Human Resources Minister Diane Finley tabled legislation that would end Old Age Security and guaranteed income supplement benefits currently going to federal inmates over the age of 65 and who are in prison for two years or more.
Among those currently getting those benefits are convicted killer Clifford Olson, who is 70 and serving life in prison for the deaths of 11 children. Olson has been reported to be collecting more than $1,000 a month in benefits.
Finley said they acted after news that Olson was collecting the benefits was raised in a March 2010 Toronto Sun article.
"Canadians who work hard, who contribute to the system, who play by the rules deserve government benefits such as Old Age Security. It's wrong, and obviously unfair, that prisoners who break the rules receive the same entitlements."
"This is offensive and outrageous to the prime minister, to the government of Canada, and to Canadians right across the country," she told reporters in Ottawa. "Moreover, it is deeply insulting to the victims and to their families."
Finley said they are working with the provincial and territorial governments to also end benefits for inmates over 65 and incarcerated for more than 90 days at those levels.
Finley said the changes are expected to affect about 400 federal inmates, and could eventually affect another 600 inmates held at provincial and territorial level corrections centres.
She said the estimated savings from the change could amount to about $2 million per year at the federal level. That could increase to about $10 million annually with provincial and territorial inmates included.
The benefits could resume upon a prisoner's release, and Finley said spouses and common-law partners of inmates will continue to get the benefits on their own merits.
"We're not punishing them for the deeds of their spouse," she said.
11 life sentencesOlson killed 11 boys and girls in British Columbia before he was sentenced to life in prison in 1982. Olson, who has never shown remorse for his crimes, is serving 11 consecutive life sentences in a maximum security prison in Quebec.
His retirement benefit money has been put in trust.
He was also paid $100,000 by the RCMP to lead them to the bodies of his victims. That money was put in trust for his estranged wife and son.
I think elderly prisoners should have the benefit of receiving old age payments while in prison. When they are released, which the majority will be, these payments could help them financially upon their release, which is beneficial. They should not suffer further loss of rights and deprivations. I advocate for more prisoners' rights and less deprivations.
Being released from prison with no money, makes successful reintegration even more difficult. Younger inmates should also receive some sort of financial assistance when released from prison, to help them better reintegrate into society. Equating all prisoners with serial killer Olson, does not help the public understand this situation. He is the only prisoner mentioned, but this legislation would affect all of those elderly prisoners serving 2 years or more. This bill is the act of a vengeful Conservative government only interested in revenge and punishment, and who shows no compassion or sympathy. This is a purely political and inhumane move.
This should only be done on a case by case basis for those who have an unlikely chance of being released, such as Olson. There could be an innocent family member, or spouse who may have to spend their remaining days in poverty because they depended on those funds.
This move will only create more poverty when these individuals are released. Poverty is directly related to crime.
It really annoys me how one spectacular case hits the news and other people need to suffer. I can understand not giving this money to people while they are in prison. Their housing and food needs are taken care of. But if people are leaving prison they need money to live on.
Clifford Olson is an extreme case that doesn't necessarily describe most of the people in prison over the age of 65. It is well known that he is kept in solitary confinement because other prisoners may kill him which suggests most prisoners don't put themselves in the same category as him. The media obsessing about such people as Clifford Olson make it harder for other released prisoners to get on with their lives. Even if they are not over 65, I bet most former convicts either live on welfare or return to their criminal activities simply because no will hire them.
Equating all prisoners with Clifford Olson really doesn't help. One might argue this article isn't doing that but why is it that he is the only prisoner mentioned? Couldn't CBC find an elderly prisoner in jail for a lesser crime then rape or murder that is really going to be hurt by this decision?