House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

This division stands deferred until tomorrow immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from April 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (elder abuse), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise a second time here today to speak to another bill.

I am speaking today on behalf of all Canadian seniors. Like others before them, they have built our country. They have contributed to society and created an open, warm, modern, caring society that does not leave anyone behind.

My grandparents raised their children, worked hard their whole lives and shared their knowledge and wisdom with their community. Now they are both over 85 years old, and like millions of other Canadian seniors, they still contribute to society through their experience, volunteer work and social and political involvement. They are productive members of society, and the last thing I would ever want is for them to be mistreated or neglected. I shudder at the very thought of my grandparents going through something like that.

Unfortunately, seniors can suffer from more serious physical disabilities, be more emotionally vulnerable and be financially dependent on others more often than younger adults. As a result, through no fault of their own, many Canadian seniors can become the victims of abuse.

Mr. Speaker, pardon me, but I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

According to Statistics Canada and a number of organizations that advocate on behalf of seniors, one in ten seniors has suffered some form of abuse in Canada, which is significant. I are talking about 10% of seniors in Canada. And that number is just the tip of the iceberg since only one in five cases of abuse is reported by the victims.

Worse yet, according to a study by the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, 800 seniors in Quebec died as a result of neglect between 2005 and 2007. I am talking about 800 people. That is a lot of people, but, in my opinion, one person is too many.

That is why the NDP supports Bill C-36, which partially—I repeat, partially—answers the requests we made during the 2011 election campaign.

I want to work with all parties in order to make our country a safe place for our seniors. Unfortunately, the bill before us here does not do enough to properly protect the men and women who built our country. Protecting them also means providing them with income security, affordable housing, access to universal pharmacare, home care and health care, all of which are sadly missing from Bill C-36.

One of the other things that is missing from this bill is gender-based analysis that would take into consideration the fact that older women do not experience violence and neglect the same way older men do.

As chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I tabled the committee's report on the abuse of older women in late May 2012. According to the report, the number of older women is and will continue to be greater than the number of older men. Even if the rate of victimization is the same, the number of abused women will always be greater than the number of abused men. In addition to the fact that their numbers are greater, women live longer and are more likely to have some disability that makes them more vulnerable to injury or abuse.

In fact, two-thirds of calls received by agencies dealing with elder abuse in Canada are from women. There are a number of reasons why women are victimized more often.

First, more than half of the 250,000 seniors living in poverty are women. Elderly women tend to have more limited financial resources. In 2008, the average income of elderly women was $24,100 a year compared to $38,100 for men. The ensuing financial dependence may contribute to financial exploitation and abuse, and also to the reluctance of women to report the abuse. In short, it is a vicious circle.

The absence of a national housing strategy that would enable elderly women to have access to safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing, often forces these women to remain the objects of violence and prevents them from reporting cases of abuse. Once again, women are caught in between a rock and a hard place.

Elderly women are also victims of the lack of coordination between various levels of government. The current bill is a glaring example of this, unfortunately. Rather than offering a partnership with provincial social services in order to develop programs that encourage elderly women to understand and report situations of victimization, the federal government is doing the bare minimum.

Let us be honest, Bill C-36 makes only a minor change to the Criminal Code. It provides no support and no tools for the organizations, professionals and other stakeholders that assist seniors.

I am currently a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. However, the non-partisan Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care also made several arguments and recommendations in its report. Indeed, the report entitled, “Not to Be Forgotten: Care of Vulnerable Canadians,” dedicates a section to the abuse of seniors.

We obviously support this bill, but it must not pass completely untouched. My colleagues and I are in a position where we are forced to implore the government to not only listen to us and people in need, but also to listen to its own committees.

We concur with the sentiments expressed in the committee's report on palliative care: all sectors of society must band together and make a huge, concerted effort. The federal government must not act alone.

Something must also be done with regard to housing for seniors, and in particular, for elderly women. Elderly women must enjoy autonomy in order to overcome systematic sexual discrimination. The lack of housing strips elderly women of their status and autonomy.

The New Democrats recommend that the federal government work with the provinces and territories to establish a national housing strategy in order to provide all Canadians with safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing that meets the needs of elderly women, among others, and prevents cases of abuse, violence and mistreatment.

In closing, the government has well and truly taken the first step by incorporating one of the 15 recommendations in the report by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on the abuse of elderly women, but it is far from sufficient.

