An Act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Rey D. Pagtakhan  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, we also stand in support of Bill C-31.

We in this country take for granted the different agencies that put their lives on the line for us and protect us. Quite often we take for granted what is our own. How often, as we go through life, do we take for granted our families, friends, wives, girlfriends, sons and daughters because they are there. They are supposed to know what is going on. They are there to support, help and whatever. We think that is the way it will always be, not realizing that they also have concerns and needs and that they need attention every now and then.

We do the same thing with our agencies. We put them in place and talk about how proud we are of our different agencies and yet we often forget to pay the attention to them that they deserve. As time slips by many of the concerns and benefits that we should be making sure they achieve we overlook. We suddenly find they are falling behind other groups in society that are up front, lobbying, pushing and whatever, while our solid people and in some cases volunteer agencies are working day and night, putting their lives on the line, asking for nothing and we overlook them.

The hon. member who just spoke talked about other agencies looking at what we are doing for the RCMP and perhaps patterning their plans on the legislation with which we are dealing right now. I agree wholeheartedly with him, that the opportunity is there for the other agencies to make sure that we as legislators look after their concerns.

However let us concentrate on the RCMP. If there is one agency in this country that perhaps does not get the attention it deserves it is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When we say the word “Mountie” two things come to mind. One is from a national perspective, the person on the horse with the red jacket for whom we feel so proud, a Canadian emblem.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that today the House starts third reading debate on Bill C-31, an act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

The fast turnaround time from its introduction on April 10 and the speed with which the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs gave it unanimous approval on May 8 clearly reflects how strongly we all feel for the members of our Canadian Forces and the RCMP.

Thus, when they are sent to areas of operations of elevated risk, all of us are one in the conviction that they should have the most comprehensive coverage and the speediest access possible to disability pension and also health benefits. That is exactly what Bill C-31 accomplishes. Let me briefly recap the highlights of the bill.

For decades now, Canadian service personnel have served abroad in areas of elevated risk designated as special duty areas, or SDAs, as part of United Nations peacekeeping activities for which Canada has become renowned. Quite rightly, they receive disability protection 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when they serve in these designated areas, but the administrative process to officially designate such an area is unduly lengthy and can take up to several months.

The bill before us today will help relieve the anxiety of our service personnel and their families by speeding up the process.

An SDA can quickly be designated by the Minister of National Defence, or the Solicitor General in the case of the RCMP, in consultation with the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and thereby give peace of mind to them before they are sent out for deployment. In fact, the bill extends coverage to include travel to and from special designated areas. Simply speeding up the process does not help those who are similarly at elevated risk while serving inside Canada or in assignments that cannot be geographically described as falling within a special duty area.

The bill now creates a new service category called special duty operation. This new designation recognizes that the face of war and the other challenges to peace and security have undergone tremendous change. Geography no longer offers non-combatant nations a cocoon of safety. Terrorism, in all its forms and disguises, presents a real and a present danger. We may never know where or in what form terrorism may strike next.

It is to this less easily definable battlefield that Canada sends out her men and women in uniform to protect us. Often the enemy is hard to identify, the lines of conflict are not clearly known and the nature of danger is difficult to determine. The new SDO designation takes into account the fluidity of such operations abroad and within our country. These operations are just as hazardous as special duty areas.

It is important to emphasize that special duty operations can encompass situations within our own borders. Think of the devastating floods and the ice storms we have experienced in recent times in Canada, or of the dangers of search and rescue operations. They expose our uniformed citizens to greater than usual danger.

Just as with special designated areas, this piece of legislation also provides RCMP personnel who serve in special designated operations with the same degree of coverage as their military counterparts.

A large spectrum of military operations could be covered by an SDA or an SDO designation. They include armed conflicts in missions conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and NATO and within coalitions of like-minded countries. Domestically, operations authorized under the Emergencies Act or the National Defence Act could also trigger an SDO designation covering such eventualities as disaster relief operations and in-Canada anti-terrorism service.

The spectrum of RCMP operations that could be similarly designated runs a parallel but not necessarily identical track. These operations could include police service within armed conflict situations, again under the auspices of the UN operations abroad, where the officers would be exposed to elevated levels of risk over a specific period of time. These situations might well include activities aimed at re-establishing social order, rebuilding social institutions and offering police training and services to wartorn nations trying to re-establish civil order.

