House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.


Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario


Paul Devillers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill C-6, an act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act. I am pleased to speak in support of this legislation.

With this legislation we have a rare window of opportunity to establish environmental conditions in which mining in Yukon can take place. I urge hon. member to take advantage of this opportunity to support the bill currently before the House.

Bill C-6 is a compromise, a made in Yukon solution to a unique Yukon situation. I would like to take a few minutes of the House's time to explain how this legislation came about and to highlight the extensive consultations that have resulted in a consensus to proceed at this time.

I am sure hon. members of the aboriginal affairs and northern development standing committee would agree that consensus is the key word. They heard from many witnesses about the compromises that were reached in this bill. Witnesses included the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, known as Y-MAC; the Yukon Chamber of Commerce; the mayor of the village of Mayo; the Yukon Placer Miners Association; and the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

This bill is not being imposed on an unsuspecting public or industry. There is clearly a recognized need for the environmental

regulation of mining in Yukon, both to ensure protection of the environment and to provide certainty for industry.

Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not currently have land use regulations that apply to mining claims, although the environmental record of the territory's mining industry is good.

Some of the problems we have today could have been avoided with proper regulation.

The YMAC Committee, a group created in 1990 to bring the stakeholders together, was asked to develop an acceptable environmentally friendly system. I would like to join the minister in congratulating the YMAC for its good work. Bill C-6 is the direct result of this committee's work and of the determination of its members to find compromises that would benefit the Yukon economy and environment.

Without their dedication, we would not have reached a global agreement on the way to proceed. And, without such a significant agreement, it would have been extremely difficult if not utterly impossible to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act.

We must also recognize the contribution of the Yukon First Nations to reaching a consensus. The Yukon First Nations are not against development; in fact, they often support it, because they recognize that resource development projects can benefit their members.

However, the First Nations are also deeply attached to the environment. By taking part in the works of the YMAC, the Yukon First Nations Council made sure that native concerns were considered.

Finally, the representatives of the federal and territorial governments who sat on the YMAC Committee contributed to ensuring a balance between the interests at stake and a land use system that will support mining exploration and development without threatening the environment.

Bill C-6 was the result of a report prepared in April 1992 by the YMAC. The underlying object of this report was, and I quote, "to ensure the development of a healthy, durable and competitive mining industry, whose operations support the fundamental social, economic and environmental values of the Yukon".

When the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development received cabinet approval to draft Bill C-6, special arrangements were made to consult with YMAC throughout the drafting of the bill and the accompanying regulations. Such arrangements are extremely unusual, however, without them it would not have been possible to reach the general consensus on this legislation.

Beginning in early 1994, YMAC initiated a series of meetings to discuss drafts of the proposed legislation and regulations. The committee met as a group more than 10 times during 1994 and 1995 specifically to discuss this issue. Also over the past years, these legislative proposals have been reviewed and discussed at such mining industry forums as the Geoscience Forum in Whitehorse, the Cordilleran Roundup in Vancouver, the Prospectors and Developers Convention in Toronto and the Gold Show in Dawson.

In July 1995 with the endorsement of this government, YMAC took its consultation to another level by mailing out a summary of the legislative proposals and regulations to more than 600 individuals, organizations and companies. Public information sessions were subsequently held in four Yukon communities: Dawson City, Mayo, Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

Close to 150 people attended the hearings announced in the newspapers, on the radio and on posters in the offices of the mining companies and other public buildings. The committee as well as the federal government and the government of the Yukon also received a certain number of written comments on the proposed statute.

We especially tried to get the First Nations to participate, at the grass roots level, in the consultation process.

In addition to being represented on the YMAC, the 14 First Nations of the Yukon received a summary of the bill and the related regulations before public information meetings were held in July 1995.

The hon. members of the House should know that the minister initiated discussions on an even broader range of issues regarding First Nations during the consultations conducted by his department on the regulations on the use of mining property, which is being developed.

In October 1995, two dozen First Nations groups and organizations received a copy of the summary of the bill and the proposed regulations with a request for comments.

Officials of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have contacted these groups directly to arrange meetings to discuss the proposals and receive feedback. At least one meeting has been held with representatives from each Yukon First Nation. The minister is very interested in hearing aboriginal people's views on the proposed regulations, in particular whether the First Nations want their own legislation or this act to apply to their settlement lands.

Once the draft regulations are finalized, the government will follow the normal process of publishing them in the


Gazette at least 60 days prior to their proclamation. This will provide a further opportunity for public input into the mining land use regime.

Also, in close consultation with the full range of stakeholders, separate regulations are now being developed for hard rock production and mine site reclamation. These will be brought into effect after the land use regulations are promulgated, which is expected to occur at the same time or shortly after Bill C-6 is proclaimed.

Based on the wide ranging and extensive consultation that has been undertaken, we have before us a bill which reflects a broad consensus of the key stakeholders connected to the Yukon mining industry. Although there are some issues on which YMAC could not reach an agreement, all stakeholders have demonstrated flexibility and a willingness to compromise. Hon. members should be aware that Bill C-6 is very much in keeping with the YMAC report of April 1992.

As recommended by the committee, the government is proposing to establish a multi-tiered classification system for land use operations. The government has also accepted the committee's recommendation for a completely separate set of regulations from the territorial land use regulations so as to better reflect the unique operating requirements of the mining industry in Yukon.

Another characteristic of the proposed program is the short delays given the government to make decisions concerning mining activity applications. This is in accordance with a committee recommendation taking into account the short placer exploration and development season in Yukon.

The bill also proposes a well defined responsibility and accountability framework. The chief of placer land use will administer the regulations and will make decisions concerning most of the projects. The only exception will be for projects concerning hard rock, which will require a permit issued by the minister. The decisions of the chief of placer land use will be subject to appeals to the minister.

Inspectors will have clear, reasonable and effective powers allowing them to give regulatory approvals. They will have the power to enter any mining site or building, except dwelling places.

They will also have the power to take samples and to examine books, records or documents and make copies thereof.

The inspectors will also have the power to order the cessation or modification of any activity, when it results or may result in danger to persons or the environment. The inspectors' orders will be subject to an appeal to the chief of placer land use.

Hon. members will be pleased to learn that this bill should not increase costs for operators using approved mining practices that are safe and respectful of the environment. In fact, the additional administrative costs that could result from the regime will be only minimal.

Bill C-6 also provides for mechanisms to ensure maximum harmonization and co-ordination with other statutes, such as the Yukon Waters Act and the Territorial Lands Act. Hon. members are aware that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act contains provisions for co-ordinating the efforts of all federal bodies taking part in an environmental screening and assessment. This would have the effect of further reducing duplication and overlap in the administration of the regime.

