Main Point of Contact with the Government of Canada in case of Death Act

An Act to provide that the Department of Employment and Social Development is the main point of contact with the Government of Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or resident

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Frank Valeriote  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment requires the Minister of Employment and Social Development to implement measures necessary to establish the Department of Employment and Social Development as the main point of contact with the Government of Canada in respect of matters relating to the death of a Canadian citizen or resident that pertain to the use of that person's social insurance number.

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.

Votes

Dec. 3, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Oct. 8, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

June 18th, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate Chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident—Chapter 15.

Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons)—Chapter 16.

Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits)—Chapter 17.

Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act—Chapter 18.

Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act—Chapter 19.

Bill C-51, An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 20.

Bill C-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act—Chapter 21.

Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act,—Chapter 22.

Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 23.

Bill C-63, An Act to give effect to the Déline Final Self-Government Agreement and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts—Chapter 24.

Bill C-66, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016—Chapter 25.

Bill C-67, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016—Chapter 26.

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other Acts—Chapter 27.

Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence)—Chapter 28.

Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 29.

Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act—Chapter 30.

Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act—Chapter 31.

Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act—Chapter 32.

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act and to make consequential amendments to the Statutory Instruments Regulations—Chapter 33.

Members not seeking re-election to the 42nd ParliamentGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2015 / 6:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Chair, there are days in this chamber that feel like seven years, but as my seven years as the member of Parliament for Guelph draw to a close, I feel as though it were only days that I was here. Saying goodbye today seems as unlikely to me as having ever arrived in this place.

I never planned on running for federal office and even tried, unsuccessfully, to find someone else to run instead. When I was approached in 2006, I had a young family, and representing Guelph here in Ottawa was not even on the horizon. However, my father, Mico, a Rotarian, instilled in me at a very young age the importance of service to others, even before self. I could not say no to serving my community, and what a community.

Guelph is recognized throughout the country over as being one of the most informed, caring, and compassionate in Canada. It is a leader in research and innovation through the University of Guelph. It is home to many of Ontario's premier agricultural and agrifood institutions, and has the highest rates of volunteerism from coast to coast to coast.

I remain imbued with the passion and desire to continue to be the voice of the people of Guelph here in Ottawa and to serve them with as much energy as my staff and I have been able to offer. However, that young family from seven years ago is still young and I am not. I need to spend what time I can with my daughter, Olivia, and son, Dominic. It is just as important to them and to me that I be there for their millionth steps as I was for their first ones. Indeed, it is more important. At this precious stage in their lives, I want to be a more constant presence.

I will miss this job, though. I thought that I knew what it meant to have job satisfaction until I stepped into my constituency office. One can never beat the feeling of gratification from having a direct impact on someone's life, be it helping them gain freedom and security through entry into Canada on a permanent basis, or just reuniting a family for a visit who might otherwise never see each other again. Maybe it is arranging for a family member to come to Canada to help her sister care for a child stricken by cancer, or when a woman's dying wish is to become a Canadian citizen, arranging for a citizenship judge to oversee the administration of the oath over the phone, surrounded by her family at a hospice.

Sometimes people can feel powerless as they attempt to navigate the bureaucracy that goes along with claims for employment insurance, obtaining a pension, or receiving disability benefits or tax relief. Being there to guide their bureaucratic journey and bring about a resolution is so important.

I have had the chance to advance significant discussions, too, hosting town halls on important and, often to the chagrin of some of my staff, contentious issues like palliative care, physician-assisted suicide, genetically modified organisms, food safety, elder abuse, the environment, and suicide prevention. I have encouraged many in Guelph to get more engaged and share their opinions on the important issues of the day, regardless their position on the issue.

Incredible opportunities have been offered to me as a member of Parliament. I was able to spend time aboard HMCS St. John's, and at Canada Forces Base Wainwright in Alberta, where I integrated with the women and men of the Canadian Forces, watching up close the incredible work they do. I travelled to Rome with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and then again later with MPs from all parties for the elevation of Cardinal Collins, who was also born in Guelph.

