An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits)

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

Sponsor

Dave Van Kesteren  Conservative

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 amends the Canada Pension Plan to prohibit the payment of a survivor’s pension, death benefit or orphan’s benefit to an individual who has been convicted of first or second degree murder or manslaughter of the contributor. It also amends the Old Age Security Act to prohibit the payment of a survivor’s allowance to an individual who has been convicted of first or second degree murder or manslaughter of the individual's spouse or common-law partner.

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.

Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

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

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to be here this evening to talk about my private member's bill, Bill C-591, which proposes changes to the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act.

When I first introduced the bill, it set out to deny Canada pension plan and old age security survivor benefits to anyone convicted of murdering their spouse, common-law partner, or parent. This would apply to the allowance of the survivor benefit, the CPP death benefit, the CPP orphan benefit, and the CPP survivor benefit.

Initially, the bill only proposed to deny benefits to those who were convicted of first- and second-degree murder. However, after listening to concerns expressed in the House and after consultations with the Canadian public, I decided to expand the bill to include those convicted of manslaughter.

First, let me explain why manslaughter was not included at the start. Unlike murder, manslaughter is an offence where the death is not intended, although there may be intent to cause harm. The crimes can range from near accidental deaths to near murder. As members can imagine, this leaves a large gray area.

Initially I was concerned that due to the wide spectrum of cases that manslaughter can present, denying survivor benefits might not be right in certain situations. Because of this, I initially left those convicted of manslaughter outside of the bill.

I was also very pleased that the government moved amendments, seconded by the NDP, to ensure that manslaughter be included. The bill now proposes that in a manslaughter case where the sentence is suspended, that is, the convicted person does not serve time in prison, they would still be eligible to receive survivor benefits. A suspended sentence tends to be given when there are exceptional circumstances surrounding the act of manslaughter and when the person is not considered a danger to society.

It is extremely rare for someone to be convicted of manslaughter and be given a suspended sentence, but it does happen. Let me give an example. Consider a woman who has suffered a history of violent abuse at the hands of her husband. If she is convicted of manslaughter but receives a suspended sentence, she would still be eligible for survivor benefits. However, I repeat that in the vast majority of cases, a person convicted of manslaughter would be denied benefits.

We all agree that murder and manslaughter are reprehensible acts. That is why I felt compelled to bring forth this serious issue to Parliament. This bill is not just important to me, but to all of those who believe that a victim's rights should come before a criminal's. It will bring the act in line with a longstanding judicial principle. That principle states that no one convicted of a crime should benefit from that crime. That is what my private member's bill aims to do.

I also want to point out that, once this bill is passed, its provisions will be applied retroactively. That means that anyone convicted of murder or manslaughter who has been receiving Canada pension plan or old age security survivor benefits will have to repay the government. Fortunately, the changes to legislation we are talking about today will affect very few people. About 30 people each year in Canada would be denied survivor benefits due to these circumstances.

I have been assured that the government will make every effort to ensure that these people are denied any survivor benefits. That is why the Department of Employment and Social Development reached out to victims advocacy groups and other stakeholders. Stakeholders have been asked to notify the Department of Employment and Social Development when a convicted murderer or person convicted of manslaughter applies for Canada pension plan or old age security benefits.

I was pleased that this bill has received unanimous support in the House and at committee by all parties, and I would also like to acknowledge my colleague from Hamilton Mountain for her advocacy on this issue. I encourage all members of this House to continue to support this piece of legislation and to pass it quickly so that it may become law as soon as possible.

This bill is about doing what is right for Canadians, and that is what all of our constituents sent us here to do.

Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to join with my colleagues in putting our laws in order.

We are talking here about closing a glaring loophole, correcting a serious flaw and providing redress for what was previously a rather cruel reality. That is why most of us got into politics. That is why I did, in any case.

It is also a matter of recognizing that the NDP is a champion in protecting victims, families and loved ones who are grieving

The bill before us today seeks to prohibit the payment of a survivor’s pension, death benefit or orphan’s benefit to an individual who has been convicted of first or second degree murder or manslaughter of the contributor.

I would like to speak to the members of the House regarding three important things about this bill, namely the reason why it was not passed earlier, the fact that it was amended in committee and the connection between the bill and the work of women's groups.

To begin, I would like to talk about the history that led to this bill. The NDP provides a platform for people who are grappling with unjust situations. Many of them come to meetings in our ridings to share their concerns with us.

That was the case with the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain who, in 2011, received a letter saying that a man had murdered his wife and, after being convicted of manslaughter, that individual received a survivor's pension.

A survivor's pension is typically paid to the spouse or common-law partner of a deceased contributor. I find it quite surprising that the person responsible for the death of their spouse or common-law partner can receive that pension.

That same legislative loophole applies to the death benefit or orphan’s benefit when an individual who has been convicted of first or second degree murder or manslaughter of the contributor. The law allows murderers to profit from the death of their spouse or one of their parents, which flies in the face of a well-known principle of law, namely that no offender should benefit from their crime.

However, the eligibility criteria for government benefits allow just the opposite. To fix this situation, the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain introduced a bill in June 2011.

Why did the Conservatives wait so long before addressing this flaw? The member for Chatham-Kent—Essex, who sponsored the bill, even admitted that this loophole has been around for a very long time.

The NDP has been calling for these changes for a long time. We are very pleased that we brought this issue to the attention of the government and the House, and in particular the need for legislative amendments.

Furthermore, I must mention the work that was done in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Since I started my term in 2011, it has been rare to see the government accept amendments to bills. In the version sent to the committee, the bill dealt only with individuals found guilty of first or second degree murder.

Some witnesses pointed out that excluding manslaughter from the bill was a significant flaw. However, as I mentioned earlier, this bill is designed to fix a flaw and not to create more. The NDP's private member's bill, which inspired this bill, also included manslaughter.

According to Heidi Illingworth, the executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, a great number of family-related homicides and spousal murders result in a plea bargain to reduce the charge to manslaughter.

