- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Etobicoke North (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2006, with 61.62% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Retirement Congratulations May 14th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, a tireless community worker, Ms. Delia Dyke, has recently announced her retirement.
Delia has been a diligent worker, a committed volunteer and a true friend of the residents of Etobicoke North.
She began her career at the Willowridge apartment complex and, while there, Delia helped set up a day care centre, Willowridge Training Wheels and Welcome Baby, as well as many other neighbourhood programs.
In 1997, Minister Marc Lalonde appointed Delia to the National Council on Welfare.
Delia then began working at Albion Neighbourhood Services in 1988 as an information counsellor and, later, as the manager of its access program.
Delia's wry sense of humour as well as her reputation for assisting Etobicoke North residents with their income tax preparation will be missed. She was also a very able and hard-working Commissioner of Oaths.
Letters of congratulation to Delia have been pouring in over the years from mayors, MPs, MPPs and city councillors. The letters that touched Delia the most were from the residents she has helped over the years.
We wish Delia the very best that life can offer in her well-deserved retirement.
Mr. Speaker, I listened very intently to the remarks of my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River. I can imagine that there are not that many aboriginal or first nations people in his riding as there are not in my riding either of Etobicoke North. I was quite impressed with his knowledge of the landscape of this particular bill.
I have been following the debate on the bill and I think it is a very important piece of legislation. I am surprised that a bill dealing with matrimonial interests and rights does not seem to have the support of aboriginal women in Canada nor does it seem to have the support of the Assembly of First Nations. I find that rather shocking and perhaps if the bill goes to committee there will be ways to improve and enhance the bill.
However, I am surprised that the Conservative government would table a bill that does not seem to even remotely have the support of some of the key stakeholders that would be involved.
I know that my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River is a very accomplished lawyer. I wonder if he could expand on some of the jurisdictional issues that he touched on and that I have become aware of in following this bill and the debate that is going on.
It is my understanding that the Supreme Court in 1986 ruled that when a conjugal relationship breaks down on reserve, the courts cannot apply provincial and territorial family law because reserve lands fall under federal jurisdiction. So, although on the face of it that seems fairly straightforward, I wonder if the member for Scarborough—Rouge River would speak about some of the constitutionalities of those issues.
These provisions, which I gather if this legislation would come into force, would be an interim measure and would be a bridging measure that would suffice until the various first nations communities brought in their own laws. Indeed, we have been moving toward self-governance among the aboriginal people of Canada.
Currently, how are these problems resolved in the absence of this legislative framework and how does he see it moving in transition from this legislation to a world where there is more self-governance within the aboriginal communities?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Laval for her speech on Bill C-47. I am a bit surprised. I do not believe that aboriginal women are supporting this bill, even though it concerns family homes situated on first nation reserves and matrimonial rights to or interests in structures and lands situated on those reserves.
Why does the member for Laval think that the Conservative government introduced a bill that concerns the rights of aboriginal women, even though these women do not support this bill?
Business of Supply May 8th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Windsor West is definitely on to something. The Conservative government has been in power for two years plus and keeps talking about how it is getting the job done. It is not getting the job done when it comes to the incomes of working and middle class Canadians.
The Conservatives inherited a very strong economy when they formed government in 2006. The Liberals had record surpluses, low unemployment, a strong fiscal capacity, and good growth prospects. What did the Conservative government do? It spent money and left the cupboard bare.
The Bank of Canada estimates that growth this year could be 1.4%. At that rate, we are heading into a deficit.
The Conservatives keep saying that they are getting the job done. What kind of flexibility do they have to deal with the challenges facing low income and middle class Canadians? They have taken away the flexibility our Liberal government gave them in 2006 when they formed government.
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 6th, 2008
With regard to collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s) and the sub-prime mortgage credit crisis in the North American financial sector: (a) in 2007, was the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) aware of the exposure of financial institutions in Canada to CDO’s, and specifically sub-prime mortgages; (b) when it became aware of the exposure of Canadian banks to sub-prime mortgages, how did OSFI evaluate the risk of these CDO’s in the context of the solvency, liquidity and stability of Canada’s financial institutions; (c) did OSFI undertake any sensitivity analysis to assess the impact of factors such as interest rate changes, economic slowdown or job losses and property market declines on the viability of sub-prime mortgages; (d) were CDO’s adequately secured or insured by Canada’s chartered banks, and were these CDO instruments appropriately rated by the rating agencies; (e) given the recent losses or write downs by chartered Canadian banks, what action is the OSFI taking to safeguard Canada’s financial sector, its depositors and shareholders; and (f) what steps is the Minister of Finance taking to address this issue, and to ensure that this type of situation does not occur again?
Questions on the Order Paper May 6th, 2008
With regard to marriages of convenience, orchestrated for personal gain or for gaining entry into Canada as a landed immigrant: (a) has the minister or her officials taken any action to address this issue; (b) has the Minister, or her predecessor, implemented any policies or procedures to alleviate the concerns associated with marriages of convenience; (c) is the Minister of the view that marriages of convenience that are perpetrated in Canada are growing in numbers beyond normal demographics or immigration patterns; (d) what systems, processes, or procedures are in place to deal specifically with complaints from the victims of marriage fraud; and (e) what action is being taken to restore the confidence of the victims of marriages of convenience that the government is working effectively and efficiently on their behalf?
