younger than 66. It is a number; that is all. The age of 65 is not synonymous with incapacity or incompetence.

Some would say that there are dangerous occupations that require a certain amount of dexterity. I agree, but a loss of dexterity does not necessarily occur at age 65. It may occur at age 50. Very few of us here could play hockey in the National Hockey League, not because we are old but because we no longer have the ability to do so, and it is not at age 65 that this happens.

Unelected senators can serve until they are 75 years old, while MPs can serve in the House as long as the voters continue to elect us to office. So, in Quebec, we determined that the people should also be able to work until they freely decide to retire.

Are we able to live off our retirement pensions at age 65? I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance. A number of people have come to see us here in Ottawa to tell us that they cannot retire at age 65 because of a lack of income. They want to be able to continue working to achieve their full potential, because they are fit and because they want to pass on their knowledge. Why not?

Before I was elected to Parliament, I taught at the HEC Montréal, where people passed on their knowledge. People are asked to pass on their knowledge to younger generations. There is a problem if the mandatory retirement age is set at 65. On the other hand, people need to have the means to retire at 65. The people who came to see us said that because of what they get in Canada and Quebec pension plan benefits and the fact that the guaranteed income supplement is not paid automatically in Canada, they have a hard time making ends meet once they reach 65. Why not let these people keep on working? But the way to do it is not by making regulations and asking the government to implement this legislation when it sees fit. Canadians want this bill to be passed in 2010. Quebec has had similar legislation since 1982.

I am currently touring Quebec with some of my Bloc colleagues and talking to people about our budget expectations for 2011. A number of people told us we should carry on with our work, and that is what we are doing. In Quebec, no one is telling us that the mandatory retirement age should be 65, except for people working in labour relations in Canada.They wonder why their neighbours should have the right to keep on working when they do not because of the Canada Labour Code. That is discrimination.

The minister or the parliamentary secretary is saying that he could support such a bill with these amendments, but that basically the Government of Canada does not want to. Canada is free to prevent people from working after age 65. In Quebec, we saw the light 30 years ago. That is one more reason to respect each other despite our differences.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-481, a bill which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to prohibit federally regulated employers, and that is private sector employers subject to federal acts and regulations, as well as the federal public administration from setting a mandatory retirement age.

I welcome this debate because it allows us to finally take a closer look at the myth of mandatory retirement in our country. In fact, there is no universal prohibition in place now that would stop all Canadians from working past the age of 65. People over 65 are working all over the country. They are university professors, doctors, lawyers and, as I look around this chamber, apparently quite a few politicians too.

Those of us in these professions are blessed. We make up a small percentage of working adults who actually enjoy our work, at least I hope we do. For me, the work that I do right now is gratifying and I am excited about the chance to do it on a daily basis. I know most other members in the House feel the same way.

However, we are fortunate, and we are definitely in the minority. Most of the world, most of the working people in our country, are not like us. Most working men and women do not have jobs that are clean and safe. Working for them is not a vocation or a calling; it is simply a necessity.

I think about the industrial workers in my home town of Hamilton. I think about the tens of thousands of men and women who have worked in the steel mills. They are not desk jockeys. They were walking along catwalks around furnaces, molten steel flying and splashing and they have the scars from 20 and 30 years of being burned by it. It is hotter than Hades and they are inhaling particulate matter that will impact them for the rest of their lives.

They are not there because they love the smell of molten steel. They are there so they can take home a paycheque at the end of a long week's work. Despite the fact that their bodies are no longer as strong in their 50s as they were in their 20s, they keep working because they need the money to pay off their second mortgage, not a new mortgage for a better home, but the second time they have taken out a mortgage on their existing homes so they can finance their children's college or university education. They are desperate for an exit point.

It is not just about steelworkers. It is about workers in hundreds of occupations in jobs from coast to coast to coast. It is about miners in Sudbury and Voisey's Bay. It is about construction workers whose back-breaking work exposes them to the cruellest of elements. It is about nurses whose physical jobs give their profession the highest rate of workplace injuries in the country.