Recently, as the veterans affairs critic, I had the opportunity to stand before Vimy Ridge and then listen to Canadian students recite In Flanders Fields mere feet from where John McCrae cobbled it amid the carnage at Essex Farm Cemetery. I was able to walk row on row through the poppies and consider the tremendous sacrifice of our brave men and women who accepted unlimited liability as they faced colossal odds in the service of Canada.

Along with the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and a delegation of MPs, I visited the Netherlands and spoke with Canadian veterans and Dutch citizens who had been at Wageningen 70 years ago when the Canadian Forces liberated the country. I walked in a parade 3,000 strong in complete silence in Groesbeek to a cemetery on the edge of town where thousands of Canadians are buried.

My party has given me the privilege of advocating on behalf of farmers and producers as critic for agriculture and agrifood, the automotive sector that is so vital to southwestern Ontario, co-chair of the non-partisan parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care, and most recently, veterans affairs critic and deputy whip.

I hope that my presence in this House has increased the level of debate as much in passion and substance as it may have in decibels. It was a privilege to be here during such emotional votes as the one on Canada's access to medicines regime, advanced so capably by the Grandmothers for Africa, or during the battle for the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management.

I have learned and grown with each posting, but never have I been more able to empathize with anyone as I have Canada's veterans. The absolute misery I have seen, particularly of those suffering from PTSD, and their caregivers, is beyond comprehension but cannot be beyond our willingness or ability to help relieve.

If I can make one partisan entreaty, and it should not even be partisan, it is that we must do more for our veterans. We owe them a sacred obligation for their service and for their sacrifice. That obligation must be as much a legal one as it is a conceptual one. Words do not suffice anymore. It is not enough to say, “lest we forget” on November 11. These women and men and their families need and deserve real action.

I am proud that I will leave a legacy here having passed a piece of legislation in Bill C-247, an act that will ease the lives of countless Canadians when a loved one passes away. My bill, which will receive royal assent any day now, will make Service Canada the single point of contact with the federal government for notifications when someone passes away. Our hope is that a personal representative of a deceased will need to only tell the Canadian government once of the death of a person, setting in motion all the necessary disclosures with the government to effectively deal with the affairs of the deceased.

That an MP in the third party could pilot a piece of private members' business through the House and the Senate is no small feat. I owe my colleagues in every party a great deal of thanks for seeing the virtue of this piece of legislation and passing it almost unanimously.

I owe a great deal of thanks to Bryon Wilfert, who originally introduced the bill. It was also my privilege to work with the member for Portage—Lisgar in her role as the Minister of State for Social Development to further develop this bill. I thank her for her work in getting the bill through cabinet and the government caucus. That I can point to that law and demonstrate what we have accomplished here as a Parliament for the betterment of all Canadians fills me with pride.

If I can leave with one final thought, I ask that you take the initiative to make this place and our work here more family friendly. Countless Canadians have incredible contributions to make to this place and public discourse, but are rightly concerned about the strains that this place will put on them and their families.

This is a job that is never done. There are no weekends or evenings to retreat to for quality time with loved ones. My marriage was a victim of the toll this takes on a family and relationships with loved ones, and I am by no means alone.

We have an opportunity to consider new ideas, and I urge this chamber and the members returned here after October to do so. I urge them to consider new ideas like alternating sitting weeks so that two weeks are spent here and two weeks are spent back in the riding every month. It is a more efficient use of our time and that of our Ottawa staff, and enables a better routine with our families from whom we will not be separated for long periods of time. I and others felt the difference this last spring when there was a two weeks on and two weeks in the riding interval. It is a problem that must be tackled if we want to help serve Canadians better with members living healthier family lives.

Remote voting should also be considered. We no longer live in a time or place where communication is so difficult that we all must gather here to be heard. Let us modernize and take some of that burden off the families back home.

Finally, I want to thank my staff, without whom this work would not have been possible. Brenda, Lianne, Shanice who ran the Guelph constituency office, and Kim, Matt, Kyle, Ari, Liz, Jeff and Dan who worked in the Ottawa office, all did so with such professionalism and care. They were my front line, who received the concerns of Guelphites and worked tirelessly to make sure they were taken care of.

