House of Commons Hansard #416 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:05 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, no one is questioning the quality of Canadian canola. No one is questioning Canadian farmers’ willingness to ship the best possible canola to China. The problem is that the Minister of Agriculture asked China to receive a technical delegation a month ago, and China has not responded.

We are convinced that the only people who still think that there might be a technical issue are a few Liberal members.

There is nothing wrong with our canola, yet they refuse to take a political stand. They refuse to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization to show that we are not going to take this lying down. They refuse to appoint an ambassador, which would open up a dialogue and resolve the crisis. There was a time when we had an ambassador in China who helped us get through crises.

They cannot even appoint someone to resolve the crisis. That is the problem. That is what canola farmers are asking for. That is what the organizations are asking for. They are asking the government to do more, to take a stand and to take action on both fronts, not only on the technical and scientific front, but also on the political front, so that we can cover the entire spectrum of relations with China and resolve this situation. While we are waiting, Canadian farmers are paying the price, a high price, for the Liberals’ wait-and-see approach.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:05 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I wanted to tell my colleague that we agree on the issue of Madagascar, but the Liberal government also made arrangements with the Cook Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada. These are three well-known tax havens with a near-zero tax rate.

Does my colleague feel comfortable about the Liberals signing all these treaties with tax havens?

What does he think about all the treaties that the former Harper government also signed with tax havens? Each year, they cost us tens of billions of dollars that should go to improving the quality of life and well-being of all Canadians, but that money falls through the cracks of our extremely unfair tax system.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:05 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I think that, first and foremost, if we want healthy international relations, we need treaties. We need treaties to hunt down tax evaders. If there are no treaties, we cannot hunt down tax evaders, because we will not have the means to retrieve the money from where it is hidden. That is why it is important to have treaties, so we can take further steps.

Once the treaties are signed, if there are improvements to be made, we will make them. However, we cannot recover money from places where tax evaders go unless we have a treaty that allows us to do so. That is the basis for international relations. We need a treaty first, so we can recover money from people who flout the standards we set together.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. Obviously, treaties with Madagascar and its people are important for our economy.

In his speech, my colleague mentioned the canola crisis. We worked together on this issue, but we may not have had the same vision as to the best way of resolving the situation. However, let us look at what the Conservatives are proposing as an alternative. They supported market instability in foreign countries. We know that the Leader of the Official Opposition is pro-Brexit, a process that caused considerable instability in England.

We also know that the Leader of the Official Opposition does not want to enter into a free trade agreement with China. What a great message to send to China about trade relations. He is also opposed to the presence of Huawei in Canada, although he is unfamiliar with the details of the study.

What message does a national strategy like that send to the Chinese when we want to negotiate with them?

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, at least we have a strategy and a position. The Liberals have no position.

Let's talk about the Liberal international relations strategy. The infamous trip to India is the perfect example of how to destroy international relations and Canada's image abroad. It is the perfect way to lose all credibility in seeking to establish trade relationships with other countries.

Ever since that trip, nobody takes us seriously. China, Vietnam and Italy are walking all over us. Everyone thinks they can walk all over us because, as far as the Liberals are concerned, international relations are all about image and not about substance and taking positions. While the Liberals bide their time so as not to offend, Canadian canola producers have to pay the price.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I suspect if you were to canvass the House, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is that agreed?

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Accordingly, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from March 18 consideration of the motion.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

4:10 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with special interest that I rise to speak to Motion No. 203 regarding fraud against seniors. The reason I say that is because my riding, Trois-Rivières, has a unique feature. It is one of the rare ridings, if not the only riding in Quebec and Canada, where people stay young at heart longer than the national average.

If you look at the Quebec averages for people aged 65 and older, the riding of Trois-Rivières is a whole six or seven points above the national average. This issue, this population and my constituents aged 65 and older are near and dear to my heart. I am quite anxious to speak to this motion because it affects them directly, for a number of reasons. I will expand on that later in my speech.

I hate to date myself, but back in the day, when we had mail instead of emails, it was pretty easy to see that some things were too good to be true. My parents subscribed to Reader's Digest, which could be found in every possible waiting room, including at the doctor, at the dentist, and in many private residences. I suspect that, even back then, they were selling subscription lists to all kinds of companies. We therefore often received tickets for sweepstakes, giving us a chance to win ridiculous sums of money if we returned all the necessary documents, which my parents and I never did.

These types of schemes have gone digital. Today, there are many offers on the Internet. You can win astronomical amounts of money, trips abroad, computers or all kinds of goods. We know that this can be questionable advertising or even fraud, which we must protect ourselves against.

