April 2, 1998

?

An hon. member

On division.

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

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Shipping Act
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The House proceeded to consideration of Bill C-12, an Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.


LIB

Stéphane Dion

Liberal

Hon. Stéphane Dion (for the Solicitor General of Canada)

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

When shall this bill be read the third time? With leave of the House, now?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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LIB

Stéphane Dion

Liberal

Hon. Stéphane Dion (for the Solicitor General of Canada)

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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LIB

Nick Discepola

Liberal

Mr. Nick Discepola (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege to rise in this House in support of Bill C-12, an Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

This bill provides RCMP members serving abroad as peackeepers in special duty areas with medicare benefits and death benefits. This means they will be covered 24 hours a day in case of work-related disease, invalidity or death.

We need to pass this bill as soon as possible.

Like any other government employees, RCMP members are eligible for government benefits if they suffer from a work-related disability or injury or if they die as a result of a work-related accident.

Pursuant to existing agreements, there is a difference between work-related incidents and those that are not and that difference is usually easy to make: the work-related incidents are defined as occurring only during work shifts.

However, in some cases, the distinction we need to make between “during working hours” and “outside working hours” is not so clear.

Take, for instance, the RCMP members who are currently serving abroad as peacekeepers.

Pursuant to the Special Duty Area Pension Order, the governor in council can designate as special duty areas any geographic area outside Canada where peacekeepers may be exposed to hazardous conditions not normally associated with service in peacetime. These dangerous areas are called “special duty areas”.

The bill acknowledges that when RCMP peacekeepers are posted in special duty areas, they never really stop serving and running risks, even when their shift is over.

Under the current act, RCMP members who are injured while posted in a special duty area must prove their disability is directly related to their service or the performance of their duties.

When Canada started taking part in international peacekeeping missions and sending members of the armed forces to areas of armed conflict, it was acknowledged that it would be unfair to oblige these individuals or their department to prove that injury or death was attributable to their work and occurred while the individual was on duty.

Under the Special Duty Area Pension Order, any injury, disease or disability sustained by a member of the Canadian Forces while on a peacekeeping mission in a special duty area is presumed to be directly related to the performance of his or her duties. In case of death, benefits are transferred to the victim's family.

Therefore, under this order, military personnel are considered to be on duty 24 hours a day for the purpose of employment- or service-related benefits. The order also acknowledges that the security of these people is always threatened.

However, in dangerous areas, even when serving side by side with Canadian Forces personnel, RCMP members are eligible for benefits only if the injury or disease occurs during a normally scheduled work shift.

RCMP personnel posted as peacekeepers in special duty areas are treated differently from their counterparts in the Canadian Forces, even though they face the same risks and circumstances.

At the present time, for instance, members of both forces are deployed in Haiti and the former Yugoslavia , which have both been declared special duty areas.

Under the Special Duty Area Pension Order, members of the Canadian Forces are considered to be on duty around the clock, if injuries, illness or fatalities occur.

On the other hand, RCMP personnel are considered to be on duty only during their shift. In keeping with the purest tradition of the RCMP, its members sought out this type of mission and volunteered for it. In so doing, they are perpetuating a tradition of which Canadians are proud, and one which has earned them their international reputation as major contributors to world peace and security.

Canada has an obligation to ensure that these courageous women and men, as well as their family members, are eligible for the same benefits as their Canadian Forces counterparts.

The purpose of today's bill is to remedy this abnormal situation.

I also wish to note that in addition to disability benefits, Canadian forces peacekeepers who are injured or taken ill while serving in special duty areas are entitled to the benefits provided under the veterans independence program. This program provides funds for services necessary to maintain a member in his or her own home as an alternative to institutional care. This includes housekeeping services and modifications to accommodate wheelchair access in a member's residence.

These special pension benefits take into account the increased risk associated with peacekeeping duties. The amended legislation will extend the same kind of program benefits to disabled RCMP peacekeepers.

This legislation reflects the changing role of peacekeeping in general. Adding to their traditional role as an arbiter of conflict, peacekeepers are now contributing to the broader reconstruction of society, the peace building phase that follows a peaceful settlement.

Through the volunteered services of RCMP peacekeepers, Canada has provided what many countries need most to sustain peace: respect for democratic tradition and a method for enforcing the rule of law. A troubled country may be able to build on the traditions and expertise demonstrated by the RCMP and Canadian forces peacekeepers to establish a new respect for law enforcement and respect for the law itself.

Passing this bill is the best and fairest action we can take. I am sure I speak for all members of this House in wishing that no Canadian peacekeeper, whether a member of the RCMP or a member of the armed forces, will ever need to use health insurance benefits, disability insurance or death benefits as the result of a mission to a special service area.