The bill allows for the provision of the best coverage possible for members of the Canadian Forces and RCMP sent to areas of operations of elevated risk, and their families. A grateful and caring nation takes it upon herself to provide this as a duty of pride. I thank all my colleagues in the House for their unanimous support for this bill and ask members to give it swift passage today.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 29th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, to answer the last question first, as to whether we need to have late night sittings, I suppose it depends on the co-operation on the part of the opposition, which is usually quite good, I must say.

Going to the substance for the next few days, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition day motion. The House does not sit tomorrow because of the Conservative leadership convention.

We are now entering June, the month when we try to wrap up the year's work and we will be consulting other House leaders on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, in order to determine the precise order of bills. However for the next few days we will be dealing mostly with report stages, third readings and consideration of Senate amendments to bills we have already passed.

The bills that will be considered next week will be, and I will start with the one on Monday, although we intend to have a minor conversation about another minor issue later, but generally speaking they will be as follows. We will start with Bill C-25, the public service bill. We will then move on to Bill C-31 respecting certain pensions for veterans and the RCMP. When that bill is completed I would hope to start Bill C-7 respecting first nations governance; and because they are all government days next week we are going to take them probably in roughly that sequence, Bill C-17 public safety; then Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill which is presently at third reading.

It would be my intention to then call Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments. When the bill is reported to the House, which hopefully will be one day next week, we could then commence Bill C-24, the political financing bill. We also have the amendments from the Senate which I understand might happen on Bill C-15, the lobbyist bill, and Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals.

At some point, we would also like to debate the second reading of Bill S-13, respecting the census, and Bill C-27, the airport bill.

As a matter of courtesy, I wish to indicate to colleagues that it is my intention to call the final supply day on or after June 12. This is not, of course, an official designation of that day at this point but that is why I say on or after, but at least to try and give an indication to colleagues in the event that they will not take other commitments at or about that particular time in order for them to be able to plan their agenda.

Business of the houseOral Question Period

May 15th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the opposition supply day motion that we commenced this morning.

Tomorrow we will resume the debate on Bill C-28, the budget implementation bill. This would be followed by Bill C-31, the pension bill of certain veterans and members of the RCMP. If and when this is completed, hopefully tomorrow, we would then resume consideration of Bill C-36, the archives bill, and possibly Bill C-17 on public safety.

Next week, as the hon. leader of the opposition in the House has stated, is a constituency week.

I have designated May 26 as an allotted day, although we are willing to have further conversations about that this afternoon.

On Tuesday, May 27, if Bill C-28 has not already been disposed of, we would at that point have to return to it. We would then turn to Bill C-25, the public service bill, followed by business not yet completed from this week.

This is the program at this juncture.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 12th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

In accordance with its order of reference of Monday, April 28, the committee has considered and held hearings on Bill C-31, an act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, and agreed on Thursday, May 8 to report it without amendment.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

April 28th, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, Bill C-31 stands referred to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

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

Pension ActGovernment Orders

April 28th, 2003 / 12:55 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-31, the RCMP and military pensions act, special duty operations.

The member from the NDP who just spoke did so quite well. I agree with him and the Minister of Veterans Affairs should remember the length of time that it took to recognize the merchant navy personnel in this country, the fact that it was only in recent years that it came to the House and we actually recognized the merchant navy.

I can remember as a kid the discussion years ago in my own household. My father, who was a veteran of World War II, just absolutely, totally turned away from the government, and from the legion at the time because they would not allow merchant navy veterans to be members. As someone who had served a lot of time in the coastal communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland where they actually picked up survivors and the bodies from the U-boat attacks, my father could never understand the fact that the Canadian government never recognized merchant marines as veterans of World War II. It was absolutely incredible.

Before I begin my full comments on Bill C-31, I would also remind the minister that it seems to be a continuing theme within the government ranks. The minister himself has refused, at least up to this point, to support the veterans of the Korean war who are asking for the privilege and the right to wear the Republic of Korea service medal which was given to them in 1951. The Canadian government has never recognized that medal. It had issued its own. Other governments have recognized it, including most of the Commonwealth countries and the United States, yet the minister, through his office, refuses to recognize it and refuses to give his support to the Governor General's Chancellery of Honours, to support our veterans in wearing the Republic of Korea service medal.

