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.