Evidence of meeting #137 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was elders.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Anita Pokiak  Board Member, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
Laura Tamblyn Watts  Chief Public Policy Officer, CARP
Lori Weeks  Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Specific nutrition issues can really be a big issue in long-term care facilities. Sometimes seniors are not able to find food they can eat that also meets their cultural needs.

10:20 a.m.

Chief Public Policy Officer, CARP

Laura Tamblyn Watts

One of the areas that we've actually identified as a growing area of elder abuse is the area of cultural elder abuse. I am speaking very much to what my colleague was saying. I would also offer that being taken out of your community and brought down south would be a cultural form of elder abuse, particularly when it leaves the older person far from their food. Certainly in long-term care facilities where we see specific needs, they are usually provided for in legislation but not always provided for in reality.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Ms. Pokiak, would you like to add something?

10:20 a.m.

Board Member, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Anita Pokiak

Yes, thank you.

Regarding nutrition, you're so correct on that. Even for those of us who are not ill, when we, as Inuit, get off track from our diet, it doesn't agree with our system. For somebody who is ill, that makes it even worse. I don't know about Iqaluit, but in my region, in Inuvik region, some of the hospitals do give some traditional foods to people in the hospitals. That's one of the big things for our elders who are taken away from their homes and living down south. They have no access to their country foods that are nutritious and that their bodies are used to.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much.

We're now going to Rachael Harder.

You have five minutes.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

Ms. Watts, can you talk a bit about the economic security of seniors, and in particular senior women? One of the things that I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on has to do with using TFSAs as a means to save.

Have you observed that this is helpful to seniors in Canada or would you say otherwise?

10:25 a.m.

Chief Public Policy Officer, CARP

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Financial security is one of the most important issues when we're looking at older adults broadly and in particular older women. Currently, 76% of unattached older women live in poverty.

When we look at the TFSA, we see it can be a helpful tool. I would offer that in our experience it is rarely the tool that older women think about or indeed that financial advisers are thinking about when they're thinking about older women. Typically they're looking at either public pensions or private pensions and pension security, which is a great concern. That's not to say TFSAs can't be helpful but as older adults across the life course, looking at the impact of gendered work, we see that many older women are dropping out of the workforce, if they have been in it at all, and have challenges with pension security above all things. Sometimes the ability to have enough money for a TFSA is actually the challenge.

I think it's a tool to be considered, but if I were thinking about what was most pressing, it would be things like GIS and OAS and the ability to use deferred annuities, which has been announced, and so on, that tend to be more top of mind.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Are you aware that the vast majority of seniors in Canada have a TFSA?

10:25 a.m.

Chief Public Policy Officer, CARP

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Many people generally do. Many women do. I'm just saying that when people are thinking of top-of-mind financial security, it does tend to get lumped in more generally. I think they can be extremely useful tools, but they're rarely culled out for specific financial planning for older women, in our experience. It may simply be because we're often dealing with concerns of pressing poverty and retirement safety that TFSAs have been lost a little bit in the thinking around the planning, but are often used in reality.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Do you not think that mechanisms for savings can help be somewhat of a preventive measure in terms of helping a woman prepare for financial security in her future, so that she doesn't face those issues of poverty, perhaps to the extent that you're currently observing?

10:25 a.m.

Chief Public Policy Officer, CARP

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Absolutely.

When we're thinking about financial literacy, we look at a life course approach. We've seen that some tools have been created for women, and I'll point to the tools created by the FCAC for older people. But, taking a life course approach, helping women understand the roles that different financial mechanisms play across their life course, is very important.

We know that a just-in-time approach can be very helpful, as well as a planned approach. A planned approach for financial security is putting things in schools, and so on. But we know that there are points in time that older women are thinking about their finances. There are opportunities to connect with local community resources to strengthen their awareness about tools like TFSAs and other mechanisms at earlier stages, so fifty, sixty, seventy, across the board.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

You're saying there are points of time when women are considering their financial security. You would say that doesn't happen until they're in their fifties or sixties?