That is why the NDP wanted to include manslaughter in Bill C-591. The Conservative member for Chatham-Kent—Essex acknowledged that this measure had been proposed earlier by the member for Hamilton Mountain. This idea was taken into account and included in the bill we now have before us.

I also want to talk to the House about what kind of impact this bill will have on Canadians, but especially on women's groups.

I am currently the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Previously, as members know, I had a career working with women's groups.

As the former president of the Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la région de la Capitale-Nationale in Quebec City, I was confronted with the horrors women face on a daily basis, whether it be harassment, domestic violence and spousal abuse, or sometimes even murder.

Still today, the statistics show that women are much more likely to be victims of spousal homicide. According to police data, in 2011, 81 women and 13 men were victims of spousal homicide in Canada.

Every year in Canada, women and men are murdered, and sometimes the perpetrator is a family member. Now, imagine how bitter those close to the victim are when they find out that the person responsible for their loved one's death collects money as a result.

That just adds salt to the wounds of the victim's loved ones. This bill, which is basically an NDP initiative, eliminates the possibility of a spouse receiving such benefits following a conviction. The Woman Abuse Working Group's action committee expressed its support for Bill C-206 introduced by the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain, which the hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex reintroduced as Bill C-591.

Now that we see that the government is interested in our initiatives, in our ideas and in the bills we have already introduced, I would like to advise it to consider the bill that the member for Churchill recently introduced, which is a national action plan to deal with violence against women.

Of course, the government could also hold an inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women. In closing, it is important to emphasize that the integrity of the Canada pension plan is of the utmost importance to Canadians.

Years ago, the NDP introduced a bill calling for change. When we see something break, it is important to fix it. A conviction for first or second degree murder, either voluntary or involuntary, is the punishment for a reprehensible act. The offender should not be rewarded for or benefit from the crime.

It is unfortunate that the Conservative government waited so long to introduce a bill to resolve this obvious problem. We therefore support this bill, and we are delighted to see that the Conservatives are finally recognizing the need to fix this problem.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
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Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I will be shifting a little, but in many ways these two are linked in how we as a government believe that people who commit violent offences such as murder are very much linked with the missing and murdered aboriginal women's piece too. However, we are talking about Bill C-591, introduced by my hon. colleague. From the comments by the opposition, it appears that all parties will support this.

The bill would amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act and deny CPP survivor benefits and the OAS allowance to people convicted of murdering their spouse, common-law partner or parent. As the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex and others have pointed out, no one wants to see spouse killers receive taxpayer-funded financial benefits for their heinous act. It truly would be an insult to the taxpayer. It is an insult to the families of the victims as well as an insult to the principles of justice. Certainly no person who pays taxes and personally contributes to an insurance plan wants to see murderers receive a benefit for killing someone.

Currently, when someone murders their spouse for whatever reason, he or she stand to gain those benefits. Thankfully we are speaking of a very rare situation. Death at the hands of family members is not that common and the convicted murderers are not always eligible for these benefits anyway.

However, each year between 2003 and 2012, an average of 21 individuals in all age categories were accused of killing their parent or step-parent. Among them were approximately 5 to 6 persons accused who were between the ages of 18 and 25 and 3 of the accused were under the age of 18. That is absolutely appalling.

It is important to remember that many people accused of killing a spouse or parent are not found guilty of murder and among those convicted of murder, some do not qualify for these benefits in any case. Of these people, roughly half would be rendered ineligible for the CPP survivor pension and death benefit, one-third for the OAS allowance for the survivor and less than one-tenth for the surviving child benefit.

I will emphasize that fewer than 30 people each year would be affected in the context of a public pension system in which the CPP alone gives coverage to 13 million contributors per year. Again, it is a very small number.

We are proceeding carefully with the bill because we want to be fair.

It is important to note the legislation will only apply to people who have been convicted of murder rather than all those who are charged with murder. That is a basic principle of common law, that a person accused of crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to participate in the discussion of private member's Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits).

I have listened with great interest to the rhetorical flourishes of the Conservative members who have debated this bill so far. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley said his government “always puts victims first”.

Not to be outdone, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo said:

It is clear that our Conservative government continues to stand up for the rights of victims and that Canadians can count on us to deliver results.

Quite the chest-thumping by a party that is trying desperately to persuade Canadians that it is only party that is tough on crime.

The only problem is that this bill did not actually originate with them. This is decidedly not a Conservative bill. On the contrary, it is a watered-down version of a bill that was first introduced in this House as far back as June 2010, and which was then reintroduced in this current Parliament on June 9, 2011.

How can I be so certain of that chronology? It is because, in fact, it is my bill. I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and as New Democrats we are certainly used to governments stealing our ideas and implementing them. However, when the Liberals did it with respect to medicare and pensions, they at least did not have the audacity to claim these ideas as their own. That is why everyone knows it was J. S. Woodsworth who gave Canadians their old age pensions and Tommy Douglas who brought us medicare.

However, the Conservatives have made this place so hyperpartisan that they cannot even acknowledge in passing that this bill had its genesis across the aisle. It is mind-boggling, unless of course they were fearful that by referencing my bill, they would draw attention to the differences between our two legislative initiatives and that theirs would then be found to come up short, and indeed it would. Let me explain.

At the heart of both my bill and the bill now being put forward by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex is the principle that criminals should not be able to profit from their crimes.

I had assumed that this principle would be firmly enshrined in the eligibility criteria for government benefit programs. Members may imagine my surprise then when I received the following correspondence.

I have a relative who killed his wife, served very little time for manslaughter, and is (and has been) collecting CPP survivor benefits for over 10 years. Since 1-2 women per week die at the hands of their partners, how many more men are collecting this? How is this legal?

I researched the file to verify that this could really happen and learned that there is no legal prohibition that prevents people who have been convicted of spousal homicide from collecting either the death benefit or the survivor pension. Clearly that is a loophole that must be closed.

My bill set out to do precisely that. It would have amended the Canada pension plan to prohibit the payment of a survivor's pension, orphan's benefit, or death benefit to a survivor or orphan of a deceased contributor if the survivor or orphan has been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of the deceased contributor.

