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.


(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #226

Navigable Waters Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC


That the First Report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women, presented on Friday, March 7, 2014, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.

In the first 100 days of the NDP government, we will launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. We have to address the systemic causes of violence against the indigenous women and girls of this country. The structures and attitudes that allow this violence to continue must be examined, exposed and changed. The only way to do this at the national level is to establish a national public commission of inquiry.

Indigenous women experience more violence because they are indigenous and because they are women. Amnesty International found that indigenous women are most likely to die before non-indigenous women in this country, and are more likely to die violently.

In many indigenous cultures and societies, we are taught to honour women as life-givers, as knowledge-keepers, as storytellers, as medicine women, as word-carriers, as community members, and as human beings, and colonialism has impacted negatively on those values.

The violence that is perpetrated against indigenous women is the same violence against the environment today and the same violence that assaulted parents and grandparents in residential schools.

Let me quote from the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Ipeelee. The court said:

To be clear, courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide....

Yet the Prime Minister, incredibly, said not too long ago that we have no history of colonialism in this country.

Let me tell a story about a little boy named Jonish, who was sent to a residential school in 1954. He was five years old. He never came back. Apparently, he died the first year he arrived at the residential school.

His mom never knew, until after two years, of his death. His mom, my mom, for 40 years never knew where Jonish was buried. It was only by coincidence that one of my sisters happened to be in the area one day, and someone told her, “I know where your little brother is buried”.

After 40 years, my sister filmed the site where he was buried and brought the film back to my mom to show her. Just imagine. It was 40 years until she found out where my little brother lay.

I do not know if any of the members have seen their mother cry. I saw my mother cry many times, but the day she saw that video—I had never seen her cry that way. That was closure. That is what we call closure. That is the closest she could get to final closure for her son.

This is what indigenous families in this country need. That is what they want. That is why they are calling for this national inquiry.

Where is the Canada we used to know, the one that has a history of upholding high standards of human rights and social democratic values in this country? Where is it? Even when faced with fundamental legislative changes and challenges to the social structure, we used to have that Canada. It is no longer here.

Therefore, I submit very respectfully that an inquiry would fall into the legacy that this country has. That is why the NDP is calling for that inquiry and it is why the NDP, together with other families and Canadians across this country, want that inquiry.

I stand here today on behalf of the families of the missing and murdered indigenous women so that we can heed their calls for a national inquiry. It is their time. Let us give them their time so that they can get close to the closure that they also need.

That is why our party will call that inquiry no longer than 100 days after our election as a government. We will provide the justice that we all need.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is time that we have such a discussion here, and today is the perfect day to have it.

With respect to what has been happening here, I attended a vigil in August for Sonya Cywink, who was murdered 20 years ago. Whitefish River First Nation hosted the vigil.

Others came to share their stories. It was not just about Sonya. It was about all of the women who have either been murdered or have disappeared.

One of the women who was there said she could not believe that something like this would happen. She was determined to see her sister's body. It is important for her to have that type of closure in her life, but there are very many other indigenous women who have not been able to see the body of their loved one because it is missing. It is a tragedy that people are now dredging the river on their own to try to find the remains of their loved ones or something that belonged to them.

Maybe my colleague could speak to the importance of having closure. It means that there needs to be a national inquiry when we consider the vast number of people missing and murdered.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe I mentioned in my speech the importance of giving these families closure, and that is why it is important to go ahead with this national inquiry.

One of the reasons why this inquiry is necessary is that many if not most of these families did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to their children, to their daughters.

I am certain that a national public inquiry would bring at least some closure to these families for the loss they have experienced in their lives.

My mother's story is a perfect example of how we can bring closure to these horrible experiences that many of us have gone through. For 140 years, children were sent to residential schools. We really have to get to the bottom of things, and that can only be achieved with a public inquiry.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

London North Centre Ontario


Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to the families. No one can even imagine what they have be going through for the last 20 to 30 years.

I am very proud of our action plan. I would like to ask the member opposite this: Does he not think that raising awareness to break intergenerational cycles of violence is important? Does he not think engaging men and boys is important? Does he not think that addressing underlying causes of violence through structured training initiatives is important?

We are doing many things in this action plan, and it will help aboriginal women and girls on reserve, and I am very proud of it.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member opposite was not really listening or did not understand what I said. Beyond everything she just mentioned, the issue before us concerns a national public inquiry to determine why this is still happening today.

