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Evidence of meeting #30 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was countries.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Balkar Bajwa  Principal, Old Age Benefits Forum of Canada
Balwinder Singh Chahal  Secretary, Old Age Benefits Forum - Vancouver
Raymond Micah  Principal, Raymond Micah & Associates, As an Individual
Samuel Olarewaju  Secretary, Immigrant Seniors Advocacy Network
Kifleyesus Woldemichael  Member, Immigrant Seniors Advocacy Network

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Thank you.

My colleague has a question she wanted to get in.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Just with regard to some information that I believe Ms. Yelich has been speaking about, I had a chance to meet with the department on this particular issue just last month. They informed me in their particular presentation that there are 50 agreements that have been signed with other countries. They were in negotiations with three other countries—two of them being Romania and Poland—and six other countries for partial agreements. But as Ms. Beaumier mentioned, many of the people who are advocates of the old age benefits from those particular countries don't have an agreement at this moment. Neither do they have an agreement under way for possible negotiation.

That is why I think it's important that we do take a look at Bill C-362 to ensure that we substitute that residency requirement from ten years to three years without those particular agreements. And as was mentioned by Ms. Beaumier, many of those countries, including countries like India and China and Saudi Arabia and a number of others, don't have a social safety net resource to provide their particular citizens. But when they do come here, just on the basis of equality and fundamental human rights, I think what is happening is extremely unjust and is something that is discriminatory.

I know I had a chance to be in my colleague Mike Lake's riding last week and was speaking to the seniors at the Edmonton Mill Woods Seniors Centre. There are a number of seniors across this country who are passionate advocates, and I think we see a number of them around this room.

We need to ensure that we put partisan politics behind us, regardless of which political party we're from. We have to do the right thing on behalf of these seniors in our country and ensure that we reverse this discrimination and really correct it, to ensure that there is true equality.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

Thank you.

I'd also like to make a comment. We talked about whether this a partisan issue. It shouldn't be, and I think the people on the government side have to recognize that it really doesn't matter whether it's a private member, who the private member is, or what party the private member belongs to. The government that actually gets this through gets the credit.

So if it were purely a political issue, I'd be waiting until we formed the government instead of giving you the opportunity to do it, because the political “coups” go to the party in power.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Michael Savage

Ms. Dhalla, you have finished? Thank you.

Mr. Lake, you have five minutes.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

I'd like to start by just talking a little bit about research. I think you said $410 million, but the department is saying $700 million, which is a pretty significant difference.

Did you talk to the department as part of your research?

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

We did ours through the Library of Parliament. I think, based on statistical numbers, as I said earlier, ours may be a little low, but I think yours are high.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Okay.

Have you done any research on how your bill would impact social security agreements that we have with the 50 other countries?

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

Yes, we have. I'll read it again for you: most of the international social security agreements contain a provision that indicates that the agreement will continue to apply in the event that the OA Security Act changes, unless either of the countries object within three months.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Don't you see some form of court challenge coming up there if, let's say, Barbados is covering the cost for its seniors but India isn't, and the Canadian government is covering the cost for theirs? And there are 50 of these countries, some of which have supplied a significant number of immigrants to Canada. I would think there would be the potential for a significant increase in the costs based on that.

Actually, I want to move on, if I could. I've heard words like “extremely discriminatory” and “ashamed”, as in you're ashamed of what we've done and everything else.

Do you believe we're hurting seniors by allowing them the opportunity to come to Canada under sponsorship agreements?

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

No, I don't believe we're hurting seniors by allowing them to come to Canada under sponsorship agreements. You're obviously too young to be a grandparent, but I would think seniors would walk over broken glass and hot coals to be able to be reunited with their children and grandchildren. I think to keep them away from their children and grandchildren would be an extremely--extremely--cruel and brutal thing to do. However, just because we've given them the privilege of walking over hot coals to be with their grandchildren does not mean we should not feel some responsibility to make their lives a little easier when they're here.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

So you would rate the opportunity for seniors to come to Canada to reunite with their families as being equivalent to walking over hot coals?

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

No, I wouldn't. I said if you were a grandparent, you would recognize the fact that people would walk over hot coals to be reunited with their grandchildren.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

I understand. My riding recently had the benefit of having Ruby Dhalla visit; I'm sure it was a great honour. But I'm sure what she heard and what she witnessed is the same thing I witness every day in my riding, and that is just a phenomenal family environment, with seniors who are so thankful for the opportunity to come to Canada under the rules we have right now. As most people would say, it's the most generous immigration system in the world, here in Canada.

But I hear you kind of questioning and feeling ashamed about the system we have, and it concerns me.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

No, I'm not. No. I think what you're saying is totally ridiculous. What I said was that grandparents are prepared to make any sacrifice to be with their grandchildren. They would rather live without pensions if they thought for one minute that it was an either/or situation.

