An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Steven Blaney  Conservative

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

Status

Not active, as of March 21, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Witness Protection Program Act. Its purpose is to extend the scope of the Witness Protection Program to include in this program persons whose life is in danger because of acts committed by their spouse.

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.

Bill C-377—Income Tax ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a different point of order. I want to recognize and commend my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley on a very well referenced and articulated point of order. I hope I can only match that. I assure the House I will surpass him on the aspect of brevity.

I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-377, an act to amend the income tax act (requirements for labour organizations). Although my colleagues from the NDP have also risen on this matter, I am not convinced the arguments they put forward have been complete in terms of substance. As such, I want to offer further points on this matter for your consideration, Mr. Speaker.

I submit that Bill C-377's provisions to provide for reporting and public disclosure of certain financial transactions and administrative practices of labour organizations envisages a new function and purpose within the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA. As such, the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation that authorizes CRA's current spending are being altered so that a new and distinct authorization for spending is being permanently created, which will therefore require a royal recommendation.

Past Speakers have ruled that legislation imposing additional functions on bodies funded by public money, if the functions are substantially different from their existing functions, will require a royal recommendation.

I believe that Bill C-377 will require royal recommendation for two reasons. First, the bill creates a new purpose for CRA in terms of a public reporting function that has no obligatory ties to taxation under the Income Tax Act. The bill would follow up on this additional purpose by creating what the CRA characterizes as “a comprehensive system that includes electronic processing, validations, and automatic posting to the CRA Web site”.

The Income Tax Act is concerned with the taxation of individuals, organizations and businesses. Any reporting requirements imposed on individuals and organizations are directly tied to their tax obligation or the exemption of these obligations. For example, charities can only keep their tax exempt status and donors only receive a tax receipt if the charity meets reporting requirements.

The Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for applying and interpreting the Income Tax Act in this regard. The primary goal of the agency, as Canada's tax administrator, is to ensure that taxpayers comply with their tax obligations and that Canada's tax base is protected. I want to stress that again: tax obligation.

Bill C-377 is strictly a function of publicly reporting information on one specific group of individuals, in this case labour organizations and labour trusts, outside of any direct obligations that those organizations or their members must have under the Income Tax Act. Given that it would create an additional purpose and new program requirements that would amend the Income Tax Act and modify the purpose of the CRA, the result is a new expenditure. The bill should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to a Speaker's ruling in the other place on February 27, 1991 on pages 2262 through 2264 of the Journals regarding Bill S-18, an act to further the aspirations of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. The Speaker found that provisions imposing additional functions on bodies funded by public money, if the functions are substantially different from their existing functions, require royal recommendation.

The member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale and the government will no doubt argue that because labour organizations receive a public benefit, as charities do, they should be required to report as charities do.

The simple rebuttal to this argument is the fact that the reporting requirement for charities is based on a tax obligation. A charity must publicly report information in order to keep the tax exempt status it receives and the preferential tax treatment its donors enjoy. This will simply not be the case with labour organizations under Bill C-377.

To further disprove this counter-argument, I think we need to look no further than the first incarnation of Bill C-377, which was Bill C-317. The bill tied the reporting function of labour organizations to the enjoyment of the tax exempt status offered to them in paragraph (k) of subsection 149(1) of the Income Tax Act. Labour organizations not in compliance with the financial disclosure requirements outlined in Bill C-317 would lose their tax exempt status. Bill C-317 also sought to effect the tax treatment of union members if their union did not comply with its requirements by not allowing union dues to be tax deductible.

In your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on Bill C-317, which was delivered on my birthday of November 4, 2011, and found on pages 2984 to 2986 of the Debates, you said that Bill C-317 had not respected the rules of the Standing Orders because to remove a tax exemption was in effect to raise taxes, which would require a ways and means motion, which the bill did not have.

Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, disallowed that and forced the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale to remove the parts of the bill that tied the reporting requirements to the enjoyment of tax exempt status by labour organizations and tax deductibility of dues by their members. In doing so, there is no longer any direct tie or connection to taxation or benefits received by labour organizations or their members. Labour organizations or trusts who fail to comply with the requirements of Bill C-377 will not lose their tax exempt status and their members will not lose the tax deductibility of their dues.

Bill C-377 solely becomes a simple public reporting function, which is a new function of the Income Tax Act and a new purpose for the CRA in its capacity to administer the act. As such, it should require a royal recommendation.

The second issue I want to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, has to do with how Bill C-377 regulates the internal affairs of unions and their relationships with their members. In essence, this is a de facto labour relations function that is completely new for CRA and duplicates the function of the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

Bill C-377 is modelled on a United States reporting regulation for American unions that falls under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. This act legislates labour relations. It promotes labour union and labour management transparency through reporting and disclosure requirements for labour unions and their officials. This act is administered by the Office of Labor-Management Standards within the United States Department of Labor, not the Internal Revenue Service.

The reporting requirements in Bill C-377 were copied from the reporting requirements of the most detailed and onerous reporting form from the Office of Labor-Management Standards, Form LM-2. Specifically, the bill copies the revisions to the reporting regulations that were introduced on January 21, 2009, by the U.S. Department of Labor and later rescinded on October 13, 2009.

Mr. Speaker, I will provide you with a copy of the final rule for both actions, which was posted on the U.S. Federal Register, so you can see how this legislation is a copy of the U.S. labour relations regulations.

The Disclosure Act of 1959 requires the public disclosure of union financial reports. In fact, the public disclosure is through an online, searchable database known as the electronic labor organization reporting system, the same type of electronic system proposed by the bill.

Bill C-377 is, in effect, a replication of U.S. labor relations law and regulations, specifically the department of labor regulations for the labor-management reporting and disclosure act of 1959.

The Canada Labour Code currently includes a section that deals with union financial transparency and accountability. It requires unions to disclose financial statements to members on request, or to the Industrial Relations Board to enable members to view that information. Part of their function is to regulate labour organizations.

The finance committee received a number of submissions on this bill. One submission was from Le Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec. It included a legal opinion that argued that the bill was concerning labour relations. Although the argument was for an entirely different matter, I believe the substance concerning labour relations was sound, and it would be of assistance to you, Mr. Speaker, in your decision.

The predominant purpose of this bill, as promoted by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, is to increase the transparency and accountability of labour organizations. During second reading, the member stated:

With the passage of the bill, the public would be empowered to gauge the effectiveness, financial integrity and health of any labour union.

The bill's summary states:

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to require that labour organizations provide financial information to the Minister for public disclosure.

The degree of detailed information this bill requires is far broader in scope than any other requirement on any other entity that is publicly disclosed by the government. This is clearly an attempt to monitor and regulate the activities of labour organizations. This is especially clear when the bill requires the detailed time and expenditures that labour organizations spend on non-labour relations activities, such as political activities and lobbying.

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to a previous Speaker's ruling on October 20, 2006, and found on page 4039 of the Debates regarding Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger) The bill proposed to expand the witness protection program to include persons whose lives were in danger because of acts committed against them by their spouses. The Speaker explained that the bill proposed:

...a protection that does not currently exist under the witness protection program. In doing so, the bill proposes to carry out an entirely new function.

As a new function, such an activity is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation. ... New functions or activities must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

The government and the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale may argue that the function proposed by Bill C-377 is the same function the CRA performs with respect to Charities Directorate or other tax exempt organizations. Although it is true that the processes and infrastructure required may be similar, the function and purpose for those processes are very much different.

Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the Speaker's ruling on November 8, 2006, and found on pages 4905 and 4906 of the Debates regarding Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes). I believe the particulars on this issue have a lot of similarities in the case at hand and would deny this counter-argument.