Despite all the reports that the hon. members opposite are citing and despite all the plans the government might come up with, I think we must get to the bottom of this. That has not been done. No plan will work if we do not understand the real reasons behind what is still happening today. What is more, I am pretty sure this plan was not drawn up in partnership with those whom it is meant to benefit.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by thanking my hon. colleague for his very powerful speech. To me, and I think to all of us, it is a reminder of why we are here. We bring our personal experience and the issues that we care about. It is not just a debating club or about procedure; it is about these incredibly important issues in our society that have been buried and washed over. That is why today New Democrats are united, as the official opposition, to make sure that this debate in the House is heard and that the commitment we have made will happen. Within 100 days of becoming government, we will hold a public inquiry.

It took more than 20 years for the Oppal inquiry in British Columbia to happen. When I was a city councillor in Vancouver, in 1987, and women began to go missing in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, we were told not to worry, that there would be a case-by-case criminal investigation. It was very similar to what we heard from the Minister of Status of Women yesterday.

Those disappearances were never followed up on, and it was the families and friends of the missing women, many of whom were aboriginal and sex workers, who finally got together and said there was something horrific going on. It was not about individual cases, but about our justice system, predators, and the failure of our justice system to see the missing women as citizens and vulnerable people.

For years, these disappearances were not dealt with, and it took more than 20 years until finally there was a public inquiry in Vancouver. It was not a perfect public inquiry, but it was important because it shed light and opened the door to examining some of the systemic issues that my colleague talked about.

We need to take the experience in British Columbia and understand that it is happening right across the country. It is not isolated to the Highway of Tears, in northern B.C., or to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. It is happening in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and in Atlantic Canada.

I listened to the Minister of Status of Women yesterday talk about her action plan, and I looked at that action plan, $2.5 million over five years, to create projects and raise awareness. Awareness is important, and we have to show the leadership here to create that awareness. However, we need to have a public inquiry to ensure we are not just looking at individual cases but at what happened and why society as a whole failed these women What is it that went wrong, and why? Only a public inquiry can do that.

I remember meeting with the Liberal minister of justice, in 1999, a couple of years after I had been elected, and explaining what had happened in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. I was shocked. Although he was sympathetic, he was not aware of what was going on. I realized then that there was a tremendous amount of work that had to be done. The story was focused in Vancouver. At that point, the story of what was happening had not yet fully come to light.

Mr. Speaker, that is how long it takes. An inquiry is important because the stories of the families need to be heard. We are talking about individual women who are missing and have been murdered. We are talking about the impact on families and communities.

What I find troubling about the government's response was said so well by Audrey Huntley, the co-founder of No More Silence. She said, in reaction to the government's announcement, “It feels to me like it’s really laying the blame on the aboriginal community and completely ignoring stranger violence”. She went on to say:

We need to engage Canadian society in why aboriginal women aren’t valued. That’s really what it comes down to. They’re not valued when it comes to the police investigating their cases, they’re not valued by that child welfare system and they’re not valued by their foster families, so really it’s a very deep systemic problem.

That is what Audrey Huntley had to say.

She is not the only one to understand the depth and the horror of what is taking place and that only a public inquiry can examine some of the systemic issues, whether it is the way that policing investigations are done, contributing factors of violence and poverty and racism, and the legacy of colonialism and residential schools, as has been so well articulated by my colleague today.

We were glad that a motion was passed a couple of years ago in the House to set up a special committee, but even that committee became a disappointment. Yet again, the government refused to act on the need for a national inquiry. I want to thank my colleagues, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who was on that committee, and the member for Churchill, who has had this file and has done so much work on calling for a national inquiry. These are contributions that we make as individual members to keep this issue alive.

We are here today to say that we will not let this issue be swept under the carpet. We will ensure that those voices are heard. I do not believe it will take 20 years, like it did for the Oppal commission. I believe we will have a historic opportunity in about a year to change the government and to put in place a government that is progressive, an NDP government that actually listens to what people are saying and will make commitments to follow through on the suffering and historic injustices of aboriginal people in this country.

A public inquiry is a very key component of that, but it is not the only component. There are many things that need to be done: addressing poverty; ensuring clean water, education, and housing. These are all issues that our leader, the member for Outremont, has raised and articulated in this House. He has met with the aboriginal leadership and communities. This is a very deep commitment that we bring, not only to this debate, but to the work that we do from now and into the election.

I am glad we are having this debate today. It is a Friday afternoon, and I know members would probably like to be home today. We would all like to be home. However, this is our place. We are here for a reason. We are here in solidarity with the organizations that have called for the national inquiry. We are here in solidarity. We are here to ensure that those voices are heard. I am glad we are having this debate, and we will make that commitment to follow through.