To put an end to elder abuse—our elders being full members of our society, I would point out, and deserving of our respect—we have to define that abuse, coordinate the efforts of all levels of government and provide adequate housing for all seniors, particularly women. To do that, we need a national housing strategy, as I said earlier.

The NDP is offering concrete solutions that have also been recommended by two parliamentary committees. Unfortunately, this government has chosen not to put those solutions into practice. Our former leader reminded us not just to oppose, but to propose.

We are proposing solutions to the government. We want to work with it. It is up to it to listen to them and work with us.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

7 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for her excellent speech. I know that as chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women she sees a lot of things, and the case of women in particular is very important to her. What she told us in her speech is interesting. It moved me deeply that she has addressed so many subjects, all of which are equally important to women of all ages.

My colleague mentioned at the end that we are not just a party that opposes, we are also a party that proposes. I know that when it comes to the cause of women, including the question of affordable housing for seniors, she has a lot of ideas. I know her time was a little short. I would like to ask her to continue a little and tell us about the changes she would make to improve this bill.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to expand on my idea a little.

Certainly, working here in Parliament, we have the chance to spend time with a lot of people and develop new ideas every day. At the moment, I am doing a lot of work on the status of women, and my speech may have been a little coloured by that. Obviously, I am also doing a lot of work on housing.

In fact, when I see that a segment of the population is affected by violence or abuse, the solution I propose is to adopt a comprehensive strategy. For example, an individual needs health care, adequate housing and three meals a day. A comprehensive strategy that meets all of an individual’s basic needs is how we will ultimately manage to deal with the violence experienced by people in our society who are somewhat more vulnerable.

Earlier, I mentioned housing. Obviously, all Canadians are entitled to safe, accessible, adequate and affordable housing, but in this case, particularly, this could avoid a lot of problems.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, frankly, I quite agree with my friend's observations. I would like her to expand on this concept.

Section 718 of the Criminal Code already provides in sentencing provisions the ability of a court, a judge, to consider aggravating or mitigating factors. Really all this does is set out age, at which a court can already look. It tells me that this is yet another piece of Conservative legislation that is just designed to be cosmetic in nature and make people feel like the Conservatives have actually done something when so much more needs to be done.

Does my friend agree with that proposition?

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, we decided to support this bill because, obviously, we are not against motherhood and apple pie; however, this bill is clearly insufficient.

Of course, there is talk of tougher sentences and things like that but, when it comes right down to it, we really have to avoid this type of problem. We have to focus on prevention. Seniors who are being mistreated have to be given the tools they need to prevent this mistreatment. Taking action after the fact and making it easier for a person to file a complaint is not going to solve the problem of elder abuse. We must take preventive action by providing the tools. These people should not have to accept such situations.

We need to take this much further. It would be really worthwhile to consider this issue and to work on it. It would be really useful to have something more extensive.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak about Bill C-36. The NDP is quite pleased with this bill because it responds to some of our party's concerns and objectives. In that regard, I would like to thank the Conservative members for introducing this bill because it is a starting point for potentially improving the situation of our seniors and preventing abuse.

As the MP for Beauport—Limoilou, a riding in Quebec City, this bill holds a special importance for me. I would like to remind the hon. members that Quebec City is among the cities in Canada with the highest average age. There is thus already a significant proportion of seniors living in Quebec City. It is therefore going to be a challenge in the future to provide these people with the conditions they need to lead full, meaningful, satisfying and safe lives or, in short, lives that will allow them to play a real role in today's society.

However, it is truly essential to realize that the amendment to the Criminal Code proposed by the government is only one aspect of an action plan for seniors that should be much broader in scope. From that point of view, the problem remains untouched. Let me explain.

Even if we pass this bill and the amendment is made to the Criminal Code, without adequate means, without the various people who intervene when seniors are abused, without a broader framework and without co-operation between the federal, provincial and municipal governments and other stakeholders, this change will only solve a small part of the problem.

We all agree that a bill like this one is just an instrument. It is a tool. If we do not have trained personnel, if we do not have the people who can make full use of this tool, we are not going to meet the stated objectives.