I don't see why we're even talking about either/or.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

From your research, do you have any idea why, in 1977, the Liberal government of the day introduced the 10-year residency requirement in the first place?

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

I don't.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Now, they fought it to the wall. Your government fought it to the wall, in 1999 and 2003, in the courts. There were a couple of different cases.

What was it that was so important that they had to take it to the highest-level courts and run the parties who were challenging the law...basically until they ran out of money? What was it that was so important?

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

In 1999 a charter challenge against the residency requirement was rejected because the detrimental effects of the 10-year residency requirement did not “comprise a category analogous to those described” in section 15 of the charter; section 15 of the charter identifies a specific set of discriminatory criteria that warrants the court's specific attention, but it does not mean that discrimination or hardship doesn't exist because it isn't included on this list.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

But why did the Liberal government of the day challenge that? I'm not asking what the reason for the court challenge was. Why did the Liberal government of the day--

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

As I said to you before, I'm no lawyer, but there may have been some point of law that warranted fighting the challenge that doesn't pertain to whether or not we should lower the residency requirements as a matter of decency.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Michael Savage

Thank you very much, Mr. Lake. That was five minutes.

Monsieur Gravel, cinq minutes.

May 13th, 2008 / 9:55 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Perhaps I'm a bit naive. I'm not yet used to parliamentary practices. I was only elected a year and a half ago. Ms. Beaumier, thank you for your bill. I can't believe that these kinds of discussions can be held. Mr. Lake objects to the $300 million intended for seniors, but the government has just allocated $30 billion for the armed forces, which doesn't seem to cause a problem. I find that a bit sad. If the goal is to improve the lot of our seniors and of seniors who come from elsewhere, but who have integrated into Canada and Quebec, it seems to me we could stop going back and criticizing those who were in power for not taking certain measures. Instead we should consider the present situation. I believe we must build the future and stop looking back on the past.

I often hear the Conservatives—and this is part of their method—criticizing the Liberals for not doing one thing or another when they were in power. Perhaps I'm naive, but I think we have to improve the lot of our seniors. Bill C-362 will help seniors who come from elsewhere but live in Canada and Quebec. But there's something else.

When the issue of seniors arises in the House, I often hear Ms. Yelich compare Canada to countries that mistreat their seniors. Why instead wouldn't we compare ourselves to the best countries in the world in this area? I believe we should always have that kind of objective in view. I'm a priest, and I've always been told that, as a Christian, I should draw inspiration from Mother Teresa and try to imitate her rather than those who do not act fully on their Christian faith. The point is always to try to imitate the best. That's what I try to do. I don't yet come up to Mother Theresa's ankle, but I'm trying. I figure it should be the same thing for a country. There are seniors in Quebec and Canada. Could we become the best country in the world in the treatment of our seniors? If that's the case, we should stop comparing ourselves to countries that mistreat their seniors.

I'm here in the committee today because I'm concerned about the lot of seniors. This is my file. I read your bill, and, in my opinion, anyone who votes against it does not deserve to be an MP. I don't know how members who vote against this kind of bill can be elected. My colleague Mr. Lessard asked earlier whether the Liberals had a real desire to change things. That's what concerns me. The Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-490, which is at the second reading stage. I heard a speech by a Liberal who is very positive. However, I'm afraid we'll get to third reading and then vote against the bill. That's the kind of thing that disappoints me. It's as though we wanted to have a clear conscience with constituents or citizens who elected us. If that's really the case, I think that's dishonest.

We have to work for people. We are at the service of the public, not our own. We're not here just so that we can stay elected, but really to help the public. A bill for seniors must serve to help them and not to get us elected. I hope that's also what you believe, Ms. Beaumier, and that your party will support that kind of position. I would like to hear your comments on that subject.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

Well, I think that was a nice little.... I don't mean to be pejorative here, but that was a nice pep talk. I will send your comments around to every single member of my party in hopes that those who are wavering....

I haven't had any criticism, except perhaps from one member. I've had no criticism on this bill, and people are generally supportive of it within the Liberal Party. I can't begin to speak for the entire party. When we have private member's business, we don't vote in a block. It's a free vote. But as I say, there's only been one member who has indicated to me that he's not supportive of this, and we may be able to tie his arms behind his back and chain him to his desk so he can't vote against it.

And Mr. Gravel, don't worry; you've only been here a year and a half. I've been here 15 years. I'm still naive, and I'm still not used to being a member of Parliament. I know that everything works very slowly.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Michael Savage

You have 10 more seconds, if you like.

10 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Of course, Bill C-362 doesn't resolve everything. Are you also in favour of Bill C-490, which we introduced?