Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Elgin—Middlesex—London (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 34.20% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Report of Team Canada Inc. May 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) of the House of Commons I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Team Canada Inc. annual report 2003.

Criminal Code April 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member whether, given the seriousness of this topic, we could discuss it without interrupting each other because this is a serious topic.

It goes very much to the core beliefs of a majority of Canadians. I would like to ask the member not to heckle me while I am trying to give my response. I understand that is not the way it is normally done in this House, but I would think that, given the issue of child exploitation, we might not debate the way we normally do and that we might just be quiet and respectfully debate with each other, given that different people can have different views.

The point I was trying to make is that it is about the limitations of the criminal law and do we use that as a sledgehammer to bring about what I would think is a good social purpose?

I agree with his point that it is wrong, in a general sense, for a 25 year old to have sex with a 14 year old and that under certain circumstances the criminal law would intervene. It is in the bill and so I think that the hon. member should still support the bill.

Criminal Code April 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I just addressed that in the previous questions. Of course, I do not think it is appropriate for a 25 year old--

Criminal Code April 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question coming from the hon. member. I think reasonable people can differ on this. We come to the issue of the age of consent from different philosophical backgrounds, religious backgrounds, and cultural backgrounds. I think it is within the bounds of reason that people have different views.

They can also have different views about the appropriateness of using the criminal law to force people to behave in a certain way. The criminal law should be our last resort of making people do things. For example, as a father with three children, ages 14, 12 and 8, I have concerns about when they would engage in sexual activity and at what age. However, I do not rely on the criminal law to govern that activity.

I rely on providing them a good home, with certain standards, making certain decisions, and fundamentally appreciating that actions have consequences. At a certain age they are not old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions and the best thing to do is to avoid certain activities that might have very serious consequences; and sexual activity is one of them.

To get to the member's point, we would disagree just on the fact that the overwhelming majority of Canadians think that the age of consent should be raised. In my constituency office, I do not see any particular evidence to that degree. This is not an issue on which I have received a number of telephone calls. Certainly, there are some people in the community who would like to see it raised to 16 years and I respect those views.

For the arguments that I have laid out, I do not think we want to criminalize sexual activity above a certain age. I think that it is an important view and I do not want to dismiss it out of hand. However, I do not believe that it represents the view of the overwhelming majority of Canadians as the member has indicated.

Criminal Code April 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise again to speak to Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

As all hon. members know, Bill C-12 proposes a number of criminal law reforms that seek to better protect children against sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect, to facilitate testimony by child victims and witnesses, other vulnerable victims, and witnesses in criminal justice proceedings, as well as to create a new offence of voyeurism.

I believe that all of Bill C-12 is important and I support the whole of the bill. However, I will take the time that remains today to restrict my comments to those provisions that respond to the concerns relating to the age of consent to sexual activity.

Bill C-12's objective on the issue is clearly articulated in the first paragraph of the preamble:

Whereas the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns regarding the vulnerability of children to all forms of exploitation, including child pornography, sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect;--

The focus of Bill C-12's response to concerns about the age of consent to sexual activity is on the exploitative conduct of the wrongdoer and not on whether the young person or victim consented to that conduct. This is, in my view, both the right focus and the right response.

More specifically, Bill C-12 proposes to create a new category of prohibitive sexual exploitation of a young person who is over the age of consent, that is, someone who is 14 years of age or older and under 18 years.

Under the proposed reform, courts would be directed to infer that a relationship is exploitive by looking to the nature and circumstances of that relationship, including the age of the young person, any difference in age and the degree of control or influence exerted over the young person.

I understand that there continue to be calls to raise the age of consent to sexual activity. Why is this? As I understand them, these calls seem to be motivated by a number of different reasons. For example, one reason sometimes given in support of raising the age of consent is that raising the age of consent to 16 or 18 would prevent others from forcing young persons into the sex trade.