If such a need should ever arise, however, it would be only fair for RCMP members to benefit from the same extra protection, as provided in this bill for themselves and their family members.

I believe all members of this House recognize the importance, as far as equity is concerned, of the amendments being proposed to the RCMP pension plan.

I trust that I shall be able to count on the support of all the political parties in this House to ensure that this important bill is passed promptly.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, Employment; the hon. member for Crowfoot, Violence against women.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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REF

Howard Hilstrom

Reform

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-12.

I happen to have been a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when we were sending members over to dangerous situations in foreign countries. Bosnia and Namibia come to mind. At that time we survived on the good graces of the solicitor general and the government in that if something did happen to one of us while we were over there, the government would stand behind us and our families.

I and my party certainly support Bill C-12. It will ensure that members of the force and their families are taken care of in the event of a tragedy.

We can certainly look at the performance and the service the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has provided to Canada since 1873. This year is the 125th anniversary. The service overseas in foreign countries, the latest one being Haiti, is a good example of the dedication these men and women from every province provide in serving their country.

Today there has been a lot of talk about Quebec and the Northwest Territories. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is well positioned and very prominent in those provinces in enforcing federal statutes.

There are no problems with Bill C-12 itself. There are some issues surrounding the peacekeeping and peacemaking role which Canada has assumed. For the members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, there is always the question if they are injured or hurt whether or not the compensation will come automatically through the pension and benefit scheme, or whether they will have to fight for the rights and the benefits if some disagreement arises. This was raised earlier.

The member, the member's estate or the family must receive a commitment from the government that it will pay the family to hire their own lawyer as opposed to being appointed one by the Canada pensions benefit scheme. A lawyer who was appointed would obviously have a conflict of interest in whether he takes the government's side or the member's side. That is definitely a concern.

Another issue which has been of concern is very evident in the case of Haiti. Our Canadian military pulled out of that country by agreement. Our policemen were left there. The question was whether or not they had adequate medical services after the Canadian military left. I raised this in question period but I did not get a satisfactory answer. There is no doubt the health services officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police did go to Haiti. I believe the RCMP will ensure that the government does provide proper care for its members.

There is also the problem of members being exposed to strange diseases or chemicals. We have seen this happen in countries that harbour those kinds of weapons. There is concern that these members be taken care for their lifetime. Perhaps this falls under the policy but I would have to look further into the pension act. I raise this to indicate everything is not as simple as a policeman going to a foreign country, coming back home and expecting everything to be all right.

There is another point the government did not mention today. There are police officers from non-RCMP forces such as city police forces, and provincial forces from Ontario and Quebec going to foreign countries. During our committee hearings we did not have anyone attend from these police forces or provincial governments to indicate whether or not those officers would have adequate benefits, for example compensation and medical care, if they were injured or killed.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are being taken care of but I do question whether police from the city of Toronto for example have medical benefit coverage for 24 hours a day. The government would be wise to look at this issue. When a city police officer is asked to go to a foreign country, the issue of health benefits should be discussed to avoid the government being sued in order that non-RCMP officers can get compensation.

When a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police goes overseas to one of the specially designated areas, the RCMP detachment from which he came is left with a vacant position. There is no backfilling of the position for the period the peacekeeper is away, which is usually six months. It causes a problem in the community which is short an officer for that length of time.

There is special funding available under the peacekeeping initiatives. The RCMP is being paid from government funds for the cost of the member while he is on peacekeeping duties. The question I have for the government is if the position is empty, is the budget still receiving the money for that officer's salary and benefits?

This is not a problem for the RCMP. I raise it for the government to clarify that the Canadian taxpayer is not paying for that position twice, once through the peacekeeping initiative and again through the budget of the RCMP.

There have been occasions in the past when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was able to leave positions open in a provincial contract. The way it is worked out financially, there is a cost saving. It saves the province money and it saves money in the RCMP's budget. This helps it come in on budget or a little under budget, and it certainly is good for the commanding officer when he can show the government that we was able to save money in a given year.

The primary thing in Bill C-12 and for our communities in Canada is the safety of the members who are overseas and compensation if they are injured in dangerous situations. That is the paramount issue. For the people at home, the paramount issue is that we maintain safety and security at a reasonable cost.

I would like to close by commenting once again on what a tremendous job the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other city police forces have done over the years. I wish them well as they continue with further peacekeeping missions in the future.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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BQ

Hélène Alarie

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12. I will use the time I have today to explain to the House why the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill.

Bill C-12 would make members of the RCMP eligible for benefits under the Pension Act. We want members of the RCMP serving abroad to have the same benefits as their counterparts in the armed forces in the event of illness, injury or death.