Bill C-279 would have created a new purpose for the DNA Identification Act and established new indices in the DNA data bank, similar in context to the new database that would be created under this bill for unions. The Speaker explained there was an addition of a new purpose to the DNA Identification Act which was to identify missing persons via their DNA profiles. Again, this is similar to Bill C-377 that wishes to impose reporting requirements on another tax exempt organization under section 114 of the Income Tax Act.

In that ruling, the Speaker stated, “Amending legislation that proposes a distinctly new purpose must be accompanied by a further royal recommendation”. The Speaker's ruling on Bill C-279 clearly shows that just because a process, in that case the collecting of the DNA, and the infrastructure needed, meaning a database, are the same as the current function of an act, it is still considered a new function and purpose that gives rise to the requirement of a royal recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, whether you look at the detailed requirements of the bill, its summary, the testimony of government witnesses who spoke about how this would regulate unions or just read the statements made by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, clearly regulating labour relations is the dominant nature of this bill. No such labour relations function exists at the CRA currently. Therefore, this bill would create a new purpose, a new function and/or an activity at CRA that would require a royal recommendation.

Unlike its failed predecessor Bill C-317, the reporting requirements and the public disclosure imposed by Bill C-377 in no way is linked to the imposition or levitation of taxes, levies or tariffs. Instead, this bill seeks to use the powers of the Income Tax Act to solely provide public information that would constitute a new function or activity. In addition, the bill would clearly create a new labour relations function at the CRA that not only does not exist presently but duplicates this function that is already happening at the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

Because this bill would create a new function and purpose at the CRA, I respectfully submit that Bill C-377 should require a royal recommendation.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-574Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order regarding Bill C-574, An Act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system.

Bill C-574 proposes to create a new bill of rights for a retirement income system that would promote the goals of adequacy, transparency, affordability, equity, flexibility, security and accessibility for all Canadians.

Clause 13 of the bill would require the Minister of Justice to examine every bill and regulation to ascertain whether any of the provisions violate, among other things, an individual's right to accumulate sufficient pension income to provide for a lifestyle in retirement that the individual considers adequate, an individual's right to determine how and when to accumulate pension income, and an individual's entitlement to receive investment advice from an advisor free of conflict of interest.

Section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act provides that the Minister of Justice must examine every bill and regulation in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 3 of the Canadian Bill of Rights states that the Minister of Justice shall examine every bill and regulation to ascertain whether any provisions thereof are inconsistent with this act.

Bill C-574 would impose an additional obligation on the Minister of Justice that is not currently authorized by statute. In particular, the new functions envisioned in clause 13 of the bill would require actuarial, financial and economic expertise well beyond the current mandate and activities of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice.

Precedents indicate that imposing new obligations not provided for in statute requires a new royal recommendation. On page 834 of the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered.

On October 20, 2006, the Speaker ruled, in the case of Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act, that Bill C-286:

...extends the application of the program...that does not currently exist under the witness protection program. In doing so, the bill proposes to carry out an entirely new function. .... New functions or activities must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

On June 13, 2005, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, that:

...clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose....

On September 20, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, that:

...the provisions in Bill C-257 which relate to the designation of investigators by the minister do not constitute an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose. The functions which are already being performed by inspectors would appear to be reasonably similar to the functions envisaged by Bill C-257.

I submit that this last precedent does not apply to Bill C-574 as the functions set out in clause 13 of the bill would significantly alter the functions of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice. That is because the new functions in Bill C-574 would require actuarial, financial and economic expertise well beyond the mandate and current activities of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice.

In conclusion, the additional functions for the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice proposed in clause 13 of Bill C-574 are not currently authorized in statute. The bill, therefore, should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Witness Protection Program ActRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the members know, last spring I tabled a bill to protect spouses whose life is in danger, in particular, to protect women from their violent ex-spouses. Since then, I have had several meetings with the Minister of Public Safety and representatives of Human Resources and Social Development Canada, and last Friday, measures were initiated to take action, after years of waiting.

