House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly consistent with the current government's advertising program. It is as if the Conservative Party advertising firm has simply tied its way into the bills in the House of Commons. Over and over again, the Conservatives feel they have to add a sexy title to the bill that sort of fits in with the press release that is already written. I say they do not have to do that. The press releases are ready. I have a bunch of their clippings here that I could show to anybody who wishes to see them. That is what they do. I think they write the press releases first and then they write the bills based on the press releases. All their crime efforts are really based more on trying to gain votes, and it is just not working. Their numbers are going down because the public, I think, is seeing through what they are up to here. The fact of the matter is that their crime agenda is just not getting the traction they hoped it would get at the initial stages.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noted that my colleague spoke of the American experience in his speech. The U.S. went down this road of being tough on crime, throwing people in jail and being heavy on punishment, to find it really was not working.

I remember hearing a speech in Sault Ste. Marie from a Jesuit who works with gangs in San Francisco. He very clearly made the case that simply throwing people in jail and getting tougher in terms of punishment was not working for the people he was in contact with every day in the organization where he was executive director. He said to me that Canada should learn from the U.S. experience, that we should not go down that road and that we do not need to spend that kind of money or create that kind of pain and hardship for everybody concerned.

I would like the member to expand a little on his knowledge, understanding and experience of the American experiment that did not work.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an issue of déjà vu. The reality is that Europe has lower crime rates, Canada has mid-range crime rates and the United States has the highest crime rates. Let us assume, for want of a better argument, that they are 25 years ahead of us. If we are looking at what they did 25 years ago, we would see that they have a system that does not work.

They expanded private prisons in the United States in an explosive manner to house criminals under the “three strikes and you are out” program and the mandatory minimum programs of Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. At the end of the day, what have they got? They have a system that is bankrupting their state and the highest crime rate around.

How could that possibly be seen as following best practices? What is it going to take for the government to wake up and realize that, on this and other issues, it should be looking at best practices? It could look and see what works in Sweden or what works and does not work in other countries. Why be wedded to an American system that has been proven not to work? Not only does it not work, but it costs a fortune.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

There is enough time for a very brief question, perhaps 30 seconds for the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, just following up on the thoughts of my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona, it seems to me that the United States should be the safest country in the world, given that it has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Can he elaborate on this seeming contradiction? If tougher sentences make safer streets, why is it that the United States has the toughest sentences in the world and the highest rate of crime? Can he expand on that?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it just shows that prisons are really crime schools. Prisoners are put in with other prisoners and learn the trade. At the end of the day, they come out with their degree. They are just better at crime when they come out of prison than when they went in.

How is that a positive for society if prisoners keep reoffending? We are trying to stop that system, and having conditional sentences seems to be working. It is also cheaper.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

moved that Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to split my time with the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the minister have unanimous consent to share her time?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake, who made the ultimate sacrifice on Monday while serving Canadians proudly in Afghanistan. I was deeply saddened to have learned of his loss. He was a dedicated father of two sons who was a native of Simcoe, Ontario, in my riding of Haldimand—Norfolk. Our whole community has been shaken by this loss.

Petty Officer Blake is a local hero and a brave Canadian. Let us never forget Petty Officer Blake and all of the other brave men and women who have died while protecting the freedoms of Canadians and of those around the world.

In memory of Petty Officer Blake, I am humbled and privileged to rise today to speak about one of our government's newest bills, Bill C-13, the fairness for military families bill. This bill proposes to improve access to employment insurance parental benefits for members of the Canadian Forces.

Canadian Forces members are in a unique situation. Every single day soldiers are putting their lives on the line for the rights and freedoms of Canadians and of people all around the globe. They have such conviction in what they are doing and they desire to serve their country so much that they do something that not many of us are prepared to do: They spend large amounts of time away from their families.

Frankly, I cannot imagine what it must feel like for our soldiers to be halfway around the world in life-threatening circumstances knowing that they will not get to kiss their spouse, that they will not get to hold their new baby, or they will not get to hug their mom for months, but that is what our soldiers are willing to give up in order to serve our country. There are no words to properly express our gratitude to the members of our armed forces.

It is not just the soldiers who make the sacrifices; their families do as well. They spend endless sleepless nights worrying about the safety of their loved ones and spend months without the help and support of their spouse, their parent or their child. We also owe these people thanks for all of their hard work and their sacrifice.