I know the Conservatives do not like it. They want to have us contained to the little action plan that trots out just a few million dollars over five years. It is a pathetic response to a huge issue in this country. Let it be said that the Conservatives should listen to what those families are saying. They should understand that a public inquiry, which we have the power to bring about in a timely way—not that it is the be-all and the end-all; it is really just the beginning—is a powerful instrument to shed light on this issue and to bring justice for the missing and murdered women.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut


Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of points that I would like to raise. I am an aboriginal woman. I stand in this House and listen, day in and day out, to the debates and comments from the NDP and the Liberals about aboriginal women's issues. However, when it comes to taking real action, I see the opposite happen, day in and day out.

I am an aboriginal woman who went to residential school. My mother went to residential school. My uncles went to residential school. My brother went to residential school. However, I also came into this House to make changes to support aboriginal women.

I had a good friend who was killed in a domestic violence situation. Her husband was released from prison under the house arrest law of Canada. I still firmly believe today that she would still be alive if that law had not existed. We as a party worked really hard in this House to remove that section in order to protect women.

The second point is that as an aboriginal woman standing in this House and fighting for the right for aboriginal women to have rights equal to those of non-aboriginal women when it came to matrimonial rights, it was very disturbing to watch the NDP and the Liberal women fight so that aboriginal women would not have the same rights as they do when it comes to matrimonial rights and property.

When it comes to domestic violence situations, women cannot escape with property or any belongings, so if those members really want to protect women, they will give them the same rights as non-aboriginal women in this country.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the minister for being here, for being in this debate and for sharing with us a little bit of her own experience. That is very important. We honour and appreciate that.

I listened to what she had to say, and when she says that she is committed to change, that is good. However, we have to ask the question, and she needs to ask the question of her government, what is the change that the government has actually brought about? What I see, and what was announced in this action plan, is really just a list of projects that will take place over a few years. It does not address the systemic change that needs to take place. That is the point that we have got to make. That is the point that the minister, unfortunately, does not want to respond to.

We will keep pressing it until that inquiry happens, so that we can really get under the root causes of the systemic violence that is taking place, and the missing and murdered women. We will not let up until that is done.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.


Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, if there was ever an issue that should not be partisan and that should not divide members of the House, this is perhaps one of those issues. It defines a circumstance in this country that really challenges us.

The issue that is in front of us requires more than just simply trotting out a list of things that have been done and that have clearly left us short of a solution. It is a list of programs that have not delivered us the safety or even the security of our friends and family members. Rather, it is a list of programs that need to be changed if we are going to solve this challenge.

The question is, what needs to be on that list that is not on it? We do not have an answer to that question. I would like to know what other steps should be there.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the member on his election in Trinity—Spadina. He represents an urban riding very similar to my riding of Vancouver East. It is an important point, because the issue that we are debating today of the missing and murdered women is a huge issue in our cities. It is an issue in the urban environment as well as in remote communities. This covers all of the territory of Canada.

The member asks a very important question: what needs to be done? What are some of the things that we need to respond to?

I can tell him that our members on the special committee that was set up last year valiantly tried to include measures that need to be taken, not just these little projects that will take a couple of years or so. We tried to include big issues, such good housing, clean water, education, equality, and proper supports and resources for addiction issues. The list is long, but none of that is being done.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

London North Centre Ontario


Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate on the concurrence motion before the House today. I want to thank all the members of the special committee on all sides of the House who participated in this important study.

Our government takes this issue very seriously. I was pleased to be a part of the committee that heard from several expert witnesses, along with the families of the victims.

It is so important to speak to the first nations who have been affected and ask them how we can help. How can we work to break the cycle of violence? I am proud to speak about the special committee's report today and highlight the good work the committee has accomplished.

We have done Canadians a great service by bringing attention to this serious issue and shedding light on this complex problem. Our government is deeply committed to ensuring justice for all Canadians and to cracking down on crime.

The research is clear. Aboriginal women experience high rates of violence. The RCMP's recent report, for example, has confirmed that aboriginal women are overrepresented among murdered and missing women. Far too many aboriginal families have felt the effects of violent crime and have lived with the aftermath. This is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour.

Canada is a country where those who break the law are punished, where penalties match the severity of the crimes committed and where the rights of the victims are fully recognized. Abhorrent acts of violence are not tolerated in our society. These violent crimes must be strongly denounced by the communities in which they occur and by all Canadians.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Status of Women met with aboriginal leaders and community groups to talk about violence against aboriginal women and girls. She also met with some of the families of the women who had been murdered or gone missing. At those meetings, they discussed what the government should do to address this serious problem. The minister was told repeatedly that the time for talk was over. What we needed now was action. It was time to stop these terrible acts in our communities and to rally around victims and their families.