I would like to give you an idea of the extent of Internet fraud, which affects seniors in particular. In fact, that is why we are discussing the issue. We are talking about $10 billion a year, which is an astronomical sum. On a per capita basis this amounts to $300 per person. Every Canadian could potentially be defrauded to the tune of $300 a year. We know that is not the case. Fraudsters always target the most vulnerable people. The amount of $300 per Canadian is not accurate. The amount is much higher for those who are victims of a well-organized fraud ring.

Statistics show that 44% of the people interviewed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre were directly defrauded or a member of their family was. Everyone is aware of the problem. That said, when discussing such statistics, it bears remembering that statistics can be misleading.

People who are ripped off can feel naive or simple-minded. It is important to remember that the strategies used by fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated. They elicit feelings of concern in their targets, who fall for the scam because they think they are doing the right thing. When people realize that they have been scammed, they do not boast about it. Very few people admit that they did not pay enough attention and failed to identify all of the telltale signs of fraud. On this information alone, it is safe to assume that the actual figure is probably much higher than what the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is reporting.

Today, seniors make up 13% of the population. In 2036, they will make up 25% of the population. At the rate things are going, 2036 might as well be tomorrow.

I would like to mention another statistic before approaching this captivating subject from another angle. Earlier, I was saying that fraudsters target the most vulnerable individuals.

Often, people with low incomes are among the most affected, for all sorts of reasons I will explain later. Let us look at our $300 per Canadian, a figure that does not make sense, because not everyone is targeted equally. Moreover, the people who are most often scammed are those who are the most vulnerable and who have the lowest incomes. It is a big problem.

In 1995, low-income seniors made up 3.9% of the population, so say almost 4%. In 2000, they made up 7.6% of the population, or almost 8%. According to the most recent figures, they made up 11% of the population in 2013. I see absolutely no indication that the situation has gotten any better in 2019. We can see it. The wealth we create in our country is always very poorly distributed. The rich become richer while those who struggle to make ends meet continue to bear the burden, unable to live the dream that our consumer society urges us to pursue.

Oftentimes, this aging population—or rather, as I said earlier, those who stay young at heart longer—is subject to a number of factors that make it increasingly vulnerable. In practical terms, we call these the social determinants of health. What are the social determinants of health? There is a person’s economic situation, which I mentioned earlier. There are also health problems. We know that we are living longer, but not necessarily in good health. Dementia-related diseases are on the rise. We see the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and others that are more likely to affect seniors and that make them more susceptible to potential Internet fraud.

Illiteracy is also a very serious problem. We often hear about functional illiteracy. This relates to people who went to school, sometimes to the end of primary school or high school. They sometimes even have a high school or college diploma, but they might not necessarily grasp all the subtleties of a text in their daily lives. Believe me, fraudsters are masters at writing up offers and putting the right images on websites that look entirely credible, if one does not have the resources needed to look further than the image presented and do the necessary comparisons. For instance, we often use the connection rate to claim that, since 80% of Canadians have Internet access, that means almost everyone in Canada can be reached online.

Successive Conservative and Liberal governments have counted on the fact that, since the government is online, every Canadian can find answers to their questions on government websites. I am sure that, like me, many members have had the experience of navigating various government websites on behalf of their constituents. As many will have seen, just because the site exists and the answer is there somewhere, does not mean it is easy to find. It takes skills that go well beyond simply having Internet access.

We are being told that the Canada Revenue Agency has plenty of online resources to help prevent fraud. Once again, the solutions being provided fail to meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we are seeking to protect. We could also talk about proficiency in English.

I will conclude by saying that, for a long time now, the NDP has been advocating for a national strategy on seniors that does more to protect seniors against fraud.

I will certainly support this motion in the hopes that we will eventually go even further.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

4:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order. It is my duty pursuant Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Justice; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, The Environment; the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, Seniors.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

4:25 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank and congratulate my colleague from Richmond Centre for this worthwhile motion, which comes at the right time for seniors. They are happy to know that their elected officials in Ottawa care about their well-being and are thinking about them.

I want to read out the motion so that those watching at home can understand what we are debating today. My colleague from Richmond Centre moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the disproportionate effect of fraud activities against the seniors community across Canada; (b) coordinate a national response to fraud activities to ensure that seniors and other vulnerable groups have the resources they need to understand the signs of fraud; (c) establish tangible recourses for victims of fraud; and (d) work with local law enforcement agencies and the Canada Revenue Agency to introduce legislation to combat fraudulent attacks targeting vulnerable seniors.

This motion is absolutely essential. Not a week goes by without a vulnerable person becoming a victim of fraud. With the advent of the Internet and various increasingly accessible modes of communication, it is becoming easier all the time for bad people to target seniors with their schemes.