First, I want to salute the men and women who work as peacekeepers in a sometimes very unstable world. The international community must show solidarity in the face of armed conflicts, famines, droughts and all the other critical situations that exist in the world today.

It is in this spirit of co-operation that we frequently send contingents abroad to lend a helping hand on a temporary basis. Year after year, countries like Haiti, Bosnia and Uganda are added to the list of nations that need our help. As a member of the international community, Canada must respond to these urgent calls for help.

Members of the RCMP have played an active role in peacekeeping missions. Many Canadians and Quebeckers have rolled up their sleeves and offered their help to the countries most in need of it. These men and women have crossed oceans to share their knowledge, their experience and their hope that they can bring peace to this planet.

On a few occasions, the RCMP has been given the difficult task of helping set up an entire police force. The day after the fall of the Duvalier regime, for example, it was necessary to restore Haiti's self-confidence, and this meant building an effective police force.

Quebec and Canada therefore responded to the invitation that went out to them. We have sent our soldiers and our police officers all over the world in order to provide substantial assistance with a number of problems. These countries are grateful to us. Diplomats and ministers are exchanging compliments. Government representatives are proud, sometimes rightly so, that their assistance has been beneficial.

But what about those who go to these countries? What about the soldiers and police officers who risk their lives to make these missions a success? Are we treating them fairly? Are we providing them with proper recognition of their work which, let us be honest, is the reason we have such a good reputation within the international community?

As I have already mentioned, it is all very fine and well to rise in the House and make ministerial statements in support of people setting off overseas, but I also think it would be good for RCMP members to feel supported economically.

This is where Bill C-12 comes in. It tries to address a certain unfairness in the distribution of employee benefits. We realized there was a difference in the levels of pay of members of the RCMP serving on peacekeeping missions and members of the Canadian armed forces serving as peacekeepers on similar missions.

The inequality arises from the fact that the Pension Act currently provides for payment of an allowance in the event of disability or death relating to service in the armed forces. While they are eligible for the same benefits as the armed forces in peace time, the members of the RCMP are not, by definition, entitled to benefits under the Special Duty Area Pension Order.

So, members of the RCMP are not entitled to the same benefits as the people they are working with—the members of the armed forces. This salary difference remained, despite the fact that they are both exposed to the dangers of the special duty areas.

Bill C-12 clearly tries to remedy this anomaly. In fact, by changing section 32(1) in part II of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, the bill remedies the inequality that had existed up to now.

This amendment will provide for a pension to be awarded in accordance with the Pension Act to a member of the RCMP who is disabled or dies as a result of an injury or disease incurred while serving on a peacekeeping mission in a special duty area.

The expression “service on a peacekeeping mission” would not be defined so as not to be limited in the application of the law. A broad interpretation would enable us to apply new provisions, not only to traditional UN peacekeeping missions, but to other duties as well, such as supervising free elections held in special duty areas.

In the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights we had an opportunity to hear a number of witnesses concerned about the changes proposed by Bill C-12. Whether it was Deputy Commissioner David Cleveland, director of RCMP human resources or Staff Sergeant Gaétan Delisle, the president of the association of the members of the RCMP, everyone agreed that the bill corrected injustices concerning the health and safety measures enjoyed by the military, but not the RCMP.

During committee deliberations, we had the opportunity to ask a number of questions of the various representatives. Like most parliamentarians, I agree with the measures put forward in Bill C-12. I took the opportunity to thank the witnesses, who, in their testimony, shared with us what they go through on foreign missions. At the same time, this was an opportunity to find out what kind of support they expected from their government.

In debating Bill C-12, we must bear one thing in mind: parity. This is the purpose of the bill. It is designed to remedy imbalances in the operation of the pension schemes. Basically, the intent of the bill can be summed up as the same coverage for the same risks.

In the future, RCMP and Canadian Forces members will be able to say that they serve under the same conditions with the same benefits.

However, as the members of this House are about to vote in favour of Bill C-12, I must ask them this: once this bill is passed, will we be able to say that any and everyone serving in special duty areas has a pension? In other words, is anyone who falls ill, is injured or killed in a peacekeeping operation eligible for benefits under the Superannuation Act?

Let us not forget that there are police forces besides the RCMP that participate in peacekeeping operations. For instance, municipal police forces in Quebec were actively involved in the training of police in Haiti. For them and for their counterparts in the RCMP and the Canadian Forces, there was a risk involved in accepting to help these communities. In fact, I suggest that parity requires that individuals serving abroad, whether RCMP, military or municipal police, be entitled to the same benefits.

