moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present my first private member's bill, Bill , an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.
It is an honour to have the opportunity as a member of Parliament, representing my constituents of Chatham-Kent—Essex, to make a positive impact on this great country, helping to make it a better place for us and our children. Bill is such an attempt. This bill would close a long-standing loophole that enables someone in Canada today, convicted of killing their spouse or their parent, from receiving their victim's CPP benefit or CPP orphan benefit.
This bill is consistent with a long-standing common law principle, known as ex turpi causa, that criminals should not benefit from their crimes. This bill would restore fairness to the victims and their families by ensuring that those convicted of first- and second-degree murder would not be entitled to their victims' benefits.
The bill would apply to those convicted of first- and second-degree murder, which by definition is murder involving deliberate acts with intent to kill. The bill would not include those charged with manslaughter, since manslaughter, by definition, is death resulting from unintentional actions, such as accidents, provocation, or history of abuse. I will address this issue later in my speech.
A conviction of first- and second-degree murder must be within the meaning of section 231 of the Criminal Code of Canada or its equivalent in a foreign country, provided that the minister is satisfied that the procedures were fair and unbiased.
One cannot imagine the horror of having a loved one murdered, yet every year in Canada we read of tragic cases where someone loses their life by an act of murder. Sadly, this is done, at times, at the hands of a family member.
In an article posted in The Sun on Saturday, December 21, 2013, the headline reads, “Murder cases close to home — 2013 sees deadly rise in family related slayings in Calgary”.
Of the tragedy in our first nations communities faced by our aboriginal women, the Native Women's Association of Canada reports in their fact sheet of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls that of the murder cases in the NWAC's database where someone has been charged, 23% are committed by a current or former partner of the victim.
John F. Conway writes in The Canadian Family in Crisis, fifth edition, “About 40% of homicides in Canada involve victims and suspects in a domestic relationship...”
These are shocking statistics. I am not suggesting that all of these tragic events would be affected by my bill but what I am saying is, today, in Canada, approximately 30 cases a year involving murder of a spouse, common-law partner, or child could be affected by this legislation.
How terrible a thing to suffer the horror of family violence, how much more the horror of murder, but to have the added pain of witnessing someone profit from their crime, a clear violation to the long-standing common law principle of ex turpi causa, by way of collecting the victim's survivor benefit, is not fair to the families of the murder victim, and it is an injustice that cannot be allowed to happen.
I will first define who would not be eligible by providing an explanation of the CPP death benefit package, followed by the procedure to be put in place, the role of the minister, consideration of appeals, burial payments, explanation of first- and second-degree murder, and then a wrap-up.
First, I will talk about those to whom the bill is targeted by way of examination of CPP death benefits and OAS survivor benefits.
The Canadian Pension Plan is a social insurance plan that provides contributors and their families with a modest income replacement upon retirement, disability, or death of a contributor. It is this last provision, death of a contributor that is the essence of Bill . At the death of CPP recipient, the survivors are eligible for these benefits: the monthly survivor pension paid to the spouse or common-law partner; the monthly orphan's benefit for dependent children; and a one-time lump sum death benefit.
As well, under the old age security program, the annual allowance for survivors, ALWS, is provided to low-income survivors aged 60-64 who meet the residence requirements and have not entered a new relationship.
These are the benefits that are provided through the Canada pension plan and old age security to the survivor of someone who is receiving CPP or contributing to CPP upon death.
The bill would make changes to the act that defines these benefits so that no one who has been convicted of first- or second-degree murder and who would normally be entitled to receive the survivor benefits would ever collect the victim's pension or survivor benefits.
Allow me to define the role of the minister. When the minister is informed and satisfied than an individual has been convicted of first- or second-degree murder, the payment would immediately cease. In cases of death benefits paid, when CPP monthly survivor pension, monthly orphan benefit, or one-time lump sum, the individual convicted would be determined never to have been eligible for the benefit and as such it would be considered an overpayment. All or any CPP and/or OAS benefit payment would be deemed repayable.