Now I want to draw attention to that last line. My bill would have prohibited anyone from benefiting from both murder and manslaughter. That is something the Conservative bill we are debating here today does not do. Yes, if someone is convicted of first or second degree murder, that person will no longer be entitled to collect survivor pension benefits; however, if someone commits manslaughter, that person can merrily continue to collect.

Really? How is that fair? How is that putting victims first? I cannot imagine that this would pass the nod test for anyone who is watching this debate, either here in the House today or on their TVs.

It sure does not pass the nod test for Susan Fetterkind. Susan is a woman from British Columbia whose father killed her mother. He stabbed her multiple times and then went on to collect pension survivor benefits for 28 years, until his death.

I have been on numerous radio and TV shows with Susan, and she has just one message:

The government is enabling killers to profit from murdering their spouse. You're not supposed to be able to profit from murdering somebody.

Ostensibly, the Conservative MPs want people to believe that they agree, so we would think that Susan would be happy with the legislation that is before this House today. We would be wrong.

Here is what she had to say about the bill being brought forward by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex:

His bill mentions first and second degree murder but it does not mention manslaughter. My father did a plea bargain and he was convicted of manslaughter.

Therein lies the rub. Whereas my bill covers first and second degree murder as well as manslaughter, Bill C-591 does not include manslaughter as a reason for revoking pension entitlements.

This creates a huge policy gap, especially when we consider that the largest proportion of family-related homicides are spousal murders and that a great number of those result in a plea bargain to reduce conviction of manslaughter.

Do we really want to legislate a system wherein a person who is convicted of murder cannot collect pension benefits, but if he manages to have the charge plea bargained down to manslaughter then it is fine for him to collect? This is a loophole that must be closed. This is an area that my NDP colleagues and I are determined to redress when the bill gets to committee.

I know that more than one person will have picked up on the fact that I said “he” can still collect after committing manslaughter. I know that will generate some heated feedback from those who think I am promoting sexist stereotypes. Let me be clear: all violence is unacceptable. However, here is the reality. About half, 49%, of all female murder victims in Canada were killed by a former or current intimate partner. In contrast, only 7% of male murder victims were killed by intimate partners. That is why this issue is of critical importance to women's groups from across our country, and why I was proud to get support for my bill from the Woman Abuse Working Group's action committee in my hometown of Hamilton.

All of us in the women's movement, and in the NDP caucus, would prefer if instead of just dealing with the consequences of violence against women, we turned our attention in a systemic way to preventing intimate partner violence in the first place. It is not like we do not know what needs to be done. There have been gazillions of studies, with detailed recommendations, about how to reduce the rates of violence against women and how to protect vulnerable women. However, appallingly, we have a Conservative government that simply refuses to act.

All of the evidence shows that violence against women and children increases during times of economic crisis, which should suggest the need for an urgent increase in services. Instead, we have a federal government that has been single-minded in its purposeful gutting of financial resources for the most meaningful community supports. Cuts to social services, housing, child care, social assistance, shelters, and legal aid all contribute to diminishing the independence of women and making them more vulnerable to violence. It does not need to be that way, and it should not be that way. But when a government is intent on being tough on crime instead of being smart on crime, we end up dealing only with the symptoms and never the cause.

My NDP colleagues and I are committed to dealing with both. We will support the bill that is before us today, Bill C-591, and we will work to improve it in committee, by making sure it does not just cover first and second degree murder but manslaughter as well.

We will also fight to eradicate the root causes of domestic violence and continue to push for the passage of our Motion No. M-444, which calls on the federal government to establish a coordinated national action plan to address violence against women. The Conservatives have happily adopted my bill as its own. I would encourage them to steal Motion No. M-444 too.

New Democrats are secure in the knowledge that ours are still the only policies worth stealing. If the Conservatives need to be able to claim those ideas as their own in order for them to take action, then I say to my colleagues on the other side of the House, by all means, fill your boots. I have a number of other private member's bills on the order paper. Let us work together to get them passed too. I can assure members opposite that they are as meritorious as the one they stole here today.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for that speech. The speech that I am about to give is going to sound quite familiar, although I can assure her that I did not have an advanced copy. Until she said that all good ideas emanate from her caucus, I agreed with almost everything she said.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-591, an act to amend the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act, proposed in its latest iteration by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex. I understand that this is the member's first private member's bill, so I would like to take a moment to congratulate him on the introduction into the House of Commons of the bill back in June.

Interestingly, my first motion in the House as a member of Parliament for Charlottetown was also concerning old age security. My motion sought to reaffirm the government's support of old age security and asked for a commitment to keep the qualifying age at 65 instead of 67. Of course, we in the Liberal Party know that the motion to protect old age security did not receive the support of the Conservative government benches.

As the justice critic for the Liberal Party, I appreciate the fact that the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex has put forward a solution to an existing loophole in the CPP and OAS legislation as opposed to haphazardly amending the Criminal Code, as so many of his colleagues want to do.

Bill C-591 seeks to amend the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act to ensure that someone who has been convicted of murdering his or her spouse or parent will be ineligible for the CPP victim's benefit, the CPP orphan benefit, and the OAS annual allowance for survivors. As my colleague across the way explained in his initial speech in June, the bill is consistent with the legal principle of ex turpi causa, which means that one should not benefit from his or her own misconduct.

The member for Markham—Unionville has said the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill. We believe this is, in essence, a sensible bill that seeks to close an existing loophole in the CPP and OAS Act. While the Library of Parliament has confirmed that the intent of the bill is currently the existing departmental policy within government, it is not yet law and we agree in principle that the bill is a positive step for the families of murder victims.

However, we have some concerns that we would like to see addressed at committee and many of them we heard from the previous speaker. We also heard earlier in debate from the NDP member for Nanaimo—Cowichan that there seems to be a loophole in the very bill that is designed to close a loophole. The bill seeks to withhold respective benefits from those who are convicted of first or second degree murder of a spouse or parent, although someone who is convicted of manslaughter will still be eligible.