In Canada, unfortunately, we sometimes forget about how lucky we have things. Where else in the world can we stand on a street corner and see a mosque, a synagogue and a Christian church, and not have the fear to practise the religion of choice? We must never forget this freedom and we must never forget that it did not come without a price. It is as a result of the sacrifices that our brave soldiers have made that we are able to enjoy the freedoms that we have right here in Canada.

The work of our soldiers is obviously not limited to the protection of our Canadian freedoms. In the battlefields of Vimy Ridge to Normandy and now in Afghanistan, Canadian soldiers have been on the front lines fighting for what is right in the face of tyranny.

Most recently, through the courage of our soldiers in Afghanistan, young women can now attend school and there are now democratic elections. In fact, simple freedoms that we take for granted in Canada, such as listening to music or watching a film, are now for the first time in decades available in Afghanistan as a result of the work of our Canadian soldiers.

No government has shown such unwavering support of our Canadian troops as our Conservative government. We recognize the important contributions of our soldiers and we are committed to ensuring that our brave men and women have access to the programs and services that they need and deserve.

Just a few short months ago, the member for Nepean—Carleton approached me with an issue. He had met a soldier from his riding who was unable to access EI parental benefits and enjoy time with his new baby when he returned from his deployment in Afghanistan. That is because under the current Employment Insurance Act, eligible Canadians must access their maternity and parental benefits within 52 weeks of the birth or the adoption.

This means that Canadian Forces members, including reservists, who are ordered to return to duty while on parental leave, or whose parental leave is deferred as a result of an imperative military requirement, may not be able to use the weeks with their family to which they are entitled. I had the same reaction that my colleague did when I heard this news. It is not right and it must be fixed.

This has been a problem for several years now. Unfortunately, the previous Liberal government completely ignored the issue, but our Conservative government is taking action. Bill C-13 fixes this unjust problem. I want to thank the member for Nepean—Carleton for bringing this issue to my attention and for his hard work in making sure that it was resolved.

The fairness for military families bill extends the window to access parental benefits to a maximum of 104 weeks instead of the previous 52 if a Canadian Forces member's parental leave is deferred, or if the member is recalled to duty from leave in the first year that a child is born or adopted. Even though soldiers may miss their baby's first steps, they will not miss the baby's first words. Military families can have a bit more piece of mind knowing that being deployed to serve our country will no longer prevent soldiers from having the opportunity to bond with their new child when they return.

We all agree that maternity and parental employment insurance benefits are good for families. These benefits help parents bond with their new child. In 2007-08 alone, over 186,000 Canadians took advantage of these benefits. Clearly, this has helped many families. We hope that this change to the employment insurance system will give Canadian Forces members more opportunities to bond with their children.

This bill reflects our Conservative government's clear commitment to families and our unwavering support for our Canadian Forces. We believe that families are the foundation of this great country. We also believe that parents should have the option to raise their kids as they see fit. That is why we introduced important new measures, such as the universal child care benefit, which provides $100 a month for every child under the age of six, and we are putting more money in the pockets of parents to spend on what matters most to them: their families.

The government also believes that Canadians, including Canadian Forces members, should not be forced to choose between work and family responsibilities. That is why we recently made special employment insurance benefits, including parental benefits, available to 2.6 million self-employed workers on a voluntary basis for the first time in Canada's history.

This bill is another example of that commitment. We want to make sure that when Canadians decide to join the Canadian Forces, to put on a uniform and serve our country, they can still bond with their new children when they come back. This bill shows that we understand the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make. As it stands, the Employment Insurance Act does not account for situations specific to soldiers and their families. It is time for the Act to recognize the important contribution that Canadian Forces members make.

We also announced in budget 2010 that we were taking steps to make it easier to access EI sickness benefits for immediate families of military personnel who have unfortunately died as a result of a service related injury. This change would provide recognition of the impact on family members of losing a loved one in the service.

This is another way for the government to express its gratitude to Canadian Forces members for their sacrifices.

There are no words to express how grateful we are to our armed forces. Bills like this one will bring us a step closer to ensuring that our soldiers have access to the programs to which they are entitled, soldiers, like our late Petty Officer Blake. The least we can do in return is give them some time with their families.