This is why I seek the unanimous consent of the House to have Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, standing in my name in the order of precedence on the order paper, withdrawn and the order discharged, since our government is implementing a single program for victims of abuse.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

In accordance with the order of reference of Friday, October 20, 2006, the committee has considered Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, and has agreed to report it with amendments.

March 20th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Okay. We have unanimous consent.

I will then group all 12 clauses together and we will have a vote on it. The proposal here is to remove these clauses from Bill C-286. This is pursuant to Standing Order 75(1).

We'll stand the title and remove clauses 2 to 12. The vote will now be on removing clauses 2 to 12.

March 20th, 2007 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Chair, discussions have been ongoing for some time with the proposer of Bill C-286, Mr. Blaney, from my own party, with respect to utilizing the information available through Human Resources in providing new identities to victims of abuse. The proposer of the bill is quite satisfied and pleased with that. He has indicated, through a number of sources, that it is quite acceptable to him that Bill C-286 not go forward in view of the fact that there is another provision that will do what he had hoped to accomplish in the bill.

Having said that, I would ask that the committee consider removing all but the number and title from that bill and report back to the House.

March 20th, 2007 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

We are now in public, and I will ask Mr. MacKenzie to bring forth the proposal he has in regard to Bill C-286.

March 20th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

It's Bill C-286.

March 20th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

I'd be happy to, Mr. Chair.

What we're asking is that the standing committee extend by 30 days the study on Bill C-286. Just for a little bit of background, I'd be pleased to share with the committee a press release that went out. It perhaps will explain some of why we've had this delay. It's not what we wanted, but it's what has developed.

This was a press release of March 16:

The Honourable Monte Solberg, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety Canada, today announced the beginning of consultations for a proposed new service for victims of abuse.

The consultations will focus on how to effectively integrate programs from a number of federal departments to form a service delivery network for victims at risk. Service Canada will engage in discussions with federal government departments, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholder and advocacy groups in the development of this comprehensive approach to assist victims at risk of serious injury or death in changing their identities while respecting jurisdictional authorities.

In the proposed new service, Service Canada will be responsible for coordinating access to all required federal government services and will work with provincial and territorial government partners. The proposed new service is being developed in consultation with Public Safety Canada.

“Support for this most vulnerable group requires a coordinated response from all levels of government. My department will work with provincial and territorial counterparts so that the process is seamless and secure for victims of abuse,” said Minister Solberg.

What we're trying to do is take this away from the victim witness program operated by the RCMP to give domestic victims of abuse the protection of providing them with new identities. It's a service that's been there for a good number of years, but we're trying to make it more available and more accessible for those victims so that there's not the huge cost, and there's also not the need for victims then to essentially lose all their contact with family and friends back home. It just simply will give them the opportunity to assume new identities in some other community of their choice. That proposal is satisfactory to the proposer, and once it's done I think it will satisfy everybody. Then the bill need not pass in the House.

March 20th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

I would like to call this meeting to order. This is the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The first part of the meeting is in public, and we are dealing with a motion from the government side, from Mr. Dave MacKenzie, regarding Bill C-286.

Mr. MacKenzie, would you like to refresh our memory, or can we deal with that right now?

February 8th, 2007 / 12:31 p.m.
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Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Okay. I will just raise my concern. I do not think we should deal with Bill C-286 until we have a royal prerogative.

February 8th, 2007 / 12:31 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

We're not in camera, so I'm not going to proceed with this discussion much further. But do the rest of you tend to agree that we should suspend or not deal with Bill C-286? We're still going to have Mr. Blaney come. Would we—

February 8th, 2007 / 12:31 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Chair, I think it's fair to say from the government side that we are trying to develop something with respect to Bill C-286, and that at this point we may be wise to not proceed, to not use the committee's time or bring witnesses in. We haven't been able to bring that to fruition as quickly as we would have liked.

I would suggest at this point that we might be wise to just hold Bill C-286 in abeyance.

February 8th, 2007 / 12:31 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Let's reconvene here.