10:25 a.m.

Chief Public Policy Officer, CARP

Laura Tamblyn Watts

No, it depends on life stage issues.

I think that some of the concerns that we see are really prevalent to family caregiving norms. We have heard time and time again older women say that it just didn't occur to them, because they were too busy raising their kids or they were hoping that their Sears pension would be safe, but all of a sudden they don't have a pension anymore. Careful planning of course is important for everybody and I would offer that careful planning is even more important for single women, who are overwhelmingly the poorest cohort.

In terms of people who are doing their planning, what we know is that life stages are opportunities to support greater understanding about tools and mechanisms, whether that be having children, going back into the workforce, applying for a job, divorce, or death of a loved one.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I'm going to pass the floor over to Emmanuella.

You have five minutes.

April 9th, 2019 / 10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you for being with us today, Ms. Watts.

If you could give our government a couple of recommendations what would they be? I mean specifically with regard to improving financial security among older senior women, not necessarily only when they're single, but in general.

10:30 a.m.

Chief Public Policy Officer, CARP

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Thanks very much.

I cannot overemphasize how important it is for us to modernize some of the rules that are holding women back from being able to have financial security across their life course, but more specifically as an older person.

When we look at what's top of mind, If I could make a recommendation, it would be to eliminate 71 as a mandatory age for RRIF withdrawals. You have RRSPs until 65 and then those convert to RRIFs. At 71 right now we're required to withdraw that money. Very many people wish to continue to work, or indeed need to work. There's a challenge with the taxation process that doesn't need to be there. When 71 was established, we died at about 73 or 74. CARP is calling for that number to be eradicated and let people earn across their life course.

The second piece I would offer is to focus on the question of pension protection. We've seen with Sears and many other equally traumatic cases that if older people can't rely on their pensions, then we know they're going to be less interested in saving in a pension. We need to support greater confidence in pension protection.

By that, we would offer two pieces, which would have the benefit, as we know, of supporting older women specifically. The first is to create a superpriority in the case of an insolvency, by which they would be first in the line to get their own assets back out of the company before they're divested to other foreign entities that are creditors. Right now they're back of the line. Second is to create a mandatory insurance fund for the gap between the pension...maybe a fund of up to 70% or 80%. We'd like to see that be ensured.

Those two pieces would make a huge difference in the lives of women across the board.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you very much.

Ms. Pokiak, thank you very much for your testimony this morning. You mentioned the fact that there are about 44 beds in all of Nunavut. I don't think that's what you meant.

10:30 a.m.

Board Member, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

That's ridiculous. I'm sorry that this is the situation.

I want to be very clear in the recommendations. Can you give us a specific recommendation that would help with this particular problem?

10:30 a.m.

Board Member, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Anita Pokiak

The recommendation would be to have centres within our region and within our communities.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Earlier, when Ms. Harder was asking you questions, you mentioned that elders are an extremely important part of your community, but there's been a lack of respect lately. Can you speak a little more to why you think people are losing respect for elders?

10:30 a.m.

Board Member, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Anita Pokiak

The education system is one. Losing our language is another and losing our elders, because our elders are our teachers.

I hope I answered your question.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Keeping them within the community obviously would be the best solution to many problems, because you see them as teachers and they help provide lessons in culture.

Is there anything else you'd like us to do, other than providing more facilities within the region?

10:30 a.m.

Board Member, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Anita Pokiak

Yes, and another thing, it's not only hard on our elders who are being taken away, but it's also a big disruption to the extended family as a whole. They're losing somebody. It puts a lot of stress on families, not only financially but emotionally. It's exactly the same thing as the effects of residential schools, but this time it's not children; it's our elders.

Also, the need for second-stage housing would be another recommendation.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

That's excellent. Thank you very much.

We'll now pass the floor back to Rachael Harder for five minutes.