The Government of Canada has put in place a range of measures totalling nearly $200 million to address violence against aboriginal women and girls. This includes supporting the DNA missing persons index, with $8.1 million over five years, as well as $1.3 million per year in ongoing funding; continuing to support police investigations through the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains; and providing safe haven for victims by funding shelters and prevention activities on reserve, with $158.7 million over five years.

In addition to these ongoing initiatives, our government has taken steps to improve the status and protect the rights of aboriginal women. For example, we passed the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act to ensure that people living on first nation reserves would have similar access to similar matrimonial real property and protections to those living off reserve. Both sides of the House voted against that.

We also introduced the Canadian victim bill of rights, which sets out for the first time in Canadian history clear rights for victims of crime.

Finally, there is our Safe Streets and Communities Act which eliminates the use of conditional sentences, or house arrest for serious and violent crimes.

This brings me to the action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. This action plan is our government's response to the report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. It sets out how we will allocate our new investment of $25 million to reduce violence against aboriginal women and girls. The plan identifies how we will work with partners in three priority areas: preventing violence, supporting victims, and protecting aboriginal women and girls from violence.

Over the next five years, we will provide funding to aboriginal organizations and communities to develop local solutions to address these priorities.

By bringing together a broad range of initiatives, the action plan builds on the valuable work that is already under way to address violence against aboriginal women and girls. The goal is to leverage these earlier successes so we can build upon previous investments, while expanding our efforts. For example, under this action plan, more communities, both on and off reserve, will develop community safety plans. That is $8.6 million over five years.

These plans work because they are designed and implemented by community members who understand better than anyone the unique safety challenges of the community in which they live. This initiative has been very successful in empowering communities to take charge of their own safety.

In addition to community safety planning, we will fund projects aimed at breaking intergenerational cycles of violence and encouraging healthy relationships. That is $2.5 million over five years. We will work with communities to empower women and girls to speak out. We will engage men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls.

The action plan also sets out a range of initiatives to support victims. That is $7.5 million over five years. This includes support for family-police liaison positions. Family-police liaison improves communication between police and victims families by ensuring that family members have access to timely information on cases.

Violence against aboriginal women and girls is a serious issue that requires a multifaceted response. No government or organization can tackle this problem alone. This work must be done in partnership across federal organizations with provinces and territories and through the leadership of the aboriginal communities and organizations.

The action plan is one important step toward safer communities for aboriginal women and girls. Specifically, we will continue to work with federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety to coordinate actions across the law enforcement and justice systems. We will ensure that aboriginal organizations and communities play a direct role in the community safety planning initiative and other efforts. We will provide communities and organizations with easier access to funding for a variety of projects to address violence against aboriginal women and girls, including those to raise awareness, promote healthy relationships and prevent violence on reserves.

By working together, we must ensure that aboriginal women and girls are no longer victimized, but are able to reach their full potential as mothers, as daughters, as sisters and as Canadians.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary's comments and I know she participated in the special committee.

It is important to note that the premiers and pretty well every aboriginal organization in our country have now come to the conclusion that a public inquiry is needed. Therefore, it is ironic and questioning as to why the federal government would be so offside with what has become a very strong consensus.

Could the member imagine a situation where 1,200 nurses had gone missing and were murdered over a period of years? What would be the response of our society? Would it be that we would look at this case by case and ensure that the law would be applied, or would it be that something was terribly wrong with what was happening to nurses who were disappearing and being murdered?

Why are the Conservatives so opposed to the need and the evidence for a public inquiry when the consensus is so strong that it needs to be done?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.


Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is correct. I did sit on that committee for approximately a year, and I heard the same thing the member heard. When we listened to the families of the victims, only one family member asked for a national inquiry after she was finished her statement.

I am not sure why the member opposite thinks all the organizations and every aboriginal woman and girl is supporting a national inquiry, because that is not so.

Here are some examples. Despite the opposition's assertions that we are not listening to indigenous communities, we have heard some resounding support for our action plan.

The commissioner, James Wilson, of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba had this to say:

The announcement of [this] framework is a solid step towards building a new relationship that will address and overcome this issue. Through this relationship, we can help shape a brighter future for Indigenous women and girls across the country.

The president of the National Association of Friendship Centres spoke up and offered this input:

Experience has shown us that the most effective way to address this critical and troubling issue is in our own communities through targeted and sustained investments that address community needs and priorities. [This action plan] sets us on the right path to advance this important work.

We are listening to them.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.


Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the list of programs, largely announcements that were made before my arrival in the House of Commons. If they were effective, we would not have a list with 1,200 names on it.

While the focus is clear that there is work to be done sometimes within the community that is affected, quite frankly, the dynamic is right across the country and exists on and off reserve, in rural Canada and urban Canada, in the east and the west.