I was given a notice of motion from Mr. Comartin, but while Mr. Comartin is coming to the table, I'll let you know that we have a couple of other things we can discuss, since we have a little bit of time here. Hopefully we don't have to go right until one o'clock.

We have proposed a budget for Bill C-286. You will have it front of you in a minute. If you have a problem with it, let me know. Let's think about it. We can approve that in just a matter of a few seconds, I believe. And we have had the analysts here suggest some additional witnesses for Bill C-286. When do you want to discuss those additional witnesses?

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2006 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-286 would amend the Witness Protection Act to include spouses whose lives are in danger because of the action of their spouse, which is defined to include former spouse, common law partner or former common law partner. A common law partner is a person who has cohabited in a conjugal relationship with another person for a period of not less than one year.

Violence against women remains a serious social problem, despite advances in public awareness, support services and judicial and policy responses such as peace bonds, firearm prohibition orders, incarceration, no contact communication orders, restraining orders. To an irrational abuser, however, civil remedies, such as supervisory orders, custody orders for children or division of matrimonial property, may exacerbate a situation to the point where the only final recourse for the victim's spouse and her children is to escape the threat of personal harm by disappearing.

A commentary on Bill C-286 points out that this proposed legislation will introduce a subtle yet important shift in the rationale for the witness protection program. The existing program is to promote law enforcement by protecting witnesses who are in personal jeopardy because of their involvement in police activities. The proposed bill will add a related but separate purpose, the protection of persons who believe their lives to be in danger from their spouse or former spouse. This protection for individuals would be a goal of its own and not directly related to broader police activities.

I have no doubt that all members of the House agree that support for victims of domestic violence is needed and most commendable. The act will, however, be meaningless unless additional financial resources are committed to cover the expanded role of the federal government and the RCMP.

Currently, spouses who are in such danger that they feel they must flee their surroundings and change their identities do now have some measure of protection under a little known ad hoc process called new identities, unless this has been a victim of the Conservative government's latest round of cuts to federal programs.

With the help of information from police, women's shelters and victims groups, the program assists desperate women in life-threatening situations gain a new identity and relocate by providing them with new social insurance numbers and ensuring continuity of federal social benefits such as employment insurance. This does prevent some devious predators from surreptitiously tracking down their estranged spouse. However, with no separate funding sources, the assistance provided is not comprehensive and falls far short of its aims and objectives, which leads us to the need for this act.

Bill C-286 would also provide a new solid base for the new identities program.

Subclause 7(2) of the bill sets out the factors which should be considered in the case of admitting a spouse to the program. They include: the nature of risk to the security of the spouse; the nature of the injuries caused to the spouse by the severe psychological damage inflicted on the spouse by the other spouse and the criminal record, if any, of the other spouse; the circumstances that cause the spouse to believe that his or her life is in danger; alternative methods of protecting the spouse without admitting the spouse to the program; and such other factors as the commissioner deems relevant.

Unless the criteria for entry are somewhat strict, the program could result in an unmanageable situation in which applicants flood the system. Spouses would have to believe, on reasonable grounds, that their life was in danger by reason of acts committed against them by their spouse and would have to be recommended for admission by a law enforcement agency, which could also include government departments.

Participation in a spousal witness protection program must be well thought out by a prospective candidate who must appreciate both the short term and long term complications. If elements of organized crime are a threat, one is most happy to disappear without a trace. Under the spousal program there is the family dynamic of parents, siblings, grandparents left behind, which could complicate matters. Children who, with the passage of time, may forget or play down the violence and abusive behaviour of the parent left behind, may work to reconnect with the parent, thereby blowing the cover of this protective veil after much time, effort and expense.

In most cases, under the current program, the RCMP erases all traces of a witness' former identity, moves the persons to a new province, pays for job re-training and provides money for re-establishment. A handful of abuse victims have been admitted to the existing program, but mainly for those who have testified against their partners.