This has been an incredible opportunity, and I say goodbye knowing that I never had nor will I likely ever have again the opportunity to serve in such a privileged yet humbling, effective and rewarding calling as being the member of Parliament for Guelph, the most beautiful, caring and compassionate city in all of Canada. I will always be grateful.

Main Point of Contact with the Government of Canada in case of Death ActPrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-247.

The House resumed from December 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident, be read the third time and passed.

Main Point of Contact with the Government of Canada in case of Death ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise in support of Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident.

We usually do not think about these kinds of things until we experience it or someone else tells us a story. However, it comes as rather a shock to me that when someone passes away, the bereaving person in charge of the estate is left to contact so many different agencies. It really good to have legislation that will make life less onerous and less emotional in having to deal with so many government agencies. The bill would allow a number of services to be accessed through one phone call to Service Canada upon losing a loved one, and that is a good thing.

I have one concern about the bill, and that is that it is still rather vague. It specifies some of the services, but it does not specify all of them. There is a caveat at the end stating, “and all other services”. Like other Canadians, I would have been much happier if there had been more specificity around that so everybody could tell they had done absolutely everything they needed to do and contacted every government department when they made that one phone call. However, that is not in the bill. Nevertheless, the bill would make life less cumbersome and a lot easier.

All of these services would, as we know, be centred in Service Canada, so there would one-stop shopping, as somebody called this, though not quite because we are not sure of some of the other services. We always get carried away with modern technology. We think we only have one department to contact through email, but not everybody is technologically literate. There are technology challenges faced by many, especially seniors, in trying to resolve outstanding departmental issues on behalf of a deceased loved one. Therefore, we have to ensure the services we provide are accessible in a variety of manners: by phone, Internet, mail and in person at Canada depots. That is where the rub is, which is very disappointing.

The bill is good and the New Democrats are glad this is happening, but we have seen an incredible number of cuts to Service Canada. Under the Liberal government, $10.4 billion were cut over a two-year period, which reduced public sector employees by 45,000. A lot of that directly impacted ESDC. The Conservative government's cuts to front-line services are also harming Canadians. By 2015-16, the Conservatives will have cut $243 million from services focused on Canadians at ESDC.

While the New Democrats are pleased it would be one-stop shopping, I am still worried about the amount of time people will have to wait if they phone in or the response times once people submit their information in writing. Also, when we deal with people who have lost loved ones, they are very emotional. I hope the front-line service providers will get some additional training on how to deal with people who experience that kind of personal loss.

When my father passed away, I know how difficult it was. I thought I knew my way around the system, but it was still very frustrating at times, at times it angered me, and then when I would get letters, it was even more annoying. Members of Parliament all know how it feels when they send mail to someone and get a note back saying the person passed away a year ago. In many ways, it is time that we centralize our services so people do not have to go through that pain.

I also talked to a constituent of mine who had been left with the burden of paying back an amount of money that had been paid into her and her husband's joint account after he passed away. She did not even know the money was being paid. She had not kept a close eye on that account until she received a letter from the government demanding the repayment of a very large sum. She felt she had taken all the steps and had done all the right things.

This is good legislation. It will make life easier. As I said earlier, it does not list everything, but it is a step in the right direction. I believe this will make it a lot easier for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Main Point of Contact with the Government of Canada in case of Death ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-247, An act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident.

It has been an incredible and surreal experience to shepherd this bill through Parliament so far, and I am honoured by the support it has received on all sides of this House. Through this bill, we have demonstrated what parliamentarians can accomplish when working together with one another to provide for their constituents and all Canadians.

Few things are so daunting as the prospect of losing a loved one. Few things are so difficult as actually settling the affairs of someone after they have died. Over the course of my time as a lawyer and then as a member of Parliament, particularly while preparing and researching this bill, I have heard countless times of how unprepared people are for not only the grief of losing a friend or family member, but the administrative burden that goes along with the loss.