The bill before us today is about federally regulated workplaces, but the same physical strains exist for many of the proud members of the teamsters or the CAW, CEP, CUPW, CUPE, PSAC, and I could go on. Their jobs are not like ours. There comes a time when their bodies just cannot do it anymore, and that is to say nothing of their souls.

That is why pensions are always at the forefront of negotiations in organized workplaces. People are not looking to work past the age of 65. They want to be able to retire as early as possible, and as early as possible usually means a time when their pensions will have accrued to a sufficient amount to allow for a retirement with relative income security.

The normal age for retirement in Canada has therefore become 65. Age 65 is when the old age security pension benefits begin, and most private and public retirement plans have been designed to provide income to people starting at 65. A specific age is needed because people have to select premium payments by contributors to calculate how much money is available to retirees when they leave the program, which is to say, when they retire. In that way retirement age and retirement income are inextricably linked.

We have had a number of debates in the House about the inadequacy of public pensions and the increasing incidents of solvency insufficiencies in private pension plans. To date, the government has merely paid lip service to improving those pension systems. While they wait for the government to act, literally thousands of Canadians, who have worked hard all their lives and who have played by the rules, are finding it impossible to make ends meet on their meagre pension incomes.

Therefore, what do they do? They go out and find another job to supplement their pensions. The now iconic Wal-Mart greeter is but one example. Thousands of seniors are now working in the retail sector and at fast food places, not because these are their dream jobs but because they have to survive.

Let us be absolutely clear. These seniors are not working by choice. They are working these minimum wage jobs in their golden years because it keeps the wolves at bay. It is not about choice. All too often that is the language the mandatory retirement debate wraps itself in, but this is really a debate about values.

For decades, trade unionists and other activists fought hard and struggled to ensure that future generations would not have to work until they dropped dead in the workplace. They fought for pensions and a retirement at a reasonable enough age that older Canadians could spend their senior years doing all the things they did not have time to do while they were working, perhaps volunteering, perhaps teaching English as a second language, perhaps helping raise their grandchildren or perhaps even going back to school. Those options offer real choices, and they are an integral part of the fulfilling retirement we promised workers in exchange for the wage concessions and taxes they contributed toward building their pension funds.

When women work past the age of 65, it is not because they would not rather be pursuing other interests. To paraphrase American Democrat Paul Tsongas, nobody on her deathbed ever said “I wish I'd spent more time at the office”. But women's work in the home has been so devalued by successive Liberal and Conservative governments in Canada that many women do not have adequate pension contributions to be able to survive without a paying job in their golden years.

However that is not a so-called choice that women should have to make. The solution to that is not the abolition of mandatory retirement. The solution is to recognize, value and compensate the incredibly hard work women do in their homes and revamp the system to take into account late entries into the workforce or interrupted participation. Only when such a system is in place would women have a real choice about whether or not to work past the age of 65.

So again, debates about retirement age and retirement income are inextricably linked.

Herein lies the real fear about legislation that seeks to abolish mandatory retirement. As I said before, thousands of Canadians are already working past the age of 65, and there is no law that prohibits that. But 65 is the accepted age for pension calculations. So by doing away with what is described as mandatory retirement, the fear is that it will allow pension fund managers, both public and private, to raise the age for pension eligibility. Let us be clear. There is a huge lobby from the corporate side for precisely that, because there are huge cost savings at stake for employers. For every year that the retirement age is raised beyond 65, the employer's pension liabilities are reduced dramatically.

Heck, I would wager that the only reason Canadian pension legislation passed with an age limit of 65 in the first place is that, at that time, the average life expectancy of a Canadian, predominantly male, worker was 57 years of age. Clearly, it is not a great risk to offer pensions at 65 when a third of eligible workers would never, ever reach it.

Fortunately, life expectancies are now well into the eighties for Canadians. But existing pensions are proving wholly inadequate. Two-thirds of Canadians do not have a company pension plan. One-third of Canadian families have no retirement savings, and management fees from some mutual funds can consume as much as 35% to 45% of RRSP savings over a period of 40 years. Canadians are looking to their government for help.

However, the government is looking at the issue through a different lens. Life expectancies into the eighties mean that both governments and employers are looking for a way out of meeting their pension obligations, and the abolition of the mandatory retirement age is the first step down on that slippery slope.

