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Results: 1 - 15 of 329
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 17:39 [p.29419]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate, and I would like to thank the hon. member for Milton for moving this motion.
The motion comes just short weeks after Victims and Survivors of Crime Week. Members may know the objectives of that week.
The first objective is to raise awareness across Canada about the issues facing victims and survivors. They and their families must be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect at all stages of the criminal justice process. Victims, survivors and their families also have an important role in helping to ensure that justice is done, that during the parole process, for example, reliable and relevant facts about parole can be made.
The second goal of this special week is to let victims and their families know about the services, programs and laws in place to help and support them.
The motion before us states that:
the government should amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act prior to the next election, so as to provide victims with an explanation of how dates are determined for offenders’ eligibility for temporary absences, releases and parole.
I will point out that information about offender eligibility dates is provided to victims already, but it is always worth examining whether there is room for improvement.
That said, the government already provides victims with useful and timely information in a number of ways.
In fact, last week, the government announced an important new step, a new victim outreach strategy to ensure that more victims would be aware of the information available to them and the role they could play in the corrections and conditional release process.
There was a great deal of collaboration in creating this strategy. Correctional Services Canada worked with federal partners, including the Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada's National Office for Victims and the Department of Justice Canada, in consultation with victims and survivors. The result is a suite of communication tools to inform the public and victims of the resources and services available to them. The tools include infographics, videos and a social media campaign.
Another way that victims can receive information is through the victims portal. The portal is a secure online service, available to registered victims to receive information about the offender who harmed them. They can submit information electronically, including their victims' statements. These communication tools help victims stay informed, engaged and empowered to make informed decisions.
The Public Safety Canada portfolio is also working to ensure that victims of federal offenders have a voice in the federal criminal justice system.
For example, there are now 8,000 victims registered with Correctional Services Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. They are entitled to receive over 50 types of notifications. Last year, they received 160,000 pieces of information.
Along with more avenues to obtain information and give their input, victims have access to resources such as dedicated victim service officers, who provide victims with information about correctional services and the offender who harmed them.
Victim service officers explain to victims how correctional planning works and how decisions are made. They provide victims with information on the offender's progress toward meeting their correctional plan. They advise when parole hearings are scheduled.
It is fair to say that the rest of the motion aims to ensure that victims are treated even more fairly and respectfully by our criminal justice system. For decades, Canada's criminal justice system has been getting better at attending to the needs of victims and survivors, whether it is a matter of providing information, delivering support, or simply showing empathy and respect.
When Correctional Service of Canada prepares an offender's case for a parole hearing, for example, it takes into account the concerns that victims have raised in their victims' statements. Last year, victims presented over 300 statements at parole hearings. We are also taking steps to make the parole hearing process less traumatic for victims and survivors.
Members may recall that as part of the implementation plan for the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the National Office for Victims hosted consultations on the victims right to information, participation and protection in the corrections and conditional release system.
One of the early issues discussed at the round tables was the parole hearing process as legislated in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
Under its terms, victims unable to attend the parole hearing can have access to an audio recording of the hearing. At round tables held by the National Office for Victims, we heard that attending a parole hearing could be traumatic, such that afterwards many victims did not have a clear sense of what exactly was discussed.
Why not make the audio recordings available to those who have attended the parole hearing as well as those who could not attend? Why not enable them to listen again at a time and a place of their choosing?
That is one of the proposed amendments we have included in Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, to strengthen victims roles in the criminal justice system.
This is just one way we can increase the number of avenues through which victims can obtain information and participate in the processes of the criminal justice system. There is always more that can be done, but we continue to take steps in the right direction.
One of the most important things we can do is prevent people from becoming victims in the first place.
The national crime prevention strategy provides leadership on ways to prevent and reduce crime among at-risk populations and vulnerable communities. The strategy's goal is to mitigate the underlying factors that might put individuals at risk of offending in the first place.
The Government of Canada is making up to $94 million available over five years to develop inclusive, diverse and culturally adapted crime prevention projects right across Canada.
The national crime prevention strategy is another example of this government's efforts to reduce crime and by the same token, reduce the number of victims.
The government will continue to work with all our partners to support victims in every way possible.
Once again, I would like to thank the hon. member for introducing this motion and I look forward to continued debate on this very important topic.
View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2019-06-19 18:08 [p.29424]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise today and add my voice to the debate on Motion No. 229.
Before I do that, this may be my last opportunity to give a speech during this Parliament, so I want to thank my wife, Charlene, and my son and daughter, Ethan and Hannah. Hannah will be turning one next week, and Ethan will be turning three next month. They came after my election and do not know any different, but they make a great deal of sacrifices, like so many other kids of parents who work here on a daily basis. It is important to say thanks to remember them and those whom we leave back in our ridings to do this important work.
I also want to thank my constituents for this incredible honour of representing the people of St. Catharines here in this place almost four years.
Let me begin by first thanking the hon. member for Milton for bringing this motion forward. If there is one thing in this House that all of us can agree on, it is the importance of supporting victims and survivors of crime.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the dedication and tireless efforts of all those who work so hard to provide that support. We are all fortunate in this country to have a system in place that is there for people in their greatest time of need. That system spans different orders of government across different sectors. It offers programs and services that support victims of crime so that they can play an important role in the criminal justice system. It works to meet their needs and ensure that they do not suffer in silence. It encompasses professionals and volunteers who work with victims and survivors, helping them to get their lives back on track and making sure they are not re-victimized along the way.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the important work of Victim Services Niagara for the incredible work the people there in my home region do on a daily basis, and to recognize also the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre. So many organizations across the country are working so hard and so passionately for victims of crime.