Marny Williams, vice-chair of Bereavement Ontario Network, put it especially eloquently in her testimony before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. She said:

At the age of 30, I found myself a widow and solo parent to two children aged three years and three months old. My world had been completely turned upside down and inside out. I was so devastated by the death of my husband, Keith, and the reality of supporting my children through their grief, that I didn't have the time or knowledge or desire to struggle through the multitude of paperwork that was required.

As parliamentarians, opposition and government alike, it is among our foremost responsibilities to Canadians to find ways to ease these burdens when the solutions are available to us. We can do that here.

As it stands, there is no single window that one can approach to notify the necessary officials about the death of a loved one. In the absence of a simpler streamlined process, a bereaved Canadian, husband, wife, child, or other estate representative, may have to contact many separate federal government departments and send death notifications to each.

Unfortunately, successfully notifying every necessary department or official can involve the repetition of submitting the same information to different people and is often confusing and tedious, and just as often emotionally draining and painful. More worrying, it may involve such an overwhelming amount of information that someone notifying the government of a death can miss a department, sometimes with detrimental results.

Service Canada lists that it must be contacted with the notification of “date of death” when an old age security or Canada pension plan recipient passes away, and for the application of potential survivor benefits. Similarly, if someone received employment insurance benefits prior to his or her death, there is a separate application to cancel those benefits, or to apply for additional benefits to which he or she may have been entitled. Had the deceased lived in Canada and in another country, their survivor could be eligible to apply for pension and benefits because of a social security agreement.

An estate's legal representative also makes a separate effort to contact the Canada Revenue Agency to provide a deceased person's date of death, in addition to preparing final tax returns and stopping payments on any tax credits. If the deceased person were receiving the Canada child tax benefit, universal child care benefit, or the working income tax benefit, those benefits must be stopped, and, if applicable, survivor benefits can be applied for.

That list is in no way exhaustive, but it serves to paint a picture of the myriad approaches to government that one must make after a loved one has passed away.

Jim Bishop, chair of the Funeral Service Association of Canada's government relations committee, related a story of a man who was handling the estate of his deceased father-in-law. After the funeral, he notified all of the departments he thought were necessary, but noticed nearly a year later that money was still going into his deceased father-in-law's account. He had not realized that he had to let Canada pension plan know, and so it was still paying out a pension. When he and Mr. Bishop spoke to Service Canada, they were given the impression that this happens often enough.

That sort of angst is not necessary. We can change it, and this bill would do that.

The bill calls on the Minister of Employment and Social Development to implement all measures necessary to make Employment and Social Development Canada, and more specifically Service Canada, the single point of contact for the Government of Canada programs, for all matters relating to the death of a Canadian citizen or resident.

While consulting with the minister and departmental officials after second reading, I learned that there would need to be some modifications to provide that this is for government programs that are authorized to use the social insurance number of the deceased. This was not provided for in the initial drafting of the bill. However, it became clear that it was essential in order to accurately match data, or, more plainly, to ensure that the person who died is the person receiving x benefit or y benefit.

A single window for death notification is not a new idea. In the United Kingdom, its government has already instituted the Tell Us Once registration process, and, in France, the online service portal “Mon Service Public” has been instituted for death notifications. It is estimated that beyond the more personal costs of eliminating considerable hardship and grief, the Tell Us Once process will save the government over $300 million over the decade.

Service Canada is ideally situated to perform this function for Canadians. Located within Employment and Social Development Canada, Service Canada already gives Canadians access to a range of federal government services and benefits. It was intended to streamline access to and provision of government programs and services for Canadians.

Bill C-247 is a practical expansion of Service Canada's mandate, and the logical choice for bereavement reporting. It is the first step in a wider strategy towards cost savings and reduction of red tape while improving client services.

The Auditor General found in chapter 2 of his fall 2013 report, “Access to Online Services”, that the integration of service delivery and the sharing of information among departments is “limited”. As we have seen through the various departments that require notification on the death of a Canadian, their family, friends, or agents often have to work with multiple departments separately, frequently requiring them to provide the same information multiple times to various sources.