During the hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, RCMP officials expressed their view on the case of the municipal police officers who work abroad under the same conditions as their members.

Mr. Cleveland, the RCMP's director of human resources, stated that it was not his intention to have Bill C-12 apply to municipal police officers, since they are not federal employees, unlike RCMP officers. No one can refute that statement. I think we all agree that municipal police officers are not members of the federal public service. However, based on the wording of the RCMP Act, municipal police officers serving in special duty areas could be considered as RCMP officers and thus enjoy the benefits provided under Bill C-12, to ensure equal treatment.

In this regard, I would like to submit to the attention of the House section 7(1)(d) of the RCMP Act, which reads as follows “The Commissioner—designate any member, any supernumerary special constable appointed under this subsection or any temporary employee employed under subsection 10(2) as a peace officer”.

As for subsection 10(2), it provides that “The Commissioner may employ such number of temporary civilian employees at such remuneration and on such other terms and conditions as are prescribed by the Treasury Board, and may at any time dismiss or discharge any such employee”.

Therefore, what prevents the RCMP Commissioner from appointing municipal police officers, so that they are temporarily deemed to be RCMP officers during peacekeeping missions? Municipal police officers could then enjoy the benefits provided under Bill C-12. Far from being farfetched, this proposal would allow all those who take part in peacekeeping missions abroad to enjoy the same benefits.

For the Bloc Quebecois, equal treatment implies that all those who participate in the important task of peacekeeping are treated equally. We think Bill C-12 meets our desire for fair treatment.

Still, we feel that a little goodwill on the part of those involved is all that is necessary to ensure that municipal police officers from Quebec—who do a tremendous job abroad—can also get their fair share.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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NDP

Angela Vautour

New Democratic Party

Ms. Angela Vautour (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on behalf of my party in support of Bill C-12, an act to amend the RCMP Superannuation Act.

The legislation gives members of the RCMP serving abroad as peacekeepers the same benefits as their counterparts in the armed forces in the event of illness, injury or death. It has been too long in coming.

While we support its passage at third reading, we hope that in future when we ask our young men and women to place their lives on the line for their country they will not have to worry about their benefits and our commitment to them.

We must recognize that when our peacekeepers are serving abroad in war zones, areas of civil strife or natural disaster they are on duty around the clock, putting their lives at risk for their country 24 hours a day.

Canada is respected around the world for its commitment to peace and as a leader in peacekeeping missions. We as representatives of the people must ensure that every measure is taken to give full support to our peacekeepers and their families both at home and abroad.

The legislation is intended to provide RCMP members who serve as peacekeepers the same health benefits as their counterparts in the armed forces. It is a step in the right direction and is only fair.

However, more must be done to recognize the service of our peacekeepers and the sacrifices they and their families make in the name of peace on behalf of all Canadians. The issue of equity for all those who serve Canada must be addressed both at home and abroad, particularly with respect to the RCMP that currently do not have the same collective bargaining rights as their brothers and sisters in other law enforcement agencies across the country.

We hear stories of members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families having to use food banks to sustain themselves. Men and women who put their lives on the line for their country and for peace around the world are forced to live in near poverty conditions when they return home to Canada.

Long expected raises for servicemen and women have been put on hold. This is in stark contrast to the Treasury Board decision to pay huge bonuses to an executive group of the public service averaging from $4,300 to $12,000, illustrating the government's bias in favour of the executive ranks while denying long, outstanding, legally required pay settlements to lower paid workers.

Recent history shows that the Canadian government will use its power against its own employees to take away rights and discriminate against low paid workers. In the name of fiscal restraint, the government has in the past passed legislation to take away employee bargaining rights, freeze wages and remove job security.

The slash and burn policies of the government jeopardize the lives of Canadians at home and abroad. Half of the military installations across Canada have been closed. Aircraft and equipment are being mothballed, services reduced and thousands of jobs lost in both the public and private sector.

This has been the impact of the Liberal government and demonstrates its lack of commitment not only to our peacekeepers but to all Canadians. It is timely to address these issues at a time when all Canadians are encouraged to reflect upon the great sacrifices made by all members of our services on behalf of Canada and peace around the world.

We support Bill C-12 and hope that it is the beginning of a renewed commitment to our peacekeepers and indeed to all Canadians, for the government has a very long way to go to restore equity and fairness to Canadians. We in the NDP will continue to fight to ensure that it does.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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PC

Peter MacKay

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased, as always, to rise in the House of Commons to pledge the support of the Progressive Conservative Party for Bill C-12.

My colleagues in the Conservative caucus and I support the legislation because it expands the scope of pension benefits for many courageous Canadians who presently serve or have previously served as peacekeepers throughout the world.

