House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was priority.


Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

moved that Bill C-27, an act to amend the Public Service Employment Act (enhancing hiring opportunities for certain serving and former members of the Canadian Forces), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Brampton—Springdale Ontario


Parm Gill ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to our government's proposed measure that would help veterans move to the front of the line when it comes to hiring qualified Canadians for federal service jobs. These changes demonstrate our steadfast commitment to support those who have served and continue to serve our great nation. Since elected in 2006, we have ensured that our men and women in uniform, past and present, receive the support and recognition they deserve for their service and their sacrifice.

The issue we are debating today builds on our ongoing efforts to be there for those who have always been there for Canada. It is clear that support for our veterans is a priority for this government. That is why we have invested almost $5 billion in new funding to enhance veterans' benefits, programs, and services.

Our most recent economic action plan goes even further on our record of achievement by committing an addition $108.2 million over the next three years to ensure modern-day veterans of modest means have access to a dignified funeral and burial. To ensure our veterans have quick and easy access to the benefits and services they need, our 2014 budget also allocates $2.1 million to enhance our ability to serve veterans online.

As well, we committed to commemorate our brave men and women who served in Canada's mission in Afghanistan, which we proudly delivered with a National Day of Honour on May 9. In doing so, Canadians came together to recognize the historic significance of this military engagement and the enormous personal sacrifices made by thousands of Canadian Armed Forces personnel, dedicated public servants, and civilians.

These changes are necessary to ensure our veterans have the support they need as they transition to civilian life. Beginning a new, meaningful career plays an important role in that successful transition. Our government understands that, which is why we have introduced these measures that give priority hiring and new employment opportunities in the federal public service to Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans. We understand that one of the ways we can meet our shared responsibility is by providing veterans with meaningful new careers and employment opportunities when their military service is over. This initiative builds on our commitment to provide the tools and assistance Canada's men and women in uniform, past and present, need and deserve.

For this, I commend the Minister of Veterans Affairs, just as I commend him for his dedication to ensuring the new veterans charter adequately supports veterans and their families. The minister's call for a comprehensive review of the new veterans charter is sending a clear message to Canada's veterans and their families that we are committed to doing everything we can for them.

By asking the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs to cast the widest net possible in its review of the new veterans charter, the minister is leaving no stone unturned to ensure those who serve our country have the care and support they need when they need it.

Equally important, the minister asked that this same parliamentary committee to recommend how we, as a government, can best state our commitment to veterans and future veterans, and I want to thank him for doing so. Quite frankly, these measures go to the very heart of our government's efforts on behalf of veterans, still-serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and their families.

On the one hand, we are delivering real action by making sure our programming continues to evolve with the diverse and complex needs of Canada's veterans and their families.

At the same time, we recognize the importance of demonstrating our nation's great pride and profound gratitude in the most meaningful of ways.

The legislation before us would accomplish many of the same things. It would deliver real action and send a clear message. Simply put, we would give qualified veterans and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces greater access to new and rewarding opportunities in the federal public service. This is the right thing to do. It is the honourable thing to do and it reflects the importance our government has placed on being there for those who have always been there for our country.

Our record demonstrates that we have not only talked the talk, we have walked it, too. In fact, since being elected in 2006, we have invested almost $5 billion in new funding to enhance veterans' benefits, programs, and services. Through this new funding, we have been able to implement the new veterans charter as a more modern and comprehensive way to care for and support those who are injured in the line of duty.

Through the new veterans charter, we are now providing full physical and psychosocial rehabilitation services for injured and ill veterans. We are offering vocational rehabilitation and career transition services for those who want to continue to work and serve after their military service ends. We are delivering economic security through immediate and long-term financial benefits and, of course, we are providing the health care benefits and one-on-one case management services that are often vital to an injured veteran's successful transition to civilian life.

What does this mean in practical terms? Through our programs, benefits, and services, we are able to provide world-class medical care for seriously injured veterans. We can provide up to $75,800 in training assistance for eligible veterans to start a new career and we can provide a minimum pre-tax income of $42,426 a year for eligible veterans who are unable to become suitably and gainfully employed, as well as for those in Veterans Affairs Canada's rehabilitation program.

In addition, we will help eligible veterans with shovelling snow from their laneways or cutting their grass. We can help them with their housekeeping. We can have health care professionals and case managers visit them in the comfort of their own homes as required. We can assist them with the cost of travelling to their medical appointments.