In response to this, I note that it is already an offence under the Criminal Code to force anyone under the age of 18 years into prostitution and that this offence carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years imprisonment. I would think it is also against criminal law to force anyone into prostitution.

Another reason given seems to be related to the differing understandings of what is meant by sexual activity. Canadian prohibitions against sexual activity do not differentiate between sexual activity that consists of kissing and sexual activity that involves sexual intercourse.

I do not believe that Canadians think that a 14 or 15 year old girl is not mature enough to freely make a decision to kiss her 17 year old boyfriend. Nor do I believe that Canadians want to criminalize a 17 year old for kissing a 14 year old girlfriend. Whether we as adults like it or not, the reality is that adolescents engage in sexual activity and the criminal law is not the place to deal with this type of activity.

I think other reasons sometimes given is that 14 or 15 year olds are too young and immature to fully appreciate the consequences of their decisions to engage in sexual activity. While it is true that a 14 or 15 year old does not typically possess the maturity of an 18 year old, as a society, nonetheless, we consider them mature enough to be treated as an adult under the new Youth Criminal Justice Act for the commission of serious violent offences.

Whatever the reason for advocating an increase in the age of consent, the common thread appears to be the prevention of sexual exploitation of young persons. This intent is to be applauded. On this I think that Bill C-12 delivers.

Unlike proposals to raise the age of consent to 16 years of age, Bill C-12 proposes to extend protection not only to 14 and 15 year olds, but also to 16 and 17 year olds. It would protect youth from exploitation at the hands of anyone.

Bill C-12 contains many welcomed reforms to the criminal law to protect our most vulnerable members of society. I hope that all hon. members will support Bill C-12 to better protect Canadian children against exploitation in all its forms.

Criminal Code April 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, and all members of the House, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

This is not among my normal course of work being a Minister of State for International Trade. I know I share the concern with all members of the House about the protection of children and vulnerable people.

Bill C-12 proposes a broad package of criminal law reforms that seek to strengthen the criminal justice system's protection and response to children and other vulnerable persons.

Although I will focus my comments on child pornography, I would also like to note that Bill C-12 contains other important reforms. It proposes to strengthen protection for young persons against sexual exploitation. It would increase the penalties for offences against children. It would facilitate testimony by child and other vulnerable victims and witnesses. It would create a new offence of voyeurism.

As I said, I would like to focus my comments on the amendments relating to child pornography.

The sexual exploitation of children, society's most vulnerable group in any form, including through child pornography, is to be condemned. I know there is no debate among civilized people on this point.

Bill C-12 recognizes this and proposes amendments to our existing child pornography provisions that I believe will serve to better protect children against this form of sexual exploitation. Canada's child pornography laws are already among the toughest in the world and as my colleague before me said, Bill C-12 would make them tougher still.

First, Bill C-12 proposes to broaden the existing definition of written child pornography to include written material that describes prohibited sexual activity with children where the description is the predominant characteristic of the material and it is done for a sexual purpose.

The proposed amendment reflects Canadians' belief that these types of written materials pose a real risk of harm to our children and society by portraying children as a class of objects for sexual exploitation. Bill C-12 clearly states that such materials are not acceptable.

Second, Bill C-12 proposes to narrow the existing defences into one defence, of public good, a term that is now specifically defined in the bill. Under the new law, no defence will be available where the material or act in question does not serve the public good or where it exceeds or goes beyond what serves the public good.

The public good defence recognizes that in some instances, such as with the possession of child pornography by police as part of an investigation, such possession serves the public good and should be protected. It also recognizes that art or material that has artistic value can serve the public good. However and unlike the current artistic merit defence, the proposed public good defence in Bill C-12 will not be available for such art where the risk of harm it imposes to society outweighs any potential benefits that it offers.

Canadians have been demanding that we respond in a direct and meaningful way to the issues that flowed from the March 2002 case involving Robin Sharpe, and this is exactly what Bill C-12 does. The adoption of Bill C-12's amendments will reaffirm Canada's leadership role in protecting children from sexual exploitation through child pornography.