Clearly, when there is a need for a new approach to tackle a problem which we have not solved, why is the announcement about response to a problem instead of the steps that are required to prevent this problem? Why are we falling back on a list of old programs that have failed rather than reaching out to find new programs that are clearly required to solve a dynamic that is absolutely, fundamentally unacceptable?

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.


Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

First, Mr. Speaker, I point out that when the Liberal government was in power for over 10 years, it did nothing to help women and girls, let alone aboriginal women and girls.

I do not know how the member can wonder what we are doing for women and girls in general, because no government has done more for women and girls and aboriginal women and girls than this government.

What we have accomplished in the last even five years is improved community safety, and that is working well. We have established a national centre for missing persons and unidentified remains. We have launched a new website for tips. We have developed a police database, a compendium of best practices to help communities. We have developed community safety plans, funded awareness materials, and allocated $25 million toward the missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I think it is particularly appropriate that we are discussing this issue today. In the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, it is Take Back the Night, where a large group will gather, people will give speeches, and then there will be a march. It is very appropriate to be discussing this very important issue here today. Of course, part of the goal of Take Back the Night is that eventually we will not have to be discussing violence against women and girls.

It saddens me to hear about these violent acts against women, sisters, mothers, daughters, and wives almost every day in communities across Canada. I am a nurse. I worked in aboriginal communities. I worked in rural emergency rooms, and I saw first hand some of the horrendous situations that young women, girls, and older women face.

I find it a little offensive when opposition members indicate that they do not think we care about this issue. We care passionately about this issue, but we disagree on the best way to move forward.

Our government believes that we know many of the causes. I was on the committee of murdered and missing aboriginal women. We heard about programs that were working. We heard about prevention programs. We looked at this for a year. We heard from families. Everyone was touched by the conversations we had with them. I think we need to look at this issue and not say that one group cares and the other does not care. We all care; we just disagree in terms of how we need to move forward.

Again, it is terribly distressing to know that aboriginal women and girls continue to face violence and that so many go missing or are found murdered. These are issues that require concrete, long-term action to address every aspect of these crimes. Nothing is more important than the safety of families and our communities. Of course, we have made this a top priority over many years.

We have also heard about matrimonial real property rights on reserve. I still cannot believe that the opposition did not support that moving forward. It so important.

We heard from the minister, who talked passionately about how some of the things we have done she believes will make a real difference. She talked about matrimonial real property rights and house arrest. We heard the passion in her voice.

The committee's report had a number of specific recommendations, such as stronger laws so that violent, repeat offenders serve appropriate sentences.

In Kamloops we had a violent repeat offender who took a woman from her place of business and brutalized her. It was an awful thing to hear the history of that perpetrator. It was known that he was on the street and that he was a high risk to reoffend. We are bringing in those tougher sentences, and we are doing that through both government and private members' bills.

The victims bills of rights was introduced on April 14 and is mentioned specifically in the committee report. Once passed, victims' rights would be enshrined in Canadian federal law. It would for the first time establish statutory rights to information, protection, and restitution.

Over the period of the summer, I had the opportunity to be joined by the Minister of Justice in a round table conversation. We had the mother of a young girl who was brutally murdered talk to us about how she felt as a mother and how she was treated within the system. She had very practical, sensible recommendations for the victims bill of rights, and she encouraged us to move forward with it because of the experience she had had. It is an important measure.

Another important measure the report calls for is the creation of a national DNA missing persons index. In budget 2014, we committed $8.1 million to do just that. This index would allow for the national collection and matching of DNA profiles to support the investigations of missing persons and unidentified human remains. We intend to introduce legislation to allow for the creation of the index in the upcoming months.

One of the things we heard from some of the families was a strong desire to have closure and resolution. This measure would help provide these families with that closure.

We are also looking at addressing human trafficking in a very strong national action plan to combat human trafficking. This was launched in June 2012. We have introduced aggressive measures and initiatives to prevent human trafficking, identity and protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. Again, theses are significant investments to specifically address violence against aboriginal women and girls.

In budget 2010, $25 million went toward programs and initiatives that addressed the disturbingly high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

In terms of the inquiry, the NDP opposition talked to the process in British Columbia. I know Wally Oppal has very specifically come out and he said that we do not need a national inquiry, that there has been report after report and recommendations have been made. He has said that we need to move on.

I will close with the same comment I made at the very beginning. Everyone in the House cares passionately about this issue. The only difference is how do we best move forward. In this case, the government feels we are best to move forward with action, and that is what we intend to do.