We do all of these things because we are determined to help injured and ill veterans make the best recoveries possible, as quickly as possible. The measures proposed in the veterans hiring act would build even further on this by giving medically released veterans more opportunities to start new careers in the federal public service.

We would provide those who are released from the Canadian Armed Forces because of a service-related injury or illness with the highest level of consideration for jobs, above all other groups, in recognition of their sacrifices for Canada. As well, the duration of priority access for all medically released veterans would be extended from two years to five years. These measures also recognize the sacrifices of our serving military personnel and our honourably released veterans by allowing them the opportunity to compete for public service jobs, as they have at least three years of military service. This initiative would also allow them to continue to compete for these jobs for a full five years after they are released from the Canadian Armed Forces.

To ensure our veterans have access to the meaningful jobs they need, we would also establish a hiring preference for veterans, in the event they are as qualified as other applicants. This new measure would last for up to five years from the day veterans are released from the Canadian Armed Forces.

We are doing all of this because we believe veterans and serving members deserve such consideration, and because we believe Canada would be better for it. Without these changes, we would run the risk of continuing to lose the valuable contribution of highly qualified individuals when their military career ends. Veterans have the skills, training, and experience that can greatly benefit our public service. This initiative would allow our highly qualified veterans to continue their service to Canada in a civilian capacity by enhancing and enriching the federal workforce.

Canada's veterans have done so much to build our strong, free, and prosperous nation. It is incumbent upon this government to make sure they also share in the wealth and security they have created. These measures are another way to recognize that our veterans have served Canada with courage and distinction, and how they have been willing to sacrifice everything for a better tomorrow.

Finally, to ensure our veterans have the support they need to successfully transition to civilian life, we are committed to enhancing employment opportunities for veterans in the federal public service. I am pleased that the veterans hiring act would do just that. It would create new opportunities for veterans in the public service by making changes to the Public Service Employment Act.

Our first measure would move eligible veterans to the front of the line when it comes to hiring qualified candidates for the federal public service to help grant greater access to federal public service job opportunities for Canada's veterans who are medically released for service-related reasons. These changes would ensure that these veterans receive a statutory priority period for up to five years. It would provide these veterans with the highest level of consideration for public service jobs above all other groups in recognition of their tremendous service to our country.

With this change, we would recognize that, while these men and women have suffered injuries that prevent them from continuing to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, they still have much more that they can contribute towards our country. Additionally, we would guarantee that all medically released veterans would have their existing priority entitlement period extended from two years to five years. Simply put, these changes would offer new employment and career opportunities to qualified veterans who were injured while they were serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

It is also important to note that these opportunities would be extended to Canada's cadet organization, administration, and training services, and rangers.

These measures would be retroactive to April 1, 2012. This means that if a veteran previously had priority status under the regulation and that status expired during the past two years, we would reinstate it for a full five years. In fact, we would extend it for an additional full five years for any veteran who still has priority entitlement.

Furthermore, eligible veterans who are still recovering from their injuries or illnesses would have up to five years to be certified as fit to work. This would give them up to 10 years to find a job in the federal public service, which would greatly assist and ensure that our veterans have a successful transition to civilian life.

However, we have not stopped there. It is our duty to assist our other honourably released veterans in finding meaningful employment as well. That is why this piece of legislation also creates new employment opportunities for still-serving members.

Through the measures we are proposing, our government would permit still-serving military personnel who have at least three years of service to compete for internally advertised positions in the public service. We would also allow them to continue to compete for these internal postings for a full five years after their release from the Canadian Armed Forces.

To make certain that veterans gained access to the opportunities they need, this legislation would establish a hiring preference for veterans over other eligible applicants for the externally advertised hiring process. Simply put, if the veteran was equally qualified over other eligible applicants, the veteran would take priority and be offered the job.

Our government recognizes that the skills, training, and experience Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans gain through three years of service would be an asset to the federal public service. In turn, if given the opportunity, veterans would greatly enrich and enhance the federal public service. By serving Canada, our veterans and still-serving members have demonstrated a real commitment to Canada. These measures are a great way for us to recognize this dedication and devotion toward our great nation.

A five-year eligibility period would greatly assist in ensuring that our veterans achieve success after their time in uniform is complete. Further, it would give our brave men and women the time to upgrade their education and skills before returning to the workforce.