The mining industry has a long and proud history in Yukon, a history of contributing to economic development, income generation and job creation. By putting in place environmental regulations that have already been accepted in the rest of Canada, this legislation will ensure that the industry can continue to make these vital contributions for many years to come.

Bill C-6 is the latest in a series of initiatives undertaken by this government to ensure the viability of the mining industry and economic growth and security in Yukon. In February 1995 the Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act, the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act and the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act were proclaimed.

These acts were required to implement the Council for Yukon Indians umbrella final agreement and the four Yukon First Nations final agreements that have been negotiated to date. These acts establish certainty of land ownership and rights so the resource development can go forward. Decades of uncertainty concerning land title and rights will continue to disappear as each one of the outstanding claims is resolved.

Bill C-6 will add to the legal certainty that has been put in place through the land claims settlement process. These amendments are consistent with the umbrella final agreement and will compel decision makers to ensure that projects are properly reviewed and assessed and that mitigative measures are in place.

The development assessment process, DAP, legislation which we intend to introduce to the House in 1997 is now being developed in consultation with Yukon First Nations. Bill C-6 which fills a gap in the regulatory system will facilitate the objectives of the development assessment process.

Already, we are seeing the positive results of the land claims settlement process. The signing of definitive agreements has raised new interest in the Yukon's mineral resources. Some 13,000 mining claims were staked in 1995, raising the number of duly registered

claims in the area to over 55,000. The amount spent on exploration should exceed $40 million this year, and spending on development could exceed $60 million, a high for the decade.

At least five companies have expressed their firm intention to open, re-open or expand mining sites in the Yukon in the next two years. Several others have indicated that they would be interested in operations if they would come up with the necessary capital and if feasibility studies are favourable.

The introduction of the amendments in Bill-C-6 will allow us, where necessary, to put these proposals for mining sites through a complete environmental screening, and to ensure that these sites are operated using safe environmental practices, in accordance with the regulations for the sound and effective use of mineral lands. In the long term, this should be in the best interests of the industry, of all Yukoners and of all Canadians.

Given the opposing points of view on mining and the environment, it is quite remarkable that we have achieved such a degree of consensus and reached such a compromise, as evidenced by Bill C-6. We must not miss this opportunity to regulate the development of mineral lands in the Yukon and I urge hon. members in this House to vote in favour of this bill.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by mentioning the extraordinary participation by a variety of organizations during the hearings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs on the Act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act.

Through their testimony and their involvement in the consultation process, they defended their interests against the government and thus the merits of this legislation.

I am referring to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Government of the Yukon, the Klondike Placer Miners, the North Slope Wildlife Management Advisory Council, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the village of Mayo, Wesmin Resources Limited, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, the Yukon Prospectors Association, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Outfitters Association, and finally the Teelit Gwich'in Council.

That made a rather long list, but I needed to demonstrate that Bill C-6 is a general reflection of the concerns expressed in committee. Of course, some wanted more, some, less. The bill we have before us now in third reading is characterized by a series of technical details on the environment and natural resources. It brings mining operations in line with today's concerns.

What is more, it confers upon the Yukon territorial government and the First Nations the responsibility for proper resource management, and for implementing standards in keeping with their lifestyle and with respect the environment.

As you are aware, this is not a bill that dropped out of the blue, or just appeared overnight. We took the trouble to find out what type of consultations had gone before. In 1990, an advisory committee on the Yukon mining industry was set up, and we in the standing committee recently heard comments from people in the north, as well as from some fifteen different organizations.

No one in this House will be able to accuse us of saying: "This is the way it is going to be". Not only does this bill amend legislation, which dates back to 1906, in the case of placer mining, and to 1924, in the case of quartz mining, but it also provides the Yukon Territory with new regulatory powers.

Perhaps we should know more about this territory, which seems so far away.

The name Yukon was used for the first time in 1846 by a Hudson's Bay Company trader, John Bell, from the Indian word Yuchoo which means ``the biggest river''. The Yukon river is the fifth longest river in North America.

The first European visitors in modern times were Russian explorers, who sailed up and down the coast in the 18th century and traded with the Indians. The Hudson's Bay Company penetrated into the interior in the 1840s. With the discovery of gold near Dawson City in 1896, the Klondike became one of the most populated regions in the Canadian Northwest. The sudden population explosion during the gold rush led the federal government to give the Yukon more political power. In 1898, the Yukon was officially constituted to ensure Canadian jurisdiction. The Yukon Act provided for the appointment of a commissioner and the creation of an elected legislative assembly.

As a territory, Yukon does not have provincial status, although it did acquire a similar form of government in 1979. This means the Canadian government maintains its authority over bodies of water, land, forests and non-renewable resources.

How could someone be against a bill which reduces the paternalistic authority of the federal government and provides for a partial decentralisation and environmental standards which, by the way, were almost or totally non existent before.

How could we disagree, knowing that the Act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act is the result of a long negotiation and consultation process?

Our only comment is that this act will have to be reviewed in a few years from now in order to adjust its environmental standards to those of other provinces, such as Quebec and Ontario. However, we are fully confident that the Government of the Yukon and the native communities are capable of establishing their own standards according to their needs.

The present population of the Yukon is close to 28,000, of which 23 per cent are natives and 60 per cent live in Whitehorse.

Mining, which accounts for 30 per cent of the Yukon's economic activity, is by far its main industry. Tourism, which offers an opportunity to live in a wild area with a unique and relatively intact environment, is an equally important source of jobs and services. Fur trade is practised by about 3 per cent of the population, mainly native people. Dawson City also has a small fishing industry, exporting salmon and selling other species of fish to local consumers.

In short, the consensus, or should I rather say the compromise, proposed by the Act to Amend the Yukon Quarts Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act will allow the territory greater autonomy in the management of its resources.

The Bill under consideration is rather like a collective agreement, in the sense that if a new amendment or a new change to this bill was to be approved, another group would ask for more or would totally disagree with it.

This is why we support the implementation of this bill in its form at second reading. I have been talking to you all this time about Bill C-6 without having explained what it is about. I am sure a brief summary of the different parts of this bill will benefit the honourable Mps here in this House and the audience.

The Act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act, Bill C-6, is the result of representations made by the Government of the Yukon in order to find a solution to the environmental problems generated by mining activities.

The Yukon government wanted this solution to be developed and implemented by the Yukon community. This new bill now provides for environmental protection since, in addition to the requirements applicable to licenses and to levels of activity, it will also be subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

By the way, it should be understood that, in the past, environmental concerns came far behind economic concerns. At the time, gold mining was almost a cottage industry. People would enter the streams, shake their sieves, collect a nugget and throw the gravel over their shoulders.

