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.