The member for Chatham-Kent—Essex has indicated that in cases of manslaughter, the principle of ex turpi causa does not always apply as clearly as it does in cases of first and second degree murder convictions. In his speech last June, he stated:

Courts have said that the principle of ex turpi causa should not be applied automatically to manslaughter and other offences involving responsibility for a death without examining the specific circumstances of each case.

While it is heartening to hear a defence of judicial discretion from the Conservative benches, this exclusion for manslaughter must be given considerable thought. It presents an issue that deserves more attention and discussion at committee stage. The possibility exists that someone could kill a spouse in circumstances that would otherwise give rise to a conviction of first or second degree murder but be convicted of manslaughter as part of a plea bargain and, as the bill currently reads, be eligible for benefits he or she should not be receiving. Ultimately, this is a bill that the Liberal Party will support because it deserves its time at committee.

I am mildly encouraged by the bill and the solution it proposes. As the Liberal justice critic, I would recommend that the government consider taking further fiscal and legislative measures to address the issue of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse before it results in the death of a spouse or parent.

Intimate partner abuse is a serious issue in Canada, particularly for Canadian women. I would not be doing this topic justice if I failed to mention that it is Canadian women who are overwhelmingly the victims in cases of intimate partner abuse. This is also true in cases of spousal homicide.

I am supportive of the bill and will be voting to send it to committee.

Please allow me to offer some other observations on the approach taken by the hon. member with respect to this legislation, and let me begin by quoting the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development. This is an excerpt from the speech on the bill when it was introduced in June of this year. He said:

The Department of Employment and Social Development already has administrative procedures, based on common law principles, that prohibit a spouse, common law partner, or child from receiving survivor benefits if the department is informed that the person has been convicted of the murder of an individual and is the survivor and consequently the primary beneficiary. The problem is that there is no provision in the law to prevent these provisions from actually being paid. What C-591 would do is give clear authority, raise the visibility, and increase transparency to ensure that no one could benefit financially from murdering a spouse.

I draw attention to this excerpt because it highlights how straightforward the amendments in this specific bill are.

Since 2006, the Conservative government has routinely bundled hundreds of amendments into monstrous omnibus bills. It has used these omnibus bills to alter everything from employment insurance to environmental regulations, fisheries regulations, legislation related to justice and public safety portfolios and, yes, even the Old Age Security Act, so it is entirely fair, and not at all irrelevant to this debate, to ask this question: why is this bill presented as a private member's bill instead of being included in an omnibus bill?

By asking this question, I run the risk of confusing my Conservative colleagues, as difficult as that may be. Let me clear. I am in no way supportive of the Conservative government's reliance on a poisonous combination of simultaneously introducing omnibus bills and time allocation motions to push through bad legislation that has not been properly vetted by parliamentarians.

While the Liberal Party is glad to have Bill C-591 headed to committee for further review, I am genuinely interested as to why, or maybe how, these amendments escaped the pull of an omnibus bill. This fairly straightforward bill is a perfect example of the value in not relying on omnibus legislation. This bill is straightforward, yes, but it could always be better.

The issue around manslaughter convictions as a result of plea bargains that I raised earlier, as did the member for Hamilton Mountain, is just one piece of this bill that should be further clarified. Presenting this bill as a private member's bill provides the time for scrutiny that hundreds of pieces of omnibus legislation never get at committee before they are passed into law.

In the Liberal Party, we believe that giving parliamentarians from all parties the chance to discuss potential issues before bills become law is a sound method of developing balanced, effective public policy the first time around. For this reason, I am glad that this bill, straightforward as it may be, was given the time for debate in the House of Commons. I will vote in support of sending it to committee for further study.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2014 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Richmond Hill Ontario

Conservative

Costas Menegakis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to say a few words about Bill C-591, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits).

I would first like to thank my colleague and hard-working member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for bringing forward this important piece of legislation. It is a perfect example of what a private member's bill can do. It focuses on closing some loopholes within existing legislation.

To begin with, this bill delivers on commitments the government made in the 2013 throne speech, namely to support victims of crime and to strengthen Canada's justice system.

The bill would enshrine administrative procedures in the legislation of the Canada pension plan or the Old Age Security Act based on the well-established common-law principle that an individual should not benefit from his or her crime. These procedures would make spouses, common-law partners, or adult children ineligible to receive Canada pension plan survivor benefits or the old age security allowance for the survivor when he or she was convicted of first- or second-degree murder of the very person whose death enabled eligibility for those benefits. By legislating the principle that an individual shall not benefit from his or her crime by becoming eligible for CPP or OAS benefits as a result of committing murder, Parliament would be sending a strong signal of support for victims of crime.

The CPP benefits we are talking about are the monthly survivor's pension paid to the spouse or common-law partner of the deceased contributor. The monthly children's benefit for dependent children up to the age of 18, or to age 25 if they are full-time students, in a lump sum death benefit is usually paid to the contributor's estate.

For a spouse or a common-law partner or a child to be eligible for Canada pension plan survivor benefits, the deceased contributor must have made sufficient contributions to the Canada pension plan to generate such a benefit. This bill also applies to the old age security program allowance for the survivor provided to low-income survivors aged 60 to 64.

Here is how the bill would work. If the survivor of the deceased individual would normally be eligible to receive these benefits, the survivor benefits could initially be paid to an individual charged with murdering a spouse, common-law partner, or parent. This eligibility would be immediately revoked when Employment and Social Development Canada was informed that the claimant survivor had been convicted of murdering the person in whose name the benefit was being paid. At this point, the claimant would be determined to have never been eligible for the benefit. An overpayment would then be established for all Canada pension plan or old age security benefits the individual received as a result of the death, and steps would immediately be taken to recover any overpayment in those circumstances.

In cases where a person was convicted of murder but was subsequently found to be not guilty, as a result of an appeal, for example, that person would be entitled to the full benefit once the Department of Employment and Social Development was notified. This would include payments retroactive to the first day of eligibility resulting from the death of the spouse, common-law partner, or parent.