The countryside there is extraordinary. As you know, it is the land of the midnight sun. However, when you look down you also see a lunar landscape around the Midnight Dome. It was caused by reckless development. Piles of earth were left there and completely spoil the scenery. It is easy to see that, at the time, the environment was not at all a concern, unlike today.

The bill before us seeks to promote a behaviour that is more respectful of nature than in those days. At the time, people were just not concerned about the environment. They were concerned about finding gold. The land was so vast and so sparsely populated that people did not care. Today, we have to care. But we would certainly say that on the whole, this piece of legislation is a worthwhile effort. There is a system to approve various classes.

I mentioned that there was no environmental protection, but there are indeed now various classes which will require some approval and help discipline the operation as such for a better protection of the environment.

Thus, class I activities require no preliminary approval but must comply with existing regulation. So the principle is the following: when you go from class I to class II, the regulations get a little stricter. Also, class II activities require prior notification being given to a federal authority.

As for class III activities, they require the advance submission and approval of an operating plan. So, as you can see, the bigger the operations are, the stricter the regulations become.

Class IV is certainly the more stringent because not only is an operating plan required to be presented and approved, but it must be subjected to public consultations. For those who are less environment-orientated and more economy-orientated, this has become something of a pain, because it only takes a couple of people opposed to the project to jeopardize it.

In class IV, we will certainly be dealing with large scale projects requiring public consultations, therefore a lot more preparation on the part of those who want to develop the resources, to provide environmental data to the groups and individuals who will scrutinize class IV projects.

According to the minister, the regulations under the proposed legislation define various levels of activity. The result of compromises in committee, and the subject of many observations, these levels relate to the size of mining exploration projects, in terms of how many people will be in a camp, how many square meters of trenches will be dug, how many square meters of top soil will be removed, how many kilometres of road will be built, how heavy

vehicles will be and how many kilometres will they cover, how many litres of fuel will be stockpiled, etc.

For example, a camp for five individuals for 150 person-days could be in class I and one for the same number of people but for more than 150 person-days could fall into class II, III or IV. The digging or the ditches could not exceed 400 cubic metres per claim per year in class I, whereas the number of cubic metres could reach 1,000 in class II, 5,000 in class III and more than 5,000 in class IV. All terrain vehicles would be allowed depending on the period of the year, the weight of the vehicle and the distance to be covered. During summertime, only low ground pressure vehicles would be in class I, a 30-tonne vehicle covering a maximum distance of 15 kilometres could be in class II and if the distances were to exceed 15 or 40 kilometres, the project would then fall into classes III or IV respectively. No road construction would be allowed in class I and the class would depend on the number of kilometres of road or trail built.

If all activities in a project qualify for class I except one, for example a fuel stockpile of 30,000 litres, then the project will be put in class II.

The proposed legislation will require all applicants to supply a security that could equal the approximate cost of redressing all adverse environmental effects. It also provides for the modification and transfer of operating plans and licenses.

It establishes an application and inspection system for the provisions of the legislation itself and of the related regulations, and it defines offences and penalties.

Naturally, the legislation grants powers to make regulations for its enforcement. The regulations on the utilisation of mineral lands for quartz mining and placer mining will take effect whenever the proposed legislation is passed or shortly thereafter. Regulations on the reclamation of quartz mine sites that are already in operation under the Quartz Mining Act will be made at a later date. Regulations development is in consultation with interested parties.

In a different connection, officials did everything in their power to reassure us by saying: "Indeed, what we are looking at in terms of the environment, categories and operations, is not in contradiction with what has already been granted to Yukon's first nations in connection with self-government or land claims".

So, we must say this act is the result of a great compromise among highly varied groups, from environmentalists to mine operators. Furthermore, we can also say we did our utmost in the consultation process so that native bands had their say.

The Standing Committee on Indian Affairs and Northern Development set up teleconferences in Whitehorse, Ottawa and so on.

Speaking of consultation, I would like to define for the government what consultation really is, something it often confuses with what may be called the "lobby power".

Indeed, consultation is really effective when, first of all, the people affected by this bill also have equal opportunity to express their opinions and defend their rights.

Second, when the government does not put the people before a fait accompli and tell them at the last minute: ``You can always talk, but it will not change much''. Lastly, when the government clearly indicates what it intends to do as a legislator and provides all the appropriate information to the public so that the people can make up their own minds about the bill.

Before supporting this bill, we checked if every individual and every organization who wanted to give evidence had the opportunity to do so. In fact, I gave you the list earlier on. Also, we support Bill C-6 because the situation in the Yukon is quite urgent. Estimates for 1995 show that mineral production in the Yukon generated $185 million, an increase of around 115 per cent over 1994. Production from more than 200 placer deposits increased in value by 38.2 per cent to reach some $78 million.

According to the Yukon Chamber of Mines, exploration expenses in the Yukon came to a little under $40 million in 1995, almost double the $21 million reported in 1994. Expenses for development purposes rose from $11 million in 1994 to $57 million in 1995, reflecting the development of new gold mines in Brewery Creek and Nansen Mount. For a fourth consecutive year, exploration and development expenses have gone up in the Yukon.

Six other mining projects are currently the subject of environmental impact studies. If the results are positive, development on these projects should start in 1996 or 1997.

Upset because the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee was taking too long to make environmental changes to the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act, the environmental community challenged the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's environmental assessment and licensing process. In December, the courts ruled in favour of the department.

This is a matter of urgency for the environment. Area wildlife, which is important not only to the aboriginal people but also to hunters, tourists and the population at large, includes moose, caribou, mountain goats, bighorns, bears and other furbearers. The

passing of Bill C-6 is essential to the conservation of these resources.

Finally, I wish to reiterate my support and the support of the Bloc Quebecois for Bill C-6, an act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act, which, I remind the House, reflects a broad consensus among the various stakeholders. This is why I propose that this bill be adopted as is by the House.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I note the hon. member for Okanagan-Shuswap is seeking the floor. I will make a suggestion to the member and to the House. Almost every time, members are reluctant to speak when there are only a few minutes left in the debate. I will leave it to the member if he wishes to speak for the remainder of the five minutes before we go to private members' hour or, if he wishes, I can ask the House if there is unanimous consent to see the clock as 1.30 p.m. and to go to private members' hour.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:20 p.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON


That in the opinion of this House, seniors play a vital role in our country, and therefore the government should direct that the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs proceed with the drafting of a Seniors' Bill of Rights, aimed at acknowledging the rights of seniors to live full and protected lives in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and proud to speak to my Motion No. 265 which calls on the standing committee on justice to draft a seniors' bill of rights.