As part of that system, the federal government has an important role that includes support for victims of federal offenders, meaning those serving a sentence of two years or more. The Correctional Service of Canada, or CSC, strives to ensure that victims of federal offenders have an effective voice in the federal correctional and justice systems. Part of that involves providing them with information. Last year, in fact, victims received 160,000 pieces of information from CSC and the Parole Board of Canada.
That information is not automatically provided. Victims must register with CSC and the Parole Board in order to obtain that information about the offender who harmed them. However, the government has launched a victims portal to make that process easier. The portal provides a simple and secure way for victims to register and access information. It also allows them to submit information electronically for consideration in case management decisions. That includes victim statements, which can be submitted at any time during the offender's sentence.
In addition to the portal, victims are able to reach victim services officers by email or by phone. These officers can provide victims with information about CSC and the offender who harmed them. That includes information about correctional planning, decision-making processes and the progress the offender is making toward meeting the objectives of his or her correctional plan.
Victims are entitled to receive more than 50 types of notification. For example, victims can be notified of the start date and length of the sentence that the offender is serving. With respect to the motion before us, I would also point out that victims are already notified of the offender's eligibility and review dates for temporary absences or parole. That said, there could be room for improvement. Debates like this one certainly help us to shed some light on the issue of ways to support victims.
This debate is also taking place not long after the government took important steps forward in terms of how it communicates and engages with victims of federal offenders. On May 27, in conjunction with the 14th annual Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, the government announced a new victims outreach strategy.
The strategy has two main goals: The first is to improve public awareness about the information and notifications that the CSC provides to registered victims, and the second is to bring greater clarity to certain aspects of the corrections and conditional release system, including victims' understanding of sentence management and the offender reintegration process.
Specifically, the strategy will see the Correctional Service of Canada promoting the benefits of registration. CSC would also promote the information available to victims through the victims portal and the benefit of submitting a victim statement outlining the impact of the offence on them. CSC is working with federal partners in consultation with victims and survivors to develop new tools to let people know about the resources that are available. These tools include infographics videos and a social media campaign. That is just one recent step that the government has taken to support victims.
It has also proposed a new measure under Bill C-83, which is being considered by Parliament, to increase the participation of victims in the criminal justice system. If that bill passes and receives royal assent, victims who attend a Parole Board of Canada hearing will be allowed to listen to an audio recording of the parole hearing.
Right now, that opportunity is only available to victims who do not attend the parole hearing. It makes perfect sense to extend audio recordings to all registered victims because it would allow victims who did attend a hearing and found the experience difficult and traumatic to have a clear sense of how things transpired.
All of these measures are complemented by the government's National Office for Victims. The office provides a central national resource for information and support to victims of federal offenders. It can answer questions about the criminal justice, corrections and conditional release systems, giving victims a more effective voice. Last year, the office distributed more than 6,000 publications to victims of crime, victim service providers and the general public. The office also helped to point victims in the right direction by receiving calls, responding to email queries and referring Canadians for direct services.
Finally, I would like to note the support the government is providing to victims and survivors of the despicable crime of human trafficking.
Budget 2018 included federal funding of $14.5 million over five years and $2.9 million per year after that to establish a national human trafficking hotline. Being from Niagara, I find this initiative to be incredibly important, because ours is a border community where so much of that crime occurs. Because so much trafficking occurs through that border crossing, it is important for my community to have those types of resources to combat this horrible crime.
I am pleased to report that the hotline was launched on May 29. It offers help and hope to victims and survivors 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and it is confidential.
Victims and survivors will be able to use it both to seek information and to receive the help they need to find safety and protection. This includes connecting them to local law enforcement, emergency shelters, trauma counsellors, transportation and other services and supports. The hotline will also forward information to law enforcement agencies so they can take action against the perpetrators.
This is only a sampling of the federal measures that are in place or on track to support victims of crime. There is always more we can do to make things work even better for them.
I am proud to stand behind a government that takes this issue seriously, that has already taken steps to improve the support system for victims and is committed to working with partners on further improvements to better serve the needs of victims and survivors of crime.
Again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved in victim services. It is an incredibly difficult job to help people through the trauma they experience. We talk a lot about first responders and the important work that they do, but victim support workers provide a significant component of that, the next step that is too often forgotten about. The work is important to help get people on the right track, to help them move forward, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them.
Again, I would like to thank the member for Milton for introducing the motion and spearheading this important debate.
View Neil Ellis Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Neil Ellis Profile
2019-06-11 17:32 [p.28943]
, seconded by the member for Saskatoon West, moved:
That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the government should set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and supported by the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a National Veterans Housing Benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (HUD VASH) Program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the National Housing Strategy.
He said: Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, I am honoured to have the opportunity to rise in the House today on behalf of Canadian veterans across the country and within my riding of Bay of Quinte to request my hon. colleagues' consideration of my private member's motion, Motion No. 225.
Personally, it has been an incredible experience to work alongside my hon. colleagues on the veterans affairs committee to review the issues of veterans homelessness in Canada. Throughout the committee's study on this issue, I have been constantly impressed by the solid resolve of all members to work together to fix this issue.
ln preparing our May 2019 report, I believe we all learned a great deal about the causes of homelessness and the range of solutions already put into action by key national veterans advocacy organizations. During committee, we had the chance to learn from representatives of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, VETS Canada, the Old Brewery Mission and the Royal Canadian Legion, among others, all of which retain a clear understanding of which types of veterans are most at risk.