I cannot wait to hear from Canadians when this bill is dealt with in committee. I can well imagine that there will be some who do sincerely want to continue their research or other professional pursuits well past the age of 65, and I acknowledge that the typical justification for mandatory retirement may not be appropriate. After all, if the argument is that certain occupations are either too dangerous or require too high a level of physical or mental skill for most people over the age of 65, then the age does seem somewhat arbitrary since it is not based on an actual physical evaluation of an individual person. That is where arguments about discrimination or ageism legitimately enter the debate.

Unless there are meaningful reforms to the pension system first, I find it hard to believe that the abolition of mandatory retirement would be in the interests of the hardworking Canadians I represent in my riding of Hamilton Mountain, and I cannot wait to hear from them on this important issue when the bill comes to committee.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

November 15th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Laval—Les Îles for bringing forward Bill C-481, which has been before this place in the past. I am pleased to hear the input of other colleagues and other parties as well.

As we know, the bill itself is seeking to repeal subsection 9(2) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, to replace paragraphs 15(1)(b) and (c) of the Canadian Human Rights Act and, third, to repeal paragraph 235(2)(b) of the Canada Labour Code.

Ultimately this all has to do with the subject matter of mandatory retirement age, and in fact, recently courts have ruled that the case of Air Canada and a couple of pilots was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What I would like to talk about is why we should do this.

Pragmatically, the last speaker raised some interesting points about what some employers would do to take advantage of that situation, but this bill in no way amends pension plans that organizations have established. Pension benefits and defined pension benefit plans lay out the number of years of service necessary to accrue the vesting that is necessary to get maximum benefits. Should any employer decide it wants to propose changes to any of its benefit plans, including its pension benefit plan, that is a matter between the employer and the employees and the existing pensioners, to determine whether it is in the best interests of the employees and the long-term benefit of a pension plan for that organization.

However this is a situation where we have a life expectancy in Canada that has increased enormously over the last few decades. As I mentioned earlier in a question, the age of 65, in terms of the age at which people were no longer useful, came up during the time of Bismarck, and the people at age 65 were referred to as the unnecessary eaters. They were the burdens of society.

My father-in-law passed away at age 65. He virtually worked for the same company all his working life, but when he reached the age of 65, all of a sudden he did not go to work. The door was closed. There was this barrier. It was mandatory and he left that job. He was dead within three months. I think it was the culture shock of having lost that life and that involvement. He was a sharp, bright guy who did an extremely good job for his company, but that is just what the rules were.

I have to wonder whether or not this is another reason that we have to deal with this, because there are people who have the capacity and the physical and mental ability to do excellent jobs. When we look at some of the fundamentals, for example, that today about 70% of the jobs in Canada require post-secondary education and in 10 years 77% of jobs will require post-secondary education, we cannot keep up with the demand for qualified people to do jobs. Therefore there is a lot of pressure from companies to keep employees longer, because they have the experience and the expertise. They are going to allow that flexibility to companies to be able to have that expertise, to bring along and train those to take over important positions.

As the mover of the bill mentioned, this particular bill is only going to affect about 10% of employees in Canada, but I have a feeling that it will be a subject matter that will be taken up in all jurisdictions as it relates to retirement age.

I must admit that there will be some arguments. We heard some from the last speaker, the arguments some people might have in opposing this bill, and in fact there are a number that the mover has identified. One is that unions might have some concern because they fought to protect workers' rights.

There is this concern about a slippery slope, that somehow this bill would give them a foundation or a route to be able to use and that companies would start to erode away pension rights under the plans they operate. This bill has nothing to do with that. That is really a matter that is the purview of other jurisdictions and in fact of the company and the unions representing the employees in these matters.

Every plan lays out, in detail, the criteria necessary for people to qualify for benefits, how many years they have to serve and at what age they can start to collect. Many plans emulate some of the things the Canada pension plan has, where people can elect to take early retirement at an actuarially reduced amount or may defer their pension. A lot of teachers do. In fact, with an OMERS pension, people can defer their pension and even after they have retired can make additional premium contributions to top up by having additional investments in the plan.