Specifically Bill C-12 would provide peacekeepers who are members of the RCMP with the same pension entitlements in the event of illness, injury or death as peacekeepers from the Canadian Armed Forces. The legislation in essence is long overdue.

If Bill C-12 is adopted, provisions of the RCMP Superannuation Act would correspond exactly to provisions of the Pension Act regarding coverage and benefits for injuries, illness or deaths incurred while on peacekeeping missions. RCMP peacekeepers would therefore be put on a level playing field with all Canadian forces counterparts.

Our position in the global community is unique since for the last 40 years Canada has built a proud tradition as peacekeepers in the world. Cyprus, Egypt, Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti are but a few of the countries where Canadian men and women have put their lives on the line to help preserve the cause of peace, proud Canadians all.

Indeed Canada has been at the forefront of developing and implementing modern peacekeeping operations in the world. This is due in no small part to the active involvement of thousands of members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Following the first 30 years of participating in peacekeeping nations and operations throughout the world the nature of Canada's peacekeeping changed. In 1989 RCMP officers were deployed to Namibia, the former southwest Africa, as it made its transition from the South African protectorate to an independent and democratic nation.

No longer would peacekeeping remain the sole domain of the Canadian forces. These brave men and women who will henceforth have support from their peacekeeping colleagues in the RCMP will continue to do Canada's work abroad.

Since 1989 more than 600 members of the RCMP have participated in United Nations missions to the former Yugoslavia, Haiti and Rwanda. I personally have had the pleasure of knowing a member who took part in such a mission. From the constituency of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, Guy Piché, a member of the Stellarton RCMP detachment and a dedicated officer, served his country proudly in Haiti.

The RCMP has successfully complemented the Canadian Armed Forces and their involvement in peacekeeping. By expanding upon the earlier successes of Canadian forces in many of the world's trouble spots, RCMP members have met the demand for peacekeepers in developing nations.

We should pause for a moment and reflect on what peacekeeping means. It is more than a buzzword. Peacekeeping means providing tools to developing countries to help support a stable and democratic government, namely an effective security force in place which will ensure and respect human rights and dignity.

RCMP members avail themselves to provide skill training in areas such as investigation, first aid and case management. They have also provided monitoring for individual officers and monitoring for development of civilian peace officers.

Finally peacekeeping includes maintaining a safe and secure environment in which developing peace forces can operate without fear of reprisals. The last element of peacekeeping is probably the most dangerous for those in the RCMP. Like their Canadian forces colleagues in the traditional peacekeeping settings, RCMP officers will face violent opposition to their presence in some instances. They will place themselves in harm's way because of warring factions. This is the ultimate in bravery in the fight against unruly forces.

United Nations and the bill define these peacekeeping locations as special area duties. The everyday reality is much more precise. These are deeply troubled areas in which Canadians are putting themselves at grave risk of injury, illness or death for the cause of peace.

For these reasons the intent of the legislation, to put Canadian forces and RCMP personnel on an equal footing with respect to the Pension Act, is certainly a positive one, which I feel should receive priority and attention from the House and from the Senate.

I should note, however, that the situation of imbalance between Canadian forces peacekeeping benefits and the RCMP peacekeeping benefits was neither planned nor deliberate. It occurred under the evolution of Canada's international military and security role during this century.

At the beginning of the 20th century there was no such thing as peacekeeping. Soldiers for the peacekeeping force were, merely by the absence of full scale war, doing their duty abroad. Such a war became a reality in the first world war in which Canada paid dearly with the price of the lives of many of the young generation of Canadians who took part.

In the wake of the first world war's carnage, the government of the Right Hon. Sir Robert Borden introduced the Pension Act, which provided compensation for disability and death related to service in Canadian forces. The Pension Act, however, maintained a fundamental distinction in the eligibility of benefits between wartime and peacetime military service. That distinction remained almost 80 years later.

Put simply, if an injury, illness or death was attributed to or incurred during the first or second world war, a pension shall be awarded under section 21 of the act. This was around the clock coverage. Peacetime service would result in the same benefit as wartime service, only if it could be established that the injury, illness or death was sustained on duty and attributed to service. The difference was clear. If there existed a state of war, 24 hour coverage was provided. However for anything less much stricter restrictions would apply.

After the second world war Canada continued to be involved in international military operations during peacetime such as in Korea and the Persian gulf. Canada also introduced and executed the innovative notion of peacekeeping which nonetheless placed Canadian forces personnel in hazardous conditions not normally associated with traditional peacekeeping service.

In response to that evolution, the federal government introduced the Appropriation Act No. 10, 1964. The bill then allowed cabinet, through order in council, to designate special duty areas outside Canada in which members of the armed forces would be eligible for the same pension benefits as under section 21 of the Pension Act.