Certainly it is time that we have an in-depth examination of many of the wrongs that were created in the past, and it is a proper time now to correct them. We have corrected the merchant navy. I am certain it is time to allow our veterans of the Korean war who were issued the Republic of Korea service medal the right to wear that medal with honour, as they should.

The purpose of Bill C-31 is to extend more comprehensive and timely coverage to members of the Canadian forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police serving in areas and operations where the risk to their safety and security is elevated. Now they are at least going to have some peace of mind that there is some coverage there, not only for themselves but for their beneficiaries.

Under the current Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, members of the Canadian forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are entitled to financial compensation in the event of disability or death in the performance of their duties. The coverage is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and includes insurance against all perils for those serving in what are known as special duty areas. Special duty areas are defined as areas that are geographically outside of Canada.

The substance of Bill C-31 would provide more complete coverage to eligible members serving in designated operations both inside and outside of Canada. Surely since September 11 we all realize the importance of extending this coverage. It was important before but it is even more important today that we extend this coverage inside of Canada. That coverage is for exposure to conditions of elevated risk up to and including armed conflict.

In addition to special duty areas, Bill C-31 would create a new service type called special duty operations. Serving in these areas or operations is special duty service which is defined in Bill C-31 as meaning service by either Canadian Forces or RCMP members in an area or operation designated for Canadian Forces members by the Minister of National Defence in consultation with the Minister of Veterans Affairs as a special duty area or operation. For Royal Canadian Mounted Police members the designation falls to the Solicitor General in consultation with the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

A special duty area or operation in Canada, or abroad, will be so designated if it is determined that it involves exposure of Canadian Forces or RCMP members to elevated risk. Examples of elevated risk include: search and rescue missions, UN operations, armed conflict or counter-terrorism. They include any area or operation of elevated risk dating back to September 11, 2001. This coverage includes: training for the operation, deployment to and from the area, and authorized leaves of absence.

It is my understanding that the bill is long overdue. For a government that has been in power since 1993, there have been a number of issues that have sat on the back burner. This is one of them. It took a major attack inside the confines of North America to even have the government interested in bringing this type of legislation forth and certainly it is timely and long overdue.

In closing, it has been said that a nation reveals itself not only by the men and women it produces, but also by the men and women it honours, and the men and women it remembers. In this spirit, it is an honour to support Bill C-31, a bill that seeks to improve the conditions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Forces and their families.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

April 28th, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today on Bill C-31, an act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

First, I want to say that the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of Bill C-31. We recognize the commendable work done by our veterans and RCMP officers. Their commitment goes far beyond their job requirements, and we are grateful to them for this.

The purpose of Bill C-31 is to make the necessary amendments to the aforementioned legislation so that members of the armed forces or the RCMP who have taken part in special service operations, particularly ones under the Charter of the United Nations or search and rescue operations would, from this day forward, be entitled to a pension. So, this change recognizes the high risk of such operations.

Both these groups have impressive records. Since the Korean War, the largest deployment of military personnel abroad took place in 1999 with over 4,400 members of the armed forces, mostly on peace support operations.

These interventions are predicated on our legal and constitutional role. Thus, cabinet usually makes special orders allowing troop deployments for UN operations.

Of course, cabinet must inform Parliament of such decisions and it is up to parliamentarians to support or reject these decisions. The nature and scope of these deployments are significant elements in any government decision. We must also point out that in some cases the participation of armed forces or the RCMP in foreign operations moves rapidly beyond the control of the central government, as in the case of a United Nations operation.

In other words, the central government loses its right to act independently and becomes solely a service provider.

The Bloc Quebecois position has always been that such operations should be subject to debate in the House. Thus, on April 19, 1999, a motion by the Bloc Quebecois was debated. That motion concerned the armed conflict in Kosovo and the Balkans. The Bloc's intention was that any deployment of soldiers who may be involved in military or peacekeeping operations should be subject to a debate.