Violence Against Indigenous WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time. Accordingly the debate on the motion will be rescheduled for another sitting.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour has three minutes left to conclude her remarks.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I will be shifting a little, but in many ways these two are linked in how we as a government believe that people who commit violent offences such as murder are very much linked with the missing and murdered aboriginal women's piece too. However, we are talking about Bill C-591, introduced by my hon. colleague. From the comments by the opposition, it appears that all parties will support this.

The bill would amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act and deny CPP survivor benefits and the OAS allowance to people convicted of murdering their spouse, common-law partner or parent. As the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex and others have pointed out, no one wants to see spouse killers receive taxpayer-funded financial benefits for their heinous act. It truly would be an insult to the taxpayer. It is an insult to the families of the victims as well as an insult to the principles of justice. Certainly no person who pays taxes and personally contributes to an insurance plan wants to see murderers receive a benefit for killing someone.

Currently, when someone murders their spouse for whatever reason, he or she stand to gain those benefits. Thankfully we are speaking of a very rare situation. Death at the hands of family members is not that common and the convicted murderers are not always eligible for these benefits anyway.

However, each year between 2003 and 2012, an average of 21 individuals in all age categories were accused of killing their parent or step-parent. Among them were approximately 5 to 6 persons accused who were between the ages of 18 and 25 and 3 of the accused were under the age of 18. That is absolutely appalling.

It is important to remember that many people accused of killing a spouse or parent are not found guilty of murder and among those convicted of murder, some do not qualify for these benefits in any case. Of these people, roughly half would be rendered ineligible for the CPP survivor pension and death benefit, one-third for the OAS allowance for the survivor and less than one-tenth for the surviving child benefit.

I will emphasize that fewer than 30 people each year would be affected in the context of a public pension system in which the CPP alone gives coverage to 13 million contributors per year. Again, it is a very small number.

We are proceeding carefully with the bill because we want to be fair.

It is important to note the legislation will only apply to people who have been convicted of murder rather than all those who are charged with murder. That is a basic principle of common law, that a person accused of crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to participate in the discussion of private member's Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits).

I have listened with great interest to the rhetorical flourishes of the Conservative members who have debated this bill so far. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley said his government “always puts victims first”.

Not to be outdone, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo said:

It is clear that our Conservative government continues to stand up for the rights of victims and that Canadians can count on us to deliver results.

Quite the chest-thumping by a party that is trying desperately to persuade Canadians that it is only party that is tough on crime.

The only problem is that this bill did not actually originate with them. This is decidedly not a Conservative bill. On the contrary, it is a watered-down version of a bill that was first introduced in this House as far back as June 2010, and which was then reintroduced in this current Parliament on June 9, 2011.

How can I be so certain of that chronology? It is because, in fact, it is my bill. I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and as New Democrats we are certainly used to governments stealing our ideas and implementing them. However, when the Liberals did it with respect to medicare and pensions, they at least did not have the audacity to claim these ideas as their own. That is why everyone knows it was J. S. Woodsworth who gave Canadians their old age pensions and Tommy Douglas who brought us medicare.

However, the Conservatives have made this place so hyperpartisan that they cannot even acknowledge in passing that this bill had its genesis across the aisle. It is mind-boggling, unless of course they were fearful that by referencing my bill, they would draw attention to the differences between our two legislative initiatives and that theirs would then be found to come up short, and indeed it would. Let me explain.

At the heart of both my bill and the bill now being put forward by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex is the principle that criminals should not be able to profit from their crimes.

I had assumed that this principle would be firmly enshrined in the eligibility criteria for government benefit programs. Members may imagine my surprise then when I received the following correspondence.

I have a relative who killed his wife, served very little time for manslaughter, and is (and has been) collecting CPP survivor benefits for over 10 years. Since 1-2 women per week die at the hands of their partners, how many more men are collecting this? How is this legal?

I researched the file to verify that this could really happen and learned that there is no legal prohibition that prevents people who have been convicted of spousal homicide from collecting either the death benefit or the survivor pension. Clearly that is a loophole that must be closed.

My bill set out to do precisely that. It would have amended the Canada pension plan to prohibit the payment of a survivor's pension, orphan's benefit, or death benefit to a survivor or orphan of a deceased contributor if the survivor or orphan has been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of the deceased contributor.

Now I want to draw attention to that last line. My bill would have prohibited anyone from benefiting from both murder and manslaughter. That is something the Conservative bill we are debating here today does not do. Yes, if someone is convicted of first or second degree murder, that person will no longer be entitled to collect survivor pension benefits; however, if someone commits manslaughter, that person can merrily continue to collect.

Really? How is that fair? How is that putting victims first? I cannot imagine that this would pass the nod test for anyone who is watching this debate, either here in the House today or on their TVs.