I recently read a report that said that all types of fraud, including fraud against seniors, were on the rise. There is one fraud that everyone has heard of. We all received a message this year from the Canada Revenue Agency saying that a $200 tax refund was waiting for us if we just sent our bank account number. Seniors are vulnerable, but these messages are so sophisticated that in five years, the total amount of money taken from victims went from $300,000 to more than $6.4 million a year. That is money being taken from vulnerable people and all those who fell for the scam. From 2014 to 2018, the number of Canadians who were tricked went up tenfold. If the trend continues, these numbers will increase even more.

If Canadians from all walks of life are being fooled by people who are able to manipulate these messages on the Internet, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for seniors to separate fact from fiction when they are just beginning to understand the joys of new telecommunications services, the Internet and computers.

There are many cases of Internet fraud, of course, but that is not the only kind of fraud. It is important to mention that. There are people who take undue advantage of their interactions with seniors to abuse their trust and steal their hard-earned life savings. La Presse reported on an 89-year-old Montrealer who said that he was shocked to discover that all of his $360,000 savings had disappeared from his bank account. The money had been taken by someone close to him, someone he knew very well.

Fortunately, that case is before the courts, but it takes a lot of courage and energy for seniors to go to court and speak out about these situations. That is not what seniors want to be doing at their age. They want to be using the money they saved and enjoying their retirement, but some of them lose everything overnight because somebody, somewhere, took advantage of their trust.

Often, these seniors do not realize that they have been the victims of fraud until it is too late and they have nothing left in their bank account, because the people who were put in charge of looking after their money are the ones defrauding them and taking advantage of them. It is completely unacceptable for people to take advantage of vulnerable seniors for their own gain.

I will not list off examples right now, but I imagine that we have all, at some point, witnessed things that seem relatively minor. It is not always $360,000. Sometimes, a grandson or a supposed grandson might put undue pressure on a senior to help out with just $5,000 or $2,000.

Grandparent scams are becoming more and more common, and we hear about them a lot. Someone calls a senior and passes himself off as one of the senior's grandsons. Everyone knows some grandmothers have a lot of grandsons. People used to have lots of kids. Some grandmas might have had 16 kids, and if those kids each had 16 kids, grandma might well have 72 grandsons.

Maybe grandma gets a call from Thomas, who says he is stuck in Mexico and cannot leave and desperately needs $2,000 to get back to Canada. Maybe someone used grandma's kid's Facebook account to come up with enough names to pass for the grandson. Naturally, grandma does not want to leave her grandson stranded all alone in Mexico because he got mixed up in something criminal or got into a fight or whatever.

Grandma wants to help. That is why we love our grandmas. Unfortunately, some people have made a fortune passing themselves off as grandsons because seniors live alone, they might not be well off, nobody takes care of them, nobody protects them, nobody looks out for them and nobody makes sure they know what they need to know.

The fact is, these scam artists are fearless and unscrupulous. Wherever they look, they see potential victims, people they can rip off.

There are people in seniors' homes who steal credit cards that are up for renewal. They have access to all of the seniors' information. It is easy for them to call the credit card company and request a new PIN, since they have access to all of the information the bank will ask for before changing the PIN.

It is scary how many ways there are to abuse people who are trusting.

There are a couple of lines in the La Presse article I mentioned that I must talk about before I wind up. The Montreal police offered advice to seniors to help reduce the risk of fraud. I said “reduce” because it is impossible to eliminate fraud entirely.

The first tip is to never disclose personal information to support staff in their home. They must also never give personal information to someone who is working around them. Personal information can be given through a well-known and trusted loved one, although, once again, we are only talking about reducing risk.

Furthermore, seniors should never disclose personal information, such as bank account numbers or social insurance numbers, via email or text message. This information should not be given out over the phone either.

It is important to shred any documents containing personal information. That is how people in positions of trust get the information they need to access seniors' bank accounts.

Seniors also need to memorize their personal identification number and never write it on their card. All too often, people write their PIN on the card. Seniors should never tell anyone their PIN, even if they are getting someone to do their shopping for them. If they give someone their PIN, they are giving them access to their bank account.

It is important for seniors to keep their chequebook in a safe place, not in the same place as their identification.

Those are just a few simple tips. Every police force, whether in my riding or in Montreal, is trying to do more to increase awareness.

However, I think we need to go even further. That is why I am grateful to my colleague from Richmond Centre for moving this motion. I hope that it will go further and that the Canada Revenue Agency will take all necessary steps to reduce fraud against seniors as much as possible.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

4:35 p.m.


Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Madam Speaker, it is my great pleasure to take part in this debate on Motion No. 203. In fact this motion, which was tabled by the hon. member for Richmond Centre, is directly in line with our government's current priorities relating to seniors.