While I am disappointed that this is not a votable motion, I remain optimistic that this effort will raise awareness of seniors issues in Guelph-Wellington all across Canada.

In a recent Ottawa Sun article, reporter Jacki Leroux posed as a senior. She offered this observation about the experience: ``Perhaps most annoying were the assumptions that were made about my mind. Whether it was buying something in a store, giving directions to a cab driver, ordering lunch or using a bank machine, the message from most people was clear. All people with grey hair must have Alzheimers''. Those comments are frightening.

I hope the discussion that begins today with this motion helps to eliminate those assumptions and reminds each and every Canadian that seniors play an active role in our society and deserve our support and our appreciation.

We are all aware that our population is aging. In Ontario, for example, it is expected that there will be a 55 per cent increase in the senior population in the next 15 years. That includes a 132 per cent increase in the 85 and up age group. An obvious question comes to mind. Are we prepared for an aging population? However, I think there is something even more profound. How we treat our seniors today will be the road map for how they are treated tomorrow. Ignoring issues that are important to our seniors will not make them go away. Instead, as our population ages those issues will become more intense.

In preparation for this debate I asked my constituents and other Canadians to provide their suggestions, their insights and concerns regarding seniors' issues to me. Not surprisingly, personal finance and health were the two biggest concerns. This corresponds with a survey published in Today's Seniors in June of this year. Cuts to health care, the future of the Canada pension plan, concerns regarding increased costs of prescription drugs and the future of public pensions were discussed most often.

But many seniors face concerns that go beyond discussions of public policy. They face problems every day. Rita Lovelock wrote to me a few weeks ago: "I live in a house and think about everyday bills, hydro, gas, cable, telephone, the daily newspaper. My husband worked long hours for low wages. We never received any government handouts. We raised our six children to be upright citizens. Why make things so tough for the people who helped build this country?" That is the question that needs our response.

Guelph-Wellington is fortunate to have many volunteers and agencies which help make it the best community in Canada. From individuals like David Ing who manages Norfolk Manor, to John O'Connor, president of Senior Peer Advisory Group, to Carrie Fisk, editor of the newsletter published by the Evergreen Seniors Centre, we are truly fortunate for the many people dedicated to making the lives of our seniors richer and more fulfilled.

They are joined by St. Joseph's Hospital, Eden House facility, the Guelph-Wellington Seniors Association and many others who assist seniors in living in today's society. All of these organizations and the countless volunteers cannot do it alone. We must work to improve attitudes and stereotypes and protect those most in need.

I am grateful to a number of national and provincial organizations which have offered their support for this initiative. The Canadian Association of Retired Persons has offered these suggestions for a seniors' bill of rights. A general statement guaranteeing the rights of liberties of seniors against discrimination based on their age. A guarantee to the right of a safe and secure old age. A guarantee of public pensions for seniors. A guarantee of equal access to health care and social services regardless of income or geographical residency. Freedom from elder abuse in all of its

forms including physical, financial, economic, psychological, emotional and social, including neglect. CARP has called this a starting point and I am grateful for their suggestions.

I want to share with this House the suggestions offered by the Prince Edward Island Seniors Federation: The right to be treated as important human beings with unique feelings, ideas and desires. The right to a sense of security and belonging derived from a loving safe environment. The right to a continuing relationship with their children, grandchildren and other family members. The right to live and be content in an atmosphere free of abuse, neglect and exploitation. The right to have a relaxed secure relationship with all family members and to not be placed in a manipulative atmosphere. The right to participate in their own destiny. The right to good and appropriate health care. The right to comfortable, affordable and secure housing. The right to clean air and a clean environment. The right to dignity in life and in death. The right to religious freedom. The right to freedom from violence.

Finally, there are the observations from Seniors Power in Regina, Saskatchewan: The right to be heard on all matters of general public interest. The right to have freedom from want in old age, to live independently as one chooses. The right to a fair share of the community's recreational, educational and medical resources. The right to obtain decent housing suited to the needs of later years. The right to live and to die with dignity. The right to be able to access all knowledge available on how to improve the later years of life.

Some have argued that a seniors bill of rights is not necessary. Some people believe that seniors enjoy all the rights guaranteed to all Canadians. Ray Snowdon of Guelph wrote to me: "I doubt whether there are many seniors who want special interest. We are being systematically robbed of the benefits we worked, paid and fought for, and only ask for what was promised".

I cannot argue with Mr. Snowdon and others who have told me that seniors enjoy the rights and privileges of all Canadians. However, I must ask these fundamental questions: What good are rights if they are ignored by others around you? If Jacki Leroux is right about the observations she experienced while posing as a senior, what good are privileges when they are forgotten by members of society because a person is judged by their age and not their ability?

Jo Zettle, a constituent, wrote to me and reminded me that seniors should not be treated as second class citizens because of their age. She said: "Many seniors love to talk about the past but they are also very now people".

It is true that there are a good number of seniors that have worked hard to enjoy their retirement. They have the ability to travel and while they are concerned about provincial cutbacks to the number of days that they can remain abroad, they are free from many of the concerns facing other seniors. They are concerned about property taxes, increases in the cost of living and crime.

There are also many seniors living in difficult and sometimes in dangerous situations. Many of these seniors worked hard also but could not enjoy company pension plans or worked with little income or benefits. Many come from families where the woman stayed home to care for the children and therefore benefited from only one income.

From Guelph, Cal Christie wrote: "Older people have a feeling of vulnerability. Since most senior people are no longer able to earn their income through work, they need protection against wild swings in factors that have an effect on their income, such things as low interest rates on investment certificates, sharp rises in property tax on their dwelling places, legislation that claws back their pension and or removes health care benefits".

This sense of vulnerability was echoed by Mrs. Jean Marshall also from Guelph who wrote: "When people are old and ill and less able to deal with illness, it is sad that it is more difficult to get the care needed". She also wrote: "There is a growing fear among older people regarding safety".

Many people who wrote to me or spoke with me on this idea also suggested the idea of a list of responsibilities and obligations that should be included along with a bill of rights. These responsibilities include: preparation for retirement; reporting of any abuse; and maintaining relationships with family and with friends. Those who suggested these are concerned that with rights also come obligations. This is an interesting argument, and one that deserves our attention as well.

As elected representatives, we are responsible to the people of our community. Most important, we have an obligation to those who need our help the most.

Governments across Canada are currently debating the division of powers, levels of responsibility, savings in administration and cuts to programs and services. There is probably no group more supportive of deficit reduction efforts than seniors. However, in discussing the future of public policy, we must always remember that the decisions we make here and those made in provincial legislatures and in town and city councils affect first and foremost, people. Often it is those most in need, those less able to speak for themselves who are affected the most and are hurt the greatest.