With respect to the Canada pension plan, in cases where a person under the age of 18 was convicted of murdering a parent, the surviving child benefit could be paid until the child reached the age of 18. That is because when the child is under 18, the children's benefit is not paid to the child but to the parent or guardian to help with the costs of caring for that child.

I agree with the member that we do not want to create a scenario where the surviving parent of the child convicted of murdering the other parent is forced to repay the children's benefit they received. This would be punishing a victim who had committed absolutely no crime.

The Canada pension plan would be amended to ensure that under no circumstances could an individual known by the minister to have been convicted of murdering his or her spouse, common-law partner or parent be eligible for a Canada pension plan death benefit resulting from that death. This would not affect the estate of a person who has been murdered. The Canada pension plan benefit could still be paid to the estate of the deceased.

The bill is consistent with, among others, the policy of the United States Social Security Administration, which makes individuals convicted of felonious and intentional homicide in the death of an insured wage earner ineligible for survivor benefits. The United Kingdom also has legislation to prevent individuals who have unlawfully killed their spouses, partners or parents from receiving benefits resulting from those deaths.

In order to better enforce these new legislative procedures, the government would engage directly with victims' advocacy and stakeholder groups so they can easily notify the department when someone has been convicted of murder, and the death of his or her victim would normally entitle them to a benefit.

These amendments underscore and emphasize our government's commitment to maintaining a key principle of justice: that a person convicted of a crime should not be able to profit from that crime. It is a fundamental principle that is espoused by Canadians in our great country from coast to coast to coast.

The legislation would reinforce that the government puts the rights of victims ahead of the rights of convicted murderers. I look forward to the bill being debated at committee and to considering potential amendments that could make the bill even stronger than it already is.

What is crystal clear is that the murderer of a spouse, parent or partner will not benefit from his or her crime by gaining access to benefits from the Canada pension plan or old age security. I know that is something that all members of the House will find is amenable and in line with what their constituents would like them to do.

I look forward to the bill being debated in committee and coming back to the House, and to its speedy and expeditious passage as we fix this loophole in the legislation and continue to make our streets and communities safe.

I appreciate this opportunity to share these few thoughts with hon. colleagues in this great chamber.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2014 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am rising to speak to Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act with respect to pension and benefits.

I am pleased that the hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex thought it worthwhile to introduce a bill similar to the one previously introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain. She is an authority on pensions, old age security and the status of women.

I am proud to see that the Conservatives saw fit to bring back her bill, which was originally introduced in June 2010 as Bill C-527. It died on the order paper when the election was called in May 2011. The hon. member introduced her bill again, during the 41st Parliament, and now we have before us Conservative Bill C-591, which is strangely similar.

Compared to the bill introduced by the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain, this one has some flaws. We hope that these will be reviewed in committee. My colleagues spoke about manslaughter because the bill is also intended to eliminate recurring problems in the Canada pension plan legislation and regulations that for years have allowed certain criminals to collect their victims' benefits. Everyone in the House agrees that that is terrible. We could take a look at that and strengthen the bill.

As absurd as this may seem, the bill proposes amending the Canada pension plan to prohibit the payment of the survivor's pension, orphan's benefit or death benefit to a survivor or orphan of a deceased contributor if the survivor or orphan had been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of the deceased contributor.

Clearly, we can all agree how terrible and absurd it is that this has not already been dealt with. It was my colleague, the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain, who first introduced this bill following a disclosure from a concerned citizen. That individual informed the member's office that a family member who had killed his wife and served a very short sentence for manslaughter had nevertheless been receiving CPP survivor benefits for over 10 years.

If one or two women are murdered by their spouse each week, how many men are receiving these benefits? How can such a thing be legal? After conducting some research, my colleague learned that, legally, nothing prevented people who had been convicted of spousal homicide from receiving death or survivor benefits.

Not only are women more vulnerable after they retire because, in general, they earn only about 70% of what men do, but they also live longer. Women are therefore much less financially secure over the course of their lifetime. They are not able to set aside as much for their retirement and they also tend to be victims of crime more often. Thus, the existing legislation deals them a double whammy.

It is imperative that this flaw be corrected. That is why my colleague introduced this particular bill. Much of the credit goes to her and the individual who made her aware of this problem.

In the House, the bulk of our work involves solving problems that arise in our riding offices and dealing with problems in our ridings caused by laws. In our riding offices, we can really do a lot of good and change things for people.

The integrity of pension plans is of great importance to Canadians. Lately, it has been coming up on the news almost every day. The fact that a person who has been convicted of spousal homicide can benefit from such a horrendous crime shows that there is a problem of fundamental justice that must be corrected quickly.

That is extremely appalling, and I am disappointed that the government chose not to work with us over the past three years, after this bill was introduced, to put an end to this problem. However, better late than never. I therefore support my Conservative colleague's initiative.

However, I think that the measures included in this bill should have been taken much earlier. Instead, the government chose to go after workers by lowering the age of eligibility for pension and old age security benefits. It made cuts to government services for seniors. The government made it harder to access services by putting them all online. The services are longer available in paper form. Furthermore, it did not index the guaranteed income supplement. The government left seniors to struggle with a lack of housing and assistance to break their isolation. A number of things could have been done to help seniors, but no action has been taken since this government took power. It has done nothing but hurt seniors.

We know that two-thirds of workers will not have enough savings to retire in basic comfort—above the poverty line, that is—but the government is letting murderers receive these same benefits. Murderers are living off the money they receive from the government, when they killed their spouse. That is really something that all members of the House should find atrocious.

I would like to use this opportunity to say that we should enact every possible legislative measure and make every possible systemic change to reduce the incidence of violence against women, especially domestic violence. We really have to work on this. We have to take positive measures to help women become more independent; that includes pay equity. We have to take steps to ensure that women have access to the job market and can become independent.

Lastly, I am disappointed that the government had the opportunity to introduce this bill in the past but waited so long to do so. It was not drafted in consultation with the House, and it is not a government bill, which it should have been.