Canada's veterans have served our great country with courage and distinction, and they have sacrificed far more than we can ever know or imagine. We have a duty as a government to do the same for them. It is our responsibility to ensure that the programs, benefits, and services they need are there for them when and where they need them. The measures proposed in the veterans hiring act are another way we can do that. It is another way we can signal our willingness to do whatever it takes to help them in their transition to civilian life. It is another way we can thank them on behalf of a truly grateful nation.

Creating job opportunities within the federal public service for our veterans is an important step in helping them transition to civilian life.This is the right and honourable thing to do, which is why I am disappointed that the NDP and the unions do not support these measures. The president of the Union of National Defence Employees went as far as to say that injured veterans should go to the back of the line, behind civilian employees. It is shameful that unions do not want to recognize the sacrifices of our veterans.

I hope all members of the House will seize this opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those remarkable men and women and support this important piece of legislation.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech on Bill C-27. I do not share his rosy outlook, however.

He says that the government is working hard to improve the lives of veterans; however, more could be done. Bill C-27 is a step in the right direction, but it is still a half measure.

Can my colleague tell me if the government has done a study to determine how many veterans will find work in the public service thanks to this bill? In this era of cutbacks, there will not be a lot of public service jobs available in the next few years. There is also the fact that public servants often need a university degree. Injured veterans often do not have a degree.

I have a second question for my colleague. Veterans who have been recognized as having a non-service-related injury can appeal to VRAB, which may recognize their injury three or four years later. Does the member agree that the five-year entitlement period should start after the board decides to recognize their injuries?

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me start by thanking my hon. colleague for his work on the veterans file. As part of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, he, along with other members, has been working hard to conduct a comprehensive review of the new veterans charter. I want to thank him for his contribution in that regard as well.

I am sure not just members of this House but all Canadians would agree that the skills veterans bring forward from their experience in the military, what they have accomplished, and the kind of discipline they have would be a tremendous contribution to our country. These are individuals who have sacrificed tremendously when it comes to their personal lives and families. The least we can do as a government, as Canadians, is give them the opportunity to transition and have opportunities to serve Canada in other ways, such as being part of the Canadian workforce when it comes to the federal government.

We are thankful for them and we stand behind them. I would encourage the opposition members to support this important piece of legislation.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the forces, I can truly appreciate why the government is making this gesture through legislation. The number of personnel in the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP at any given time is incredible. It is tens of thousands of people.

Has the government done any background work in terms of what it anticipates will be the take-up of public service jobs by individuals leaving the forces or the RCMP? Does the government have any sense of the actual number that would be applicable here?

Second, to what degree does the government feel it has an obligation to encourage private sector involvement in terms of recruiting military personnel who are retiring? A good example would be the Commissionaires and the fantastic work they do getting former military and RCMP personnel engaged in the private sector.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to predict the number of veterans who would be affected or impacted by this piece of legislation.

Of course, a veteran would have to be qualified and meet the requirements of a job posting. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. That is very clear in this piece of legislation. All we are proposing is that in the event that there is a civilian who qualifies at the same level as a veteran, the veteran should get priority.

In terms of consultation, of course we have consulted. We are always consulting. We are always looking for ways to make benefits and services for our veterans better. We will continue to do that. We are always consulting. That is part of the reason we have invested almost $5 billion in additional funding since coming into office in 2006.

This government has a strong record when it comes to standing up for Canada's veterans, and we will continue to do that.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba


Shelly Glover ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I am going to share a story as I ask the hon. member a question.

As many know, I am the granddaughter of three World War II veterans, including my grandmother, whose own father was in World War I. He was a Cree male, with three brothers who fought valiantly. My grandmother, when she went to World War II, was trained in a number of areas, including transcription services.

Unfortunately my grandfather, who had been in Dieppe, et cetera, survived the war but died at a very young age, and my grandmother was left to raise her children. She went into the workforce and tried to find a job so that she could support her children, and she had a very difficult time.

My grandmother's transcription abilities and the other abilities she got while serving in the Canadian Armed Services would have served this place very well. I only wish that this kind of bill was possible during that time.

I would ask my hon. colleague to describe the types of positions that might become available to our armed forces members.

I want to thank him very sincerely on behalf of me and my family, which is very much entrenched in military family situations, for putting this bill forward. It certainly will help our veterans go a long way after serving so valiantly. As we all know, some of them make the ultimate sacrifice, which cannot be repaid, but for those who are injured, this is a way to thank them.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. minister for her question and for her contribution and hard work on behalf of Canadians.