There are many issues here. I would not be too concerned about the slippery slope argument. This bill is not suggesting, in any way, shape or form, that other jurisdictions would have to look at the impact. It is their responsibility to look at that.

The displacement of younger workers is another issue that will come up, I suspect, as the labour markets expand. As I indicated, we do have situations now where we are unable to fill all of the skill sets necessary in jobs that are available in Canada now, which is why we have had a significant increase in the demand for new Canadians to come, who have those skill sets. We need a better balance, obviously, of training and education for people who are in Canada so that we can, as a normal course, fill those jobs.

This is not an issue now. In fact the flexibility in the system for people who have reached age 60 or 65, depending on the institution we are talking about, has that latitude.

As I pointed out earlier, we have come through some very difficult times. Clearly the adequacy of pensions for today's retirees is a very serious issue. There are a lot of people who have not been able to accrue sufficient pension benefits.

What do we expect people to do under a mandatory retirement system, when they can no longer have the continuity of their job? If they leave this job, where they are an engineer making $150,000, trying to make sure they have their retirement, what do they do?

They have to go to some other employer to see if that employer will hire them under its rules. How many of these people go to nominal jobs that do not really match their skill sets and do not make them feel useful? This makes no sense.

It does make sense when people have choices. Workers have the right to choose to stay and to continue to provide good service.

I do know that there are provisions in certain elements of society where people cannot go on beyond a certain age. One of the ones I was involved in was firefighting. There was an amendment made to allow firefighters to qualify for full Canada pension benefits earlier than the normal age of 65. The reason was that the life expectancy of firefighters is substantially less than the national average, because of the dangers and the risks to health associated with that profession.

There are others. I think one of the concerns that may come up is with regard to pilots. We have a 67-year-old pilot who was forced out of his job. We have to presume here, very clearly, and it is not a presumption; it is a requirement. We have to presume that for those who choose to continue to work in a job, the understanding is that they continue to be fully qualified, fully trained, up to date, physically and mentally fit as necessary to be able to do the job in a perfectly satisfactory fashion in accordance to the criteria of the employer.

This is not to say that a pilot who has lost the edge can continue to be a pilot. The issue is that meeting the job criteria fully is the presumption here and we are really talking about choice for workers.

This bill from the member for Laval—Les Îles is a bill that is well worthwhile to move forward quickly and get the full support of this House.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-22.

Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

Motion in amendment
Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

Noon

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-22 be amended by restoring Clause 1 as follows:

“1. This Act may be cited as the Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act.”

Mr. Speaker, I would like to restore the short title of the bill to its original form: the Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act.

At committee it was ruled by the chair that a motion to amend clause 1 was out of order and therefore the motion was not debated. This, I believe, resulted in the rejection of this clause. If there had been the opportunity to debate the importance of the short title, the following could have been noted:

Bill C-22 requires the mandatory reporting of child pornography by providers of Internet services. This will enhance Canada's capacity to better protect children from online sexual exploitation, period. I emphasize this is not to limit the bill's scope, but to underline the importance of the bill and its breadth.

The committee heard from the Minister of Justice and Ms. Lianna McDonald, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Both emphasized the potential effects of this legislation and how it will protect children from online sexual exploitation.

It will do so in a number of ways. First, it will strengthen our ability to detect potential child pornography material. Second, reports generated under the bill will help block child pornography sites through Project Cleanfeed Canada. Third, the bill will facilitate the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of child pornography offenders. Fourth, and most important, the bill could help to identify the victims so that they may be rescued from sexual predators.

That is why the government had proposed the Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act as a short title for Bill C-22. This is clearly the ultimate objective of the bill, and the short title should be restored.

I am pleased to note that this important bill received all-party support and was improved with only two minor amendments for clarification.

Before I get to the specific amendments, I would like to say a few words generally about this piece of legislation and its purpose. I think everyone in the House would agree that there is no greater duty for us as elected officials than to ensure the protection of children, the most precious and vulnerable members of our society.

The creation of the Internet and the World Wide Web have provided new means for offenders to distribute and consume child pornography, resulting in a significant increase in the availability and volume of child pornography.