In closing, as several of my colleagues have pointed out here, criminals should not benefit from their crimes. That is a common law principle. That is what we are doing today. Pensions and old age security are crucial elements of the Canadian retirement system. We have to protect them. It is our duty as legislators to take every available opportunity to improve them and provide better benefits to the people who need them.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

moved that Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present my first private member's bill, Bill C-591, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

It is an honour to have the opportunity as a member of Parliament, representing my constituents of Chatham-Kent—Essex, to make a positive impact on this great country, helping to make it a better place for us and our children. Bill C-591 is such an attempt. This bill would close a long-standing loophole that enables someone in Canada today, convicted of killing their spouse or their parent, from receiving their victim's CPP benefit or CPP orphan benefit.

This bill is consistent with a long-standing common law principle, known as ex turpi causa, that criminals should not benefit from their crimes. This bill would restore fairness to the victims and their families by ensuring that those convicted of first- and second-degree murder would not be entitled to their victims' benefits.

The bill would apply to those convicted of first- and second-degree murder, which by definition is murder involving deliberate acts with intent to kill. The bill would not include those charged with manslaughter, since manslaughter, by definition, is death resulting from unintentional actions, such as accidents, provocation, or history of abuse. I will address this issue later in my speech.

A conviction of first- and second-degree murder must be within the meaning of section 231 of the Criminal Code of Canada or its equivalent in a foreign country, provided that the minister is satisfied that the procedures were fair and unbiased.

One cannot imagine the horror of having a loved one murdered, yet every year in Canada we read of tragic cases where someone loses their life by an act of murder. Sadly, this is done, at times, at the hands of a family member.

In an article posted in The Sun on Saturday, December 21, 2013, the headline reads, “Murder cases close to home — 2013 sees deadly rise in family related slayings in Calgary”.

And of the tragedy in our first nations communities faced by our aboriginal women, the Native Women's Association of Canada reports in their fact sheet of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls that of the murder cases in the NWAC's database where someone has been charged, 23% are committed by a current or former partner of the victim.

John F. Conway writes in The Canadian Family in Crisis, Fifth Edition, “About 40% of homicides in Canada involve victims and suspects in a domestic relationship...”

These are shocking statistics. I am not suggesting that all of these tragic events would be affected by my bill but what I am saying is, today, in Canada, approximately 30 cases a year involving murder of a spouse, common-law partner, or child could be affected by this legislation.

How terrible a thing to suffer the horror of family violence, how much more the horror of murder, but to have the added pain of witnessing someone profit from their crime, a clear violation to the long-standing common law principle of ex turpi causa, by way of collecting the victim's survivor benefit, is not fair to the families of the murder victim, and it is an injustice that cannot be allowed to happen.

I will first define who would not be eligible by providing an explanation of the CPP death benefit package, followed by the procedure to be put in place, the role of the minister, consideration of appeals, burial payments, explanation of first- and second-degree murder, and then a wrap-up.

First, I will talk about those to whom the bill is targeted by way of examination of CPP death benefits and OAS survivor benefits.

The Canadian Pension Plan is a social insurance plan that provides contributors and their families with a modest income replacement upon retirement, disability, or death of a contributor. It is this last provision, death of a contributor that is the essence of Bill C-591. At the death of CPP recipient, the survivors are eligible for these benefits: the monthly survivor pension paid to the spouse or common-law partner; the monthly orphan's benefit for dependent children; and a one-time lump sum death benefit.

As well, under the old age security program, the annual allowance for survivors, ALWS, is provided to low-income survivors aged 60-64 who meet the residence requirements and have not entered a new relationship.

These are the benefits that are provided through the Canada pension plan and old age security to the survivor of someone who is receiving CPP or contributing to CPP upon death.

The bill would make changes to the act that defines these benefits so that no one who has been convicted of first- or second-degree murder and who would normally be entitled to receive the survivor benefits would ever collect the victim's pension or survivor benefits.

Allow me to define the role of the minister. When the minister is informed and satisfied than an individual has been convicted of first- or second-degree murder, the payment would immediately cease. In cases of death benefits paid, when CPP monthly survivor pension, monthly orphan benefit, or one-time lump sum, the individual convicted would be determined never to have been eligible for the benefit and as such it would be considered an overpayment. All or any CPP and/or OAS benefit payment would be deemed repayable.

However, what if the disentitled individual were found innocent upon repeal or is subject to a new trial? If the disentitled individual appealed the conviction or were granted a new trial, the decision to cancel the benefit as a result of the original conviction would remain in effect pending the final outcome of the judicial process. If the individual were subsequently convicted of a lesser crime or acquitted, the benefit would be reinstated upon the department being notified. The individual would be entitled to payments dating back to the first day of eligibility.

The CPP would not be amended for orphans under the age of 18. In Canada, children under age 18 are considered minors and as such those charged with care and custody of a minor would receive the CPP orphan's benefit.

However, the orphan's benefit that normally is paid directly to someone between the ages of 18 and 25 who retain their eligibility by attending school would not be available to a child who has been convicted of murdering a parent when he or she turns 18. This approach recognizes the guardian's expenses undertaken to care for the child and the fact that the guardian, in some cases the surviving spouse, has not committed the crime.

Let me now address the death benefit. As stated, the CPP would be amended to ensure that any individual convicted of murdering his or her spouse would not be eligible to collect the CPP death benefit. However, the death benefit would continue to be paid to the estate of the deceased to help with the funeral costs or if there were no estate, the person who paid for the funeral costs might be eligible to receive the costs.

While the legislation would not permit the death benefit to go to the murderer, even if she or he paid these expenses, it is important to note that the funeral expenses would already have been paid by the time the person was convicted of murder. If the murderer received the death benefit before being convicted, he or she would lose eligibility for the death benefit and would have to reimburse the department at that point.

Next, let me explain why the bill would only apply to first- and second-degree murder. As stated earlier, the amendments made by Bill C-591 are based on a common-law principle that individuals should not benefit from their crimes. This principle of ex turpi causa clearly applies to conviction of first- and second-degree murder. The principle does not apply as clearly or uniformly to cases of manslaughter and other offences since they do not necessarily involve the intent to kill and can involve abuse, provocation, or accident. Courts have said that the principle of ex turpi causa should not be applied automatically to manslaughter and other offences involving responsibility for a death without examining the specific circumstances of each case.