Like all Canadians, the federal government is committed to ensuring the health and well-being of Canadian seniors. The very fact that the Prime Minister appointed a Minister of Seniors last year is a very good example of this commitment. I would even add that it is our duty as parliamentarians and as citizens to support seniors. Rest assured that we are committed to ensuring that Canadian seniors and future retirees have greater security and a better quality of life.

In fact, the government has implemented several measures over the last three years to ensure the financial security of seniors. First, we have restored the age of eligibility for the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement from 67 years to 65 years. This measure alone prevented approximately 100,000 seniors from falling into poverty.

There is also the fact that we increased the guaranteed income supplement by $947 per year for low-income seniors who live alone. For some people, $947 per year does not seem like a lot, but for seniors who are living at or below the poverty line, this money can make all the difference covering the cost of their rent, groceries or any other basic needs. This increase in the guaranteed income supplement helped nearly 900,000 low-income seniors improve their financial situations.

We have also worked closely with the provinces to improve the Canada Pension Plan. To ensure seniors have a financially comfortable retirement, we have diversified and simplified our methods, particularly online, to give seniors several ways to access their benefits. For example, seniors will soon be able to submit a single application to have access to both their old age security benefits and their guaranteed income supplement.

Budget 2019 proposes to support low-income Canadian seniors who choose to stay in the labour market and to support seniors' participation and inclusion in their communities. In fact, in budget 2019 the government is proposing a series of measures that aim to improve the quality of life for Canadian seniors.

For example, the budget suggests passing new legislation that would considerably improve the guaranteed income supplement earnings exemption as of July 2020.

This legislation would extend eligibility for the earnings exemption to income from self-employed work and would give a total or partial exemption to annual employment and self-employment income of up to $15,000.

Budget 2019 also proposes legislative changes that aim to proactively register contributors to the Canada Pension Plan who will be 70 years of age or older in 2020 but who have not yet applied to receive their retirement benefits.

Another interesting proposal in this budget is the increase in funding for the new horizons for seniors program that addresses issues such as elder abuse, which would include financial abuse. The result would be an additional $100 million over five years and $20 million per year ongoing to support projects that improve quality of life for seniors and promote their full participation in society.

What is more, the government is committed to protecting Canadians' pensions. As a result, budget 2019 proposes legislative changes to to the Companies' Creditors Arrangements Act, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985. These changes would help better protect pension plans offered by employers in the event that a company becomes insolvent.

We are also proposing to provide $12.5 million over 10 years to the Global Risk Institute so it can continue its work on developing new approaches in financial risk management. The budget also proposes to provide $150,000 over three years to the institute's National Pension Hub to support pension research on improving the retirement savings results for Canadians and the development of solutions to challenges related to pensions.

What is more, budget 2019 proposes to invest $35 million in 2019 and 2020 so that the assisted living program continues to meet the needs of seniors and people with disabilities who are living on a reserve.

In addition, the recent budget proposes to develop new legislation that will require the federal government to maintain a national housing strategy that prioritizes housing for the most vulnerable people, including our seniors.

Finally, in this budget we are confirming our commitment to moving forward with a bill to reduce poverty.

In conclusion, the government supports Motion No. 203, which firmly condemns fraudulent activity against seniors.

Let me be clear: Any type of violence toward seniors must be denounced and fought wherever it exists—not only physical or psychological violence, but also the insidious violence that is the financial abuse of seniors.

Of course, scammers have victims in every segment of the population, without discrimination. However, when they target seniors, especially the most vulnerable seniors, this becomes particularly despicable and completely inexcusable.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

4:40 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today on Motion No. 203, a motion to protect seniors from fraud. I am pleased to see my colleague, the hon. member for Richmond Centre, take bold leadership in her role as the shadow minister for seniors.

Canada's seniors built this country into what it is today, and they continue to contribute through acts of volunteerism and giving of their time for the betterment of their communities. Every day we can find those in the senior demographic among the many volunteers at food banks, in coaching roles or organizing fundraisers for non-profits. Unfortunately, some seniors continue to work to stay above water so that they can make it to the end of the month.

Although I am pleased to speak on Motion No. 203, I am also disheartened at the necessity of this motion. Too often, Canadian seniors are the target of fraud. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians aged 60 to 69 are most likely to fall victim to scam artists. Scam artists can be a neighbour, a so-called friend or even family.

We are living in a digital age. It is not a rare sight to see a baby being entertained with an iPad or to see grandparents Skyping their grandchildren across the country. We all use technology. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that in this digital age, 51% of those who fall victim to things like mass marketing fraud are targeted online.