All 22 committee witnesses have made this issue visible. They have all collected and evaluated statistics, as well as on-the-ground narratives from our veterans. They have also brought best practices for solution-building into focus by sharing clear recommendations stemming from the successes of the various trial programs or initiatives their organizations have undertaken across the country.
ln terms of general statistics, we were confronted with the reality that approximately 3,000 to 5,000 veterans are currently affected by homelessness. My riding has one of the highest populations of veterans across the country, with an estimated 3,067 veterans in total residing in the Bay of Quinte. That is nearly the same amount as the lowest threshold estimate for veterans who are homeless.
The information was made available by the homeless individuals and families information system. Each committee witness has been invaluable in clarifying the scope of the issue, bringing to light the frequency of shelter use, the typical characteristics representative of veterans identified as homeless or with a lack of stable housing and the recurring nature of this issue.
We were also presented with evidence that echoed the study findings forward in the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health or the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, all of which indicate a direct correlation between difficulty transitioning into post-service life or adapting to civilian society, and instability of housing.
We saw that experiences of homelessness and lack of stable housing situations typically occur about 10 years after active service, that a variety of personal situations or triggers can place veterans more at risk for housing instability and that female or indigenous veterans represent much higher instances of shelter use than other veterans. The need to pursue a housing-first approach which is adaptive and can offer personalized supports, peer guidance, as well as direct access to necessary resources has been reaffirmed by nearly all the committee witnesses as the most effective type of solution. I firmly believe this recommendation must be addressed by the Government of Canada as soon as possible.
The observations shared with the committee on the reality of veterans' experiences of homelessness or lack of stable housing stood out to all of us as something that we can fix together. Motion No. 225 recognizes that the federal government has now reached a turning point. We have the data we need and it is time to act on it. The work already done by all of our key committee witnesses and the willingness of veterans to keep lines of communication open with us is what makes proceeding with Motion No. 225 possible. With all the information at our disposal now, we must get passed triage and head toward a long-term treatment for this issue.
As a quick overview, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's veterans administration supportive housing program is a collaborative program offered by HUD and Veterans Affairs. This program combines housing vouchers with VA support services to help homeless veterans and their families find and retain permanent housing. Using the capacity of public housing authorities, the program provides rental assistance vouchers for privately owned housing to veterans who are eligible for VA health care services and who are experiencing homelessness. VA case managers can direct these veterans to support services that address their unique health needs, treatments and recovery processes. As a result, veterans are best positioned to maintain housing and support within their community.
The American program focuses on veterans who have experienced long-term or recurring episodes of homelessness. If we adopt Motion No. 225, we can build a similar program that further reinforces VAC's work to simplify and deliver the highest calibre of services and programs to our veterans and their families. VAC continues to define “well-being” as a multi-layered and personal experience and recognizes seven domains of well-being, which are employment or meaningful purpose; financial security; health; life skills and preparedness; social integration; cultural and social environment; and housing and physical environment.
At the end of the day, VAC can offer the very best training, education benefits, employment tools or resources possible, but without a home, how can we expect our veterans and their families to access those services or truly enjoy post-service life altogether? Motion No. 225 would help us make sure that the best foundation for cultivating personal well-being is firmly in place for our veterans.
There are already some incredible housing initiatives in place and new projects under way across the country which address as many of these domains as possible. ln particular, the strategies used by each of the organizations operating sites like Mainstay Housing in Toronto, Cockrell House in B.C. and soon Veterans' House here in Ottawa remind us of the importance of bringing peer-to-peer support for veterans experiencing homelessness to the forefront of our solutions.
In my own constituency office, having hired a veteran to address VAC casework, I have seen this principle in action first-hand. The positive impact that he has had on all our veterans clientele has been significant. Skip Simpson's capacity to guide veterans and their families on a full range of department services, local supports offered by advocate agencies or organizations has been instrumental in assisting veterans all across the Bay of Quinte.
Veterans who reach out to my constituency office are immediately relayed to Skip. Where necessary, he can assist with initiating or assessing status updates on Veterans Affairs Canada cases. Working alongside VAC caseworkers, Skip provides guidance and acts as a liaison throughout this process.
What I have learned from reviewing the feedback of Skip's work is that no matter how big or small the issue is, veterans are always pleased to speak with a peer who understands the nuances of their experiences. Getting veterans and their families their own walls, windows and doors is one thing; providing the satisfaction of an understanding peer community is also something that we should consider as part of this process.
There are numerous other examples of initiatives that l am not citing here which have made sure that veterans experiencing homelessness or lack of stable housing receive this type of model of service that draws from a peer-to-peer and personal support network approach.
The success of these initiatives shows us that focusing on the stability of housing is just as important as cultivating a strong sense of community to accompany it. Again, drawing from the American program's design, we know that the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, VETS Canada, the Old Brewery Mission and the Royal Canadian Legion already have a clear understanding of which types of veterans are most at risk of experiencing housing instability or homelessness.
Every year, approximately 5,550 CAF members are released from duty. Of this number, approximately 1,500 are medically released from duty. If veterans know they can connect with someone who understands their situation and can receive direction to appropriate resources and contacts from a trusted member of their community, they will feel more secure in reaching out, especially when there are sensitive personal circumstances involved.