While Canada has one of the world's most comprehensive criminal law frameworks with which to combat child pornography, we can and must do better in protecting children from sexual exploitation.

The bill is a simple and straightforward approach to help achieve that goal in that it proposes to compel providers of Internet services to become active participants in the fight against child pornography and child sexual exploitation.

Bill C-22 will strengthen Canada's ability to detect potential child pornography offences; help reduce the availability of online child pornography; facilitate the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of offenders; and, most important, help identify the victims so they may be rescued from sexual predators.

It is my hope that reducing the amount of this vile material on the Internet will prevent other children from being abused, both in Canada and around the world.

I will now turn back to the committee proceedings and the amendments that were passed. Both amendments were for clarification and do not change the substance of the bill. The first change relates to the definitions and the definition of “Internet service” in particular. There was some concern that the enumeration of the services covered under the bill could be interpreted in a manner that would put the average citizen under a duty to report. However remote this interpretation may have been, the committee agreed that it should seize the opportunity to make the definition of “Internet service” crystal clear and consistent with the French definition.

The second amendment relates to the provision concerning laws of provincial or foreign jurisdictions. In essence, Bill C-22 imposes two duties on those who provide an Internet service to the public.

First, providers are required to report to a designated agency Internet tips that they might receive regarding websites where child pornography may be available to the public.

Second, if a provider has reason to believe that a child pornography offence has been committed using its Internet service, the provider is required to notify police and to preserve that evidence for 21 days.

The purpose of Bill C-22 is to ensure that service providers report child pornography that comes to their attention. Therefore, if the service provider has reported the child pornography incident under a similar duty, under either a provincial law or a law in a foreign jurisdiction, it has complied with the objective of the legislation, and, through this provision, with the legislation itself.

The intention of Bill C-22, however, was not to duplicate reporting to a designated agency where a service provider has already reported the same incident in accordance with the laws of a province or a foreign jurisdiction. In other words, the provision relieves a service provider of its duty to report under the proposed legislation if it has already reported the same incident under the legislation of another jurisdiction.

However, the committee was concerned that the provision related to more than just the reporting duty and could be interpreted as relating to the duty to notify. The duty to notify police arises when a service provider has a reasonable belief that a child pornography offence may have been committed on its system. Accompanying this duty to notify police is the duty to safeguard computer data that may result in evidence of the offence. This jurisdiction provision was never intended to relieve service providers of their duty to notify or preserve evidence. Therefore, the committee took the opportunity to clarify the issue and make specific reference to the section number relating to the duty to report.

Those were the two amendments made in committee, but I would like to touch on some important testimony that was given during the committee study of Bill C-22. The committee heard from representatives from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which operates cybertip.ca, Canada's national 24/7 tip line for reporting the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet.

At present, most reporting of child pornography across Canada is done through cybertip.ca or, in French, cyberaide.ca. Within 48 hours, cybertip.ca reviews, prioritizes, and analyzes every report it receives. Cybertip.ca verifies the report by collecting supporting information using various Internet tools and techniques. It also identifies the location of the material in order to determine the appropriate jurisdiction. If the material is assessed to be potentially illegal, a report is referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for follow-up and investigation.

Each month cybertip.ca receives an average of over 800,000 hits and triages over 700 reports. Approximately 45% of reports are forwarded to law enforcement. As of June 2009, cybertip.ca had triaged over 33,000 reports since becoming Canada's national tip line in 2002. Over this period, more than 90% of the reports received by cybertip.ca were related to child pornography. At least 30 arrests have resulted from these reports, approximately 3,000 websites have been shut down, and, most important, children have been removed from abusive environments.

Finally, I would like to note that Bill C-22 was crafted with the following overarching principle in mind: that the legislation should not contribute to the consumption or further dissemination of child pornography. I submit that it has adhered to this principle. It is a simple bill that can do much good without unduly affecting the business practices of those who are compelled to comply. It strikes the necessary balance between public safety and the privacy rights. It is also another example of how this government has made the safety and security of Canadian children a top priority.

I urge the House to give its full support to this bill, as amended, so that it can be referred to the Senate and we can adopt this important piece of legislation without delay.