Let me give an example of how Canadian Armed Forces members who are medically released or discharged can benefit. Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces who are medically released due to service-related injury or illness will be given top-level priority consideration for job openings in the public service. They will be given statutory priority access in the federal public service, internal and external.

These veterans have made a tremendous contribution, and we can never repay them and their families for the kinds of sacrifices they have made. The least we can do is give them opportunities such as these. I would encourage the opposition to support this piece of legislation.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, we will be supporting this bill, and we clearly support the idea behind it. We just do not think that it goes far enough.

To begin, I am wondering about the retroactive date of April 1, 2012. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary how they came up with that date.

My second question for the parliamentary secretary regarding this bill is about the fact that he said that the government, to use his words, left “no stone unturned”, meaning that it considered every aspect that directly or indirectly affects veterans, particularly those with injuries.

The government said that the new veterans charter would evolve and that it would solve various problems. When I spoke to veterans about Bill C-568, I heard one thing over and over again. Injured veterans, who used to receive a disability pension for life, now receive a lump sum payment that works out to far less money than they received before the new charter was implemented. What can he tell me about the fact that this bill does not address that situation?

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for sharing the NDP's perspective and for its support for this piece of legislation. It is definitely music to my ears. I am very thankful for that support.

In terms of retroactivity, the period of five years would start April 1, 2012, for anyone who had been honourably discharged. We would not only implement this moving forward but would also go back.

In terms of the new veterans charter, the minister actually asked the veterans affairs committee to launch a comprehensive review of the new veterans charter, which is currently under way. We are drafting a report. I would encourage the hon. member to wait just a few more days until that report is tabled. We will address many of those concerns.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-27, the Veterans Hiring Act.

This bill corrects the problems with Bill C-11, which was introduced earlier this year or late last year. We had a first day of debate, but there were problems that the government corrected. In fact, it withdrew Bill C-11 and returned with a new version, Bill C-27.

Unfortunately, the government did not adequately consult groups of veterans about this bill. All too often, the government fails to consult. For example, with respect to the first nations education bill, very few aboriginal people were consulted even though the government has an obligation to do so. There was not enough consultation with respect to Bill C-11. Thus, the government came back with Bill C-27.

Despite what I would call a lack of professionalism on the part of the government, I am obviously pleased to rise and say that we will be supporting Bill C-27, introduced by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, because all measures to improve veterans' quality of life are important. In order to improve the career transition of our injured veterans, we will obviously support any measure such as this one.

However, as I said when asking the parliamentary secretary a question, I feel that, in some respects, this is a half measure to address the problems with the transition to civilian jobs, which too often is difficult for veterans.

Consequently, if we consider all the problems pointed out, mainly in the ombudsman's reports, it is very little. The government often tends to go for window dressing. However, upon closer inspection, the proposals are all too often half measures, which do not enhance our veterans' quality of life.

I am thinking of the changes made concerning career transition, but I will get back to that. They said there would be bigger budgets, but if we look at the details, at what was budgeted, this will help only a handful of veterans finish university. If we look at the changes announced to the funeral and burial program for veterans of modest means, the government really boosted funding for that. Not long ago, it was paying just over $3,000 to cover funeral costs for the neediest veterans, and now that amount has been increased substantially.

However, if we look at the eligibility criteria, those have not changed. For the very neediest veterans, those living below the poverty line and some others, it would be good to expand the eligibility criteria to really help more veterans. There are a lot of these half measures. On the surface, they can say they are helping veterans, but in reality, they are not helping a lot of people. That might be the case with this bill too.

After it came to power in 2006, the Conservative government passed the new veterans charter. Actually, it was passed that same year or a little before. They called the new charter a living document and said it would improve veterans' lives, especially for modern-day veterans. They knew that younger and younger veterans were coming home from Afghanistan wounded, so they had to do away with the old pension system and put more emphasis on incentives to participate in career transition programs. It was supposed to be a living document. It was kind of rushed through the process. They said they would adapt it over time as problems came up. Since then, however, only one small cosmetic change has been made, and that was in 2011. They improved the charter, but only a little.

It turns out that there are all kinds of problems with the new veterans charter. It is very disappointing that the government has turned its attention to this problem just once in nearly eight years. That is not very much. As the parliamentary secretary said, there is a review of the new veterans charter going on right now.