Given that most of these organizations are led by or employ veterans, these organizations do understand how to build and maintain trust with our most vulnerable veterans across delivery of support services. These organizations have already dedicated a lot of time and effort to make sure that the full reality of a veteran's experience is taken into account.
These organizations already understand the roles, norms and language of our service community, and their staff work incredibly hard to ensure a consistent level of support when our veterans come in with questions or concerns.
If directly paired with VAC's case management services through a housing benefit delivered under the national housing strategy, a direct partnership with these organizations will accelerate the Government of Canada's ability to resolve and eliminate homelessness among Canadian veterans in the future.
Here, I would like to point out that this motion is not about duplicating or bypassing the department's caseworkers, but about providing the most personalized housing supports possible to a veteran. When this is in place, and with the department's assistance, our veterans will be better equipped to focus on accessing VAC supports or services for themselves and their family.
I firmly believe that these organizations' expertise in forming bonds of trust with our veterans is something that we need to reinforce and draw from as we move towards building a Canadian program similar to the U.S. veterans housing program. Harnessing this capacity will help us provide the most efficient and customized guidance to veterans, especially those most at risk of experiencing challenges to post-service transitions, and proceed directly to offer the casework that best fits their situation once the most essential foundation, a home, is in place.
If the House adopts this motion and moves towards development of a national veterans housing benefit, the Government of Canada would be better able to provide veterans and their families an enduring foundation by which they can access the full range of department services or local supports offered by advocate agencies and organizations. By harnessing the capacity and expertise of our on-the-ground partner organizations that serve veterans most at risk of, or are currently experiencing homelessness, we will also be better equipped to deliver a customized review of all the issues present within the given scenario, and reinforce continuity of contact between veterans and their VAC caseworkers, peers and their personal support networks.
I firmly believe that the Government of Canada has everything to gain by setting a clear timeline for meeting the goal of Motion No. 225. There are no reasons why eliminating homelessness among our Canadian veterans cannot be achieved. We can and we must do more. Therefore, I kindly request that all hon. members of the House support Motion No. 225 and push us even closer to that goal for 2025.
At this time I would like to move an amendment to my motion. I move that, in the opinion of the House, the government should (a) set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, co-led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a national veterans housing benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development veterans administration supportive housing, HUD-VASH, program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the national housing strategy.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2019-06-11 17:50 [p.28946]
Mr. Speaker, as this session comes to a close, I cannot think of a better way to end my first term as the member of Parliament for Yorkton—Melville than to rise and speak to our veterans community on issues that so deeply impact veterans' quality of life following service and their sense of being valued and appreciated by Canadians.
I am humbled and grateful that I have had the privilege of serving as deputy shadow minister of Veterans Affairs and also on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for these four years.
In that time, individual veterans and veterans organizations have reached out to me through committee, social media groups, emails and face-to-face meetings at round tables and town halls as I travelled across Canada and then over to France to celebrate Canada's Hundred Days. The time I spent with the veterans who travelled with us was very precious. They have also reached out to me by getting together informally at restaurants and in homes.
What I have appreciated more than anything is how patient veterans have been with me while reminiscing, documenting experiences and providing their perspectives on how things could be done so much better than they are.
I am sure members can appreciate that veterans do not tend to sugar-coat the issues. They are pretty direct. They speak very frankly and passionately. I am not surprised or, quite honestly, offended by the intensity they sometimes express. After all, they have been trained to be intense, to fight against injustice and to fight for us.
Long overdue is the government's recognition of duty of care implied in the promise that whatever happens when enlisting, the government will take care of veterans and their families. The recommendations on transition, mental health, homelessness, medicinal cannabis, abuse of mefloquine as an anti-malarial drug and financial support for the treatment of physical and mental repercussions of war, just to name a few, are reasonable and achievable.
Motion No. 255 provides the opportunity for the Government of Canada to respond to veterans' recommendations on the need and the possibility to end veterans homelessness in Canada: first, by setting a clear target for eliminating homelessness among Canadian veterans; second, by maximizing Veterans Affairs Canada's capacity to deliver key benefits; and, third, by co-partnering with national veterans organizations to employ their existing capacity, peer-to-peer networks and bonds of trust established with veterans in order to accelerate the delivery of this program nationally.
Truly, these organizations have such a capacity already. They have good peer-to-peer relationships and they have bonds of trust that come through the relationships they have among themselves with veterans. Therefore, their role in this is very significant. It is undeniable that the level of bureaucracy and the long-standing culture of mistrust and denial within VAC needs to be purged.
There is no question that this uneven playing field has added much frustration to an already challenging life change for our veterans. Quite often, mental illness, family dysfunction, physical pain and suffering, suicides and homelessness have been increased as a result of their frustrations in trying to work with VAC.
To ensure opportunities for the government to respond, I have heard the following from veterans' advocates. They feel that the role of VAC should be mandated in three ways.
First is to provide sufficient funding for clearly delineated, simple, efficiently administered programs of care for injury and lifetime benefits, with the benefit of the doubt going to the veteran and his or her family.
Second is that beginning with enlistment and throughout their service, VAC must facilitate future veterans and their families in choosing and implementing their own path for life beyond service, in other words, for VAC to be involved early in the beginning stages of the veterans' service and be there to facilitate and encourage them to realize that they can make decisions to determine in advance their own paths once their service ends and that they can have a lot of understanding before they face that very difficult time when they no longer serve.
