An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Rick Casson  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Dec. 5, 2002
(This bill did not become 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.

Social ConditionPrivate Members' Business

April 28th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should add “social condition” to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Mr. Speaker, allow me first to thank the House for this opportunity to introduce this motion. I will again be expressing my thanks when it is passed, I promise.

By way of introduction, I would point out that the 1997 Canadian Human Rights Commission report stressed the lack of protection for the poor provided by the federal law. It makes no mention whatsoever of poverty, and social situation is not among the prohibited grounds of discrimination.

A number of bills have been introduced in order to get social situation included in the prohibited grounds for discrimination. On December 10, 1997, Senator Cohen introduced Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, in order to add “social condition” as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The bill was intended to amend sections 2 and 3(1) of the act, adding “social condition” but not defining the expression.

On April 13, 1999, my Bloc Quebecois colleague, the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, introduced Bill C-491, the anti-poverty bill, which proposed to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act; to prohibit financial institutions from refusing to provide financial services on the basis of inadequate income; and to ask the Canadian Human Rights Commission to prepare a report annually on poverty in Canada. This bill died on the Order Paper in September 1999.

In March 2001, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was back again with Bill C-326, which was identical to the former C-491. Recently my colleague introduced Bill C-228 on the same subject, the battle against poverty and social exclusion. Not being votable, it did not bet past second reading, which took place on February 4 this year.

My motion, M-392, today is in the same vein. It reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should add “social condition” to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Canada has always been a world leader in the promotion and protection of human rights. A Canadian was one of the architects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, often called the “Magna Carta of the World”.

This declaration includes the right to social security and to realization of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for an individual's dignity and the free development of the individual's personality.

Also in 1976, Canada ratified the International Covenant on International and Civil Rights, the most comprehensive international document on social and economic rights.

But Canada is not respecting its international obligations and has failed to fully implement its international commitments to promote and protect social and economic rights.

More and more Canadians and Quebeckers live in poverty. The Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination based on “social condition”. Interestingly enough, Quebec recently passed legislation to fight poverty and social exclusion. In December 2002, the National Assembly passed Bill 112.

Article 2 of Bill 112 defines poverty as follows:

—the condition of a human being who is deprived of the resources, means, choices and power necessaryto acquire and maintain economic self-sufficiency or to facilitate integrationand participation in society.

Women, especially single parents, but also young families, children, seniors living in isolation, visible minorities and first nations are particularly affected by such poverty. There are considerable immediate and long-term costs associated with this poverty for Quebec society as a whole.

On October 17, 2000, during the World March of Women to combat poverty and violence against women, the Quebec Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse noted that, despite difficulties or variations in measuring poverty, it has remained an important phenomenon that affects a large number of individuals and households in Quebec.

The National Council of Welfare, in a document published in July 2002, entitled Poverty Profile 1999 , indicated that even though Canada's gross domestic product increased by almost 5% in fiscal 1998-99, income disparity between Canadians increased or stayed the same as in the 1990s. Even though poverty rates dipped slightly between 1997 and 1999, they remained higher than rates prior to the 1991 and 1992 recession.

When it comes to families on social assistance, the situation is even worse. In its Welfare Incomes 2002 report, published April 10, 2003, the council noted that there was a considerable gap between the poverty line and welfare income, which remained practically unchanged in 2002.

According to the document, people on social assistance receive as little as one fifth of the amount that is equal to the poverty line. What is worse is that because social assistance income is not indexed to inflation, recipients have become poorer than ever before.

Despite a steady increase in poverty in Canada and Quebec, the courts are hesitant when it comes to recognizing social and economic rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Recognizing social and economic rights would mean that banks could no longer refuse to open a bank account because of a poor credit record, for example.

In 1998, the National Council of Welfare prepared a comprehensive report on banking services and poor people. The report states that Canadian banks and financial institutions do not adequately meet the needs of low income people. The council recommended that one of the first issues that banks and other financial institutions deal with is that of identification required by poor people to open a bank account or cash a cheque.

The fact that many banks today continue to close branch offices for the sake of efficiency, especially in low income communities, is definitive proof that they care little about providing services to the poor. The amazing number of fringe banks popping up in disadvantaged neighbourhoods is more proof. These companies provide a variety of financial services including loans, cheque cashing and money orders, with high fees for low income people or people in precarious situations who do not have access to a bank in their neighbourhood or who have little experience with banks.