This is why, for years, the New Democratic Party has been proposing a much broader plan than merely amending the Criminal Code. Incidentally, I must congratulate the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot on her speech, because she mentioned a whole series of measures that should be adopted in conjunction with the amendment to the Criminal Code, and also because she highlighted a specific group, a group which, sadly, is known for being the target of elder abuse, namely women.

First, it is very important to understand, for example, that our police forces are powerless, because they do not have the necessary training or personnel. Moreover, they do not have sufficient resources to help them and provide support, such as doctors, medical staff, psychologists, and even financial planners to track down and expose financial abuse, which is very common.

Without this support, police officers, who are the first responders when elder abuse is reported, will be powerless despite the change to the act. That is not just true for police officers, but for the whole legal system.

Lawyers specialize in various areas. They choose a field, an area of expertise. We will also need lawyers who are specialized in that type of crime and that type of case. Similarly, judges will also need some support to put everything involved in a case of elder abuse into perspective.

We do not realize how complex these cases can be for our police officers and our legal system. A very large part of the abuse that can be reported or identified is caused by people close to them, often by a senior's own children.

Starting from that point, there may be a whole string of consequences such that the crime goes unpunished. If our police officers, lawyers, judges and social workers have no training to decode this information, to support elderly victims, and to encourage them not only to report incidents of abuse, but to make progress in finding a solution—indeed, systematically punishing offences does not always solve problems of abuse—other very significant problems can be created of which elderly victims may be aware, and which may cause them not to report cases of abuse.

Many seniors, due to uncertainty about the future, a lack of confidence in themselves, or simply due to a lack of financial and material means, will accept the unacceptable in order to avoid suffering from insecurity. They prefer to suffer from other problems rather than suffer from such insecurity about their condition and future.

We can therefore give Bill C-36 the green light, but with a caveat: as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and having worked with my 11 colleagues, I am well placed to know that some of them unfortunately apply magical thinking and believe that amending the Criminal Code will solve everything, and that consequently, nothing else needs to be done.

I am sorry, but I will never support that kind of logic. We need to consider this aspect, this proposed amendment that may be adopted, at least I hope, that is if more work is done. And from there, we will be able to create a real strategy, a coordinated approach at the federal, provincial, and municipal level, including other stakeholders from the para-public and private sectors.

There is another parallel track to the proposed amendment that needs to be considered, examined and eventually implemented, if ever that track has potential and seems worthwhile. I am talking about restorative justice, where the victim can get assistance and support from the person who has wronged them, and even be set on a path of reconciliation that may facilitate things and may eventually help to solve problems.

I remind members that many seniors unfortunately are victims of their own loved ones.

The restorative justice approach must be very closely examined, both by the federal government and the 308 members of the House and by other levels of government and various stakeholders. Indeed, it will be very easy for many victims to fall between the cracks when what they really need is our help and support.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

June 19th, 2012 / 7:15 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou for his excellent speech. He mentioned the fact that, when we talk about elder abuse, we are not talking about anything that is black and white.

I had an opportunity to hear from expert witnesses during the study on the abuse of senior women that was conducted by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. The witnesses who work in the justice system revealed serious problems with how cases are processed. I would like to ask my colleague to tell us more about this.

We heard in committee that ageism, a poor understanding of the nature of the elder abuse and the lack of services for seniors, among other things, really came to a head when the seniors were in the legal system. When they were in court, they had great difficulty in moving their file forward.

This is really evidence of a much larger problem. Seniors have difficulty obtaining justice; it is not enough just to change the legislation.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question and also commend the work that was carried out on this issue by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Basically, it must be understood that, in the Criminal Code, there are sections that already make it possible to take legal action, to initiate a legal procedure. One of the problems that was raised is that, despite these provisions, despite this basic tool that exists for our police forces and for the various stakeholders, really very few cases, unfortunately, arrive at their logical conclusion, with a conviction or at least compensation for the victim.

My colleague quite correctly points out that we need additional measures and, above all, a support or a strategy that is entirely devoted to our police forces and to the various stakeholders that are called upon to act. Essentially, this type of case must be identified, and this appears to be a fundamental problem.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou for his excellent speech.

As members know, we are going to support this bill, even though in our view it really does not go far enough, as my colleague said. Since my colleague has a few moments more to speak, I would appreciate it if he would tell us about the changes he would like to make to this bill. What changes would he make in order to improve the quality of life of seniors? In his view, what changes would it be extremely important to make for this bill to be worthwhile?