Our position was that the information about this involvement was seriously deficient. The motion was voted down on the pretext that it concerned a purely hypothetical situation. Since then, we have seen over and over that there was nothing hypothetical about it and that the Bloc Quebecois request was clearly justified.

We can regret the fact that, because of the government's refusal, members of our military and RCMP must deal with precarious situations and impossible deadlines, making their activities extremely risky. We must remember that certain missions have been more like military operations than peacekeeping or humanitarian activities, and that is disappointing.

Thus, it is appropriate to meet the needs of those who go on such missions by granting them commensurate pensions.

Canada has taken part in many wars since the Boer War in 1899. In 1918, more than 4,000 men were sent to Siberia during the Russian Civil War. In 1950, during the Korean War, Canada agreed to send troops only if the UN decided it was useful. We should mention that Canada's participation in that conflict was not dependent on a declaration of war.

The same thing happened during the gulf war in 1991. On August 6, 1990, the United Nations adopted resolution 661, which required members to impose sanctions against Iraq. Now, the federal government has invoked the United Nations Act, which states that only after the next session commences shall the orders and regulations made under this act be laid before Parliament. On October 23, 1990, the House of Commons adopted a motion to send troops to the gulf. However, it was not until November 29, 1990, that the United Nations adopted resolution 678 authorizing armed intervention in Iraq.

I find it somewhat ironic that, back then, there was no mention of any hypothetical situation.

Although the House of Commons adopted a motion authorizing the sending of troops to the Arabian Peninsula, the government thought it appropriate to hold an emergency debate to confirm this military support. The opposition questioned the need for such an aggressive reaction, because the UN had not taken such action during other similar conflicts. This entire debate ended when the United States began its armed aggression the following day.

On December 3, 1992, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 794 to establish a peace support mission in Somalia. In this resolution, the UN approved the use of force.

At the time, the opposition had asked that a debate be held before the federal government made any decisions. The government responded that it would make its decision first and only then would there be a debate. Furthermore, the government indicated that making such decisions was its responsibility and prerogative. Nevertheless, there was a special debate on the issue.

It was not until 1998 that parliamentarians again raised the need to hold a debate before any decisions were made about Canada's taking part in armed intervention abroad.

On September 30, 1998, a motion was passed in the House of Commons calling upon the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to negotiate a peaceful solution and expressing profound dismay and sorrow concerning the atrocities being suffered by the civilian population in Kosovo. Only a week later did the central government deign to hold a take note debate on this matter, once again relegating parliamentarians to the role of bystanders.

Finally, the war in Iraq has allowed us an opportunity to stress the essential role parliamentarians must play in making decisions that in any way involve participation by Canada in armed interventions.

Once again, the decision-making role of parliamentarians has been shunted aside and the central government has decided to just do as it pleases, which we find regrettable. Our involvement as parliamentarians must be active rather than passive when it comes to making decisions with such impact on the public. I wish to make it clear that the participation by the people of Quebec has been exemplary. Our demonstration in support of peace most certainly played its part.

In addition to combat interventions, we must also think of our involvement in peacekeeping operations. These have become riskier and more complex than before, if not downright dangerous.

Once again, the scope and nature of the situation are significant, but we must add the human side. The duration only complicates matters.

Since 1945 Canada has taken part in more than 40 peace operations or related missions. While the UN charter does not oblige Canada to participate, we have nonetheless established a custom of peacekeeping we want to maintain that dates back to 1954, after the Korean war, when Canada took part in three surveillance missions.

Toward the end of 1954, Canada took part in the Suez Canal peacekeeping mission, and it was only four days after the government made its decision that a special sitting was held.

In February 1964 Canada made a commitment to take part in the peacekeeping mission in Cyprus when Parliament was not sitting. However, the motion authorizing the deployment of troops was not passed until March 13, 1964.

Canada then agreed to act as an observer in Vietnam, reserving the right to send troops before any vote in the House, however. Canadian military personnel were deployed on January 27, 1973 despite the fact that the matter was not debated in the House until February 1, 1973.

The following year, Canada deployed forces to the Golan Heights as part of a United Nations operation. As mentioned before, Canada took part in the gulf war of 1991, but it had also participated in the implementation of the embargo prior to that. There was only one vote to support the UN resolution and no vote on the matter of sending Canadian troops.