We must remember that seniors remain a group which is often affected by changes in social policies. We must always keep in mind those who need us the most. As A.A. McIntosh of Guelph wrote: "We do not want any elaborate window dressing, just the basics".

I often talk here in the House and elsewhere about how all of us in this great country are connected. Lower interest rates are welcomed by the young couple buying their first house. They are good news for the car dealer in Guelph-Wellington. They help our economy. But for those seniors who live on investment income, lower interest rates mean doing less with less. That does not mean we should raise interest rates, but it is a reminder that what benefits some of us hurts others.

Cuts to health care may make the system more efficient. They may end duplication and waste, but this probably means longer waits for seniors who because of their age require more medical attention than they did when they were younger.

We need to remember that all of our decisions as public policy leaders have implications. We cannot forget that our seniors are often most affected by even the smallest change. We owe it to them to be ever watchful, that not even one segment of society is forgotten while we do what we are here to do: balance the budget while never forgetting the human element.

As I said earlier, I am grateful to the hundreds of constituents and other Canadians who have offered advice and suggestions. Not all comments were supportive of this initiative. However all brought home the need to encourage, respect and protect Canada's seniors.

There were many heart warming comments. Elma Loeb from Bradford, Ontario shared with me this comment she read from a 70-year old Canadian woman in 1980: "Being old means shopping at the discount table for the mouldy fruits and vegetables wrapped in cellophane". Mrs. Ivan Morphy from Pembroke, Ontario stated: "Any Canadian citizen has earned the right in their senior years to live in peace and safety and be protected from violence". Her husband added: "The cost of living is the cost of keeping you from dying".

The main themes that have arisen from this consultation are fairness, understanding and dignity. We know the Prime Minister often referred to the dignity of work during the last campaign. We know when an individual earns a salary and provides for his or herself and their family, there is a satisfaction which is difficult to describe.

So too when a person reaches their senior years, these should be enjoyed because they have been earned. The very least that society can provide is respect, freedom from abuse and concern. The very most we can do is to ensure that the senior years are spent with the dignity that is deserved for the individuals who have contributed to help make this the very best country in the world. Many seniors just want the basics. Vic Galliford of Guelph offered the simple comment of "the right to food, health, housing and dignity".

The reason for this bill of rights is not complicated. Many seniors face poverty, violence, fear and lack of financial resources. I hope this discussion raises awareness to these concerns. Most important, I hope we can also raise sensitivities. Many Canadians lack concern because they do not understand the issues which face many of our seniors. Government cannot and should not do it alone.

In this House on October 25, 1951, almost 45 years ago, the Hon. Paul Martin Senior spoke these words which I hope summarize what we are attempting to do with this bill of rights: "This measure marks our resolute determination to give new meaning and value to cherished concepts and to press forward toward our ideals of social betterment". He went on to say: "Our objective is to build for our people a secure and free way of life, which will enable them to live with their neighbours in peace and enjoy the fruits of their own industry". Mr. Martin was speaking to a motion which would give Canadians reaching age 70 a pension of $40 a month.

Since those words were spoken, we have faced the challenge of debt and deficit reduction. This has caused us to also challenge some of the principles of universality but not of protection. However, I am proud that our new seniors benefit provides support and protection for those most in need. As Mr. Martin said about the old age security in 1951, I believe that our seniors benefit is "manifested in the formulation of legislation responsibly conceived and designed to meet the social needs of the times in which we live".

John O'Connor of the Senior Peer Advisory Service in Guelph is quoted in the Guelph Mercury as saying about this initiative: ``We would like to be recognized as vital human beings at an age when we can give back to society the things society has given to us''. And at the very least, he says that the opportunity to talk about seniors is good.

I believe that a seniors bill of rights should be enacted by Parliament if only to remind us that seniors have rights and obligations. I cared for my parents as they grew older and I now understand how much life changes for people who can no longer look after themselves. It is our obligation as leaders in Canada to look after those who need our help. Seniors need our care and protection. They need our help to live their lives with dignity, respect and peace.

Some day we will look back to see what we could have done to make our situations better. It has been said that a society is judged by the way it treats the most vulnerable of its citizens. It is what the Liberal Party stands for. Let us work together for those who need our help now, and for us, and for our children who will need our help in the future. For some day we will be them.

Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to support Motion M-265 standing in the name of my colleague for Guelph-Wellington, which reads as follows:

That in the opinion of this House, seniors play a vital role in our country, and therefore the government should direct that the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs proceed with the drafting of a Seniors' Bill of Rights, aimed at acknowledging the rights of seniors to live full and protected lives in Canada.

Our society's dominant values focus primarily on productivity and the importance of youth. Older people are, unfortunately, often vulnerable. Solitude, isolation, financial insecurity, and various types of dependency make them so. They are most certainly entitled to lead full and protected lives. It is absolutely vital to do away with prejudices about seniors.

Although there is a broad range of programs and benefits for seniors, there are many challenges which need to be overcome if they are to enjoy those full lives.

Being a retired teacher myself, I have represented seniors' organizations on a number of occasions, defending seniors and protecting their rights. I have been particularly involved in working to gain recognition for Grandparents Day.

Recently, I brought to the attention of this House that the United Nations had designated October 1 as international senior citizens day. In fact, the UN General Assembly has already drafted principles specifically designed to help senior citizens live better during the years they have gained.

These principles are as follows: independence, participation, care, personal development and dignity. The United Nations believes, for instance, that senior citizens should be able to live in a secure environment which can be adapted to their personal preference and their changing capabilities.

Furthermore, there is general agreement that senior citizens should be able to live in their own homes as long as possible. As for participation, it is desirable that senior citizens be able to join movements or associations for senior citizens.

In Canada, there are many senior citizens associations, and their opinions are important. They have at times influenced, and often have the power to influence, controversial political decisions.

There are several associations for senior citizens in Quebec, and I will name a few: l'Association québécoise de défense des droits des retraités (AQDR), le Regroupement des personnes à la retraite (CTM-FTQ), la Coalition des aînés du Québec, la Fédération de l'Âge d'or du Québec (FADOQ), l'Association des retraités en enseignement du Québec (AREQ), of which I am also a member.

These associations represent a host of senior citizens who stand up for their rights while finding ways to improve their quality of life.

I am always delighted to be a guest speaker at meetings of these associations, because I support their desire for and their interest in having an active and rewarding life.