However, what if the disentitled individual were found innocent upon repeal or is subject to a new trial? If the disentitled individual appealed the conviction or were granted a new trial, the decision to cancel the benefit as a result of the original conviction would remain in effect pending the final outcome of the judicial process. If the individual were subsequently convicted of a lesser crime or acquitted, the benefit would be reinstated upon the department being notified. The individual would be entitled to payments dating back to the first day of eligibility.
The CPP would not be amended for orphans under the age of 18. In Canada, children under age 18 are considered minors and as such those charged with care and custody of a minor would receive the CPP orphan's benefit.
However, the orphan's benefit that normally is paid directly to someone between the ages of 18 and 25 who retain their eligibility by attending school would not be available to a child who has been convicted of murdering a parent when he or she turns 18. This approach recognizes the guardian's expenses undertaken to care for the child and the fact that the guardian, in some cases the surviving spouse, has not committed the crime.
Let me now address the death benefit. As stated, the CPP would be amended to ensure that any individual convicted of murdering his or her spouse would not be eligible to collect the CPP death benefit. However, the death benefit would continue to be paid to the estate of the deceased to help with the funeral costs or if there were no estate, the person who paid for the funeral costs might be eligible to receive the costs.
While the legislation would not permit the death benefit to go to the murderer, even if she or he paid these expenses, it is important to note that the funeral expenses would already have been paid by the time the person was convicted of murder. If the murderer received the death benefit before being convicted, he or she would lose eligibility for the death benefit and would have to reimburse the department at that point.
Next, let me explain why the bill would only apply to first- and second-degree murder. As stated earlier, the amendments made by Bill are based on a common-law principle that individuals should not benefit from their crimes. This principle of ex turpi causa clearly applies to conviction of first- and second-degree murder. The principle does not apply as clearly or uniformly to cases of manslaughter and other offences since they do not necessarily involve the intent to kill and can involve abuse, provocation, or accident. 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.
Further to the role of the minister, it would be impossible for the minister to proactively identify murderers nor would it be feasible to implement a tracking system due to major obstacles such as provincial and territorial privacy laws. Creating the legal obligation for the minister to proactively detect who is subject to this provision would set an obligation upon the minister that is impossible to fulfill.
Therefore, there must be engagement with victims organizations to increase awareness of these amendments. This can be done by calling the department, by writing, or by visiting a Service Canada office. The department can then verify ineligibility due to murder by first and second degree through a copy of an official document confirming the conviction.
As stated, it is estimated that approximately 30 individuals per year would be affected by this legislative amendment. Of those, roughly half would apply for CPP survivors' benefits, roughly one-third would be OAS allowance recipients, and less than 10% would relate to CPP orphan benefits.
Familial homicides are not all committed by spouses, children, or common-law partners, and not all cases are charged with murder, convicted, nor have all victims sufficiently contributed to the CPP or possible recipients of the allowance for survivors.
The intent of the legislation would not be to punish families. The focus would be on preventing murderers from benefiting from their crimes. An individual convicted of murdering his or her spouse would be ineligible for survivor pension. However, if there are children, the orphans' benefit would still be applied.
The proposed approach is feasible, cost-effective, and consistent with privacy laws. It respects areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, ensuring that the minister would be able to fulfill obligations.
In closing, nothing can take away the pain and suffering experienced by the survivors of a murder victim. No law can ever bring back those whose lives have been taken by such a cruel act of violence.
However, this bill would restore fairness to victims and their families. This bill would ensure that those convicted of first and second degree murder would not be entitled to their victims' benefits. None of us wants to see those who suffer the loss of a loved one suffer the added insult of seeing the one responsible for their death by first or second degree murder collecting the victim's benefits as well.
I hope that the bill is supported by all members of this House and sees swift passage after a thorough debate.
Mr. Speaker, as I foreshadowed in my question for the hon. member for , New Democrats say categorically that we as the official opposition will be supporting this bill. This is a bill that closes a very obvious loophole, but for reasons that I will describe, in my judgment it does not go far enough.
This bill is remarkably similar to legislation initiated and introduced in 2011, over three years ago, by my colleague, the member for . New Democrats are pleased to see that the Conservatives are finally recognizing the need to address this issue and to close such an obvious loophole. An unfortunate failure of the current Canada pension plan legislation is that survivors' pension death benefits or orphans' benefits may be made payable to those convicted of murdering their spouse or parent. I am sure that to 100% of Canadians that will sound bizarre in the extreme. That it has taken a private member's bill and the government three years to respond to the private member's bill of my colleague from Hamilton Mountain should seem equally strange to Canadians.