It sure does not pass the nod test for Susan Fetterkind. Susan is a woman from British Columbia whose father killed her mother. He stabbed her multiple times and then went on to collect pension survivor benefits for 28 years, until his death.

I have been on numerous radio and TV shows with Susan, and she has just one message:

The government is enabling killers to profit from murdering their spouse. You're not supposed to be able to profit from murdering somebody.

Ostensibly, the Conservative MPs want people to believe that they agree, so we would think that Susan would be happy with the legislation that is before this House today. We would be wrong.

Here is what she had to say about the bill being brought forward by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex:

His bill mentions first and second degree murder but it does not mention manslaughter. My father did a plea bargain and he was convicted of manslaughter.

Therein lies the rub. Whereas my bill covers first and second degree murder as well as manslaughter, Bill C-591 does not include manslaughter as a reason for revoking pension entitlements.

This creates a huge policy gap, especially when we consider that the largest proportion of family-related homicides are spousal murders and that a great number of those result in a plea bargain to reduce conviction of manslaughter.

Do we really want to legislate a system wherein a person who is convicted of murder cannot collect pension benefits, but if he manages to have the charge plea bargained down to manslaughter then it is fine for him to collect? This is a loophole that must be closed. This is an area that my NDP colleagues and I are determined to redress when the bill gets to committee.

I know that more than one person will have picked up on the fact that I said “he” can still collect after committing manslaughter. I know that will generate some heated feedback from those who think I am promoting sexist stereotypes. Let me be clear: all violence is unacceptable. However, here is the reality. About half, 49%, of all female murder victims in Canada were killed by a former or current intimate partner. In contrast, only 7% of male murder victims were killed by intimate partners. That is why this issue is of critical importance to women's groups from across our country, and why I was proud to get support for my bill from the Woman Abuse Working Group's action committee in my hometown of Hamilton.

All of us in the women's movement, and in the NDP caucus, would prefer if instead of just dealing with the consequences of violence against women, we turned our attention in a systemic way to preventing intimate partner violence in the first place. It is not like we do not know what needs to be done. There have been gazillions of studies, with detailed recommendations, about how to reduce the rates of violence against women and how to protect vulnerable women. However, appallingly, we have a Conservative government that simply refuses to act.

All of the evidence shows that violence against women and children increases during times of economic crisis, which should suggest the need for an urgent increase in services. Instead, we have a federal government that has been single-minded in its purposeful gutting of financial resources for the most meaningful community supports. Cuts to social services, housing, child care, social assistance, shelters, and legal aid all contribute to diminishing the independence of women and making them more vulnerable to violence. It does not need to be that way, and it should not be that way. But when a government is intent on being tough on crime instead of being smart on crime, we end up dealing only with the symptoms and never the cause.

My NDP colleagues and I are committed to dealing with both. We will support the bill that is before us today, Bill C-591, and we will work to improve it in committee, by making sure it does not just cover first and second degree murder but manslaughter as well.

We will also fight to eradicate the root causes of domestic violence and continue to push for the passage of our Motion No. M-444, which calls on the federal government to establish a coordinated national action plan to address violence against women. The Conservatives have happily adopted my bill as its own. I would encourage them to steal Motion No. M-444 too.

New Democrats are secure in the knowledge that ours are still the only policies worth stealing. If the Conservatives need to be able to claim those ideas as their own in order for them to take action, then I say to my colleagues on the other side of the House, by all means, fill your boots. I have a number of other private member's bills on the order paper. Let us work together to get them passed too. I can assure members opposite that they are as meritorious as the one they stole here today.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for that speech. The speech that I am about to give is going to sound quite familiar, although I can assure her that I did not have an advanced copy. Until she said that all good ideas emanate from her caucus, I agreed with almost everything she said.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-591, an act to amend the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act, proposed in its latest iteration by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex. I understand that this is the member's first private member's bill, so I would like to take a moment to congratulate him on the introduction into the House of Commons of the bill back in June.

Interestingly, my first motion in the House as a member of Parliament for Charlottetown was also concerning old age security. My motion sought to reaffirm the government's support of old age security and asked for a commitment to keep the qualifying age at 65 instead of 67. Of course, we in the Liberal Party know that the motion to protect old age security did not receive the support of the Conservative government benches.

As the justice critic for the Liberal Party, I appreciate the fact that the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex has put forward a solution to an existing loophole in the CPP and OAS legislation as opposed to haphazardly amending the Criminal Code, as so many of his colleagues want to do.

