Senator Munson urges senators to stop Bill C-316 from becoming law

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2013

Senator Munson urges senators to stop Bill C-316 from becoming law

OTTAWA – Today, the Honourable Jim Munson, Senator for Ottawa / Rideau Canal, delivered a passionate address in the Senate Chamber calling on his colleagues to vote against Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration). Senator Munson described the bill as “fundamentally flawed and harmful to Canadians”.

The bill’s sponsor, Mr. Dick Harris, Member of Parliament for Cariboo—Prince George, introduced C-316 after assisting a woman who had taken a voluntary leave of absence from her job to upgrade her credentials, only to be struck by cancer three months following her return to work. Mr. Harris discovered she was ineligible for Employment Insurance benefits because she had not accumulated enough insurable hours of employment during the 52 weeks prior to her claim. He learned that persons incarcerated for a term of less than two years, however, could be granted extensions for both the qualifying and benefit periods.

“Rather than proposing amendments to the EI Act or developing new legislation that could bring meaningful aid to people hit by circumstances like the woman he set out to help, Mr. Harris has developed a bill that will most certainly bring hardship to a very vulnerable group of people – as well as their dependents,” Senator Munson observed. “In typical Conservative fashion, the solution to unfairness is to create new injustices,” he added.

Senator Munson brought an important perspective to the debate, focusing on the disproportionate effect the amendments to the Employment Insurance Act will have on women and aboriginal Canadians. He also underscored the link between poverty and crime: “Looking at the group of people currently being held in our provincial jails and federal prisons, we also see groups disproportionately represented, groups that tend to be of lower socio-economic status.”

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology reviewed Bill C-316. Senator Munson, a member of the committee, summarized testimony and highlighted the opposition of groups such as the United Way, the John Howard Society and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

“Those of us who oppose this bill have exposed one flaw after another. There is no beneficial purpose in this bill. It will only deliver an added punishment to persons who have been incarcerated,” Senator Munson concluded. “That this bill has made it so far in the legislative process is truly discouraging and worrisome.”



The Honourable Jim Munson, Senator