When the member for Hamilton Mountain introduced a similar bill, she was responding to this letter from a constituent, which stated:
|| 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?
That is an excellent question, but, as we will see, as in many cases of this kind, the constituent was talking about manslaughter, not simply first or second degree murder, which is the sole ambit of the private member's bill before us today.
A few days ago, on CBC TV, in my part of the world, British Columbia, the following was said:
|| A North Delta woman, whose father killed her mother, wants the federal government to plug a loophole that allowed him to collect pension survivor benefits for 28 years until his death.
|| Susan Fetterkind's mother Vivienne was stabbed multiple times by her estranged husband.... [He] collected Canada Pension Plan benefits until he died last year.
She went on to say:
|| The government is enabling killers to profit from murdering their spouse. You're not supposed to be able to profit from murdering somebody.
That is so obviously true. Once again, the largest proportion of family-related homicides are spousal murders, and of those, a great number result in a plea bargain and a reduced conviction of manslaughter. Ms. Fetterkind is hoping that this Parliament, aware of this initiative before us today, will embrace not just first and degree murder, but also manslaughter, which I will talk about in a moment. Correcting this error and ending the ability of those convicted of murdering their spouses or parents to collect survivor or orphan benefits is obviously something that the official opposition will strongly support. That is, of course, why New Democrats introduced legislation long ago.
As my colleague from alluded to a moment ago, it is quite surprising that this initiative is taking the form of a private member's bill. I say that for two reasons. The Canada pension plan and old age security are the subjects of enormous debate right now in Canada. The need for income retirement security has never been greater, yet the government is not addressing that. All it has done on OAS is to increase the age of collection until 67, and refused to act in a comprehensive way on CPP. Therefore, it is surprising that this is not part of a comprehensive reform that is so desperately required in both of those contexts.
However, equally surprising is that this is a private member's bill. The government routinely introduces—I do not know how many times now—omnibus budget bills, what we call “everything but the kitchen sink legislation”, of which this could readily be a part, yet it is now in the form of a private member's bill. Having said all of that, I do not want the form to triumph over the substance. The substance is critical and long overdue, although it is rather strange that it is taking the form of a private member's bill.
In June 2011, the member of Parliament for reintroduced Bill . It would have amended the Canada pension plan to prohibit the payment of survivors pension, orphans benefits, or death benefits to a survivor, child, or orphan of a deceased contributor if the survivor, child, or orphan had been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of the deceased contributor. That bill quite categorically embraced the category of manslaughter, unlike the bill before us today.
As my colleague from pointed out, many would assume that the long-established principle in law would be that no one should be able to benefit from a crime and that this principle would also be enshrined in the eligibility criteria for government benefit programs, but that was not the case for CPP benefits and old age security benefits. This loophole is obvious and needs to be closed, and that is why the legislation was introduced before.
In response to what my colleague said about manslaughter, while I appreciate that he wants to keep the bill clear and easy to put into legislation, I would urge him to consider including manslaughter in the bill when it goes to committee, for a couple of important reasons.
I do not believe there is any reason a court could not, as part of the sentencing on manslaughter, take a look at the circumstances. Among the things the judge could look at is whether, in his or her judgment, CPP and OAS benefits ought to be denied to the survivor, the person who committed the murder or manslaughter, when convicted. It could readily be part of a court order. There would be no privacy concerns whatsoever, as the statement would be made in open court.
I confess I do not have statistics for it, except the experience of all criminal lawyers as they plead their client down from murder to manslaughter, but if I am right that it will be a larger category, it seems ridiculous that we would not include those convicted of manslaughter within the ambit of this legislation. In other words, to put it baldly, if a person is convicted of murder, they cannot collect these benefits, but if they manage to get plea-bargained down to manslaughter, that is just fine.
I do not believe Canadians would accept that. I do not believe the two people whose direct experience I cited earlier would accept it, because in both cases their father was convicted not of murder but of manslaughter. We are not doing the right thing by Canadians if we limit ourselves to that. Most crimes of passion would be manslaughter, not premeditated murder, so it seems to me that we are missing the boat in a massive way if we do not close that loophole as well.