As legislators, we must take leadership to protect our most vulnerable, and I am proud to be a member of the caucus that stands up for our seniors and our most vulnerable. All of us, I am sure, would not want to see our loved ones fall for something like this, but it can happen to anyone. It is also commonplace for my constituency office to be visited by a senior who has unfortunately fallen into the trap of giving away personal information, oftentimes giving away money, and they are embarrassed by that.

I am also happy to note that the citizens of Barrie—Innisfil can expect an information pamphlet on CRA tax scams. It will land at their door either this week or next. I have sent it to every household in the riding. It will outline measures to recognize and prevent fraud.

It is important to know that there are many myths surrounding those who are targeted and fall victim to fraud. It is a common myth that mass market fraud targets those with lower levels of education. This is simply not the case. According to a report for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, fraud affects victims regardless of their level of education. It is also wrong to assume that the wealthy are more likely to be victims of fraud; nobody is immune. Besides actions against fraudsters, it is also important that the public, especially our seniors, be aware of and know the signs of fraud.

I would also like to highlight and applaud the work of the Barrie Police Service and the South Simcoe Police Service on their work and initiatives to educate our seniors about the different types of fraud. Sandycove Acres holds a seniors academy at which the South Simcoe Police come in and talk to residents in Sandycove Acres about how to prevent themselves from falling victim to fraud.

Three weeks ago I visited seniors homes to talk about seniors and to listen to their concerns. I also highlighted the importance of recognizing and preventing fraud and described how our office could help.

I must give credit, though, because we cannot overestimate just how smart these fraudsters are. As technology evolves and new methods of combatting fraud are put into force, fraudsters will always find new methods and new lines of attack. In my capacity as a member of Parliament, I am fortunate to speak with law enforcement officers, who always highlight the importance of the evolution of methods to combat fraud. Unfortunately, I hear over and over again that legislation has not changed or evolved.

If we look at combatting fraud through a legislative lens, we see that Canada is surely behind. I have spoken to numerous officers who say they struggle to find the tools needed to prevent and combat fraud, not only against seniors but also in terms of protecting children and other vulnerable citizens online.

I would like to highlight the improvements the previous Conservative government has made in the lives of our seniors.

It is astonishing to know that abuse happens to an estimated 4% to 10% of older adults in Canada. This includes frauds against seniors. Even more alarming, only one in five instances of elder abuse is reported.

In January of 2013, the Protecting Canada's Seniors Act was put into force. This amended the Criminal Code of Canada, which took age into consideration for criminal sentencing purposes.

In the 2014 budget, we also stood for victims, especially our seniors, by passing the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

The Conservatives have always stood behind seniors. The work the hon. member for Richmond Centre has done on their behalf is immeasurable. Under her guidance and the work of many in the previous government, the Conservatives have not only made strides in protecting our seniors, but leaving more money in their pockets as well. The previous Conservative government introduced measures like the age credit, the pension income tax credit, pension income splitting, as well as raising awareness and increasing digital and financial literacy.

Since seniors are our fastest growing demographic right now, it is also important that we build on the previous government's commitments to seniors, especially with respect to protecting elder abuse and fraud.

Once again, I am thankful for the South Simcoe Police Service and the Barrie Police Service, which, day after day, ensure that our seniors are protected against the evils that lurk behind those screens and also work so hard to bring justice to those who choose to harm our elderly.

I am looking forward to the motion being passed by the House and working with all hon. colleagues to protect those who mean the most to us, our seniors.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to talk about a very important issue to many of my constituents. A person does not have to be a senior to appreciate what we are debating this afternoon.

We have recognized very clearly in many debates that senior abuse is very real. It happens every day in all our communities. There is a responsibility for legislators and organizations, whether they are non-profits, stakeholders or individuals, to play an educational, supportive and advocacy role in this.

I will take this opportunity to share some of the concerns I have. As a government, we have done some fairly significant things in recent years which will make a difference.

Before I mention specific examples of that, I want to acknowledge Age and Opportunity, an organization in the province of Manitoba. It has been serving seniors for decades. Organizations like this do very fine work. The new horizons program has been incorporated into the regular, ongoing activities of senior groups, highlighting the many different types of abuses. They call for action in many different ways, whether for governments, individuals or other stakeholders, and the note things we can do to assist in education.

The previous speaker made reference to using mailings to provide awareness and education regarding abuse. I applaud those types of mailers. On occasion, I have inserted things that I believe are important into mailers. Given the new general mailing formats, the member across the way made me think that maybe we could incorporate the types of things we should caution seniors about in a booklet. Far too often they are victims of some form of scam, and we need to do more to prevent this.

