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.
Subtopic: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act