We will prepare a comprehensive report. I hope that the government will respond favourably to most, if not all of the recommendations because this new charter has a lot of problems. The government has to stop twiddling its thumbs when it comes to improving the new veterans charter. It has to come up with appropriate, concrete and comprehensive measures because there are far too many problems.

The new veterans charter is described as a living document. I would say that it is on life support and in desperate need of oxygen because it is weak and, as I was saying, full of problems.

The new charter was passed in 2006, and we expected it to be amended as problems arose. As we can see, the government has dropped the ball on improving the new charter.

Our troops suffered heavy losses during the mission in Afghanistan. To date, 158 deaths and more than 2,000 injured soldiers have been reported. This number could go up given that it sometimes takes years for the initial symptoms of PTSD to appear.

According to a recent study, 14% of our soldiers returned from Afghanistan injured, but it is thought that this number is actually much higher.

It is in this context that Parliament passed the new veterans charter, calling it a living document. However, it must be improved as soon as possible after we table our report, which we intend to do in a matter of days. The government must respond favourably to it by adopting appropriate measures.

That is what brings us to debating Bill C-27, which essentially seeks to give priority for public service jobs to serving and former members of the Canadian Forces who are released for medical reasons that are attributable to service.

If, during the hiring process, the veteran demonstrates the essential qualifications required, the Public Service Commission will have to appoint that person in absolute priority, ahead of employees who are considered surplus or on leave. These veterans will henceforth be in the highest category of hiring priority. That priority will be valid for a period of five years. Previously it was valid for two years. To be clear, it is five years after the soldier is released for medical reasons that are attributable to service.

A second measure in this bill would give members of the Canadian Forces who have accumulated more than three years of service the right to participate in an internal public service appointment process. Section 35.11 states that veterans who have been honourably released may, during a period of five years after their date of release, participate in this process, but they would not have priority.

Furthermore, subsection 39(1) of the Public Service Employment Act gives preference to World War II and Korean War veterans, among others, ahead of all Canadian citizens. A veteran is defined as someone who served at least three years in the Canadian Forces and was honourably discharged.

We will obviously see a resurgence of veterans who have preference in the appointment process over Canadian citizens. This preference will be valid for a period of five years. However, survivors of a veteran and former members of the Canadian Forces who served at least three years will not have access to that preference.

This is a noble gesture on the part of the government. However, like the measures it has taken previously, such as the Last Post Fund and the reimbursements for training and post-secondary education, these are half measures that will have little impact on the quality of life of most veterans.

There will be few jobs available in the public service in the short and medium term, since the public service is currently restructuring and undergoing budget cuts. The public service is being cut, and it will be a long time before a new crop of public servants is hired. For that reason alone, I do not think that this bill will help a lot of veterans.

With regard to priority access for medically released members of the Canadian Armed Forces, what will happen to veterans who are not released for medical reasons and who appeal the decision to VRAB? It can take three or four years before the board determines whether the injury is in fact related to the member's service. Is the government prepared to extend that five-year period? It can easily take three or four years after the member is released for VRAB to render a favourable decision, so the period of five years set out in the bill is a problem. This sort of thing happens fairly frequently. The five-year period must be extended so that veterans are not penalized by an initial unfavourable decision. If the department's decision is overturned by VRAB, the veteran must get an entitlement period of five years.

The Veterans Ombudsman made some comments in this regard on his blog. He said:

However, under the new legislation, the system will have to adjudicate an individual’s file to determine if the medical release is related to service or not. This could add additional red tape to the release process and potentially delay the ability to access priority hiring upon release.

Like the ombudsman, we are worried about this legislative uncertainty. Would it not be better to use the recognition of the link between the injury and the service to determine the accessibility and length of the priority entitlement? This could be done two ways: either the reason for release is designated "service-related medical release" or the link between the injury and the service is recognized by Veterans Affairs Canada or VRAB. Either way, the system remains consistent, some of the red tape can be avoided and we could ensure that veterans do not lose their entitlement priority.

This bill also creates categories of veterans, and we are against that approach. The NDP supports the principle of having a single category of veterans, rather than many categories. We believe that all veterans, regardless of which war they served in, whether it be a past war or a modern war, deserve the same status. They are all soldiers who served our country. We are against creating categories of veterans.