However, this is not just about the government in Ottawa. There is a responsibility for the various levels of government to work together in coming up with solutions that will have a real, tangible impact on our seniors.

I was very happy that the Prime Minister decided to establish a ministry for seniors, indicating very clearly that this is a very important issue. The Minister of Seniors, who is the first minister in this portfolio, has done an outstanding job in reaching into the many different communities within Canada. The diversity among our seniors is truly amazing. As a minister, she has reached out and listened to the issues related to seniors for whom we need to stand up. The issue of abuse is very real and tangible.

We talk of mental abuse, physical abuse and financial abuse. Those three take place on a daily basis, and it is quite sad. I have had opportunities to provide help and support to victims, which I do wherever I can. However, there are far too many victims. The ones who are often affected are seniors who still live in their homes. Individuals will approach their homes, maybe to take a look at the roof or a window, and they will knock on the door. A high pressure sales pitch is then given to them and repairs are made to their homes. Some of those repairs are very questionable. Some of the invoicing is very questionable.

Many companies in our communities have fantastic reputations. This is why it is important for us not to paint every company or industry with the same brush.

There is a great deal of economic activity between seniors and the private sector, but there will always be some individuals who have no problem taking financial advantage of seniors. Home repairs is only one example of it.

Other situations often include a child of an elderly person who will borrow or take money from that aging parent. Sadly, this type of abuse exists.

Then there is physical abuse of elders. When I think of physical abuse within society, it unfortunately often involves seniors who have literally shut themselves off from society. They very rarely leave their homes. This is hard to imagine, given the contributions to society. This is one aspect of physical abuse.

The more obvious abuse involves some form of physical force. Some seniors are picked on. It is hard to imagine, but it does take place.

For all of those reasons and more, I think today's motion will receive significant support from members on all sides of the House. We are highlighting something to which I think Canadians can relate and believe something needs to be done.

I would caution members that the solution is not as simple as the House of Commons passing a motion or a resolution or even a piece of legislation. The solution cannot be found in appointing a minister responsible for seniors. We need to do a lot more than make gestures. We need to take tangible action. We need to really work with our communities.

We need to look at first responders and mail carriers.

We often underestimate some of the fine work of our letter carriers perform. They go into our communities, where many of them have formed a relationship with the individuals to whom they deliver mail. One of the sad things about the disappearance of door-to-door delivery is the fact that they no longer will be able to provide a sense of comfort or care to those individuals.

Whether it is those civil servants, or first responders or individuals who work in hospitals, social service and home care services, they are all on the front line and they have a fairly good understanding of what is right and what is wrong. We rely on them to ensure that the amount of abuse against seniors is minimized.

It is great when the House of Commons takes action, as is often warranted. It is critically important for us to recognize that taking action needs to go far beyond just Ottawa. Stakeholders and other levels of government need to be involved. Action involves educating, protecting and being there for our seniors in a very real way.

I appreciate the motion and look forward to the ongoing debate.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.


Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to be here today to have the opportunity to rise in the House to take part in this debate on Motion No. 203, a private member's motion tabled last fall by our hon. colleague, the member for Richmond Centre. I would like to thank her for the excellent work she has done over the past few years on behalf of seniors. There is no denying the sincerity and efficacy of her commitment to this cause.

It is important to mention and thank at this time the Edmontonians in my riding of Edmonton Centre, Edmonton Strathcona and around the city who came together over a year and a half ago and put a policy resolution together that went to the provincial policy round table. It went all the way to the national conference and became a priority resolution for our government to create a minister for seniors and a ministry for seniors. Thanks to the hard work of Canadians and Edmontonians, here we are with a Minister of Seniors and a ministry for seniors.

I would like to let the member know, as well as the residents of Edmonton Centre and all Edmontonians, that our government is working on several fronts to raise public awareness about the fraud activities targeting all Canadians, including seniors.

We are deeply concerned about the financial security of Canadian seniors. Those of us who are lucky enough to have grown up with and learned from our elders know how much that contact and intergenerational learning enriches our lives. We owe a debt of gratitude to seniors and need to make sure that they can live their lives in dignity.

I think of my great-grandmother, a full-blooded Cree woman, Lucy Brenneis, who said, when she was peeling apples one day, “Randy, these hands used to skin hides, now they skin apples, and some day, the lands will return to us.” I think of my great-grandmother, Mary DeRudder, of Belgian heritage, who raised many children, my great-aunts and great-uncles on my mom's side. I also think of my grandparents, Adele and Andy Brenneis.

I am thinking about my francophone grandparents, Adalbert and Pomela Boissonnault, who instilled in me a taste for hard work and a desire to find and follow my own path.

This member's motion requests, first of all, that our government “recognize the disproportionate effect of fraud activities against the seniors community in Canada”.