When we consider the tremendous number of victims of domestic abuse and violence in our country, one can readily appreciate that there could be much take up under these programs and the funding necessary for the programs would be substantial. At the present time, the witness protection program costs range from $400,000 to $500,000 per witness, which is very significant.

As this bill entails expenditures of money, I hope that the sponsor of the bill has sought an opinion on whether a royal recommendation is required, and if so, that the Conservative government will in fact support such a recommendation. The costs in and of themselves should not defeat an initiative that is worthy of further consideration.

Although it goes beyond the scope of the proposed legislation, serious consideration should be given by this government to working with our provincial partners to provide additional resources to deal with preventive measures and sound programs to get at the root causes of domestic abuse and violence, whether they be programs for counselling in alcohol and drug abuse, anger management, debt management, stress management, gender sensitivity--something we did not see much of on the other side of the House yesterday--marriage counselling, or other interventions that may prevent violent and abusive behaviour. This wish list is extensive but so necessary if we are truly to address the issue of spousal abuse and violence.

We must assist the service and delivery providers throughout this country with much needed resources, either indirectly through the provinces in our social transfers, or directly to the social agencies for assistance programs that do not offend the federal-provincial jurisdictional responsibilities. The bottom line is that the groups and organizations on the front lines need help and financial assistance, help that will pay dividends in diminishing the demand and the need for extensive utilization of a spousal witness protection program.

One of these front line agencies in my riding of Welland is Women's Place of South Niagara, a crisis centre and provider of shelter for women and their children who are victims of domestic abuse and violence. Its doors are open to those who are forced to flee their residences, often in emergency situations, and sometimes with just the clothes on their backs, in order to protect themselves from serious injury or worse at the hands of a physically aggressive spouse or common law partner.

Occasionally an intervention of this nature is the catalyst to defuse an increasingly violent relationship, allowing the parties to reassess such a relationship and either to proceed to a more amicable or at least rational separation or to work to a possible reconciliation and a new respect for one another. Too often this is not enough.

I have listened with astonishment and horror to the anecdotes of abused women from the shelter who are brave enough to tell their stories anonymously. I question how our society allows such situations to occur and why there are not the resources for prompt interventions. It is a sobering fact to learn that some women, for many different reasons, endure up to 30 incidents of abusive behaviour before they seek help to leave an abusive relationship for a much better life.

Some advocates for victims of domestic abuse and violence would like to see a totally new program of protection with decisions of acceptance into the program being managed or reviewed by professionals trained and skilled in making assessments of abused women and children, instead of leaving it to the RCMP to decide which victims need protection. Their concern is that the policing authorities could limit their choices to victims of abusers who have been criminally convicted of a serious related criminal offence. Police involvement would still be required but augmented by the input of trained professionals.

In this discussion I also wish to point out that legally acquired rifles and shotguns are the weapons of choice in cases of domestic homicide. It has been pointed out that guns are frequently part of the cycle of intimidation and violence that many victims face in their homes. For every woman who loses her life at the hand of a spouse with a firearm, there are thousands who are threatened or live in fear. In fact, one shelter worker with the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters estimated that at least 30% of her clients had been threatened with a gun. The opponents of licensing and registration tend to come from regions where guns are more common, such as rural communities and the west. Ironically, these regions are also where firearms figure more prominently in incidents of domestic violence.

The Firearms Act introduced measures for licensing of gun owners and registration of firearms. Coupled with appropriate training and implementation, these measures are essential to removing firearms from situations where women are at risk. Licensing of gun owners is essential to keep guns away from potentially abusive spouses or individuals with a history of violence.

I would hope that the sponsor of the bill would urge his government not to proceed with its commitment to gut the firearms program. Protection of women and children from domestic abuse includes much more than including them in a witness protection program.

The inclusion of spouses in the witness protection program is the last, the final safety net in cases where counselling and criminal law have been ineffective. Women who fall into this category must be given this opportunity to save their lives and those of their children. That is why I will support this bill moving to committee stage for a full consideration, including the testimony of knowledgeable witnesses.