moved that Bill C-272, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (child adoption expenses), be read the second time and referred to committee.
Madam Speaker, as I understand the process, it being deemed a non-votable bill I have 15 minutes at the outset of the debate tonight and then a 5 minute wrap-up at the end.
I will start by thanking my hon. colleague from Calgary Southwest for seconding my bill tonight. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-272, an act to amend the Income Tax Act with respect to child adoption expenses.
Unfortunately one of the sad realities of the Income Tax Act, aside from the fact that it has become a tool of oppression in the country and should be reformed, is the fact that the act in its present form does not contain any provisions relating to child adoption expenses.
I have presented the bill in an attempt to correct this injustice and with the hope of making the Income Tax Act more equitable to all parents, in this case to those who have adopted a child.
Adoptive parents have unique challenges when they adopt children, all of which are not experienced by families that are fortunate enough to conceive their own children. These challenges and the expenses associated with them arise from the arduous steeplechase that has become the adoption process in our country.
Those who are involved in the administration of the adoption process would likely argue that the process exists for the protection of the children and is necessary to ensure that children are placed in the best possible homes. I cannot disagree. I concur with that wholeheartedly.
I would argue that we have a duty to ensure that all children are placed with responsible and caring adults who will raise them in a loving family environment. While I agree that we need to conduct evaluations and studies to ensure that the adoptive parents are suitable, I do not agree with placing the financial burden for this process solely on the backs of the adoptive parents.
With the addition of each new adoption requirement or assessment, we increase the overall cost of the adoption and, as a consequence, decrease the number of families who can seriously consider adoption. These requirements have compounded in recent years to the point where, in the case of a private or international adoption, couples may face costs in the thousands of dollars for legal fees, travel expenses, home studies and a number of other assessments.
Some of the letters I have received in recent months say that these expenses can exceed $20,000. The magnitude of such upfront costs often results in discouraging couples from even thinking of adoption.
As a government and as a society we should be searching for ways to reward those couples who make the courageous decision to adopt a child. That is the inspiration behind Bill C-272.
The bill would amend the Income Tax Act to allow adoptive parents to deduct expenses arising from the adoption of a child, subject to a maximum of $7,000. The deduction is on a per child basis and the expenses must have been incurred in that taxation year or in the previous two years.
The introduction of the bill follows consultation with a number of adoption agencies as well as individuals who have personally adopted children. Statistics Canada's national longitudinal survey of children and youth has clearly shown us, in empirical terms, that an environment where there is a mother and a father is an environment in which children thrive.
In essence the bill is very straightforward but we all know from experience that nothing relating to the Income Tax Act is ever straightforward, especially if any Canadian might actually derive some benefit from it. For the amendment to have any success it must therefore follow the format of all other approved deductions and clearly set out who may benefit and to what extent. The bill was drafted to do exactly that.
For the benefit of those who are following the broadcast of the debate tonight, I would like to take a moment to highlight the exact provisions of the bill. First, the bill would apply to Canadian and international adoption expenses. Second, the maximum deductions, as I have already said, per eligible child shall not exceed $7,000. Third, it defines a child as any person under the age of 17.
As with all income tax deductions, the claim for the deduction must be substantiated by filing the following with the minister: receipts issued by the payee and containing the appropriate reference information and, second, a Canadian adoption order or a recognition order with respect to a foreign adoption.
Acceptable adoption expenses under the legislation would include: legal fees; home study or psychological study expenses; expenses related to the child's immigration to Canada; travel expenses related to the adoption of the child; and agency fees. Expenses that would not be eligible are any expenses incurred during the adoption in contravention of any law and any expenses incurred in carrying out any surrogate parenting arrangement.
When one considers how well structured the bill is, one can appreciate how I felt so confident when I submitted the bill to the private members committee for consideration. The bill met all of the criteria to make the bill votable. In addition, since its introduction I have been receiving letters of support, which continue today, from all across the country. The letters of support were from parents who have adopted, from couples who are wading through the adoption process and from the adoption agencies themselves.
I would like to read to the hon. members present each of these letters so that they could appreciate the impact the legislation would have on future Canadian families, but in the interests of time, I have selected but a few of the responses received which I feel reflect the sentiments of all of those I received.
The first letter states:
I am writing in support of the adoption tax credit. My husband and myself are in the process of an adoption from Vietnam. The fees are over $21,000. Both of us work in social services and needless to say, do not have a sufficient collective income to support such a process. We are doing our best to provide a home for an orphaned child and would greatly appreciate the support of a tax credit to increase the feasibility of this endeavour.