Further to the role of the minister, it would be impossible for the minister to proactively identify murderers nor would it be feasible to implement a tracking system due to major obstacles such as provincial and territorial privacy laws. Creating the legal obligation for the minister to proactively detect who is subject to this provision would set an obligation upon the minister that is impossible to fulfill.

Therefore, there must be engagement with victims organizations to increase awareness of these amendments. This can be done by calling the department, by writing, or by visiting a Service Canada office. The department can then verify ineligibility due to murder by first and second degree through a copy of an official document confirming the conviction.

As stated, it is estimated that approximately 30 individuals per year would be affected by this legislative amendment. Of those, roughly half would apply for CPP survivors' benefits, roughly one-third would be OAS allowance recipients, and less than 10% would relate to CPP orphan benefits.

Familial homicides are not all committed by spouses, children, or common-law partners, and not all cases are charged with murder, convicted, nor have all victims sufficiently contributed to the CPP or possible recipients of the allowance for survivors.

The intent of the legislation would not be to punish families. The focus would be on preventing murderers from benefiting from their crimes. An individual convicted of murdering his or her spouse would be ineligible for survivor pension. However, if there are children, the orphans' benefit would still be applied.

The proposed approach is feasible, cost-effective, and consistent with privacy laws. It respects areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, ensuring that the minister would be able to fulfill obligations.

In closing, nothing can take away the pain and suffering experienced by the survivors of a murder victim. No law can ever bring back those whose lives have been taken by such a cruel act of violence.

However, this bill would restore fairness to victims and their families. This bill would ensure that those convicted of first and second degree murder would not be entitled to their victims' benefits. None of us wants to see those who suffer the loss of a loved one suffer the added insult of seeing the one responsible for their death by first or second degree murder collecting the victim's benefits as well.

I hope that the bill is supported by all members of this House and sees swift passage after a thorough debate.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2014 / 11:40 a.m.
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Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia

Conservative

Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-591. I would like to first congratulate the hard-working member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for introducing this terrific bill. I hope that all parties will support the bill to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to deny CPP survivor benefits and the OAS allowance to anyone convicted of murdering a spouse, common law partner, or parent.

As the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex has pointed out, no one wants to see criminals rewarded for their crimes. Certainly no one who pays taxes or who personally contributes to an insurance plan wants to see murderers receive a benefit for killing someone. Our government always puts victims first and has a strong record of bringing back fairness to the criminal justice system. I agree, and the government agrees with the member's bill, and I will be pleased to support the bill when it comes up for a vote. We will be making some technical amendments at committee. However, we believe that the crux of the bill meets the challenge.

I hope we will work with the opposition to see the bill pass quickly so that the human resources committee can study it this fall. As we have heard, there is all-party support for this legislation.

Let me describe the benefits we are talking about. When a contributor to the Canada pension plan dies, his or her surviving spouse, common law partner, and dependent children are entitled to certain benefits. Specifically, these benefits are the monthly survivor's pension plan paid to the spouse or common law partner, the monthly surviving child benefit for dependent children up to the age of 25, if they are full-time students, and a lump sum death benefit usually paid to the contributor's estate.

For a spouse, common law partner, or child to be eligible for CPP survivor benefits, the deceased contributor must have made significant contributions to the Canada pension plan. In the case of old age security, the surviving spouse or common law partner is entitled to the allowance for the survivor if the survivor is aged 60 to 64, has a low income, and has not started living with another partner.

The Department of Employment and Social Development already has administrative procedures, based on common law principles, that prohibit a spouse, common law partner, or child from receiving survivor benefits if the department is informed that the person has been convicted of the murder of an individual and is the survivor and consequently the primary beneficiary. The problem is that there is no provision in the law to prevent these provisions from actually being paid. What C-591 would do is give clear authority, raise the visibility, and increase transparency to ensure that no one could benefit financially from murdering a spouse.

The member for Chatham-Kent—Essex will be requesting that the Minister of Employment and Social Development write to the provinces and territories to raise awareness of this bill and new legislation so that no one convicted of murder would be benefiting from the crime. We believe that the member's approach is the right approach, and we will be pleased to support it.

Thankfully, death at the hands of family members is not all that common in Canada, and the convicted murderers are not always eligible for these benefits anyway. However, over the last decade, an average of 48 people a year have been charged with spousal murder. Most of these were young men charged with killing their wives or female partners.

Each year between 2003 to 2012, an average of 21 individuals in all age categories were accused of killing a parent or step-parent. Among them were approximately five or six persons accused who were between the ages of 18 and 25. Only three of the accused were under the age of 18. Age 25 is the upper limit for eligibility for a child survivor benefit under the Canada pension plan.

That is why it is so important that Parliament pass the bill, because if even one person can benefit financially from killing a spouse, this is one too many.

The member is correct to proceed carefully with C-591, because it must be both fair to victims and fair to due process. First, this legislation would apply only to people who have been convicted of murder rather than to those who have been charged with murder. It is a basic principle of common law that a person accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. If the minister learns of a conviction, however, the individual would not only be disqualified from receiving survivor benefits but would also be required to pay back any survivor benefits he or she might already have received. This legislation would be retroactive.

If, however, such individuals eventually had their convictions reversed on appeal, their benefits would then, of course, be reinstated. This is the right approach, the fair approach, and the reasonable approach.

This law would not apply to minor children who have murdered a parent. The surviving child benefit is received not by the child but by that child's parent or guardian on the child's behalf to help cover the costs of caring for that child. We do not want to demand repayment of those children's benefits from a grieving widow whose child has been convicted of murdering her spouse.

What if the murderer was between the ages of 18 and 25 and a full-time student who would normally be eligible for the child benefit following the death of his or her parent? In such a case, the individual would be treated as an adult and would be rendered ineligible for these payments.