I commend my colleague for bringing this measure forward to embrace the category of murder, but to not embrace manslaughter seems rather ridiculous, given that culpable spousal or partner homicide is most likely to result in manslaughter, not murder. If I am wrong on my statistics, I of course will stand to be corrected, but I believe that to be the case, just based on common sense and experience in the courts.
I think that is the only thing that would be in the way of our providing unanimous and immediate support for this measure. We should decide to make it more inclusive than it is.
In terms of validators for a position that we are taking, needless to say, it is common sense. If we asked Canadians how they would feel about someone collecting these benefits if they have been convicted of spousal homicide, obviously clearly they would agree with the bill. The Woman Abuse Working Group's action committee supported Bill and commended the member for for bringing it forward, and I am sure that women's groups would also accept this measure as well.
In conclusion, I commend the member for bringing the bill forward. It is an overdue initiative. I just hope that at committee stage, we will be able to persuade the hon. member and the government to expand it to find a creative way to include manslaughter within the ambit of this important initiative.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is pleased to support this legislation. Logic and natural justice seem to make it clear that an individual should not benefit from a crime, particularly when that crime is murder. The murder of a spouse, the murder of anyone, is obviously an extremely serious crime, so we do not want the system to be such that an individual who murders his or her spouse would benefit through the collection of any kind of government benefits. This legislation would stop that from happening for both Canadian pension plan benefits and old age security benefits.
We are told by the Library of Parliament that it may happen to be a policy of the government, which is not law. I am not sure if that is correct, but whether or not it is correct, it is a principle that is worth enshrining in law so that there is absolutely no doubt that it is the law of the land. We in the Liberal Party have no hesitation whatsoever in offering our support to the bill.
Right at the core of the bill is old age security, and old age security is an important issue for Canadians in a number of areas. To deprive an individual of the OAS benefits of his or her murdered spouse is critical, important, and positive, but that might affect up to four dozen people, whereas the raising of the age for OAS from 65 to 67 must affect hundreds of thousands of people. Given the centrality of OAS in this particular private member's bill, it is worth spending a little time talking about OAS in the context of what affects thousands of Canadians.
The Liberal Party is opposed to the government's plan to increase the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. We oppose it for two reasons. First, contrary to what the government is saying, all of the experts are telling us that the current system is actually viable.
The government says that the system is not sustainable because of our aging population, but the chief actuary, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and other worthy and qualified bodies and individuals say that it is. When asked to choose between the statement of the government on sustainability and the statement of these experts, I will go with the experts.
My second point is that even if we deny what the experts say and argue that the current system is unsustainable, there are different ways to make it sustainable. One is to increase the age from 65 to 67, which the government is proposing, but that is the most mean-spirited method. It would really hit the most vulnerable. If we really believe it is unsustainable, which I do not, another way would be to reduce the income level—
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill . I would like to first congratulate the hard-working member for for introducing this terrific bill. I hope that all parties will support the bill to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to deny CPP survivor benefits and the OAS allowance to anyone convicted of murdering a spouse, common law partner, or parent.
As the member for has pointed out, no one wants to see criminals rewarded for their crimes. Certainly no one who pays taxes or who personally contributes to an insurance plan wants to see murderers receive a benefit for killing someone. Our government always puts victims first and has a strong record of bringing back fairness to the criminal justice system. I agree, and the government agrees with the member's bill, and I will be pleased to support the bill when it comes up for a vote. We will be making some technical amendments at committee. However, we believe that the crux of the bill meets the challenge.
I hope we will work with the opposition to see the bill pass quickly so that the human resources committee can study it this fall. As we have heard, there is all-party support for this legislation.
Let me describe the benefits we are talking about. When a contributor to the Canada pension plan dies, his or her surviving spouse, common law partner, and dependent children are entitled to certain benefits. Specifically, these benefits are the monthly survivor's pension plan paid to the spouse or common law partner, the monthly surviving child benefit for dependent children up to the age of 25, if they are full-time students, and a lump sum death benefit usually paid to the contributor's estate.