Recently, at the beginning of September, I was invited to be the guest speaker by a senior citizens group in the riding of Bourassa in Montreal North. At this meeting, I quoted some excerpts from the Pelletier report, Vers un nouvel équilibre des âges: Rapport du groupe d'experts sur les personnes âgées , tabled at the end of 1991. Here is excerpt: ``The most important part of any strategy and action aimed at improving the well-being of senior citizens is that they should have a chance to go on living in the manner to which they have become accustomed during most of their lives, if that is what they prefer''.

Obviously, making constant cuts in the social programs that protect the most vulnerable, including senior citizens, is not the way to achieve the objective of a full and rewarding life.

A seniors' bill of rights is valid as such, but it is not the only way to improve their quality of life. All the criteria established by the United Nations should be applied. These criteria will be discussed later on.

Recently, the third international seminar of the Petits frères des pauvres was held, organized jointly with the centre Berthiaume-Du Tremblay and l'Association québécoise de gérontologie in Montreal, under the theme: The courage to age.

Seniors found original ways of expressing themselves, using short plays for inter-active theatre, workshops, discussion groups and intervention groups. In this way they expressed their views on aging and tried to find new ways of coping with old age.

Another example shows how important it is to form associations or committees. In Montreal, mayor Pierre Bourque used the occasion of international seniors day to announce the setting up of a seniors committee which will make sure that seniors are listened to and respected and that they have a say in the way the affairs of the city are managed.

He mentioned that Montreal has the highest percentage of seniors in all of Quebec, and that the worst is yet to come, since the average age in Quebec, which was 29 in 1981, is now 35.

Another criterion mentioned by the United Nations involves health care. Seniors should have access to the kind of health care which will help them maintain or recover optimum physical mental

and emotional well-being, which in turn will prevent or delay the onset of disease.

The other criterion mentioned by the United Nations deals with personal growth. Seniors should be able to fully develop their potential, and have access to the educational, cultural, spiritual, and leisure resources society has to offer.

The last criterion is also very important. Seniors should be able to live with dignity and be safe from exploitation, as well as physical or psychological abuse. They should be treated fairly, regardless of their age, sex, race, religion, ethnic origin, handicap or other characteristics, and be appreciated regardless of their contribution to the economy.

Through these criteria, we realize seniors have their place in the world. However, for them to live full and protected lives, we must change attitudes by not considering them as a burden anymore.

Canada also took a stand to protect them. For instance, in section 15, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination based on age. Thus, the Supreme Court has already indicated that some forms of discrimination may be justified by higher considerations. The government also abolished mandatory retirement more than ten years ago.

However, the government seems to be casting some doubt on this by imitating the American policy, whereby, for purposes of security benefits, the age of retirement will go from 65 to 67 years in 2024.

We must first eliminate prejudice against seniors by educating the public in order to change negative attitudes on aging. Seniors are not a burden on society but a great wealth. I have indicated the main criteria underlying approaches taken by the United Nations because seniors make a substantial contribution on a global scale.

I will continue to defend seniors' interests and endeavour to always intervene so they can live full and safe lives throughout Canada and in Quebec, as Motion M-265 provides.

In conclusion, I want to congratulate all seniors on their contribution to our society.

Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

October 11th, 1996 / 1:50 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Guelph-Wellington is very sincere in putting forward this private member's bill. I know she has senior's issues at heart and she wishes nothing but the best for them.

In recognizing me, Mr. Speaker, I would like to let you and members know that I have been speaking on senior's issues since I came to this House. In fact, I have spent the last three years talking to more seniors probably than anyone else in the House. My time has been mainly spent working for their rights.

As many members here know, I took up the cause of access of grandparents, our seniors, to their grandchildren shortly after I was sworn in as an MP. The issue had been the subject of private members' bills in previous Parliaments. In fact, the member for Nepean had a bill which basically made similar changes to the Divorce Act as the one I proposed.

My bill, having been chosen as votable, gave me the opportunity to meet and talk with many of Canada's senior citizens from all parts of Canada. I have often marvelled at the tenacity of this group, our seniors, and their ability to organize in support of issues of which they approve.

I have enjoyed every minute of my contacts with grandparents' associations across the country. I have had many conversations with them about seniors' issues and how they should be approached. This is a segment of our society which is very vulnerable: vulnerable to abuse, vulnerable to poverty and vulnerable to poor health. These are the issues we should be addressing. This vulnerability will be neither addressed nor resolved by a bill of rights. The seniors of our country need to have these issues addressed in a positive fashion by the government. They need legislation and they need laws.

Quite frankly, after the way the members of the government voted against a private member's bill which would put in place a mechanism to allow easier access for grandparents to their grandchildren, I have no faith in the government to address seniors' issues. Liberal members opposite had the chance in the justice committee just a few weeks ago to support the seniors of Canada by voting in favour of a grandparents right of access to their grandchildren. It was a special bill. They voted against each and every clause and then they voted not to return it to the House of Commons for third reading.

The member for Guelph-Wellington spoke of the right to food, health, housing and dignity. A very major part of the equation is missing: the right of access to one's family. I have visited a number of care homes and hospitals. Each Christmas I go to the hospitals, unannounced, no press or anything, and I visit the terminally ill. What I notice most is the absence of family members.

If we in the House of Commons really care about our seniors and if we really want to address their rights, a bill of rights is not the way to do it. Make people more aware of how important it is for seniors to have family members visit them when they are sick and dying. Let members of the House realize and support how important it is that they see their grandchildren before they die.

The government had a chance to help seniors and its members took the opportunity to heap more abuse on our seniors, on our grandparents, by defeating that bill. All the bill asked for was the

right to go to the courts to ask to see their grandchildren. What a terrible thing to have to ask for.

How dare members of the government propose a seniors' bill of rights when in the committee rooms of this place they voted against the legitimate aspirations of our seniors, of our grandparents.

What else have government members done for seniors? Have they resolved the CPP problem so those collecting it now can look forward to collecting it in the future? The answer is, of course, no. Have they looked seriously at the problems of old age security payments and the income supplement? The answer again is no. There was a promise in the last budget that these issues would be addressed, but only after the next election. What has been done with health care for seniors? Again, the answer is nothing.

If the seniors of Canada needed a bill of rights it would only be to protect them from the arrogance and the inaction of this Liberal government.

What do our seniors need? What are the issues that we should be addressing? In June 1993 the subcommittee on senior citizens' health issues of the House standing committee on health and welfare issued a report entitled "Breaking the silence on the abuse of older Canadians: Everyone's concern". It starts with the phrase: "Abuse thrives in secrecy". If you can break the silence you can often break the abuse. Let us try to break this silence.

This report breaks abuse down into four categories. Physical abuse includes the wilful, direct infliction of physical pain or injury, rough handling, shoving, slapping, pinching, hitting, kicking, restriction of freedom of movement and sexual abuse.