Finally, VAC should identify and support veteran and community organizations that veterans and their families can access for delivery of services. In polite terms, affirm, enable and empower those organizations to do what they do best, and the things they do best that VAC would be better giving them the responsibility for.
I was honoured to represent my Conservative caucus at the press conference announcing Motion No. 225 on veterans homelessness in Canada. There are very good elements in this motion put forward by this government. However, as the member mentioned, because of the lateness of its introduction, we are now days away from this session ending. Therefore, it is only a first step. It is a motion that will depend on the next government to implement.
I was very pleased to also recognize at that press conference the role of Tim Richter with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, Dave Gordon and Ray McIinnis with the Royal Canadian Legion, Matthew Pearce with the Old Brewery Mission, and Jim and Debbie Lowther with VETS Canada, for their involvement in the making of that announcement. Truly, they were very pleased to see a focus on homelessness going forward from our government.
Along with other veteran and community organizations, they are the heart, hands and feet that advocate for and work directly with veterans and their families. They successfully implement the quality of care that our veterans deserve and need. They are all unique in their approach and provide a variety of options for services that tackle many issues, including veterans homelessness.
For example, VETS Canada has opened up a care centre five blocks from where I live. In the course of its first year, it has serviced 365 different veterans with emergency needs, and it has done it without any direct funding from VAC.
ln testimony at our committee on the study of veterans homelessness, they all had excellent contributions. I would encourage all veterans and people who are viewing today to take a look at the study from the veterans affairs committee on homelessness and listen to what they had to say.
I can focus on only one veteran today, and so I am going to talk about Tim Richter. He is the president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. I would like to share some of his recommendations. He has solid experience in preventing and ending homelessness, including experience in developing housing programs for homeless vets. He also served for just over six years in the Canadian Forces and is a Veterans Affairs client. Clearly, he is capable and well positioned for this. Veterans homelessness is a concern that is very close to his heart, and he is rightly pleased to see us working together on an initiative. He said, “The first [thing] is that veterans homelessness in Canada is readily solvable. The number of homeless veterans in Canada is relatively small. It's unknown, but it's relatively small. We know what to do and we know how to do it.”
He went on to say, “We have a strong veterans network. We have solid expertise in communities like Homes for Heroes. We have proven models to follow, and I think we have strong public support.”
I can affirm that they certainly do. He continued with, “What's missing is federal leadership and decisive action. We need a federal government prepared to make a clear and unequivocal commitment to ending veterans homelessness and to invest the fairly modest additional resources needed to get the job done.”
Ending veterans homelessness is possible if government does its part, and, in doing its part, realizes that there are others, not politicians, not public service employees, but others who have served or are dialed in to assist veterans on the ground where and how they need it most. There are people available to be the feet, the hands and the hearts of this particular focus to end homelessness.
To quote Tim one more time, “We know what to do and we know how to do it.”
Following October 21, 2019, the incoming government will do its part to enable and work with stakeholder communities and organizations to ensure that every veteran has a home.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-06-07 11:41 [p.28753]
Madam Speaker, the veterans' hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, was transferred from the federal government to the Government of Quebec in 2016.
Unfortunately, under this Liberal government, the quality of care has gone downhill, forcing very elderly veterans to take legal action to get the services they were promised at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.
Why are the Liberals once again abandoning our veterans?
View Serge Cormier Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Serge Cormier Profile
2019-06-07 11:42 [p.28753]
Madam Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague on his excellent French.
We are committed to supporting veterans in long-term care facilities across Canada by keeping them close to home and to their loved ones.
We are proud to provide financial support to over 5,000 veterans who are currently receiving care in one of the 1,300 provincial facilities we partner with.
Since this matter is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-06-07 11:43 [p.28753]
Madam Speaker, what is inappropriate is for the Liberal government to ignore our veterans a day after we celebrated their win over tyranny in World War II, veterans like Wolf Solkin, who is the lead veteran at the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue hospital. He and his friends were the veterans who secured the democracy we have today. He is standing up for his fellow veterans at Ste. Anne's to ensure that they have the same level and quality of service and treatment that they had before the transfer in 2016. We can celebrate our veterans, and both sides respect that, but only this side can make it right.
When will the government commit to fixing the situation at Ste. Anne's?
View Serge Cormier Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Serge Cormier Profile
2019-06-07 11:43 [p.28753]
Madam Speaker, as I said, since this matter is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.
I find it very distressing to hear a Conservative member saying that we are not taking care of our veterans when the Conservatives made billions of dollars in cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence, closed Veterans Affairs offices and laid off staff who processed claims.
We have invested over $10 billion in our veterans. We will always be there for our veterans to support them and to make sure they get the care they need.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague sits on the immigration committee, and she made comments in her speech about some of the immigration sections that were kind of snuck into this large omnibus budget bill. I would like to ask her about one aspect of those changes.
One thing I hear from people I talk to about immigration, whether I am in Brampton, in my own riding or in other parts of the country, is concern about shoddy immigration consultants. I know that my colleagues from Brampton North and Brampton West just love it when I visit their ridings.
When people receive advice from shoddy immigration consultants, there is a concern about the impact that has on their lives if they act on that advice and it has negative consequences for them.
There is some discussion in the budget about changing the process of regulation, but what we heard at committee was that those changes really are a rebranding of an existing body and that there are some big gaps there that I think the opposition members share concerns about.