The second letter states:
My husband and I recently adopted from Russia a 9 month old little girl and the overall costs were $40,000 so any amount of a deduction would certainly go a long way to encourage others to adopt since there are so many children that need homes and we are trying to increase immigration and what better way than this. Thank you for introducing this bill.
The third letter states:
My husband and I adopted a little boy from Russia 1.5 years ago and have recently noticed in our local paper an article on the needs in a Russian Orphanage and how we here in Canada can be more aware of the needs to adopt. I think more people would help these children who are in desperate need if the government would be more encouraging to those who wish to adopt. Thank you for introducing this bill. The need is definitely there.
The fourth letter states:
My husband and I after 7 years of trying to have our own family are embarking on international adoption. This will take an additional 2 or 3 years because of the substantial cost involved. A tax deduction would shave a year off the start of our family.
The fifth letter states:
Adoption, for some people, is the only way that they can achieve their dream of creating a family. Adoption, however, is also a very costly way. The passage of a bill, such as the one you are proposing, would assist couples like ourselves in making our dream come true. We wish you much success in establishing this bill as law.
The sixth letter states:
My wife and I are presently adopting a child in Ontario and we are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the seemingly endless expenses. We know that other families who adopt privately must be facing considerably larger costs than us, so we wish to offer you our support for this excellent piece of legislation that you are presenting.
The seventh letter states:
Many Canadians would like to be able to adopt from overseas, but due to the prohibitive cost (up to $20,000 to $30,000), many are unable to consider this option. Child poverty is a huge problem of immense proportions around the world. Adoption is one way Canadians can make a direct personal contribution by giving a child from a poorer country a head start within a Canadian home, while enriching their own lives with the blessing of a child. Canadians have a reputation for being humanitarians...your bill is one very practical, inexpensive way the Canadian Government can make this a possibility for more Canadian families.
The eighth letter states:
As a parent who had adopted a child in 1999 I understand the financial burden that is endured by the expense of the adoption process. Our son's adoption was a very simple and straightforward adoption; local, Canadian, birth parents (and their families) in agreement and supportive, and no legal, medical or procedural problems, but still the final cost of the adoption was $9,400 by the time the adoption was finalized by a judge. In B.C. the fee schedule for adoption has risen since we adopted our son. It has now gone up by approximately $3,000, therefore I am expecting that the adoption of a second child will cost approximately $13,000 in adoption agency fees, legal fees, court costs, medical exams, background checks and government form processing. I cannot speak for all adopting parents, but I know that we will have to borrow the money to finance the adoption of a second child. I have talked to a couple through our adoption experience that could not afford the expense of adoption and therefore will not have a family.
I could go on indefinitely but I think I have made the point. Better yet, in writing to me the people themselves have made the point.
This was a soundly drafted bill aimed at benefiting children and adoptive parents and it had national support. Who would not have felt confident? I certainly did and perhaps that was my mistake. Members can imagine my disappointment when I learned that the private members; busines subcommittee did not share my confidence in the bill and it was not deemed votable.
For the benefit of those watching the broadcast tonight, they should understand how the process works for all private members of all five parties on both sides of the House. First there has to be an idea. In this case it was tax deductions for adoption expenses. Members get help from legal counsel at the House of Commons to draft the bill. It is then introduced in the House. After that the member has to be lucky enough to have his or her name drawn in a lottery. There are 300 members and 15 bills are drawn so the odds are not that great. When it is drawn the member has to go before an all party subcommittee and try to persuade the members to make the item votable. Up to 5 of the 15 can be made votable.
There are a lot of hurdles, no matter well intentioned the bill, no matter how great the cause. Unfortunately this bill did not make that hurdle to become votable so that all members could vote on it. Hopefully it would have gone to the finance committee to at some time in the future become law.
We are only a few months into this session and this is the second time that I have tried to bring forward legislation to benefit families in this country. This is the second time the private members committee has voted not to make my bill votable.
There is a growing concern, on the part of all members. I am appreciative of the fact that the government House leader struck a committee to look at changes that might include making votable all private members' bills fortunate enough to be drawn. I certainly support that and I hope we go on with it.
I would also like to say tonight, not just in regard to the two bills of mine that we have debated, that I speak for myself and other members who have had their bills drawn but not made votable. If we do make a change in this parliament, I hope we will make it soon and make it retroactive so that every bill that was drawn in this parliament would go to a vote, including this legislation.
It is well past time that instead of making adoption a very difficult alternative we provide encouragement to families who have the desire to adopt children.