The Auditor General also found at that time that instructions provided online by Service Canada about the process for certain life events were incomplete. Additionally, he noted:

[...] departments are focused on delivering the statutory programs and mandates for which they are accountable. There is no incentive for departments to share information.

When it comes to the death of the loved one, the AG similarly found that:

[...] someone must contact each department separately and follow different processes, as this information is not generally shared and departments do not offer the ability to do this online. This makes it difficult for users who may be trying to stop the payment of certain benefits to prevent overpayments [...] while trying to apply for others....

The hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo said it very well at committee. She said:

[The Red Tape Commission] certainly heard consistently that Tell Us Once wants interaction and how difficult and time-consuming it is for businesses to deal with government. I think we can all imagine what happens when someone who's grieving and the difficulty of finding out many months down the road that they have to pay the government back. That's extremely challenging. It's better to get that stopped in the first place.

The government, for its part, has identified this type of modernization as a priority as well. In this year's report on plans and priorities, the minister's message states:

ESDC will focus on achieving service excellence for Canadians by further modernizing service delivery, focusing on its core business priorities and increasing the use of technology. Through Service Canada, the government will ensure that Canadians quickly receive the benefits to which they are entitled and access to a wide range of programs and services.

It continues later, stating:

Service Canada will continue to work with other departments so that Canadians can better access more Government of Canada services through Service Canada.

What better way to start that process than by facilitating the client experience of Canadians at an incredibly difficult time in their lives?

When I look back on my time in Parliament, one day this bill and the collaboration and good will demonstrated by members from each party will stand out. It is an incredible feeling to know that my private member's bill might pass in the House of Commons.

At second reading, I remarked that members could sit in the House for quite some time without the opportunity to introduce a private member's bill, let alone see it debated, finessed and passed. It is all the more meaningful to me as I will not seek re-election when this Parliament comes to an end. This experience will stand out for me, and I am so very proud of what we have all accomplished with the passage of this bill.

A number of people were essential to the progress of the bill behind the scenes. I wish to thank the Funeral Service Association of Canada, the Bereavement Ontario Network and Hospice Palliative Care Ontario, for their early support, as well as for their testimony on behalf of the bill before the committee.

I wish to thank the Minister of State for Social Development, her staff and the departmental staff that provided invaluable advice and worked diligently to provide the amendments necessary to the bill's success.

I wish to thank Bryon Wilfert for initially proposing this measure, Wendy Leask for her advice on the subject matter, and Elizabeth Cheesbrough for her invaluable assistance.

Finally, I am sincerely thankful for every member from every party who spoke in support of the bill. They have demonstrated to Canadians what a Parliament working in their best interests looks like.

Main Point of Contact with the Government of Canada in case of Death ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The House resumed from November 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, be concurred in.

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 5th, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development on the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-247, an act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House, with amendments.

October 30th, 2014 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

I would like to read it in.

I move Government G-2, that Bill C-247 be amended by adding that after line 14.

October 30th, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Phil McColeman

[Public proceedings resume]

I can open session now for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-247.

First of all, I'm going to postpone the preamble until the end. Clause 1, the short title, is going to be postponed until the end.

(On clause 2—Single point of contact)

We'll start with clause 2, which is actually an amendment proposed, G-1. I'll just mention that if amendment G-1 is adopted, so are amendments G-3, G-4, and G-5 as they are consequential to G-1. Likewise, if G-1 is defeated, so are amendments G-3, G-4, and G-5 as they are consequential to the vote on G-1.

I believe you've received the amendments. I'll look for any discussion on the amendments.

Mr. Armstrong.

October 30th, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Phil McColeman

We're back in session for the consideration of the clause-by-clause of Bill C-247.

I'd like to welcome to our committee, Justin Vaive, our legislative clerk.

You have something before clause-by-clause?

October 30th, 2014 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I want to thank all our witnesses for being here today.