Veterans of the RCMP are not included in the bill and remain in the regulatory category. I think that a member of the RCMP who suffered a trauma and wanted to get out of the policing environment to start a new career could have benefited from priority hiring under this bill. Including veterans of the RCMP would have been a way of thanking them for their service and sacrifices. Only members of the Canadian Forces released for service-related medical reasons will have this priority entitlement. Unfortunately, others will not.

In addition, the bill amends the definition of veteran and specifies that the surviving spouse of a veteran is not eligible for the same hiring preference within the public service. The surviving spouse of a traditional veteran used to take priority over Canadian citizens. Why did the minister specifically make spouses of Canadian Armed Forces veterans ineligible? That is one question we have. The government likes to break veterans into distinct categories, which I have no choice but to oppose.

In this era of budget cuts, when massive numbers of public servants are losing their jobs, this bill may help veterans only in the long term. In the short term, I do not see how this could make for a better career transition for veterans who are given hiring preference within the public service. In this case, when there are massive layoffs, it will not help them.

This bill is a response to the government's lack of leadership on the issue of career transition.

It reacted by introducing this bill, but it did so during a time of budget cuts. I think the government needs to work harder to improve our veterans' lives and their transition to civilian life. They really need help. They need more than half measures.

From 2006 to 2011, about 2,000 veterans took advantage of this hiring priority. Of those, 1,024 veterans got jobs in the public service, and of those, 739 got jobs with National Defence. That is about three-quarters or 75% of all veterans who found work in the public service. In other words, they do not have access to many jobs outside of National Defence.

The situation at Veterans Affairs Canada is even more disastrous. During the five-year period between 2006 and 2011, only 24 veterans were hired at Veterans Affairs Canada. That is just 2% of all the jobs, which is very little considering that Veterans Affairs is probably one of the departments that could really benefit from hiring veterans because they have the experience and they know about the programs the department offers. It would seem to be an ideal match. I think that the minister and the department are not doing enough to recruit veterans within their own department.

The statistics for veterans finding work in the public service show that, other than National Defence and maybe Public Works and Government Services Canada, there are very few departments—almost none, in fact—that hire veterans. There has to be a shift in mentality in the public service and the departments so they recognize the skills that veterans have and make more room for them. There has to be a shift in mentality. This bill will not shift anyone's mentality, but it will help give priority to veterans in the public service. There has to be a shift in mentality so the departments do a better job of recognizing our veterans' skills.

According to the ombudsman, about 4,500 veterans sign up for rehabilitation services and vocational assistance. On average, 220 veterans get their names on the list for priority hiring, and 146 veterans, on average, get jobs in the public service that way. That is not a lot of people. Even with this bill, the numbers are likely to go down in the short term and possibly even in the medium term if departments do not end up hiring a lot of people in the medium term. That is not a lot. This bill is unlikely to have a significant impact on the majority of veterans; it will affect just a few of them.

These numbers also show that veterans previously did not have the skills or university training to obtain many of the jobs in the public service. As I was saying, this perhaps reflects lack of interest or lack of qualifications. This is something that needs to be addressed during the career transition. We must provide university training to veterans who are willing and able. This would go a long way in helping them find a new job in the public service.

In fact, veterans are required to accept a job in a field that does not necessarily interest them, but for which they have certain skills. The ombudsman also indicated that veterans are not given enough opportunities to start a new career. Veterans do not necessarily feel like continuing on with the same type of work they did when they were in the Canadian Forces. We must give them the ability to choose something other than what they know. This would also help veterans immensely during their career transition.

In closing, we will support this bill, but the government will certainly have to allay our concerns in committee. It will also have to make the necessary changes with regard to the entitlement period for veterans who dispute the reason they were released from the forces and win their case before VRAB, to ensure that they are not penalized.

We look forward to studying this bill in committee.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, does my colleague find it odd that among all the listed categories, there seems to be no room for people who are injured during training? Sometimes soldiers get injured on the base, during training or manoeuvres, and not during armed combat abroad.

Does the member not find it odd that injuries sustained in armed conflict seem to be all that matter and not injuries sustained in soldiers' daily work?

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent question.

That could be a problem in some cases. Veterans must train to stay in shape. However, when they are injured during training, their injuries are often not recognized as being service related. In, many cases, they should be because it is every soldier's duty to remain physically fit. They have to be able to carry out their duties properly when they are deployed.

They are obliged to be physically fit, but there is nothing in this bill to help them if they are injured during training, which has happened. This situation is recognized far too infrequently. These injuries should be recognized as service related.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant will have eight minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on this motion.