In other words, there was 24 hour coverage for Canadian forces personnel in these special designated duty areas, whether in military operations such as in Korea or the Persian gulf or peacekeeping activities such as in the Middle East or the former Yugoslavia.

Various governments have issued more than two dozen such designations. Our Canadian forces personnel have therefore been eligible for pension benefits in the event of illness, injury or death incurred in these special duty areas.

The RCMP meanwhile have been eligible for the same pension benefits as those listed under section 21(2) of the Pension Act, but the illness, injury or death provisions incurred through peacetime military service was deemed to be equivalent to illness, injury or death entitlements for members of the RCMP.

The principle was confirmed under the RCMP Act in 1984 and confirmed in the first RCMP Superannuation Act in 1959. This was a logical provision for the domestic RCMP service. In an area such as Canada where peace is the rule, it makes perfectly good sense to link this type of pension eligibility to duty rather than to service.

Therefore in special duty areas peace is the exception and not the rule. That is why the federal government, I surmise, has changed the pension eligibility rules for Canadian forces personnel which were in effect for 30 years. I suspect that is why the federal government must now change the pension eligibility rules for RCMP personnel who are now very much an integral part of Canada's international commitment to peacekeeping.

This is the sole purpose behind Bill C-12. For the reasons I outlined, it is with pleasure that I pledge the support of the Conservative caucus in a very non-partisan way. I suspect that this will be of tremendous benefit to existing members of the RCMP and future generations who partake in this very noble duty abroad and within Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to follow the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. It must be a rare occasion when two members with the same name on opposite sides of the House support the same bill. I intend to split my time with the member for Waterloo—Wellington.

This is a very straightforward bill which will correct the inequalities that exist today between two groups of very noble Canadians, namely our peacekeepers and members of the RCMP. In particular, it will extend protection provided to RCMP members in the event of an injury, illness or even death connected to such service.

First let me explain the amendment and its importance to Canada and its international peacekeepers. Our Canadian peacekeepers serve in some of the most war torn areas of the world. They are highly skilled individuals who work to bring law and order to nations experiencing civil strife. While doing so Canadian peacekeepers live in danger 24 hours a day.

Canadians are justifiably proud of their peacekeepers and expect that they will receive the same kind of protection and benefits that properly reflect the conditions in which they work and live. The special duty area pension order recognizes the environment in which our peacekeepers serve.

Members of the Canadian forces are considered on duty 24 hours a day while serving in special duty areas. That means that should a member of the Canadian forces suffer an injury or illness or even die while serving in such an area, he or she automatically becomes entitled to the benefit under the Pension Act.

Unfortunately such cannot be said for members of the RCMP. At present 44 of their members are serving abroad in Bosnia or Haiti. They are only entitled to benefits under the Pension Act if the injury, illness or death occurs during their normally scheduled work shift. We had an anomaly with regard to two members serving in the same area, one an RCMP officer and the other an off duty soldier. If injured, one receives compensation and the other does not. It is not fair and it is not equitable.

Under the terms of the present act the onus is on the employee to prove the disability attributable to the employment or service. Since Canada first participated in international peacekeeping missions by sending members of the armed forces to areas of armed conflict, it was acknowledged that it would be unfair to oblige these individuals or their beneficiaries to prove that injury or death was attributable to their work. Whereas a member of the Canadian forces benefits from the presumption that the injury or loss of life occurred while serving in a special duty area and is attributable to his or her service, the onus unfortunately shifts to the member of the RCMP to prove his or her case.

The bill corrects that inequity. It solves the problem of the differences in treatment between members of the Canadian forces and the RCMP. It acknowledges that Canadian peacekeepers never stop serving and running a risk even when their shift is over. As I indicated earlier, we would have two individuals leaving the service area, going off duty, and in the same accident one member would be covered and the other would not be.

At the present time, for instance, members of both forces are on a mission in Bosnia, which has been declared a special duty area. In accordance with special duty area pension orders, members of the Canadian Armed Forces are considered to be on duty 24 hours a day with respect to injury, illness or death. Members of the RCMP, however, are considered to be on duty only during their shift and therefore are treated differently from military personnel participating in the same mission, even though they are enduring the same conditions and are exposed to the same dangers.

These special benefits take into account the increased risk associated with peacekeeping duties. The amendment will extend the same kind of program to disabled RCMP peacekeepers. The amendment reflects the changing role of peacekeeping and how Canada as a country, respected worldwide for its commitment to peacekeeping, has provided what many countries need most to sustain peace, a respect for the rule of law and a method of fairly enforcing the law.