I note from the clock that I am running out of time, so I just ask in closing that all hon. members support these amendments.

Foreign Affairs June 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague for his question and for accompanying me to Bulgaria and Turkey. I led a Canadian business delegation of 19 companies, including General Motors, Electro-Motive, of London, Ontario.

Several important contracts between Turkish businesses and Canadian companies have made considerable progress, including sales of some 65 locomotives and several hydro turbines, creating many jobs in Canada.

I am confident that as a result of this successful mission many business deals will continue to be forged between Canada and these countries.

Supply May 26th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I do not want to get into a debate of imputing motive. Unfortunately, the Taiwanese situation is complicated by the position of communist China. At the end of the day where Taiwan ranks, whether it is an independent state or whether it is a full member of communist China, with a normal part of its territory like any other part of its territory, is really up to the people themselves to sort out. It is up to the Taiwanese to sort out with the people in mainland China. Right now it is in sort of a situation of limbo.

That is a bigger issue than observer status in the WHO. It is complicated. It is complicated by the inability of the two stakeholders to sort this out, and we should not let that complication have a negative impact on people's health. We should not let that complication have a negative impact on the exchange of information. If we have to fix some procedures at the WHO to achieve that, then the Government of Canada would lend its support to fixing those procedures.

Supply May 26th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I am not familiar with the actual case of why or if the WHO authorities were prevented from going. My understanding is that anyone can travel to Taiwan based on the Taiwanese rules. I have travelled to Taiwan. I did not require a visa when I came out of communist China.

As I said, the real information being transferred between various officials is from the disease centres in the United States and Canada. I am not sure that simply because WHO authorities may have been prevented, and I am acknowledging that may be the case, if that has made any difference on the ground. The fact of the matter is the medical people have been able to exchange information as they should have. If that is not the case, then we should fix that.

I am not sure having Taiwanese membership in the WHO, albeit as an observer, is necessary to fix that. The doctors and the medical people should be exchanging information so that no additional damage is done through this disease, and let us stay focussed on that problem and not get caught up on the large political issue of WHO observer status.

Supply May 26th, 2003

Madam Speaker, before I begin I would like to advise the House that I will be splitting my time with my esteemed colleague, the member for Scarborough East.

It is an honour for me to speak in the House. Canada's one China policy is long established. In 1970 Canada decided to recognize the government of the People's Republic of China in Beijing as the sole government of China. The recognition communiqué, issued jointly by Canada and China in October 1970, stated that: “the Chinese government reaffirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People's Republic of China. The Canadian government takes note of this position of the Chinese government”.

However, within the one China policy there is considerable flexibility for non-official contacts to promote economic, cultural and people-to-people linkages between Canada and Taiwan. These ties are well demonstrated by the activities of our business and cultural communities, from the sale of aircraft and high tech equipment to the tour of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Economically, Taiwan is one of Canada's top trading partners and is our fourteenth largest export market worldwide.

Canada's relationship with Taiwan is an unofficial one, but unofficial relations have not prevented Canada from developing close, mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan. On the contrary, Canadians and the Taiwanese enjoy a rich partnership in many fields. Canada's approach to this relationship today is, simply put, one based on action, not words, and on substance, not symbol.

Canada has always supported Taiwan's access to many World Health Organization health protection and health promotion programs available to it under current circumstances and continues to encourage the Taiwanese authorities to profit from the opportunities that already exist for cooperation within the WHO framework.

The World Health Organization is a United Nations specialized agency. The World Health Organization constitution provides for membership and associate membership and does not provide for an observer status. Article 3 of the World Health Organization constitution defines membership as being open to states. To be considered a state for the purpose of WHO membership, one must be recognized as a sovereign state by the United Nations credentials committee.

There are, as has been mentioned by the hon. members who spoke, WHO members who are not members of the United Nations, namely Cook Islands and Niue. Both of these are independent nations in free association with New Zealand, and both Cook Islands and Niue are recognized by the UN credentials committee as sovereign states. Cook Islands and Niue therefore meet the WHO constitutional requirements for membership.