In 1992, Canada sent 1,300 troops to Somalia under UNITAF and 750 solders under UNOSOM. There was only a partial debate in the House.

Since 1993, more than 2,000 peacekeeping soldiers have been deployed in the former Yugoslavia under the UN or NATO. These missions have been debated in the House of Commons. There was also the matter of Canada's participation in operations in Haiti and Rwanda.

The result of these debates was that Canada must be more careful in evaluating its participation, because of the costs and resources involved.

On February 9, 1998, there was a debate in the House on the issue of military action in light of Iraq's refusal to allow weapons inspections by the UN. The Prime Minister gave the assurance at that time that Canada would not make a decision without a public debate. However, the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, announced Canada's participation in this operation the day before that debate was to be held.

In conclusion, it is easy to understand that these kinds of interventions in foreign countries are complex and delicate issues, but the fact remains that Canadian troops and RCMP members who take part in these operations should not have to suffer the consequences unjustifiably.

Our peacekeeping missions are commendable, despite the risks involved. However, we must show our gratitude and our appreciation to members of the armed forces and of the RCMP.

Throughout my speech, I mentioned the flagrant lack of debate concerning our participation in military operations or peacekeeping missions. It is clear that parliamentarians and, as a result, those who elected them, are excluded from the process. This is inconceivable. Our role must not be limited to approving executive decisions. We are the voice of our constituents.

We need to debate any issue that affects Quebeckers and Canadians. We are elected representatives and we take our role very seriously. The deployment of troops is a serious issue. We must change our bad habits and be accountable to our constituents.

In closing, I will say that members of the armed forces and of the RCMP who fulfill their mission deserve our appreciation, and so do our constituents. Obviously, we support the principle of this bill.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

April 28th, 2003 / 12:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the minister's comments. It might be said that the bill brings us up to date. It brings us into a new millennium and a new military era. The bill itself is designed to be a millennium bill. Not only is it designed for today, but I believe it is designed for the future. I commend it and I will certainly be supporting this bill.

I might point out in contrast that next week on May 4 we will have the Battle of the Atlantic parade, or we were to have it. In that battle, one-eighth of all those involved gave their lives. Today it would be considered a high designated area. We did not have that then. We were not used to terrorism. We were not dealing with modern techniques. We were not dealing with modern weapons. The weapons at that time were very crude. Therefore, what this bill does is give real meaning to what is here before us today and which I believe will be here for us well into the future.

We have come through a period of debating what constitutes a legal war. This bill will give a wider meaning to what actually constitutes war in designating special areas or special operations, but it is all in defence of our nation and the security of our nation. It takes on a brand new meaning. We cannot help but disagree with those who say that a nation can never be at war unless it is attacked or invaded. If that is what legal war is, I am sorry if any veterans are listening in, because over 100,000 Canadians let their blood flow in some 21 countries around the world. Canada is proud of that fact and we have lived better because of that even though we were not invaded.

In World War II, not too far off the coast of Canada in Canadian waters we lost hundreds of lives. Those people did not wear uniforms and they did not have guns, but they were delivering goods to supply a war in a foreign continent. This idea of what constitutes a legal war is nonsense. A war is constituted when a nation is threatened by any means, be it here on our soil or somewhere else.

After the Twin Towers went down, people began to think differently. They began to think that the new type of warfare that we will face now and into the future will be different. This bill addresses that.

I might point out one other thing. Not too long ago, a young man came to my office who had done some research on what was probably the last major battle of World War I, Cagnicourt. I hope we get something going; I am excited about this and I will tell everyone why. The only sitting member of Parliament ever to win a Victoria Cross was at Cagnicourt. This fall, on September 2 or somewhere around there, Canadians are going to be recognized by having a town square named after one of the VC winners from Calgary, the remnants of what was left two months before the Armistice was signed. It was at Cagnicourt that Kaiser Wilhelm said the war was over.

I want everyone to think about this. I want everyone to think about what special forces can do. The special forces on that day said this. Instead of having the slaughter of a lot of British, Australians and New Zealanders, the Canadians went over and the war came to an end on November 11, 1918, not on March 11 or April 11 of another year. By designating areas, as the minister has announced, and by designating the rapid deployment, by speeding up the process, we are indeed into the new century.