We must remember that RCMP members participating in these peacekeeping missions are volunteers. They are highly dedicated individuals and highly skilled individuals who bring to their mission a great deal of talent and dedication. They are all volunteers and they all experience some level of risk. Their job is not an easy one. It is not without significant personal risk.

Therefore it is very important that RCMP members serving as peacekeepers be treated fairly and that their families can be confident in the adequacy of benefits to which they are entitled. The bill strives to do just that. It seeks equity for all Canadian peacekeepers, whether they are military or RCMP personnel.

In supporting this bill parliamentarians from all sides of the House will acknowledge the contributions of the RCMP as equal in value to that of their colleagues in the Canadian forces. It is good law. It corrects inequity and I hope all parties from all sides of the House will see fit to support it.

I am hoping this House will act quickly. There are at present 44 members of the RCMP serving abroad in areas of risk. We need to address that, and I am hoping all members will see fit to pass the legislation quickly.

Members of the RCMP currently serving their country in peacekeeping missions must be assured that they will be protected in the event of injury, illness or death. I hope that all hon. members understand the fairness of the amendments proposed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act and that they will join me in the passage of Bill C-12.

For all of those reason, as the hon. member opposite said, I support the legislation. I hope that in supporting the legislation it will see speedy passage.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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REF

Jack Ramsay

Reform

Mr. Jack Ramsay (Crowfoot, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed the comments made by my colleague who sits on the justice committee, as do I. I am wondering if he would like to comment on a bit of a sidebar to this bill. As we send our RCMP members overseas, which is rather a new and unique occurrence in the history of the force, I am wondering if he is concerned about the vacancy that is left in this country, where we see some detachments, particularly in western Canada, manned by the most senior member who holds nothing greater than the rank of corporal.

I wonder if he has any thoughts that he might add to his earlier comments with regard to that kind of a situation which is developing as a result of the extension of the work of our RCMP to serve in other countries which, at the same time, weakens the force in Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Mr. John McKay

Madam Speaker, I was more worried that the hon. member might ask me something about the proposed DNA legislation.

I would point out to the hon. member that all of the people who are serving in Bosnia and Haiti are in fact volunteers. I am assuming that in the course of both budgeting and deploying resources the concept of their volunteerism is taken into consideration with their superior officers.

I would not argue that any diminution of ability or resources locally is in any way affected because of the approach to volunteering for this service. These people do a wonderful job. We should be proud of them. We need to support them and this bill goes a long way toward doing just that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to address the proposed legislative change to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. I fully support this bill which will balance the benefits given to our peacekeepers whether they belong to the Canadian forces or to the RCMP.

Currently there are inconsistencies in the work related health and death benefits offered to peacekeepers working in these two groups. The amendment would allow RCMP officers to be covered 24 hours a day for illness, disability and death while working overseas in special duty areas in the same way officers in the Canadian forces receive their benefits.

I will outline the importance of this bill to all Canadians.

Our peacekeepers are sent to represent our country as well as to provide security and stability to the people living in some of the most war torn areas of the world. They are highly skilled individuals who work to bring law and order to nations experiencing strife. While doing this, Canadian peacekeepers are effectively on duty 24 hours a day whether they are on a formal shift or not.

While at home RCMP members, like all other Canadians, are entitled to government sponsored benefits for work related illness, disability and death. The system makes a distinction between work and non-work situations. In Canada this distinction is clear. A work related incident occurs during a work shift. However, in the case of peacekeepers serving outside Canada in hazardous areas, the line between being on duty and off duty is less clear. This bill will recognize that our Canadian peacekeepers while serving overseas can never truly go off duty or be away from danger.

Canadians are proud of their peacekeepers and expect them to receive the protection and benefits they deserve. I know this to be true. My constituents in Waterloo—Wellington are very proud of those who do so much for all of us as Canadians.

Since the Canadian Armed Forces first participated in international peacekeeping missions, soldiers or their beneficiaries were not required to prove that injury or death had occurred while the individual was on duty. This acknowledgement continues today.

Members of the Canadian forces are on duty 24 hours a day while they serve in special duty areas such as Bosnia and Haiti. This means that if a member of the Canadian forces suffers an injury, becomes ill or even dies while serving in these areas, the benefits under the Pension Act automatically apply. This is not so for the RCMP. These officers are only entitled to benefits under the Pension Act if the illness, injury or death occurs during a normally scheduled shift. Under the terms of the act, the onus is on the employee to prove the disability is attributed to on-duty service.