Article 8 of the WHO constitution allows for associate members, which are defined as territories or groups of territories that are not responsible for the conduct of their international relations. Application for admittance to the WHO as an associate member must be made on behalf of the territories or groups of territories by the member or other authority having responsibility for their international relations. According to the rules and procedures of the WHO and the United Nations, an application to admit Taiwan as an associate member would have to be made by China.

While some non-state entities and some international health organizations have been invited as observers to the World Health Assembly, the invitation of these entities to observe the annual World Health Assembly meetings was not contested and received broad support of all WHO members. These observers have no status under WHO constitutional rules and procedures. Their role is purely one of observer, akin to a spectator, not exercising any of the voting privileges extended to members and associate members.

Canada would support a formula for Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization as long as this formula is in accordance with the WHO constitutional rules and procedures and has received broad based approval of WHO members.

Now to a key point: As a member of the international community, Taiwan is able freely to access health information from the World Health Organization. The World Health Organization has indicated that there is no practical impediment to the exchange of information and cooperation between the WHO and Taiwan which might threaten the health of Taiwanese in some manner, nor has Taiwan been barred from humanitarian assistance from the WHO in the event of a medical emergency.

In this regard, the WHO cooperates with the Taiwanese authorities in measures to control the spread of disease and has over the years dispatched teams from its collaboration centres to Taiwan to assist in dealing with specific health issues. The WHO relies on its WHO collaboration centres, which are national institutions that form part of an international collaborative network carrying out activities in support of the WHO's mandate for international health work and program priorities.

The WHO's most important collaborative partner is the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The WHO has always provided health care and emergency assistance to Taiwan through its collaboration centres, usually through the CDC. Through its close cooperation with the United States Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, which acts as a WHO collaboration centre, Taiwan has had access to the same information as others, including Canada, to deal with the SARS outbreak. This has in no way affected Taiwan's ability to deal with this outbreak nor has it adversely affected the health and safety of the Taiwanese.

The executive director of the WHO's Department of Communicable Diseases' surveillance and response, Dr. David Heymann, recently publicly stated that although the current situation in Taiwan was not good, Taiwan had professional monitoring and tracking systems that should enable it to confine the SARS outbreak. He insists that Taiwan's lack of WHO membership has not damaged the island in the WHO's global cooperation efforts against SARS, nor has Taiwan suffered in the process of its battle against SARS due to not being a member of the WHO.

Taiwan has not been denied access to medical information and assistance it requires to deal with the SARS outbreak. Indeed, Taiwan has received assistance both from the WHO collaboration centre at the CDC and directly from the World Health Organization. On March 16, 2003, the CDC dispatched two officials to Taiwan to assess the SARS cases. The CDC continues to this day to have a team in Taiwan providing assistance with the SARS outbreak. The WHO also sent a team of two experts to Taiwan to work with the CDC in evaluating the SARS situation.

Canada has also maintained open communication with Taiwan on SARS issues. We have taken steps to ensure that Taiwanese authorities were always well briefed on the SARS situation in Canada.

As part of our continued measures to support the global fight against SARS, Health Canada convened the first major international meeting in North America on SARS, in Toronto, to discuss a proactive approach to halting the spread of SARS. A representative from the Taipei economic and cultural office in Ottawa was also invited and participated in the meeting. Dr. James Young, Ontario's Commissioner of Public Safety and a key leader in Toronto's battle with SARS, personally briefed Taiwanese representatives in Toronto on the SARS situation. Dr. Young has also recently travelled to Taiwan with a team of experts from Ontario to share Toronto's and Canada's experience in fighting SARS.

This issue transcends the words of the motion themselves. There is a larger complexity to this issue, which is reflected in Canada's relationship with Taiwan and China. The government agrees that health care issues transcend borders and I have clearly laid out that through our actions and those of the WHO Taiwan is receiving timely and equivalent access to appropriate information and assistance.