Some people ask me, “How come you are critic for veterans affairs? Why would you not be critic in some more important role?” That really bothers me. It really does. What is more important in this country than to take a look at the thousands of people, as the minister has said, who are on benefits and the hundreds of people and their kinfolk, their spouses and so on, who are still being cared for by the government? Can we think of anything more important than that? I cannot. I am very proud to represent my party as critic in this particular area.

The purpose of the bill, as the minister has said, is to be more responsive: bang, bang. Do we remember how long this used to take? It used to take from six months up to a year to designate something. I would have quite a beard by that time. Now it can be done almost immediately. It is in keeping with what is surrounding us today.

Therefore the bill is to be more responsive in providing comprehensive coverage to members of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who serve in dangerous operations areas and in conditions of elevated risk. These provisions are good provisions. They are good because they meet modern day requirements. They are good because we can declare a designated area within 24 hours. They are good because those people who are being deployed know that they have this coverage. Canadian troops have never known that before, not to this extent.

I just finished a trip visiting long term care for vets and I reminded my colleagues who travelled with me that Newfoundland was a designated area. Do members know why? It was considered overseas in World War II. They still get extra pay for serving overseas. I tip my hat to Newfoundland, because they were a very special people.

Under this pension act, there are two types of coverage, as the minister has announced. It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a difference that has to be explained. It is not just if one is on a specific duty. Let us say a person was in Kosovo and was sent out to take a look at a particular function. That would be a police duty. Let us say that something happened after the person came back from that duty and the person was wounded while sleeping. There is still coverage under the bill, which makes it entirely different from any piece of legislation we have had before.

About three years ago at the annual chamber of commerce meeting in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, there was a young RCMP officer who had served in Kosovo. Listening to the graphic details of what a Canadian policeman had to go through while living there made one feel proud that we had people like that in a high risk area. That was only a few years ago. We could not tell them then that they had this extra insurance, but it is there today.

Canadian vets are the pride of the country. I know that a lot of people will say, “Yes, but there are not many left and why do we want to spend a bunch of money?” But these vets and these people serving are the pride of the country because of their acts and sacrifices and their heroism in the defence of their country.

There are so many things we can do. For instance, I got a call the other day about the condition of an 89 year old vet who had fought almost five full years in World War II. He came out of it unscathed, without a scratch. But because of the conditions in which he was living I had to call somebody and get that vet out of there. I finally worked through the Royal Canadian Legion and we are going to get some action. Vets care for vets and the government should care for vets as well.

I was thrilled to be with the minister and the committee when we visited Dieppe last summer on the 60th anniversary. There are many Canadians who take the opportunity to dwell always in the negative about the military. Terence Robinson wrote a book called The Shame and The Glory: Dieppe . To go to Dieppe and to Pourville where the South Saskatchewan Regiment was, a regiment which was organized in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and to see the grave of a deceased Canadian soldier from the South Saskatchewan Regiment who did not have a name, it brought me to a standstill.

All of this made me realize what had happened. Perhaps it was ill planned. Nevertheless we will deal with a more prominent issue of the day which is we will be called upon and make no mistake about it.

Bill C-31 will ensure that veterans receive full access to all benefits and allowances due to them.

I was also with the group that spent a day at the Veterans Affairs office in Charlottetown. The office deals with many problems. I am somewhat relieved to see the manner in which the Veterans Affairs office attacks a problem, particularly if a person comes in for benefits and so on. I am satisfied that the bill, along with an increase in attention to veterans affairs will reduce the red tape. It will reduce the time spent on waiting lists. Then veterans can appeal and receive what is due to them immediately.

Bill C-31 provides compensation to Canadian Forces and also to the RCMP who are injured or disabled as a result of their service or while they are in a special duty area or a special duty operation. This is while they are there. It could be while they are eating supper but they are in a dangerous area. This is a big change.

Bill C-31 which has been brought forward by the government is not asking for additional money. I repeat that the bill is not asking for additional funding. It is not the same as another minister who fined 16-year-old hockey players and their teams. Then after they were done raping Saskatchewan they quit the survey. The bill is not asking for additional funds.