Ohtli AwardStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am certain that all members of this place have those special people who give tirelessly to help build better communities in all of our home ridings.

I am proud to recognize Mr. Diego Alcaraz for his many years of service promoting Mexican culture, songs, and traditions to children and citizens alike in my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla.

Earlier this month, the government of Mexico also recognized and honoured Diego in presenting him with the Ohtli Award, the highest honour bestowed by the government of Mexico for services to Mexicans living abroad.

Over the years, I have come to know Diego and his wife Olive. I have to confess that I have been inspired by his commitment and I am a proud member of the Canada-Mexico parliamentary friendship group.

I would like to ask all members of the House to join me in recognizing Diego Alcaraz for his passion and dedication in enriching cultural diversity for many citizens in Okanagan—Coquihalla, as well as our great country.

Neighbourhood CelebrationsStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am tired of talking about crown corporations like Canada Post, CBC and VIA Rail, which are not doing well because the Conservatives have abandoned them.

I would like to talk about things that are going well. So, let us talk about the neighbourhood parties that will be held in my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and in Dorval.

I would like to thank every town and district that is organizing a neighbourhood party or festival, which I will gladly attend. Thank you Lachine for inviting Kaïn to celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, and thank you Dorval for one of the best Canada Day celebrations in Quebec. Thank you NDG and Paul Cargnello for NDG Arts Week, and thank you Montreal West for Tuesdays in the park. I would like to thank our community organizations that are the lifeblood of our neighbourhoods and give them their unique flavour.

I would like to wish all my fellow citizens a good summer. Come and celebrate with me the whole summer long. Together, we will build our neighbourhoods and our country.

National Day of HonourStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Friday was the National Day of Honour to celebrate the end of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. Over the last 12 years, the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces fought and served this country in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism and promote security and development so Afghans could build a viable, stable, and secure country.

Thanks to our servicemen and women, Afghanistan is no longer a base for terrorism directed against the international community. Moreover, more than 7.7 million Afghan children, 39% of whom are girls, are enrolled in formal and community-based schools. In contrast, less than one million boys, and only boys, were enrolled in formal schools in 2001.

I want to thank all Canadians who served in Afghanistan for the peace and stability they helped bring to the world, and for the great advancement they brought to the lives of Afghanistan's citizens. The achievements of our mission have been great, and something of which every Canadian should be proud.

Kensington VipersStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize the Kensington Vipers, who recently won their fifth straight Island Junior Hockey League playoff championship and their ninth in the last 11 years, making the Vipers one of the winningest teams in Island history. The Kensington Vipers have also gone on to win two of the last three Don Johnson memorial Atlantic junior B championships.

Such an achievement is only possible through teamwork on and off the ice. I want to recognize all of the Vipers players, coaches, trainers, and management for their hard work and dedication that contributed to their past and present successes. I recognize as well the financial support of sponsor Moase Plumbing & Heating.

It is sporting teams like the Vipers and all those involved in the day-to-day running of these teams that are so important in contributing to the identity and sense of pride for small communities across Canada.

Congratulations, Kensington Vipers.

Divorce ActStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, my private member's bill, Bill C-560, is about a child's best interests, about a child's right to two primary parents and equalizing that access. The current system is focused on parents' rights, not children's rights. Published decisions in our current adversarial system show a cookie cutter approach of making one parent a primary parent, and marginalizing the other to someone the children get to visit from time to time.

The legislation still on the books is three decades old. Social science research has conclusively revealed the need for children of divorce to have the significant involvement of both parents. Bill C-560 would provide that, while retaining sufficient judicial discretion for custom parenting plans.

A full response to questions raised about the bill is found in a myths and facts document already sent to all MPs and senators. I urge my colleagues to actually read that document.

The vast majority of the public, over 75%, support equal shared parenting. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to support Bill C-560 at second reading to get it to committee, to hear witnesses and leading researchers, and to make adjustments as necessary.

Our children deserve nothing less. Let us do it for the sake of the children, for the best interests of the children.

International Day Against Homophobia and TransphobiaStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize tomorrow, May 17, as the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

On this day we must stand together to speak out against hatred and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-variant people. There is still an urgent need to combat homophobia and transphobia here at home and around the world.

In Canada, transgender and gender-varied Canadians are still without equal rights and protections, as Bill C-279 remains stuck in the Senate after passing the House of Commons, for a second time, more than a year ago.