In addition, bank service charges may create considerable personal indebtedness and cause social and psychological stress in the lives of the poor. Poor people, it seems, face similar problems in the area of communications.

Before I continue speaking about the banking issues that most of the complaints refer to, I would like to make a small digression and give examples of telecommunications problems.

Some people have had trouble with Bell Canada. For seniors living alone and in poor health, the telephone is their only link to the outside world and, moreover, it is used for emergencies. Just the fear of having their service cut off adds to their stress and health problems. Some have considered suicide. One even had to delay paying the electricity bill to be able to pay Bell.

In order to avoid having the telephone cut off, people will accept heavy repayment schedules over just a few months, to comply with Bell's very strict requirements, but this leads to other problems. For example, they will delay paying their rent or other monthly bills, such as electricity, to try to make ends meet. During this time, their credit rating takes a beating and they never get out of the vicious circle. Today, the telephone is an essential service.

But let us return to banking. For a number of years, the financial institutions have been denounced by consumers associations in Quebec. It seems that the banks and caisses populaires are choosing their clients or members more and more selectively. Even though they have agreed to change some of their practices, it appears that they still refuse access to basic services to a large number of consumers.

For more than 10 years, Quebec consumer associations have been speaking out against the financial institutions, which have been trying to get rid of what they consider to be a non-profitable client segment by increasing the obstacles to opening a bank account or cashing a cheque, using as their pretext bad credit, the need of an appointment, which is never immediate, freezing deposits for 10 days and so on.

People without bank accounts cannot cash pay cheques or government cheques, nor make use of direct deposit. They cannot make rent or other payments by cheque or automatic withdrawal, nor can they use a debit card. As a result, these people who have no accounts are condemned by the banks to a still more marginal existence. A bank account is a right.

In September 1998, the Task Force on the Future of the Canadian Financial Services Sector tabled, in the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Finance, what was to become known as the fabled MacKay report, which addressed in large part the excessive requirement for ID It also addressed the matter of putting holds on government cheques and basic service packages.

At the time, the Standing Committee on Finance agreed with these recommendations and recommended that the government immediately implement the MacKay report, namely recommendations 88 to 92, all of which addressed the difficulty in accessing financial services and aimed to ensure that such services were provided at reasonable rates and under reasonable conditions.

On the strength of the banks' seeming good faith, the committee's preference was for access problems to be resolved by a cooperative effort, with legal recourse a last resort.

Today, it is clear that the obstacles faced by underprivileged individuals and groups have not only not disappeared but are taking new forms. There is now a whole new series of banking practices, which have effectively restricted access to basic services: banks refuse to open accounts; accounts are closed without good reason; new customers have their credit checked, along with their income; there are fewer personalized banking services; access is being reduced or the less profitable branches are being closed. The use of automatic tellers is also encouraged. In short, the most profitable customers are being chosen, meaning those able to consume financial products and make investments, but above all those who can help increase the billions in net profits made by banks and financial institutions.

I even heard that one bank branch in Montreal set up a waiting line with one bank teller for people on social assistance to cash their cheques on the first of the month. There was a separate line for the other clients, with two tellers serving it. With a special line for people on social assistance, not only are these people treated differently and labelled, but they are also discriminated against because of their social status.

A bank account is a necessity. The banks have too much discretionary power and this leaves room for abuse.

This is why the motion I am moving this morning is so important. I am asking all of my colleagues, from all parties, to demonstrate their interest in social justice by voting for this motion, which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should add “social condition” to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Excise Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2002 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-326, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act.

Mr. Speaker,this bill would allow for medical practitioners to have their GST zero rated on supplying diagnostic treatments, consultative services, and the expenses that they incur by performing their duties as doctors. It is supported by many and I look forward to it being debated in the House of Commons.

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

Antipoverty ActRoutine Proceedings

October 11th, 2002 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The Chair is of the opinion that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-326 was at the time of prorogation of the first session of the 37th Parliament. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86(1), the bill shall be added to the bottom of the list of items in the order of precedence on the Order Paper following the first draw of the session.