For a spouse, common law partner, or child to be eligible for CPP survivor benefits, the deceased contributor must have made significant contributions to the Canada pension plan. In the case of old age security, the surviving spouse or common law partner is entitled to the allowance for the survivor if the survivor is aged 60 to 64, has a low income, and has not started living with another partner.
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 would do is give clear authority, raise the visibility, and increase transparency to ensure that no one could benefit financially from murdering a spouse.
The member for will be requesting that the Minister of Employment and Social Development write to the provinces and territories to raise awareness of this bill and new legislation so that no one convicted of murder would be benefiting from the crime. We believe that the member's approach is the right approach, and we will be pleased to support it.
Thankfully, death at the hands of family members is not all that common in Canada, and the convicted murderers are not always eligible for these benefits anyway. However, over the last decade, an average of 48 people a year have been charged with spousal murder. Most of these were young men charged with killing their wives or female partners.
Each year between 2003 to 2012, an average of 21 individuals in all age categories were accused of killing a parent or step-parent. Among them were approximately five or six persons accused who were between the ages of 18 and 25. Only three of the accused were under the age of 18. Age 25 is the upper limit for eligibility for a child survivor benefit under the Canada pension plan.
That is why it is so important that Parliament pass the bill, because if even one person can benefit financially from killing a spouse, this is one too many.
The member is correct to proceed carefully with , because it must be both fair to victims and fair to due process. First, this legislation would apply only to people who have been convicted of murder rather than to those who have been charged with murder. It is a basic principle of common law that a person accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. If the minister learns of a conviction, however, the individual would not only be disqualified from receiving survivor benefits but would also be required to pay back any survivor benefits he or she might already have received. This legislation would be retroactive.
If, however, such individuals eventually had their convictions reversed on appeal, their benefits would then, of course, be reinstated. This is the right approach, the fair approach, and the reasonable approach.
This law would not apply to minor children who have murdered a parent. The surviving child benefit is received not by the child but by that child's parent or guardian on the child's behalf to help cover the costs of caring for that child. We do not want to demand repayment of those children's benefits from a grieving widow whose child has been convicted of murdering her spouse.
What if the murderer was between the ages of 18 and 25 and a full-time student who would normally be eligible for the child benefit following the death of his or her parent? In such a case, the individual would be treated as an adult and would be rendered ineligible for these payments.
I would like to point out that this law would not prevent CPP death benefits from going to the estate of the murdered person. However, it would prevent the death benefit from going directly to the spouse or adult child convicted of the murder.
The government expects that victims organizations and family members would notify Employment and Social Development Canada in the event of these kinds of cases to help ensure that murderers would not benefit from their crimes. To help facilitate this, the government would engage directly with victims advocacy groups and stakeholder groups so that they could easily notify the department when someone was convicted of the murder of someone whose death could otherwise entitle them to a CPP or OAS benefit. In fact, the bill would increase the visibility of the issue, and we expect that it would increase notifications from individuals and groups.
I would like to commend the member for for introducing this bill and for all the hard work he continues to do in representing victims across Canada. This proposed legislation would restore fairness to victims and their families. Therefore, I highly encourage my fellow members to join with us, support this bill, and support it in passing quickly.
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill . As was pointed out by the member for , the NDP will be supporting this piece of legislation.
I want to note that this bill seeks to end CPP survivor benefits for convicted murderers. The bill is remarkably similar to legislation introduced by the New Democrat MP for . Because we have already had a history of introducing this legislation, we will support this bill.
It is unfortunate, and I suspect that many Canadians did not realize it until the matter came up for debate before the House, that part of the failure of the current Canada pension plan legislation is that the survivor's pension death benefit or orphan's benefit may be made payable to those convicted of murdering a spouse or parent. I will talk specifically about a story that was on the CBC recently, but I first want to put some numbers on the record.
Over the past decade, more than half of the spouses accused of homicide had a history of family violence involving the victim. That is, 65% of spouses accused of homicide had a history of violence regarding the victim. According to police-reported data in 2011, there were 81 female victims of intimate partner homicide in Canada versus 13 male victims. Finally, women are far more likely to be the victims of spousal homicide. This legislation removes the possibility that a spouse could receive a benefit following a conviction for murder.