It is very important to point out that we want to recognize the disproportionate effect of fraud activities against Canadian seniors.

I would like to share with the House that not only does the Government of Canada recognize the existence and scope of this scourge, but it is also taking concrete steps to fight it.

I am personally touched by this issue. Last year, my mom called me in a fit of panic. There were people on the phone threatening that the RCMP would come after her and come to her house. They demanded a $5,000 cheque immediately. It had something to do with taxes. It seemed very credible. She told me that she did not owe any money and did not know what to do and did not want the RCMP coming to her house. I told her that it was fraud and that she did the right thing. She reached out and verified, and I told her not to pay any attention to it.

What happens to the seniors who do not have anyone to turn to? What happens to the seniors who are caught in the nefarious net of the fraudsters and the people who want to make a quick buck off Canadian seniors?

Today I would like to share an overview of key initiatives the government has already implemented to prevent and fight fraud activities against seniors.

Motion No. 203 also stipulates that the government should “coordinate a national response to fraud activities to ensure that seniors and other vulnerable groups have the resources they need to understand the signs of fraud”. I am proud to affirm that the federal government is working tirelessly to develop programs, services and initiatives that enable seniors to better protect themselves from fraud.

Here are just a few examples. First, the fraud prevention forum, which comprises close to 100 public and private-sector organizations and is chaired by the Competition Bureau, is actively combatting all forms of fraud activity against seniors. At the same time, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has developed a strategy called strengthening seniors' financial literacy. The main objective of that strategy is to increase seniors' knowledge, skills and confidence so that they can make responsible financial decisions. To do this, the strategy aims to provide tools to combat the financial abuse of seniors.

In addition, this agency keeps Canadians informed by alerting consumers to fraud scams and suspicious sales practices.

A great organization in my riding of Edmonton Centre, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton, SAGE, takes these issues of protecting seniors very seriously. Anything this House or our government can do to provide organizations like SAGE with more tools to keep seniors safe is exactly the kind of work I want to be engaged in.

Our government has also intervened through legislation, with the Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2, which received royal assent on December 13, 2018. It made amendments to the Bank Act and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act. What these amendments will do is better promote the rights and interests of bank clients, including seniors, and ensure that rigorous standards are in place to protect consumers in the banking sector.

The government also asked the National Seniors Council, which advises the Minister of Seniors and the Minister of Health, to address the issue. The council recently held a round table of experts and a general meeting in Winnipeg to identify promising practices and to discuss new measures to reduce crime and financial abuse against seniors. Using the information gathered, an analysis of federal initiatives has already been implemented. The council is currently developing advice for the ministers on action the Government of Canada could take to fight the financial abuse of seniors

In terms of recourse for seniors, Motion No. 203 requests that the government establish tangible recourse for victims of fraud. Fraud and theft are infractions under the Criminal Code and could be subject to prosecution. Canadians are invited to report any type of fraud when they fall victim to it or when they witness it. The Competition Bureau also produces a brochure, “The Little Black Book of Scams”, that provides an overview of the steps for victims to take based on that type of scam. Anyone who is listening who has not seen “The Little Black Book of Scams” can go to the Competition Bureau website and look it up, because it is a helpful reference. In that regard, the Government of Canada is deeply concerned about the fact that every year thousands of Canadians fall victim to telephone scams and are targeted by unscrupulous scammers, as was my mom.

Too many Canadians lose thousands of dollars through such rackets, which are carried out through the mail, door to door, by email and through other tricks. These fraud activities have many victims in every segment of the population, and unfortunately, as we know, many of these victims are seniors. That is why we are taking concrete steps to prevent fraud.

The motion from the member for Richmond Centre indicates that the government should work with local law enforcement agencies and the Canada Revenue Agency to introduce legislation to combat fraudulent attacks targeting vulnerable seniors. Fraudsters are very good at fooling people by offering miracle drugs, fake lotteries and get-rich-quick schemes or by turning to emotional harassment. They sometimes pass themselves off as banking institutions, insurance companies or, as I mentioned earlier, even the Canada Revenue Agency to swindle money from honest, hard-working seniors and other Canadians.

That is why the Government of Canada introduced a series of measures aimed at increasing awareness among Canadians about this ever-growing scourge. One example is an ad campaign launched late last year, running into the spring, aimed at informing seniors about services and programs for them, including anti-fraud measures and how to prevent and report fraud.

The government is tackling the problem. The Canada Revenue Agency is taking action. This is what we promised and what we are debating here in Motion No. 203. The agency's regional offices are also working closely with community organizations, police forces and local seniors associations on organizing awareness-raising activities in this regard. As part of their work, law enforcement is on their side. We can all do more.