We did have the funeral directors in on Tuesday to hear from them. One of the challenges, of course, was that previously you didn't have the technological capability to have the instant communication that we have today. With multiple departments now using the SIN as a reference point, it makes it obvious for us to move in the direction of Bill C-247 to streamline the administrative issues amongst multiple departments and multiple agencies being informed of this.

We do have the challenge. You were talking, Mr. Thorsteinson, about why Service Canada does this. There are some legal and privacy concerns around the SIN and what departments have opened it. Those are things we have to work out internally, as you said, within the department. However, I do think you'll see—the way this bill has been written and the way there's going to be some amendments later today—that as further departments start using the SIN as a point of reference they'll be able to extend this legislation out for other departments that currently won't be approached by this particular legislation. I think we are moving in the right direction and we appreciate all of your support for this.

With the added ability for Service Canada to be the one point stop for all this information, how important do you think it is for Service Canada to develop a relationship with the funeral directors across the country to make sure this works in a streamlined fashion? Could you talk about any advice you'd have for us as we embark on this relationship with the funeral directors?

October 30th, 2014 / 11:55 a.m.
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Marny Williams Vice-Chair, Bereavement Ontario Network

I wish to thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-247, and the importance of having one point of contact for the bereaved when it comes to death notification.

I have read and listened to Frank Valeriote's presentation about the practical benefits of Bill C-247 and agree that it will reduce costs associated with finalizing estates for both the families and the government. But I'm here to talk to you about the emotional benefits of this bill.

I've been involved in the bereavement community for 12 years. I entered the world of grief when my husband died after a brief six-week battle with cancer. Since that time, I've worked hard on my own personal grief journey to rebuild my life for myself and my children, but I've also worked professionally. I facilitated support groups for nine years. I received my certificate in grief and bereavement from Western University, and I work for a local funeral home providing bereavement support.

I am also the founder of a non-profit that specifically supports widows and widowers with children at home. I come here today as the vice-chair of the Bereavement Ontario Network. I bring to you 12 years of stories from the many families with whom I've had the privilege to walk alongside.

In Mr. Valeriote's report, he states that having one point of contact will assist the senior population. I would like to expand on that and say that it will benefit anyone at any age who is trying to cope with the death of a loved one. I will speak to my personal story.

At the age of 30, I found myself a widow and solo parent to two children aged three years and three months old. My world had been completely turned upside down and inside out. I was so devastated by the death of my husband, Keith, and the reality of supporting my children through their grief, that I didn't have the time or knowledge or desire to struggle through the multitude of paperwork that was required.

I was also in a financial crisis. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband, Keith, was the main breadwinner. When he died, that income was also lost. The reality of being so young and not having ever experienced the logistical side of death, I did not have the knowledge or education of what needed to be done when someone dies.

Deemed disposition, final tax return, survivor benefits, these were all terms that I'd never heard of before and didn't know they even existed, but now they were a part of my new reality. I was lucky to have my brother-in-law to assist me through the paperwork, but not everyone has that support. This is my story, but sadly there are hundreds more like it.

When a loved one dies, the immediate family begins a journey of grief that they are unprepared for. The world as they knew has been dramatically changed and the family is now left to mourn the loss of their loved one. Grief is a combination of emotional and practical hardship.

The emotional heartache and pain that is felt by the family can bring on feelings of anxiety, anger, confusion, and sadness, to name a few. Many do not think of the practical hardship that comes as a result of the death. Immediate family members must take on the roles and responsibilities that the person who died contributed to the family.

For me, that meant taking on all the duties of the home and car maintenance, daily finances, and raising children as a solo parent, at the same that I was grieving the death of my husband. I did not have the time or desire to work through the legalities. When you are newly bereaved, the emotional toll of having to tell multiple strangers that someone you loved so deeply has died feels like a cruel punishment.

Many of these families are still trying to process the death and reality of the new world. Standing in line in a government office and sometimes, unfortunately, being greeted by less than compassionate people can feel like adding salt to the wound. Having to share the devastating news with only one person will help to lessen the burden for these families.