Presently members of both forces are on a mission in Bosnia, a region declared as a special duty area. According to the special duty pension order, members of the Canadian forces are considered to be on duty 24 hours a day with respect to the risk of illness, injury or death. However, members of the RCMP are considered to be on duty only during scheduled shift hours. Although both forces are participating in the same mission under the same conditions and exposed to the same dangers, RCMP members are treated differently than military personnel. This bill addresses this double standard.

It solves the problem of the differing treatment between members of the Canadian forces and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police doing the same jobs. It acknowledges that Canadian peacekeeping forces never really stop serving and running risks even when their shifts are over. This special pension benefit takes into account the increased risk associated with peacekeeping duties.

Bill C-12 reflects the changing role of peacekeeping and how Canada, a country respected worldwide for its peacekeeping commitments, has assisted many countries in stabilizing law and order. This bill strives for equality for all peacekeepers whether they are military or RCMP personnel. By supporting this bill we will acknowledge that the RCMP's contribution to peacekeeping is as important as that of the Canadian forces. I hope all hon. members understand the fairness of the amendments proposed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act and that they will join with me and others in passing this bill.

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

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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LIB

David Anderson

Liberal

Hon. David Anderson (for the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.)

moved that Bill C-38, an act to amend the National Parks Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Parks Act
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LIB

Andy Mitchell

Liberal

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Secretary of State (Parks), Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am indeed pleased, very proud and honoured to have an opportunity to begin second reading debate on the establishment of Tuktut Nogait National Park.

The opportunity and the sense of pride that I have in being part of the establishment of Canada's newest national park is indeed a broad pride that I have in our nation and in the program that we embarked on back in 1885 when we began the process of establishing our national parks.

This is going to be an important step in the completion of the national park system. As members are aware, it is our objective as a government and our objective as Canadians to have representation in all 39 of the natural regions of Canada. When we speak about completing our national parks system we are talking in the sense of making sure we have representation in all 39 agreements.

The process that we are engaged in today is the completion of a very lengthy process that has been ongoing for a number of years. The most important part of that process occurred on June 28, 1996 when an agreement was signed in Paulatuk in the Northwest Territories for the formal establishment of Tuktut Nogait National Park.

There was an agreement among many of the partners who have worked toward the initiation and establishment of this park. The agreement was signed by the federal government and indeed by the Minister of Canadian Heritage on behalf of the Government of Canada, in fact the same incumbent who holds that position today. The agreement was signed by the Government of the Northwest Territories and by a number of representatives representing the Inuvialuit who are also signatories to the agreement.

The agreement also completed a long and lengthy process of almost seven years of study, negotiations and examinations of the issues that were evident in that area which came to a conclusion in 1996 and we are here in the House to formalize that agreement through an amendment to the National Parks Act.

One of the primary purposes in establishing this park was the protection of the Bluenose caribou herd and its calving and post-calving habitat. It has long been a priority of the government and a priority of many Canadians to safeguard the core calving grounds of caribou, not just the Bluenose herd as we are doing with this park, but indeed with caribou all across the Arctic.

We as a government and indeed the Prime Minister himself has said publicly, particularly in talking to our colleagues in the United States, how important this objective is and we have long called on the U.S. government to work toward that end.

Indeed this also represented a very special occurrence because in 1994 a resource company, Darnely Bay Resources, at the request of the Inuvialuit and others, voluntarily withdrew their mining interests within the park boundaries.

This was a very important signal of the times, that the mining community was willing to work with national parks, recognizing the importance of establishing them. They withdrew but not because they felt there was no possibility of mineral resources there because in fact the area is designated as having medium to high potential. At that time there was a request to withdraw because the important environmental considerations, the important objective of protecting the caribou herd was made persuasively and the company withdrew its interest in the area.

There are a number of important components to this park. Obviously it conforms with the Inuvialuit final agreement regarding their land claims settlement. This agreement signed in 1996 recognizes that and indeed it honours that agreement. It also provides for Inuvialuit wildlife harvesting activities. They will be able to maintain their traditional activities within the boundaries of the park.

As I said when I began my comments, the protection of Canada's special places is an important objective for this government. It is indeed something most Canadians and I would hazard to say all Canadians believe in. To date, federally we are protecting some 3% of our land and when we count that which is under protection by the provinces it is a little over 10%. We are working toward making sure we can leave to future generations these special places in Canada.

With this legislation and with the protection of the caribou, with the protection of what is one of the most beautiful places in Canada, we are working toward the completion of our national parks system. I am very proud of that.

I call upon my colleagues in the House to support this legislation. Support the formalization of this national park as a full-fledged member of the national parks family. This will ensure the protection we provide under the act will be provided to this area. I urge my colleagues from all parties to support the establishment of this very special national park.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Parks Act
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April 2, 1998