We are all committed to ensuring the well-being of Canadian seniors, which, of course, includes their financial security. They are the people who built our country, who shaped our values and who determined how we would come to be one of the best countries in the world.

It is our duty to protect seniors from fraud and to do everything we can to help them.

We are here to support, promote and protect seniors. That is what this motion and this House are all about.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.


Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 203. I would like to thank the hon. member for Richmond Centre for tabling this motion. She has done great work for seniors over the past few years. We cannot deny her commitment to improving their lives.

This is a topic that I know is close to the hearts of many Canadians. The mistreatment and abuse of seniors is an offence that is absolutely unacceptable, and not taking action to protect our seniors and to give them tools to protect themselves against this abuse would be unacceptable as well.

Our government recognizes the significant contributions our nation's seniors have made to our communities, our families and our workplaces. We are working thoroughly to ensure that seniors are protected from such practices and scams.

In my riding of Brampton South, there are some wonderful organizations that do wonderful work to improve the lives of all seniors in Brampton. These organizations also do a lot to raise awareness about the problems faced by seniors, which is why I am well aware of the harm fraud does to them.

As I said, Motion No. 203 falls in line with our government's priorities for seniors, and the Liberals are happy to support it. Some parts of this motion are reflected in the mandate commitments of the Minister of Seniors, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Minister of Public Safety.

Our government has been committed to giving seniors a respectable and secure retirement. We have also worked on several initiatives to prevent elder fraud from occurring and to raise awareness of this quiet and terrible trend. For example, we strongly support the new horizons for seniors program, which supports projects that improve the quality of life for Canada's vulnerable seniors and creates more opportunities for seniors to be active in their communities. The program also has the goal of tackling elder abuse and elder fraud. Through budget 2019, we will be adding an additional $100 million over five years, or $20 million per year, for this program. Fraud, especially in the digital world, affects all groups, but seniors, in particular, a lot.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Richmond Centre has five minutes for right of reply.

Fraud Against SeniorsPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.


Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very excited to once again rise in this place to speak to Motion No. 203, a motion to combat seniors fraud.

Before I start, I would like to acknowledge once again the contributions of my dear colleague, the member for Langley—Aldergrove. Here, Madam Speaker, I would like to seek your special permission to mention his name. He is Mark Warawa. His passion in helping seniors and their families cannot be understated. I am thankful to be able to say that this is a passion we share, especially when it comes to the need for palliative care and the very serious issue of fraud against seniors.

To illustrate how prevalent seniors fraud has become across Canada, I want to highlight an example that has occurred since the last time I rose to speak in this place two months ago. In my home province of British Columbia, Cranbrook RCMP issued a warning to seniors about a scammer targeting local seniors over the phone, pretending to be a bank employee. This fraudster fakes a conversation, tricks the victim into thinking the phone is hung up by playing a fake dial tone, and then waits for the senior to immediately call back.

The senior, who believes he is dealing with a bank directly, is then persuaded to provide his personal banking information to the scammer. The authorities in Vancouver are also investigating the same scam, as it is thought that over $3 million has been stolen in this way from a number of separate individuals.

Far too often, seniors who are taken advantage of refuse to contact authorities, either out of a sense of bruised pride or out of a sense of not wanting to be a burden to others. I cannot stress this enough: If seniors are targets of attempted or actual fraud, they should go to the authorities. Not only are these seniors helping themselves, but they are helping dozens of future potential victims as well.

A recent case in Hamilton highlights the benefits of going to the police. When a senior was targeted by an international fraudster running a fake lottery scam, she had the forethought to take meticulous notes during the entire process, as a precaution. After she became aware that the fraud had taken place, she contacted the authorities, which in turn led to a relatively rare instance of a transnational fraud investigation. In this recent example, Jamaican authorities came to Canada as part of their own internal investigation.

We can talk about lofty, high-level policy changes and amendments to legislation, but we have to fully appreciate the human element as well. I could go on for hours listing specific cases of seniors fraud in Canada, from ridings in all provinces and members from all parties. This is why it is absolutely critical for us to stand in this place to acknowledge the growing number of fraud cases against the seniors community.

It is important that we not only acknowledge that but also coordinate a national response to this threat, establish tangible resources for these victims, and work with law enforcement agencies and other interested groups to bring in actual legislative changes.

On this point, I would like to thank my Conservative colleague from Yellowhead for introducing his private member's bill, Bill C-206, an act to amend the Criminal Code (abuse of vulnerable persons).

While the bill has a greater scope than just seniors, it is a perfect example of one of the steps we as members need to take to address this abuse against seniors.

The seniors of this nation have spent their entire lives—