By Kyle Huntley (Contributer) – Email
The federal government has officially reviewed Bill C-31 – put forward by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley – and finalized the decision to pass it on December 16, putting an end to the distribution of Old Age Security Pension (OAS) to federal prisoners. The bill was drafted in response to the public outcry following reports that Clifford Olson was receiving $1100 per month in OAS while federally imprisoned. Debate has subsequently erupted concerning whether incarcerated members of society should be receiving benefit at all, since the government is already paying for their housing, meals, and care.
Bill C-31 will currently affect only federally incarcerated criminals over the age of 65 who are serving minimum two-year sentences, though – according to a December 16 government news release – “the Government of Canada will begin negotiations with the provinces and territories to implement these changes for provincial and territorial inmates who have sentences exceeding 90 days.”
An estimated $2 million will be saved each year due to the passing of the bill – though the figure could climb to as high as $10 million if the bill is applied to provincial prisoners as well – and it will affect anywhere from 200 to 600 incarcerated seniors. Spokesman Ryan Sparrow told Postmedia News that “This bill is what Canadians asked for, and it is endorsed by victims organizations and taxpayers across the country.” It is expected to aid the hurting pension system by allowing the government to “…take away the entire amount of taxpayer-funded entitlements from convicted criminals,” and redirect it elsewhere.
Finley believes that some prisoners could be receiving other benefits from the government unjustly; she hopes that the bill may reveal some of these occurrences so that they can be rectified. “Maybe [there are] some people that are getting other payments from the government in prison that we should know more about. I don’t have evidence of that, [but] I…wonder if maybe we’re going to hear stories next year about somebody getting payments in another area that they shouldn’t get.”
For instance, ex-Colonel Russell Williams’ story, similar to Olsen’s, raised questions about whether other pensions should be suspended as well. Williams – who killed two women, sexually assaulted two more, and pleaded guilty to multiple charges of break-and-enter, which he committed in order to steal woman’s lingerie – still receives his $60,000 yearly military pension while imprisoned.