I wonder if the member can talk a little more about the failure of the government to actually address this issue of shoddy advice from some immigration consultants.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2019-06-04 20:55 [p.28548]
Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. Our committee on immigration actually studied this issue at length. It is the only study that produced a report where all parties unanimously supported the recommendations.
There was a recommendation to say that there needs to be government regulation of consultants in the immigration sector and that the time for self-regulation has come to an end, precisely because of the many problems that exist. People are ripped off, and they have no recourse. They are afraid to go forward with a complaint, because they are afraid it will impact their immigration application process, yet the government refused to accept the recommendation from the committee. It was a unanimous recommendation.
The government has now jammed into the budget bill this new regulatory process. It basically used the same people who had been doing this work, gave it a new name as a college, expanded its powers and said, “Here you go.”
I fear that this is not going to be sufficient to address the issue. I fear that the people who are going to be hurt are the very people who need the government to take action to protect them.
View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-243. Although the bill was introduced here, in the House, it is actually a Senate initiative sponsored by Senator Percy Downe, for whom I have a great deal of respect. Back when I was the NDP finance critic, I had the pleasure of working with him on tax evasion issues. I know this issue is really important to him.
In the previous Parliament, the Standing Committee on Finance studied the tax gap, which is the difference between what the government does collect and what it should collect. That is money the government misses out on because of tax evasion, aggressive tax avoidance, the use of tax havens and so on.
I remember when the committee was debating it, we had witnesses from all over the world, including the United States, Great Britain and various European OECD countries, as well as Canadian experts. We heard from experts on taxation, banking and various organizations.
It became apparent that we needed to measure the tax gap. However, at the time, the Conservative government and the Conservative members of the committee had no interest in moving forward. They told us that it was impossible, that it would require too much work, and that any data we might gain from the whole exercise would not justify the resources required to see it through. I do not think that was true, and the Liberals who were on the committee at the time agreed.
However, as soon as they took office, the Liberals became reluctant to get the Canada Revenue Agency to be transparent and to start measuring the tax gap. Yes, they ended up doing it. Yes, the CRA is now doing some hasty calculations to try to tell us how much tax revenue is likely being lost.
However, most stakeholders do not believe the amount is accurate. As part of a review of all tax measures, the CRA claimed that the government is currently losing about $7 billion or $8 billion in tax revenue. Most tax fairness organizations do not believe that. The Conference Board of Canada even conducted a study on measuring the tax gap, which found that it may actually be closer to $45 billion or $47 billion, if we rely mainly on how much tax revenue is currently being lost by the United States, which I would remind members has a lot more resources to deal with this issue than the CRA does.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer now has the authorization, power and desire to measure the tax gap. For two years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and his office were asking for authorization to proceed with an accurate measurement of the tax gap. For two years, the Liberal government refused to give them the information they needed. For two years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer did not have the information needed to proceed with this important study, a matter on which the CRA has no credibility, and yet, the government claimed the whole time to support the office.
Here is why I believe the CRA has no credibility. During the entire time that I had to deal with the agency, all I saw was a lack of transparency. Not only did I find that they were unwilling to provide information, but I also observed that they were withholding it.
Not that long ago, at the beginning of this Parliament, I sat on the Standing Committee on Finance. Among other things, we studied the whole scheme involving KPMG and the Isle of Man. After a handful of committee meetings, we were no longer allowed to examine the processes that KPMG had been involved in.
When CRA representatives testified before the committee, they gave every possible excuse for not providing the information. They told us that it would breach confidentiality, that privacy could be at risk and that it could not give us information that KPMG deemed to be privileged. There was every reason to deny us the information, but none of them were valid.
We could have done what the U.S. usually does, which, in the case of KPMG, was to use the committee's authority to issue subpoenas requesting that KPMG officials testify and compelling them to do so.
Both the Canada Revenue Agency and its minister had a hand in that.
The minister does not have much credibility. Throughout this Parliament, she repeatedly told us that the government and the Canada Revenue Agency had taken steps, but that turns out not to be the case.
For example, the minister repeatedly said that the government invested $1 billion to fight tax evasion and had recovered $25 billion, but that turned out not to be true. The government did not recover $25 billion; it hoped to recover $25 billion. As it turns out, “hope to recover” is exactly right because the government is far from hitting that target at the moment. Then the minister said the government really had taken the necessary measures and that CRA had hired 1,300 new auditors. Well, we did the math, and so did the media, and we figured out that CRA hired 192 new auditors, not 1,300.
The Canada Revenue Agency told us that it answers 90% of all calls within two minutes. The Auditor General begged to differ. The truth is that 34% of all callers actually get someone on the line, and a third of all callers are given incorrect information.
It is very hard to believe everything coming out of the Canada Revenue Agency. It is very hard to lend them credibility. That is why we need an independent study. I do not believe the numbers that the Canada Revenue Agency came up with in the course of its study of the so-called tax gap. I would have more confidence in the numbers from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, if he has access to the data that should be made accessible to him through this bill.
Percy Downe, the senator who introduced the bill, has a great deal of credibility in the area. He made this his pet issue and did not make a big spectacle out of it. He just wants to get to the bottom of this. He realizes that here in Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency is a problem.
The CRA's approach to collecting tax revenue across the country is problematic. The senator recognizes, as we do, that the CRA is acting arbitrarily. It changes its approach to collecting personal income tax depending on the individual's level of wealth. I am not making that up. It was in the Auditor General's 2018 report, which notes a lack of consistency in the CRA's collection processes.