In our own province of British Columbia, there was a recent story in that respect. The title is “Spousal killers shouldn't get survivor benefits”. This was with respect to the victim's daughter. This story appeared on June 7 of this year. A woman named Susan Fetterkind wants the government to plug benefit loopholes in spousal murder cases. The story states:
|| A North Delta woman, whose father killed her mother, wants the federal government to plug a loophole that allowed him to collect pension survivor benefits for 28 years until his death.
I cannot imagine what it was like for the children. This was an example of a known history of violence. The husband was estranged at the time he murdered his former partner. Although we commend the member opposite for bringing this bill forward, as Susan mentioned in the article the bill does not go far enough. She said:
|| His bill mentions first and second degree murder but it doesn't mention manslaughter. My father did a plea bargain and he was convicted of manslaughter.
That is a good case in point. This man collected survivor benefits for 28 years. He was convicted of manslaughter because of the plea bargaining that is part of our system, so this bill would not have dealt with that issue.
I also want to acknowledge that the member said that at committee stage, amendments could be entertained. The member for has ably outlined the concerns with respect to the manslaughter provision.
Because of the fact that we are talking about survivor benefits, and largely we are talking about intimate partner violence, one of the things we need to do as a country is tackle some of the issues that leave women so vulnerable that these kinds of things can happen.
In 2009, West Coast LEAF, which is the women's Legal Education and Action Fund, produced a report on CEDAW, which is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It relates directly to some of the issues in this bill, because we would not need to talk about this if we actually protected women from being subject to violence from partners or other family members. LEAF produced a report card and gave grades to particular initiatives governments had undertaken. This is not a partisan issue. The fact of the matter is that this is where Canada is at this stage, through a series of governments.
It talked about two things. The first was with respect to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. They gave an F grade.
Many of us in this House are very familiar with the Robert Pickton murders in British Columbia. He was arrested and charged with the murder of 26 of these women in 2002, which drew a national outcry.
The report continues:
||—the systemic problems in the investigative process, or lack thereof, have not yet been addressed by the authorities, and the sustained and widespread calls for an inquiry into the missing and murdered women have thus far been ignored. In addition, increased investment in social services, including improved access to secure housing, may help reduce rates violence by protecting vulnerable women, such as those working in the sex trade.
This is an example of the fact that women are subject to violence. These are the kind of situations we see with the CPP survivor benefits.
Violence against women and girls received a grade C. It said that the CEDAW committee had noted that gender-based violence was a form of discrimination that seriously inhibited women's ability to enjoy equal rights and freedoms.
In 2008, the committee stated:
||—remains concerned that domestic violence continues to be a significant problem.
|| The Committee was particularly concerned about a number of elements of the social services’ and justice system’s response to violence against women, including: the use of diversion and mediation in situations involving domestic violence; the practice of “dual charging”; an insufficient number of shelters for victims of violence; and the failure of courts to take domestic violence into account in custody and access determinations.
Despite past progress on this issue, the widespread nature of violence against women and recent regressive policy changes make this issue one of the most persistent barrier to women's equality in B.C. These are B.C. provincial government policies.
Further, evidence indicates that violence against women and children increases during times of economic crisis, calling for increased services rather than funding cuts.
Later on, they reiterate the issue around retrogressive social policies and say that decreased spending for services, such as social assistance, housing, child care and legal aid decreases women's independence, and consequently their ability to leave abusive relationships. Inaccessible and inadequate social services particularly impact the freedom of immigrant women who are sponsored by their abusive spouses.
First, when we have a justice system, as the member from Victoria rightly pointed out, that provides for plea bargaining, allows a spouse who has been convicted of murdering his spouse to then end up with a manslaughter charge and, as would be covered under this bill, that manslaughter charge would result in survivor benefits.
Second, we need to ensure that women are protected so they do not end up becoming the victims of spousal homicide.
Whether it is investments in shelters or legal systems that allow the families of the victim to ensure they have adequate legal representation when it comes to justice matters, these are all really important aspects.
Again, I commend the member for raising the bill before the House. I know the New Democrats will be supporting the bill. I look forward to a full discussion at committee, so perhaps some amendments can be made to deal with the manslaughter aspect of the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand to speak to the private member's bill from my colleague from . It is always a treat when we get to bring forward private members' bills and introduce them in the House. I congratulate him on having his first one here today.