Let us look at psychological abuse, which refers to socially isolating, threatening, yelling at, infantizing or withholding affection or denying privileges to a person. That happens often.

Financial or material exploitation is another abuse. It is involved in the theft or conversion of money or objects of value belonging to the senior by a relative or caretaker. How often do those pension cheques go into the hands of some member of the family? Once a month they come to visit the elder, pick up the pension cheque and are gone. That is happening in Canada today all too often.

Neglect is another abuse. It involves failing to provide the necessities of life including adequate heat, clothing, hygienic conditions and the denial of social interaction. For those seniors whom I see so much on their own, there is no social interaction unless they are in a seniors' home where they can interact with each other. That is the only opportunity.

I believe these categories of abuse can be addressed in many varied ways. Financial abuse, which also means uncertainty of income would be addressed through the Canada pension plan, old age security and income supplement; real legislation to make real laws, not a plaque to hang on the wall. That is not going to help them at all in their old age and when they need money. Let us ensure that the elderly of our country who need assistance from the state get it. It is not any more complicated than that.

With regard to neglect, let us look at our health care system to ensure that it meets the needs of our seniors. We must ensure that inequities in the system do not appear and rob seniors of needed care. We must look at prevention of illness rather than just treating the sick. We must look at enhancing people's capacity to cope.

In this regard emphasis should be placed on treating our elderly where they live, home care that takes place in surroundings that are familiar to our seniors. We all know that when seniors leave their own homes often they die much quicker.

We should also address the issues that confront those who provide care to the elderly. We all can recite stories of families we know who are stressed to the limit as they look after their own children as well as aging parents. The demands on this type of family situation are enormous. They must be addressed as part of our health care issues.

We also should do more to educate all members of the public, but especially seniors, that elder abuse is a crime. It should be punished. Whether somebody is 20 years old or 80 years old, theft is theft. We should tighten the rules by which powers of attorney are obtained from seniors. We should make sure by passing laws to make it more difficult to get a power of attorney. We should ensure that their consent is given freely and legitimately.

Physical abuse or assault, or sexual assault is punishable under the Criminal Code and should be treated as such. Psychological abuses could be addressed by sections of the code on assault by means of threats and intimidation. Neglect could be provided for by the section imposing a duty to provide necessities of life to a person under one's charge if that person is disabled by virtue of age, illness or other cause.

The issues affecting our seniors are many and they are serious. They will be solved by action, not by writing a bill of rights, not by putting another piece of paper on the wall. Discrimination on the basis of age is protected under the charter of rights and freedoms. Action is needed on the fronts that I have listed, action which I am afraid will not be forthcoming from this government, given its track record to date.

Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on the motion M-265, the seniors' bill of rights.

Since the origins of the baby boom, the number of prospective seniors has been increasing. Our population is aging. As a country we must face new concerns and new issues regarding the care and the management of an increasing aging population.

In light of these new concerns, Canadians must seriously consider the implications that a greatly increasing number of seniors will have on our country. This concern is manageable so long as proper planning and thought are initiated in order to protect the quality of life of seniors in Canada as more baby boomers enter the retirement age.

As a management tool or guideline my colleague, the hon.member for Guelph-Wellington, has drafted motion M-265 detailing a seniors' bill of rights to acknowledge the rights of seniors to live a full and proactive life. I congratulate the member for Guelph-Wellington on this initiative and I assure her of my support in order to move this initiative forward.

Today seniors are concerned about health care, personal finances, discrimination based on age and abuse. Many feel overwhelmed with the new information technology and the fast pace today's society maintains. However, seniors are a wealth of information and knowledge, particularly due to the fact that most of their insights are based on firsthand personal experience.

There must be a balance between the vigour, the enthusiasm and the vitality of today's youth and the firsthand experience and knowledge of our seniors. While our society expands and grows through technology, it is still only as good as the knowledge, the insight and the expertise of those operating it. An ideal community would have a balance between the technical training of youth and the knowledge and wisdom of our seniors.

The issues seniors face today will not be foreign to any of us at some point in our lives. Whether we like it or not, we are all aging. We can all look forward to seniorhood, in many cases in the not too distant future.

When I think of seniors, a well known individual in my riding of Carleton-Charlotte comes to mind. I often refer to him as my fisheries historian. His name is Floyd Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins has contributed a great deal to Carleton-Charlotte and to the fishing industry through his experience and his expertise working in the fishery.

Throughout his senior years he has continued to provide a vast amount of helpful direction, input and wisdom, all based on firsthand experience. From issues detailing fish stocks to species behavioural patterns to the mentality behind a traditional fishery, Mr. Hawkins' knowledge, based on firsthand experience, cannot be matched.

Canadians must recognize the contributions seniors can make to society on every level. Seniors must not be overlooked simply because they have become older. They have too much to offer Canada.

In conclusion, Motion M-265, the seniors' bill of rights, is a step in the right direction. It is necessary to create awareness of the needs of an aging population and for all of us to enjoy the advantages of the knowledge and experience of our Canadian seniors population.

Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to this motion concerning the drafting a seniors' bill of rights. You know, seniors represent three phases in our lives. The first one is when they are our grandparents. The second one is when they are our parents. And finally, if you and I are lucky, the third one is when we ourselves become grandparents one day.

In my riding, there are people who work very hard. They have reached a certain age, an honourable age, have retired and have been working for all kinds of organizations ever since. For example, in Granby, the Club du lundi is chaired by Marcel Maheu, who is over 70 years old. He has also founded a group called Civisme Granby, which tries, through various means, to bring people to be more civil. Mr. Maheu has also been co-chairman of the committee for the monument that was unveiled last week in memory of Horace Boivin, former mayor of Granby who remained the city's ambassador until he was 89.

I would also like to mention Jeannot Tremblay-Bergeron, a woman who for a number of years has served meals to people in need in Granby. She is in her sixties and, everyday, with a group of volunteers, she serves meals to the disadvantaged. There is also Roger Charbonneau. If the Bloc Quebecois is doing well in my riding, it is thanks to the chairman of the Bloc association, who will turn 75 on his next birthday.

When I was first elected, a group of seniors came to see me. They were led by Léonard Viens, chairman of the seniors association in Granby. They wanted to build a centre where they could get together. During the last election campaign, the Liberal candidate had promised them a hefty grant.

Shortly after I was elected, these people came to my office and I had to tell them that unfortunately there were no longer any grants for this type of construction. They were not discouraged, although perhaps a little disappointed. They rolled up their sleeves and they built their centre. And it is a very fine centre. I had the pleasure of attending the opening, and there were over 500 people present. All this is to say that when senior citizens have the health and the means, they have the time and they can achieve great things.