Two different taxpayers will be treated in two different ways. That is not professional. It is unfair and perpetuates the perception that the CRA and the Government of Canada treat taxpayers differently based on their wealth or status.
This is a major problem because it indicates that this is a two-tiered system. In this system, the government will try to reach an out-of-court settlement with people who have the means to defend themselves. That is actually what we have seen. The government tries to resolve the situation by closing the file, because it will be too expensive to recover money from people who have the means to defend themselves. However, in the case of those who cannot defend themselves, the government takes quick action to recover the money.
We must standardize the way the agency does things and, above all, take away the Canada Revenue Agency's authority to assess the gap, because it will likely not do a very credible job. We must routinely ask the government to do its job, to exercise due diligence and to provide on a regular and ongoing basis the information requested by the Parliamentary Budget Officer to evaluate the tax gap.
That is why I am proud to support this bill.
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
CPC (AB)
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
2019-05-16 17:57 [p.27979]
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to be able to stand and speak on behalf the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge. He is a dear friend, and I believe that this is a very important piece of legislation that he is bringing forward here in the House. It is an honour to speak on it.
I would also like to thank Senator Percy Downe for introducing this bill in the Senate. It is a shame that the government plans to oppose it, but I hope government members will listen to all of the reasons that this bill makes sense for the government and for Canadians.
It is timely to be speaking about Bill S-243 now, as the majority of Canadians just finished filing their taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency. We also just found out that the Canada Revenue Agency wrote off $133 million owed by a single taxpayer.
CRA employees discussed the large writeoff in an internal memo in September of 2018, and the media reported on this memo in April. However, we do not know who the taxpayer is or whether it is a person or a corporation. We also do not know whether this writeoff is related to government subsidies, which is something Canadians should know.
The aim of this bill is to keep the CRA accountable for tax collection efforts. It would also require the CRA to report on the tax gap, which is the difference between taxes owing and taxes actually collected. The bill would also require the CRA to publish information on convictions for domestic and offshore tax evasion. Data shows that the offshore tax gap for the 2014 tax year was between $0.8 billion and $3 billion.
The CRA has published information about the tax gap related to the goods and services tax. In 2014, here the offshore tax gap was estimated to be about $4.9 billion. The CRA has also shared the domestic personal income tax gap for that same year, 2014, at $8.7 billion. In that one year, the money owed for the tax gap, which could have been as high as $16 billion, could have funded many programs or eased the tax burden for many Canadians.
Conservatives believe in making life more affordable for Canadians and in keeping taxes as low as possible to stimulate the economy. When the government loses a significant amount of money because of a tax gap, it means that taxes could be raised for the rest of us. This penalizes law-abiding Canadians.
I support Senator Downe's bill, which is sponsored by the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge here in the House, because it makes sense and makes the CRA and those Canadians not living up to their responsibility to pay taxes more accountable.
Some Canadians are concerned that reporting on the tax gap could threaten their privacy, but this bill balances the privacy of individuals with transparency and accountability for the CRA. The information would be reported to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, so its intent is not to name and shame average Canadians.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia all report on their tax gaps. These governments all indicate that they report this information because it helps their revenue departments understand how and why non-compliance occurs. This information is helpful to policy-makers, who can then make better-informed decisions about tax policy and also help the government better manage its resource allocation.
Canada should have this system. Mandating measurement of the tax gap ensures that future governments and parliaments have all of the information necessary to take action on the tax gap.
Many of us are aware that offshore tax evasion is a problem in Canada. Almost 1,000 Canadian taxpayers, including individuals, corporations and trusts, were named in the Panama papers three years ago.
The CRA told media last month that it had identified 894 taxpayers and had finished reviewing 525 of these cases, resulting in $14.9 million in federal taxes and penalties. This number will rise as audits continue.
Although the CRA told the media the amount of taxes assessed, it did not say how much of that money has actually been collected. Senator Downe's bill, if passed, would require the CRA to report that type of information to Canadians. As I mentioned before, this type of information would be incredibly helpful to our policy-makers. Many other countries use this information, and Canadians would be better served if our policy-makers also had this kind of information.
Most Canadians work hard all year and diligently file their taxes. These are honest people who would never attempt to cheat the government. However, we see wealthy Canadian individuals and corporations attempt to cheat the tax system all the time.
Tax money is used to fund services we enjoy, such as health care, transit and roads. The CRA should be able to say how much money it has collected as a result of the Panama papers. This is in the Canadian public interest.
Similarly, it should be allowed and able to tell us why $133 million was written off for a single taxpayer. That money could provide significant funding for public services, and Canadians deserve to know why this taxpayer or corporation received special treatment while the rest of us diligently work to pay our fair share.
I have had many constituents complain about dealings with the CRA, including poor levels of service or the agency repeatedly requesting documentation that has already been provided to a different branch. The Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman, which operates at arm's length from the CRA, has experienced an increase in complaints over the last few years. In 2017, the taxpayers' ombudsman said the biggest complaints were: first, the struggle to even get through to the CRA call centre, which can be a huge headache, especially around tax time. Other complaints included receiving inconsistent and incorrect information from the call centre agent and the lack of information sharing between different branches of the CRA. Many Canadians have been asked to produce the same information or documents more than once, because the person's file was not properly shared between departments.
