Mr. Speaker, we are here today to talk about Motion No. 203, which addresses fraud activities against seniors, and I thank the member for Richmond Centre for bringing this motion forward to us today.
It is really important that all of us take a moment to recognize that the seniors in this country built this country. If it were not for them, we would not be sitting in the seats we are sitting in today and would not be in this country the way we are today.
I want to take this opportunity to recognize the former mayor of Port McNeill, Gerry Furney, who passed away in February at the age of 85. If we want to talk about people building this country, Mayor Furney was a man who built a large part of northern Vancouver Island. We should all be grateful for the amazing work he did. He was the mayor of Port McNeill for 39 years and he served on council for a total of 46 years. Talk about community service.
I want to take this opportunity to send my condolences to his wife Carmel and his beautiful children, James and Liza. I cannot imagine how much they must long for him and miss him.
Today when we are talking about this important issue of fraud activities against seniors, it is important to recognize that the Canada Safety Council has told us that fraud costs Canadians more than $10 billion annually. We know many seniors are vulnerable to scams, and that can be very scary. I listened to the previous speaker talk about accessing information about scams and fraud and I know how often the government speaks about the ability to get information online. I know some seniors who are amazing online and are building their capacity, and I also know a lot of seniors like my own grandmother, who is in her eighties, who says that she has learned a lot in her life and has no interest on ever sitting at a computer to do the things she needs to do.
In the case of fraud, seniors' vulnerability can often be found in the simple fact that accessing information can be a challenge. It can also be about being asked to do things in a different way and then being confused when the fraudsters are going after them. I think of one 82-year-old constituent in my riding named Susan, who was defrauded of $3,000. She received a phone call from somebody claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, who said that if she did not pay immediately, the RCMP would come to her door and arrest her. She was told that the only way to pay her debt would be to go to the store and purchase iTunes cards. Sadly, this wonderful woman did not know that this was not how one pays the CRA.
The important point is that as we see a changing economy across this country, a changing way of doing business, sometimes people are vulnerable because they do not understand the changes that are happening. After spending $3,000 on these iTunes cards, Susan went back home, phoned the person she was supposed to call, and relayed all the numbers. That person then told her that if she did not get the other $3,000 she owed by the next day, she would be arrested. She went to her bank the next day and was obviously in distress, and very gratefully the bank helped guide her through this situation and understand that it had been a fraud attempt.
When we look at this information, it is really important we put the vulnerability into context and recognize that sometimes seniors have a challenge in getting to technology.
I also want to make sure we all remember in this House—and the government has not addressed this in a meaningful way—that there are many communities across this country that do no have Service Canada right there for them so they can access services. People may not have access to the Internet. I know a lot of people think Internet is everywhere, but in the riding of North Island—Powell River, we have communities that are really challenged to have accessible Internet. We still have communities and regions where the only access is through dial-up. It is important to recognize that and be mindful of it when we look at this issue.
When I look at where we need to go as a country in terms of serving seniors, I see that we need to remember the importance of having a national seniors strategy. Right now we have a government that has made multiple announcements about planning for this strategy, but we really need something concrete that seniors can rely on. Right now, too many loopholes exist around this country, and seniors are falling through them.
It is important to understand that in Canada the population of seniors is seeing a growth in poverty. We saw 7.6% in the year 2000, and it has gone up to over 11% as of 2013. Sadly, I feel that this number is growing based on the number of phone calls to my office. We have a lot of seniors who are really challenged to afford their medication. We are getting calls regularly about seniors having to make very painful decisions because they simply cannot afford the medication they need to stay healthy.
When we talk about seniors in housing, the vulnerability there is huge. I have talked to too many seniors who were sick and could not get their taxes done on time and had their GIS cancelled, and now they are at risk of being evicted from their homes. Eighty-six-year-old women should not be calling any office in this country, afraid that they are going to be evicted because they were sick and sent their taxes in late and now do not have their guaranteed income supplement.
This motion really narrowly addresses one part, an important part, which is fraud and the vulnerability of seniors to fraud. So many of them have low incomes, and this can be a big challenge if they are just trying to make ends meet. Even if they are wealthy, this can be totally disabling and provide opportunities for them to be scammed in ways that we cannot imagine. We need to make sure that this is addressed, but it should be in the context of a national seniors strategy that really speaks to the vulnerability of seniors.
In my riding, North Island—Powell River, we see too many seniors moving from one community to another. We see people in the more remote communities being forced to move to bigger communities to access services, but their absolute social isolation creates very bad health determinants. Then we have people who are getting pushed out of the larger urban settings because of the cost of living. They are moving to smaller communities, away from the services. It is important that we make sure we support seniors in the best way possible so that they stay in the communities they know and have that social infrastructure and have access to health services.
We also know that the poverty rate for senior women is growing. It has increased to almost 30% of senior women. Those numbers are highly vulnerable people. If they are scammed for even a small amount of money, it could have huge impacts on their health and well-being and even the stability of their home, because they may not be able to stay in their home.
Last year I had the opportunity—and I have spoken about it in this House—to sit with a senior in her 80s who had a health scare. The family thought she was not going to make it. She was in the hospital for an extensive amount of time, and because of that, they had to move her out of her rental unit. Once she got better—and happily, she did get better—she was given a notice from the hospital saying that she needed to be gone from the hospital within a week, and if not she was going to be charged $1,200 a day. This woman with a severe infection was moved to a hotel, to live there and to try to make ends meet.
The vulnerability of our seniors across Canada is growing, and it is so important that we stand up in this place, understand the role they have played in building this country and make sure that we support them in their most vulnerable times. Right now, we are seeing that that is not happening. A small boost in the GIS is not making the life of those seniors change dramatically. I disagree with the government. I hear too many stories and see too much vulnerability.
The justice department says that each year, 10% of Canadian seniors are victims of crime. They have so many frauds perpetrated against them and they should not have to deal with these situations. It is really important that the government does its job in making sure that services and support are accessible.
Let us see that happen. Let us see our seniors being valued, and let us protect them by having a national seniors strategy whereby the country and all the provinces and territories and communities work together to make sure that these big, gaping holes that too many seniors and their families are falling through are closed.
That is our duty, and that is something that we should be proud of as Canadians. Today, we are not proud of how we treat our seniors.