I would like to point out that this law would not prevent CPP death benefits from going to the estate of the murdered person. However, it would prevent the death benefit from going directly to the spouse or adult child convicted of the murder.

The government expects that victims organizations and family members would notify Employment and Social Development Canada in the event of these kinds of cases to help ensure that murderers would not benefit from their crimes. To help facilitate this, the government would engage directly with victims advocacy groups and stakeholder groups so that they could easily notify the department when someone was convicted of the murder of someone whose death could otherwise entitle them to a CPP or OAS benefit. In fact, the bill would increase the visibility of the issue, and we expect that it would increase notifications from individuals and groups.

I would like to commend the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for introducing this bill and for all the hard work he continues to do in representing victims across Canada. This proposed legislation would restore fairness to victims and their families. Therefore, I highly encourage my fellow members to join with us, support this bill, and support it in passing quickly.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2014 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-591, an act to amend the Canada pension plan and the old age security act. As was pointed out by the member for Victoria, the NDP will be supporting this piece of legislation.

I want to note that this bill seeks to end CPP survivor benefits for convicted murderers. The bill is remarkably similar to legislation introduced by the New Democrat MP for Hamilton Mountain. Because we have already had a history of introducing this legislation, we will support this bill.

It is unfortunate, and I suspect that many Canadians did not realize it until the matter came up for debate before the House, that part of the failure of the current Canada pension plan legislation is that the survivor's pension death benefit or orphan's benefit may be made payable to those convicted of murdering a spouse or parent. I will talk specifically about a story that was on the CBC recently, but I first want to put some numbers on the record.

Over the past decade, more than half of the spouses accused of homicide had a history of family violence involving the victim. That is, 65% of spouses accused of homicide had a history of violence regarding the victim. According to police-reported data in 2011, there were 81 female victims of intimate partner homicide in Canada versus 13 male victims. Finally, women are far more likely to be the victims of spousal homicide. This legislation removes the possibility that a spouse could receive a benefit following a conviction for murder.

In our own province of British Columbia, there was a recent story in that respect. The title is “Spousal killers shouldn't get survivor benefits”. This was with respect to the victim's daughter. This story appeared on June 7 of this year. A woman named Susan Fetterkind wants the government to plug benefit loopholes in spousal murder cases. The story states:

A North Delta woman, whose father killed her mother, wants the federal government to plug a loophole that allowed him to collect pension survivor benefits for 28 years until his death.

I cannot imagine what it was like for the children. This was an example of a known history of violence. The husband was estranged at the time he murdered his former partner. Although we commend the member opposite for bringing this bill forward, as Susan mentioned in the article the bill does not go far enough. She said:

His bill mentions first and second degree murder but it doesn't mention manslaughter. My father did a plea bargain and he was convicted of manslaughter.

That is a good case in point. This man collected survivor benefits for 28 years. He was convicted of manslaughter because of the plea bargaining that is part of our system, so this bill would not have dealt with that issue.

I also want to acknowledge that the member said that at committee stage, amendments could be entertained. The member for Victoria has ably outlined the concerns with respect to the manslaughter provision.

Because of the fact that we are talking about survivor benefits, and largely we are talking about intimate partner violence, one of the things we need to do as a country is tackle some of the issues that leave women so vulnerable that these kinds of things can happen.

In 2009, West Coast LEAF, which is the women's Legal Education and Action Fund, produced a report on CEDAW, which is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It relates directly to some of the issues in this bill, because we would not need to talk about this if we actually protected women from being subject to violence from partners or other family members. LEAF produced a report card and gave grades to particular initiatives governments had undertaken. This is not a partisan issue. The fact of the matter is that this is where Canada is at this stage, through a series of governments.

It talked about two things. The first was with respect to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. They gave an F grade.

Many of us in this House are very familiar with the Robert Pickton murders in British Columbia. He was arrested and charged with the murder of 26 of these women in 2002, which drew a national outcry.

The report continues:

—the systemic problems in the investigative process, or lack thereof, have not yet been addressed by the authorities, and the sustained and widespread calls for an inquiry into the missing and murdered women have thus far been ignored. In addition, increased investment in social services, including improved access to secure housing, may help reduce rates violence by protecting vulnerable women, such as those working in the sex trade.

This is an example of the fact that women are subject to violence. These are the kind of situations we see with the CPP survivor benefits.

Violence against women and girls received a grade C. It said that the CEDAW committee had noted that gender-based violence was a form of discrimination that seriously inhibited women's ability to enjoy equal rights and freedoms.

In 2008, the committee stated:

—remains concerned that domestic violence continues to be a significant problem.

The Committee was particularly concerned about a number of elements of the social services’ and justice system’s response to violence against women, including: the use of diversion and mediation in situations involving domestic violence; the practice of “dual charging”; an insufficient number of shelters for victims of violence; and the failure of courts to take domestic violence into account in custody and access determinations.

Despite past progress on this issue, the widespread nature of violence against women and recent regressive policy changes make this issue one of the most persistent barrier to women's equality in B.C. These are B.C. provincial government policies.

Further, evidence indicates that violence against women and children increases during times of economic crisis, calling for increased services rather than funding cuts.

Later on, they reiterate the issue around retrogressive social policies and say that decreased spending for services, such as social assistance, housing, child care and legal aid decreases women's independence, and consequently their ability to leave abusive relationships. Inaccessible and inadequate social services particularly impact the freedom of immigrant women who are sponsored by their abusive spouses.

First, when we have a justice system, as the member from Victoria rightly pointed out, that provides for plea bargaining, allows a spouse who has been convicted of murdering his spouse to then end up with a manslaughter charge and, as would be covered under this bill, that manslaughter charge would result in survivor benefits.

Second, we need to ensure that women are protected so they do not end up becoming the victims of spousal homicide.

Whether it is investments in shelters or legal systems that allow the families of the victim to ensure they have adequate legal representation when it comes to justice matters, these are all really important aspects.

Again, I commend the member for raising the bill before the House. I know the New Democrats will be supporting the bill. I look forward to a fulsome discussion at committee, so perhaps some amendments can be made to deal with the manslaughter aspect of the bill.