We have also seen a disturbing trend of countries making homosexuality illegal or subject to harsh penalties. LGBTQ people in countries including Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Russia, and Jamaica are facing lengthy prison sentences, violence, and even death because of whom they love.

Today I call upon all members of Parliament to take concrete action to work towards eliminating homophobia and transphobia.

I call upon the government to stand up for Canadian values of equality and respect.

I call upon the Senate to awaken from its slumber on human rights and pass Bill C-279 now, in order to ensure equal rights of trans Canadians.

Election in IndiaStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Mr. Narender Modi and the BJP on their electoral success.

These elections clearly illustrate that Mr. Modi's message of economic revival resonated with the Indian electorate. Under the leadership of Mr. Modi, India is poised to reach greater heights.

It is our hope that the reforms implemented by Mr. Modi in Gujurat can be replicated throughout India. Our government is committed to supporting and working with Mr. Modi as he embarks upon his reforms, which would not only benefit Indians but also Canadians.

Once again, I congratulate Mr. Modi and the BJP.

I would also like to congratulate the Election Commission of India for organizing an open and transparent election.

Amar Arts of LifeStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize an amazing non-profit organization called Amar Arts of Life, which has been doing amazing work in the GTA and throughout our great nation.

In terms of helping raise awareness to donate organs and tissue, recently Amar Arts of Life had a campaign at Nagar Kirtan, in Toronto, where hundreds of hard-working volunteers signed up over 1,200 organ donors. They have expanded not only to the GTA but also other parts of the country.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the hard-working volunteers. I would like to thank the president and founder Amarjit Rai, who has made a tremendous commitment when it comes to issues such as organ and tissue donations and helping to create awareness throughout the country.

International Museum DayStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to let all members of the House know that Sunday, May 18, is International Museum Day. As the heritage critic of the official opposition, I have the pleasure of promoting this day. Here in Canada the vitality of our museums shows that we have a wealth of culture to share, a past to celebrate and stories to tell. We can be proud of that.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite my colleagues in the House, and anyone who can, to come to Montreal on May 25 to celebrate the fabulous Montréal Museums Day, when thirty some of Montreal's cultural institutions are open free to the public for a full day. There will even be free shuttle buses provided by the Société de transport de Montréal. Everyone should take advantage of this opportunity.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the institutions in Longueuil in which I take personal pride: the museum and crypt at the co-cathedral of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue and Canada's one and only women's museum, the Musée de la Femme, which is located close to my riding office on Saint-Charles Street in Longueuil.

Let us celebrate our museums, our history and our identity.

Whitchurch-StouffvilleStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to acknowledge my hometown of Whitchurch-Stouffville for being one of three Canadian cities to be chosen for the Benjamin Moore Main Street Matters revitalization program.

The Benjamin Moore program was created to help revitalize downtown areas by redesigning and painting the exteriors of local businesses to enhance the small-town charm of these historic main streets. The program emphasizes the importance of maintaining these stores, as they represent the heart of main street and the communities that surround them.

In the spring of 2013, towns around North America cast votes online for which main streets would be chosen to be revitalized. Out of 20 North American cities chosen, our little hometown of Whitchurch-Stouffville was one that was victorious.

On May 13, Benjamin Moore kicked off the facelift, with the first brush stroke on the Stouffville Florist.

I congratulate my hometown, and I look forward, as do all the residents of Whitchurch-Stouffville, to this very exciting revitalization.

Gatineau Soup KitchenStatements by Members

11:10 a.m.


Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I was sad to hear that a fixture in my riding, the Soupière de l'amitié de Gatineau, would be closing down.

Everyone in the Outaouais region was shocked by this news. Everyone in Gatineau is familiar with the Soupière de l'amitié for one simple reason. This organization's employees and volunteers have been taking care of the people of Gatineau for nearly 30 years.

They take care of the less fortunate by serving hot meals every day for only $1 and by running an emergency food bank. They take care of our children by serving nearly 150,000 free, healthy breakfasts in 35 area schools. They take care of people who are marginalized by providing an environment where friendship thrives and prejudice does not exist.

Today is a day to celebrate their dedication, but we must also honour them. For me, honouring the legacy of the Soupière de l'amitié de Gatineau means refusing to trivialize the issue of poverty. On behalf of the residents of the Outaouais region, I want to say a huge thank you to the big family at the Soupière de l'amitié de Gatineau.