The bill he has put forward is important and excellent. It sounds like all sides of the House will support the bill, so I congratulate him on that.
I would like to focus on a few of the changes the bill would bring.
For the first part, the bill aligns with the commitments the government made in the 2013 Speech from the Throne, which focuses on victims of crime and to strengthen our justice system.
The bill would also ensure that victims' rights would be placed ahead of those of convicted murderers. The bill is based on the well-established common-law principle that an individual should not benefit from his or her crime.
By legislating the principle that an individual shall not benefit from his or her crimes by becoming eligible for CPP or OAS benefits as a result of committing murder, Parliament would provide clear legal authority to prevent murderers from receiving pensions.
The CPP benefits we are talking about are the monthly survivor pension paid to the spouse or common-law partner or the deceased contributor, the monthly children's benefit for dependent children up to the age of 18 or to the age of 25, if they are full-time students, and a lump sum death benefit usually paid to the contributor's estate.
For a common-law child to be eligible for the Canada pension plan survivor benefit, the deceased contributor must have made sufficient contributions to the Canada pension plan to generate such a benefit. The bill would also apply to the OAS program allowance for the survivor provided to low-income survivors aged 60-64.
Here is again how the bill would work. If the survivor of the deceased individual would normally be eligible to receive them, survivor benefits could initially be paid to an individual charged with murdering a spouse, common-law partner or parent. This eligibility would immediately be revoked when Employment and Social Development Canada was informed that the claimant survivor had been convicted of murdering the person in whose name the benefit would be paid. At this point, the claimant would be determined to have never been eligible for the benefit.
An overpayment would then be established for all CPP or OAS benefits the individual received as the result of the death and steps would be taken immediately to recover the overpayment.
In cases where the person would be convicted of murder but was subsequently found to be not guilty, for example as a result of an appeal, then the person would be entitled to the full benefit once the Department of Employment and Social Development was notified. This would include payments retroactive to the first day of eligibility resulting from the death of a spouse, common-law partner or parent.
With respect to the CPP, in cases where a person under the age of 18 is convicted of murdering a parent, the surviving child benefit can be paid until the child reaches the age of 18. That is because when a child is under 18, the children's benefit is not paid to the child, but to the parent or guardian to help with the costs of caring for the child.
We do not want to create a scenario where the surviving parent of the child convicted of murdering the other parent is forced to repay the children's benefits they receive. This would be punishing a victim who had committed no crime.
The Canada pension plan would be amended to ensure that under no circumstances could individuals known by the minister to have been convicted of murdering their spouse, common-law partner or parent be eligible for the CPP death benefit resulting from that death. This does not affect the estate of the person who has been murdered. The Canada pension plan death benefit could still be paid to the estate of the deceased.
Again, the bill is entirely consistent with, among others, the policy of the United States Social Security Administration, which makes individuals convicted of felonious and intentional homicide in the death of an insured wage earner ineligible for survivor benefits.
The United Kingdom also has legislation to prevent an individual who has unlawfully killed a spouse or partner to receive benefits resulting from the death.
To better enforce these new legislative provisions, the government would engage directly with victims, advocacy and stakeholder groups so they could easily notify the department when someone had been convicted of murder and the death of the victim would normally entitle the convicted person to the benefit. These amendments underscore and emphasize our government's commitment to maintaining a key principle of justice, namely, that a person convicted of a crime should not profit from that crime. It has been made crystal clear that the murderer of a spouse, partner or parent will not benefit from a crime by gaining CPP or old age security benefits.
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. I would also like to note, as I said at the start, we have heard from the New Democrats, the Liberals and the member who introduced the private member's bill that this is an important, common-sense piece of legislation that all members of the House can get behind. I truly think that most Canadians, if they knew that someone could murder a spouse or a wife and be eligible for government survivor benefits, they would be absolutely appalled.
What we have is legislation that is inherently sensible. I am appreciative that all members in the House will support it. It is the right thing to do and it sounds like we do have support from all members of the House.
Again, for the member for , congratulations on important legislation, and we look forward to moving it through the process and seeing this into law.