Ironically, this past Tuesday night, I was facilitating a bereavement support group. As we were going around and seeing how everyone's week was, one of the ladies shared her frustration with having to deal with a $61 cheque that was issued from the government after her husband died.

Three months ago when she received the cheque, she called to report the error. She was told how to deal with the cheque and followed the instructions exactly. Now, three months later, she received another letter with further instructions. When she called the office she was told by the person on the phone that they could not help her until they received a copy of the will. She spent the next day drafting a letter, finding past paperwork, copying documents, and mailing this package back to the government office. All of this time, frustration, and anger for only $61. Again, this is just one story of many.

Bill C-247 is about one point of contact for death notification for government departments. But it is important to remember that when someone dies, it is not just the government that needs to know.

There are financial institutions, investment companies, credit cards, insurance companies, places of employment, provincial departments like the Ministry of Transport, and legalities such as changing the deed of the home and writing a new will, just to name a few.

Each one of these must be notified of the death and then the resulting paperwork to be processed. Each one is a harsh reminder that your loved one has died.

Bill C-247 is one small yet impactful step that can help ease the emotional burdens felt by these families. Grief is an underappreciated, misunderstood emotion that affects all aspects of your life. Grief is a force that needs attention in order for the bereaved to begin to heal. It takes a village to support those who are desperately missing their loved one. Anything that we can do as an individual, a society, or a country, to make that journey of grief a little smoother is a good thing.

Mr. Valeriote said it best. Let's create a practical and compassionate approach to reducing the burden and guesswork of grieving Canadians. Let's be a model to the world for the client services it provides to its citizens and residents.

I strongly support the implementation of Bill C-247 and I look forward to sharing this information with the families I support.

Thank you.

October 30th, 2014 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Janet Gray Chairperson, Ottawa Chapter, CARP

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also known as CARP, is a non-partisan, not-for-profit national organization, with 300,000 members across the country, in 60 different chapters. We are committed to a new vision of aging for Canada, promoting social change that will bring financial security, equitable access to health care, and freedom from discrimination. Our mandate is to promote and protect the interests, rights, and quality of life for all Canadians as we age.

My name is Janet Gray. For the last seven years I've been the chairperson of the Ottawa chapter of CARP. As the daughter of two aging parents and as a professional financial planner, I have personally helped my own family and clients with estate settlement and/or with advice on the process to follow on death notification. As the chair of over 6,000 CARP members here in Ottawa, I also get asked by members how to simplify their government transactions, especially at a time when their emotions are high and the task is daunting.

I'm here today to support Bill C-247, an act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident.

Currently, Canadians are obligated to take unnecessary measures to notify the government on the death of a loved one. A bereaved Canadian must notify multiple government departments, potentially over 30 different departments in some cases, and often requiring multiple forms of documentation for proof of death.

Some of the departments and programs include: CPP, OAS, GIS, social insurance number, Passport Canada, GST/HST payments, veterans disability program, death benefit, Elections Canada, citizenship card, earning loss benefit, Canada child tax benefit, and working income tax benefit, just to name a few.

The consequences of not notifying any of these could potentially lead to requests for repayments or other government penalties years later.

CARP welcomes Bill C-247 in creating a single point of contact for Canadians. The bill will streamline the currently uncoordinated fragmented system. It will remove unnecessary stress and burden of repeated notifications to multiple government departments. Instead, the bill would create a clear path for Canadians during a difficult time. Canadians do not accept that the government does not have the ability to share information across their own departments, they only see one government.

CARP members would support Bill C-247 as it will remove unnecessary costs for Canadians, as well as cost inefficiencies for government. In a CARP poll prior to the 2013 budget, CARP members said that they wanted a budget that promoted a vision of a fiscally responsible, sustainable, and caring society. The majority said that eliminating waste and inefficiency is the best way to fund this vision of Canada.

Bill C-247 is a low-hanging fruit that all parties can support as it benefits all Canadians. CARP is asking that this bill be enacted right away.

Thank you.