Bill C-591 seeks to amend the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act to ensure that someone who has been convicted of murdering his or her spouse or parent will be ineligible for the CPP victim's benefit, the CPP orphan benefit, and the OAS annual allowance for survivors. As my colleague across the way explained in his initial speech in June, the bill is consistent with the legal principle of ex turpi causa, which means that one should not benefit from his or her own misconduct.

The member for Markham—Unionville has said the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill. We believe this is, in essence, a sensible bill that seeks to close an existing loophole in the CPP and OAS Act. While the Library of Parliament has confirmed that the intent of the bill is currently the existing departmental policy within government, it is not yet law and we agree in principle that the bill is a positive step for the families of murder victims.

However, we have some concerns that we would like to see addressed at committee and many of them we heard from the previous speaker. We also heard earlier in debate from the NDP member for Nanaimo—Cowichan that there seems to be a loophole in the very bill that is designed to close a loophole. The bill seeks to withhold respective benefits from those who are convicted of first or second degree murder of a spouse or parent, although someone who is convicted of manslaughter will still be eligible.

The member for Chatham-Kent—Essex has indicated that in cases of manslaughter, the principle of ex turpi causa does not always apply as clearly as it does in cases of first and second degree murder convictions. In his speech last June, he stated:

Courts have said that the principle of ex turpi causa should not be applied automatically to manslaughter and other offences involving responsibility for a death without examining the specific circumstances of each case.

While it is heartening to hear a defence of judicial discretion from the Conservative benches, this exclusion for manslaughter must be given considerable thought. It presents an issue that deserves more attention and discussion at committee stage. The possibility exists that someone could kill a spouse in circumstances that would otherwise give rise to a conviction of first or second degree murder but be convicted of manslaughter as part of a plea bargain and, as the bill currently reads, be eligible for benefits he or she should not be receiving. Ultimately, this is a bill that the Liberal Party will support because it deserves its time at committee.

I am mildly encouraged by the bill and the solution it proposes. As the Liberal justice critic, I would recommend that the government consider taking further fiscal and legislative measures to address the issue of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse before it results in the death of a spouse or parent.

Intimate partner abuse is a serious issue in Canada, particularly for Canadian women. I would not be doing this topic justice if I failed to mention that it is Canadian women who are overwhelmingly the victims in cases of intimate partner abuse. This is also true in cases of spousal homicide.

I am supportive of the bill and will be voting to send it to committee.

Please allow me to offer some other observations on the approach taken by the hon. member with respect to this legislation, and let me begin by quoting the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development. This is an excerpt from the speech on the bill when it was introduced in June of this year. He said:

The Department of Employment and Social Development already has administrative procedures, based on common law principles, that prohibit a spouse, common law partner, or child from receiving survivor benefits if the department is informed that the person has been convicted of the murder of an individual and is the survivor and consequently the primary beneficiary. The problem is that there is no provision in the law to prevent these provisions from actually being paid. What C-591 would do is give clear authority, raise the visibility, and increase transparency to ensure that no one could benefit financially from murdering a spouse.

I draw attention to this excerpt because it highlights how straightforward the amendments in this specific bill are.

Since 2006, the Conservative government has routinely bundled hundreds of amendments into monstrous omnibus bills. It has used these omnibus bills to alter everything from employment insurance to environmental regulations, fisheries regulations, legislation related to justice and public safety portfolios and, yes, even the Old Age Security Act, so it is entirely fair, and not at all irrelevant to this debate, to ask this question: why is this bill presented as a private member's bill instead of being included in an omnibus bill?

By asking this question, I run the risk of confusing my Conservative colleagues, as difficult as that may be. Let me clear. I am in no way supportive of the Conservative government's reliance on a poisonous combination of simultaneously introducing omnibus bills and time allocation motions to push through bad legislation that has not been properly vetted by parliamentarians.

While the Liberal Party is glad to have Bill C-591 headed to committee for further review, I am genuinely interested as to why, or maybe how, these amendments escaped the pull of an omnibus bill. This fairly straightforward bill is a perfect example of the value in not relying on omnibus legislation. This bill is straightforward, yes, but it could always be better.

The issue around manslaughter convictions as a result of plea bargains that I raised earlier, as did the member for Hamilton Mountain, is just one piece of this bill that should be further clarified. Presenting this bill as a private member's bill provides the time for scrutiny that hundreds of pieces of omnibus legislation never get at committee before they are passed into law.

In the Liberal Party, we believe that giving parliamentarians from all parties the chance to discuss potential issues before bills become law is a sound method of developing balanced, effective public policy the first time around. For this reason, I am glad that this bill, straightforward as it may be, was given the time for debate in the House of Commons. I will vote in support of sending it to committee for further study.