The situation now is that there are over 500,000 older Canadians living in poverty. Most of them are women. Some studies show conclusively a link between poverty and health in old age. Documentation submitted by seniors groups says, and I quote: "We question the appropriateness of placing more restrictions on seniors in the next federal budget, such as an old age security clawback based on family income rather than on individual income. This last proposal is an attack against senior women and violates all principles of gender equality".

We know there have been battles in the history of Quebec and Canada. Women have asked for and even demanded equality and I believe we would regress if we were to talk about family income rather that individual income. Those women are among the poor in our society.

Just because one has spent a life time raising children and working very hard sometimes for not much money, that is no reason to have to be poor as one grows older. We only have to think of our parents and grand-parents, who worked very hard to raise their family and may have lived in poverty all their life.

If the government wants to be consistent with the motion, it must make sure that seniors in our society live with dignity till the end of their days.

I want to pay tribute to my colleague, the member for Argenteuil-Papineau, who is the seniors critic for the Bloc Quebecois. He does a fantastic job and is forever making us, in the Bloc Quebecois, aware of how important it is to take seniors into account and to treat them well.

In the last budget and in the finance minister's proposals, it is mentioned that, until the next election, pensions will be left alone.

If we really believe in the distribution of wealth, I think we are not giving enough to the have nots. These people have worked all their lives, and have earned the right to some financial security.

Let me tell you about an incident that took place in my riding, which I am sure you have seen in your riding too, Mr. Speaker. An elderly woman came to my office. I would say she was 70 although it is hard to know exactly. She had not filed an application to receive increased benefits. She was there, sitting in front of me and I was deeply touched. We often see cases like that in our offices and, even though people think we are heartless, you will agree that this is not the case. I was deeply moved when this lady showed me her bank book and said: "Look, this is all I have left". She had practically nothing left in her bank account. She had not received her cheque.

Of course, we fixed the problem, but it took a few days, perhaps even two weeks. This very poor woman-and there are many like her in each of our ridings-was feeling insecure, which is a frequent cause of illness.

We must simplify procedures and cut as much red tape as possible so that when these people forget to fill out a form, for example at the beginning of the year, they are not left out in the cold.

As the hon. member who put forward the motion was saying, a society is judged on how it treats its poorest and weakest members, that is to say, its young people and its senior citizens. I think starting out in life is an extraordinary thing. But, as a people, we in Quebec are working hard to achieve this goal, and in Canada, too, to allow these people to maintain their dignity.

I support the motion and I think there should be a seniors' bill of rights. This government should be a little more generous with these people so they can enjoy full lives in our society.

Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Joe Volpe LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I too want to state my firm support for the intent of this motion, namely that we acknowledge the vital role that seniors play in the life of our families, our communities and in society.

It is important for us to keep in mind the government's commitment in this area as well. The government has demonstrated this commitment and maintains it to ensure that federal programs and services both meet seniors' changing needs and are co-ordinated across government.

First and foremost in this regard is the development of a national framework on aging which will deal with the current and future needs of seniors in an aging society. The national framework is based on a vision statement and a set of principles to guide policy development. The vision statement and principles were approved by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for seniors at a recent meeting in June.

At that same meeting, ministers responsible for seniors also directed their officials to collaborate on several other issues of immediate concern to seniors. These included the provision of continuing care for seniors, support for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer's disease, palliative care and the risks involved in the inappropriate use of medication.

At the federal level we have established an interdepartmental committee on seniors issues comprising 15 departments and six agencies that serve seniors directly or for whom seniors are a major client group. The committee meets to review policy directions relating to seniors issues and to act as an early detection device for emerging trends and pressures. It builds on some of the input that members, like my colleague from Victoria-Haliburton who has been anxious to intervene on this debate and who has ceded his position to me, have been promoting in our caucus.

We are also focusing our attention on seniors in situations of risk, those who are already at risk and those who are likely to become so through our New Horizons: Partners in Aging program. Through this program, the federal government has supported many community based projects which are attempting to address risk situations related to care giving, abuse, neglect, isolation and palliative care.

Improving the health outlook for Canadian seniors is also a key priority for Health Canada. With regard to one of the fundamental rights of seniors of all age groups, the right to quality health care, I want to assure this House of the government's commitment to maintaining the principles of the Canada Health Act and renewal of the health care system so that it remains responsive to the health needs of seniors.

For example, the federal government contributed $2.5 million to the Canadian multi-centre osteoporosis study. This study will provide better insight into the causes and prevention of this disease which affects some 1.4 million Canadians over the age of 50.

In addition, the National Advisory Council on Aging reports directly to the minister of health and responds to expressed priorities and concerns related to aging and seniors by providing policy advice based on research and consultations with seniors across Canada.

I want to assure all members in the House that this government is taking a proactive approach to addressing the priority concerns of seniors. As our society continues to evolve, I hope we can remember the increasingly important role that senior Canadians play.

In closing, let me say that this government has moved to acknowledge and underscore the vital role played by seniors in our country. It is undertaking activity on a number of fronts to ensure that government policy is sensitive to seniors issues.

Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


John O'Reilly Liberal Victoria—Haliburton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for shortening his time in order to allow me to speak on Motion No. 265 of the member for Guelph-Wellington on the seniors bill of rights. This motion to direct the justice committee to draft a seniors bill of rights is very timely.

My riding of Victoria-Haliburton is very influenced by the constant rise in the number of seniors, some very young seniors by the way, who are retiring in beautiful rural ridings to enjoy the tranquil settings, pristine lakes, nature trails and the many advantages to living in rural Canada. The riding of Victoria-Haliburton is experiencing a boom from the Toronto area in the seniors market. The growing market is a knowledge based group with much to offer the communities they retire in.

Bobcaygeon village situated on three islands between Sturgeon Lake and Pigeon Lake with the busiest lock on the Trent canal system and about 750 miles of inland fresh water is experiencing the fastest growth in the seniors market in Ontario.

The residents of Bobcaygeon and area lead all other areas in responding to my surveys of constituents. The advice they forward to me and my colleagues is based on a very thorough understanding of the issues of the day and a great understanding of history.

With this in mind, the seniors bill of rights would be very welcome in my riding and other areas of similar nature, like Guelph-Wellington.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons sent suggestions. We all agree with them.

I want to support the member for Guelph-Wellington in her efforts to establish a seniors bill of rights and encourage all members to lend their support.

Mr. Speaker, may you and all members and staff of the House of Commons have a joyous Thanksgiving.

Seniors' Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. The order is dropped from the Order Paper.

I also join in in wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all of you.

It being 2.25 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, October 21, 1996, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.

(The House adjourned at 2.27 p.m.)