The Minister of National Defence or the Solicitor General, with the Minister of Veterans Affairs, would be able to declare an SDA just like that, whereas under our old system it would have taken up to a year.

What will Bill C-31 bring to the families, to the mothers and dads at home and to the boyfriends, girlfriends and so on? The bill will bring something which I think will be elevated and that is peace of mind.

The Canadian Alliance is pleased to support Bill C-31. When a member serves on a committee he or she is not always happy with everything. There are others items which I will not mention at this time that need to be supported. I do want to say to the government that this is good legislation. It is meaningful and up to date legislation. As situations develop, hopefully not for the worst, this piece of legislation being there will make it much easier to handle the situation in a better way than we have ever done before.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

April 28th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
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Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Veterans Affairs

moved that Bill C-31, an act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today and commend to the House Bill C-31, an act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, which was introduced April 10.

I trust all colleagues will agree with me on the importance of this legislation and grant it their speedy and unanimous approval.

Bill C-31 would give members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP greater assurance when sent to special missions in areas of elevated risk that they and their families will be cared for should harm come their way. It sends the message to them that their government cares and appreciates, that their country is with them and their families in their hour of need.

Members may ask, “Why these proposed amendments now?” Before I go into the detail of this bill, I want to ensure: one, that I bring members of the House up to date on the current status of departmental benefits, specifically to those who deal with Canadian Forces members' accessibility to disability pensions and the related programs my department provides; and two, that I provide colleagues with the proper context regarding the intent behind the proposal.

In making these undertakings I am aware of the expertise of some members of the House on matters related to veterans issues, in particular among those members who serve on the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. They are very familiar with veterans issues and concerns. I, like my predecessors in the portfolio, have sought and taken their excellent advice. They know very well the programs of my department. Hence, some of the information that I will provide will be quite familiar to them. I therefore ask them to bear with me when I review the background that has brought us to today's debate.

Members of Canada's military may apply for a disability pension if they become injured or ill in the line of duty. Survivor benefits are available for dependants in the case of death of a member or veteran due to his or her service. These pension disability benefits have been available to eligible members or veterans whether they serve or have served their nation in times of war and times of peace, here at home or abroad.

Disability pension payouts comprise by far the largest expenditure my department disburses, amounting to approximately $1.5 billion a year. Close to 165,000 clients are presently receiving disability pension payments. Of those, more than 5,000, about 3%, are currently serving Canadian Forces personnel. It is to this latter group, currently serving Canadian Forces members, and to the RCMP members as well that Bill C-31 speaks.

The bill would provide them with the most comprehensive disability pension coverage possible, including enhanced health care services needed for the disability incurred from the moment they are deployed and when such deployment exposes them to conditions of elevated risk.

Deployment could be to any part of the world, including here at home, and the scope of deployment could encompass disaster relief, rescue operations, peacekeeping or peacemaking.

Under the existing legislation, if members incur a disability or illness while not serving in a special duty area, they are covered but there is a burden of proof. The burden of proof is intended to satisfy the requirement that the disability be shown to have arisen out of or was directly connected to service.

However by giving the members in a special duty area the 24/7, 24 hours a day, seven days a week coverage, the burden of proof requirement is removed. They will only need to show that such a condition arose during the time of service. Therefore the need for detailed medical and service evidence is simplified. Thus an award of the pension, if required, can be more easily rendered.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-31 have two main components. I wish to deal first with the aspect of service in special duty areas or SDAs.

In 1964 Parliament enacted the special duty area legislation. It stipulates that special pension provisions would apply to serving members operating in certain areas outside Canada when those areas have been designated by the governor in council as special duty areas. Technically, SDAs are identified by geographic coordinates and by definition they must be outside Canada.

Since 1949, for more than half a century now, members of the Canadian Forces have served in areas outside Canada in various roles on behalf of the United Nations and in other trucekeeping and peacekeeping operations. It has been recognized that service in these areas has often meant participation in active combat operations and exposure to hazardous conditions not normally associated with peacetime service.

Specifically, the special pension provisions deem a member serving in a special duty area to be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for pension act purposes. That is from the moment the member arrives in a special duty area up to and including the moment the member departs from that area. This means that any death or any disability other than a disability caused by the improper conduct of the member that occurs while serving in a special duty area is governed by these special pension provisions.

