House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.


Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Richmond Hill Ontario


Costas Menegakis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no other members rising, I will go back to the hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for his five minute right of reply.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been quite obvious that, as my first private member's bill, it is something that most members agree on as I did not see too much disagreement.

I want to especially thank the members for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, Hamilton Mountain, Charlottetown, Richmond Hill, and just now, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for their remarks. Certainly everyone seems to be in agreement that this is an injustice in today's society must be remedied.

The purpose of the second reading of the bill is to decide whether the it should go on to committee. I think the greatest area of dissension may be some disagreement as to whether manslaughter should be added to the bill. That is why we do these things. That is why this is a House of debate and why we consider bills. It is to introduce and suggest some possible improvement.

In my opening remarks and in my answers, I mentioned why it was my intent to not include manslaughter, but it is something we will talk about in committee and consider.

I again want to thank all those who participated in and have helped with the bill. I hope the result of all of this effort in the House will make Canada a better and more just place in which to live.

It is an honour to be part of the kind of system, government and country in which we live.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 2:11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:11 p.m.)