The taxpayers' ombudsman called these problems “systemic” and said there are other deeply rooted problems. The CRA acknowledges that it needs to do more to better serve Canadians, and representatives from the agency will be travelling across Canada over the next month to conduct in-person consultations on how the CRA can improve its services. I have no doubt they will receive plenty of feedback. I am hopeful that the CRA will take this feedback and then implement it to create a better-run system, which Canadians deserve.
I know it is not just the CRA that has these problems. A recent Auditor General report found that other government departments, including immigration, employment insurance and the Canada pension plan, did not answer their phones for the millions of Canadians who called them in 2017 and 2018. It is obvious the government needs to make huge improvements to give Canadians the accessible service they require and deserve.
I hope these consultations by the CRA are fruitful and we will see a service improvement in the near future. I know how seriously Canadians take the CRA, except for wealthy Canadians who keep their money in offshore accounts without thinking of the consequences. For many Canadians, getting a letter from the CRA is anxiety-inducing, and dealing with audits and investigations can cause high levels of stress.
When Canadians owe the CRA money, most work to pay that money back, whether it is through installments or a lump sum payment. Most people would not dream of running out on the bill, so to speak, so they should not be unfairly penalized when corporations and wealthy Canadians run out on their tax obligations.
If this bill passes, it means increased accountability for the CRA, which is in the best interests of taxpayers. The changes proposed in this bill require the CRA to report on all convictions for tax evasion in addition to reporting the tax gap, as I mentioned earlier. This data would be reported to the Minister of National Revenue in the CRA's annual report, which is tabled in Parliament. The Minister of National Revenue is also required to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with data to calculate the tax gap.
These amendments, which would be inexpensive to implement, would increase transparency, which the government allegedly values. Publicly available reports on the gap between income taxes owed and taxes collected will provide a metric for judging the efficacy of measures to combat income tax evasion. This is important information for Canadians to have access to. Many other western nations publicly post this information. Canada is already behind standard practice in this regard. Conservatives support any measures to enhance the effectiveness and accountability of the public service.
Bill S-243 is a common-sense amendment to the Canada Revenue Agency Act, and I support the amendments.
I thank Senator Downe for his work on this bill, and the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge for helping to get the bill through the House of Commons. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this bill today.
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
View Pat Kelly Profile
2019-05-16 18:24 [p.27983]
Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous honour and privilege to sponsor a bill in this place.
First, I want to acknowledge and thank Senator Percy Downe for his passion on this issue and for obtaining unanimous support in the other place for the bill and giving me the opportunity to sponsor it in the House.
I want to thank my dear friends, the member for Edmonton Riverbend and the member for Calgary Nose Hill, for their speeches tonight. I also want to thank my friend, the member for Calgary Shepard, who spoke in the first hour of debate on the bill, and indeed the other members who spoke in support of the bill, in particular the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who spoke tonight, and the member for Sherbrooke, who spoke in the first hour. I would also like to thank the members for Châteauguay—Lacolle and Winnipeg North as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, who also participated in the debate.
The bill would allow the Parliamentary Budget Officer to measure a problem that all parties acknowledge exists. As the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques noted, the Auditor General has repeatedly called out the Canada Revenue Agency for not treating Canadians the same way it treats those who file taxes offshore.
When he said that, I was reminded that the CRA, in its self-audit, believed that its call centre was operating just fine. It took a report from the Auditor General to reveal that it was a complete disaster. Without giving the Parliamentary Budget Officer the tools it has asked for, we are asking it, with the misleading information the CRA hands over, to be the final word on the scope and scale of this problem. That is not acceptable. It is not good enough. It is not good enough for Canadians, and it is really just more of the same.
I take exception to the parliamentary secretary castigating my motives as a Conservative in bringing forward, under Private Members' Business, the bill. As was pointed out by the member for Calgary Nose Hill, she essentially said, “Shame on the Conservatives”. Because we did not do this for the 10 years we were in government, she said we should be ashamed for saying that this is important, even as the Liberals plan to vote against the bill. Only a Liberal could say this and not understand the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of that position.
I was not part of the former Parliament. However, despite the previous government's incredible track record and that Canadians are now yearning for a return to a Conservative government, I am comfortable admitting that not every single problem under the sun was solved during the 10 years of the Conservative government. Tens years was not long enough to undo everything done by the previous Liberal government. It was not long enough to solve every problem in the world.
All speakers on the Liberal side claimed to support the motivation behind the bill and claimed to care about the problem it would solve, yet they came up with excuse after excuse, which is all we heard in the parliamentary secretary's speech, for why we should not pass it and should not bother. Shame on the Liberals if, as has been indicated to me by the minister, they reject the bill tonight.
Again, I want to thank Percy Downe for his advocacy on this and thank all members who participated in the debate on the bill.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2019-05-15 14:22 [p.27829]
Mr. Speaker, I trust I can speak for all members of this House when I say that this morning I was shocked and horrified by a recently released recording, broadcast by APTN news, of an RCMP officer questioning a young female indigenous sexual assault victim. Obviously, this line of questioning was appalling and insensitive to the young woman who was coming forward with her story.
I would like to ask the Minister of Public Safety if he could update the House as to what reviews he might be contemplating to ensure that this type of thing does not happen in the future.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2019-05-15 14:22 [p.27829]
Mr. Speaker, what was revealed in that video was absolutely abhorrent. The apparent attitudes and techniques that were on display in 2012 are profoundly outdated, offensive and wrong. The RCMP and all police forces must work continuously to conduct themselves appropriately. No survivors of sexual assault should ever fear that their cases will not be taken seriously or that they will be revictimized in the process.
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