The fact is Canada and its service men and women have been in the forefront of support to peacekeeping missions in special duty areas in countless hot spots around the world. More than 100 individuals to date have paid the price with their lives. Many more have paid the price in the form of accidents and injuries.

I am pleased to tell hon. members that the bill will improve SDA coverage in two important ways.

First, the process of declaring an SDA will be speeded up or streamlined. With the passage of this legislation, under the pension act, the Minister of National Defence, who seconded the bill, or the Solicitor General in consultation with the Minister of Veterans Affairs, will be able to declare an SDA and have it apply in a much faster time frame. That means it will be possible for departing members and their families to be assured of their rightful 24 hour, seven days a week coverage and as a result, have greater peace of mind.

Bill C-31 is intended to address more than peace of mind considerations. The bill would increase the length of time covered by an SDA, beginning on the day of actual deployment and covering training for the deployment, travel to and from the SDA, and authorized leave of absence from the SDA.

The second component to this legislation reflects the new times in which we are living. The events of September 11 changed the world. They changed the sense of security we all have felt in our country, and this is true for many other countries as well. They marked the beginning of a new era of violence by extremist organizations that created a need for rapid response by the community of nations. Indeed, we live in a world where new threats can happen at any given moment, anywhere.

It is becoming more difficult to define geographically a theatre of operations. In today's operations of elevated risk, there may be troops on the ground in a specific designated area, yet many others stationed elsewhere working in support of that operation. Although not confined to the same specific area, they are nonetheless also exposed to elevated risk conditions.

The key feature here is exposure to elevated risk, meaning a level of risk higher than that normally associated with peacetime service, regardless of the form it takes, search and rescue, disaster relief, anti-terrorism activities and armed conflict.

Thus the bill proposes to add an additional designation called the special duty operation, or SDO. Unlike SDAs, SDOs could exist at home or abroad. For example, domestic SDOs could include search and rescue and disaster relief operations. Overseas SDOs could apply to a naval deployment not confined to a specific geographic area or region, but on a mission where elevated risk is apparent.

Because of the bill, members deployed to SDOs will benefit from the same insurance principle as those deployed to SDAs, with 24 hour, 7 day a week coverage. As will be the case with SDAs, the Minister of National Defence will be able to declare a special duty operation. This new service type and associated coverage will provide Canadians in uniform the added recognition and security they deserve for putting themselves in harm's way.

Increasingly, members of the RCMP are also being asked to take on assignments of elevated risk. The bill proposes to give the Solicitor General similar authorities, under the RCMP Superannuation Act, for equivalent situations. The Solicitor General will be able to designate areas of operations outside Canada as SDAs or SDOs. In addition, the commissioner for the RCMP will be able to deploy RCMP members to such operations as designated by the Minister of National Defence.

The proposed amendments to our disability pension legislation reinforce Canada's long-standing reputation as a leader in providing the men and women who serve our nation with one of the most comprehensive coverage packages of benefits and services in the world.

When it comes to providing the best legislation for our military and the RCMP, we must be able to adapt to the conditions under which we ask them to serve. World conditions have changed drastically over the past few years, as has the type of deployment we ask of our men and women in uniform, our troops and our national police.

While this type of legislation will always be a work in progress, the process we are engaged in today will give them a better product in the form of legislation that provides servicemen and servicewomen and their families with broader and more timely coverage. It will provide more coverage to Canadian Forces and RCMP members placed in harm's way, no matter where in the world or in Canada. It will provide for greater peace of mind, not only for those leaving on deployment but also for family members who are awaiting their safe arrival home.

Let us take this very important piece of legislation into our statue books as a reflection of Canada's gratitude to our military and RCMP, whom we call upon to uphold our values of peace, freedom and justice in dangerous places around the world and at home.

These amendments will establish a more responsive framework in keeping with the changing nature of Canadian Forces and RCMP operations. Thus, I seek the support of all colleagues in the House. Let us respond to the challenge and unanimously adopt Bill C-31 with speed.

Pension ActRoutine Proceedings

April 10th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-31, an act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)