Criminal Code April 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) or, as I prefer to call it, the investigative hearings and preventive arrest.
This bill is a follow-up to Bill C-36, which went through the House of Commons and through the Senate in time for the provisions of investigative hearing and preventive arrest to be continued because they were sunsetted and were about to end in February 2007.
At that time there were some discussions and agreement that perhaps some enhancements could be made. The Senate has considered some enhancements to what was Bill C-36. At least the bill was passed in time for these provisions not to lapse. Now we have before us an improved former Bill C-36 in the form of Bill S-3.
I will comment in a moment on the enhanced provisions, but I would like to set the stage for a moment. It is my own view, and I think largely the view of this side of the House and our caucus, that this bill is needed for a few reasons.
First, the threat of terrorism is still with us. The threat of terrorism has not subsided. We saw not too long ago in the newspapers and other media a case in the United Kingdom where a cell of alleged terrorists had been plotting to blow up aircraft that were destined for Canada and the United States. Admittedly, they will be facing those charges in court, but there have been terrorist events preceding that.
I think we need to be ever vigilant. In fact, in Canada we should be somewhat proud that we have had a regime in place that perhaps has been successful in thwarting any attempts to compromise our national security. Having said that, we need to be ever vigilant because the terrorists do not sit idly by. It is known that al-Qaeda has Canada on its list of targets. It is no secret that our troops are in Afghanistan and that causes some consternation among certain parties. I believe this anti-terrorism regime and these provisions are still needed because terrorism is still around us and still a threat.
I also believe these provisions are needed because I do not subscribe to the argument that because we have not had a terrorist event in Canada since the original Anti-Terrorism Act was enacted that we do not need these provisions any more. To me, it is sort of tantamount to saying that if one's house has not burned down one does not need fire insurance. I think that is folly for an argument and we need to have these provisions in place to ensure we do not have a fire in our home.
Third, I think the concerns of some, when these original provisions were enacted, that they would be used in a less than judicious way by the law enforcement agencies, has proven to be wrong. The fact is that they have never been used but that should not mean that we do not need them because we do. We need to have this tool in the toolkit of our law enforcement people in Canada so that if the day comes, and hopefully it will not, they can resort to it.
There is no greater responsibility of a government than to protect and safeguard its citizens. This always needs to be carefully balanced with the civil rights of its citizens. It is a very delicate balance. I do not think anyone would be as naive or as vain to think that we always have the balance right. It is never an easy task but we need e to deal with it and that is why this bill is before this Parliament. As parliamentarians, we need to wrestle with these issues and deal with them.
We have a group in Toronto that was rounded up a couple of years ago, the Toronto 15. There is some confusion I think among Canadians about how these people were charged and rounded up. The fact is that provisions of the Criminal Code were used to arrest these people.
One could argue that if we used the provisions of the Criminal Code there, why could we not always use provisions of the Criminal Code? It is a good point but it is not a compelling argument because in this particular case the police had informants. They had information and certain evidence.
At the end of the day, of course, these people are being tried and dealt with by the prosecutors, the courts and the police. Some of them have already been released. If they were completely innocent, it is unfortunate that they had to be incarcerated for a period of time. I am not sure if some of them got out on bail but it is always an unfortunate event if people are arrested and then not subsequently charged. However, in this particular case, the police had sufficient evidence and arrested them under the provisions of the Criminal Code.
This type of situation does not always exist. We know that terrorists communicate, sometimes in encoded ways, sometimes electronically, sometimes in various shapes and forms, and our investigative forces, law enforcement and other security forces in Canada, have ways of tracking this type of communication traffic. There will be a time, and perhaps there has been already one that we are not aware of, when the law enforcement agencies will pick up something that indicates that perhaps a terrorist event is about to be committed but they do not have sufficient evidence to lay a charge or to have these people arrested.
I had the good fortune and honour to serve on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We investigated, exhaustively, the anti-terrorism legislation in Canada when it was up for review after five years. I will never forget the testimony of a gentleman who came from the United Kingdom. I forget his exact title but he was responsible for overseeing the anti-terrorism provisions in the United Kingdom.
The analogy he used was that if the police pick up information that a bank is about to be robbed, what they can do in a case like that, and they often do, is stake out that particular site. If the crime is perpetrated, then the police are there, they arrest the criminals and that is it. However, we cannot do this with a terrorist attack.
People move, and we see it all the time in various shapes and forms, different guises, perhaps with munitions strapped to them and it is often impossible to stake out. We could stake it out but then the terrorist event could happen and innocent people could lose their lives. Therefore, it is not really susceptible to that same type of action by law enforcement agencies.
I want to talk briefly about what the Senate has done to improve these provisions of preventive arrests and investigative hearings.
First, the Senate amendment calls on law enforcement to convince a judge that all reasonable attempts for the collection of information about potential or prior terrorist activity has been done before an investigative hearing is ordered.
An investigative hearing would be when the police bring together a group of people to seek out information about a possible terrorist activity. In my own judgment, I am more interested in the proactive view of how these provisions would be applied. I am not that interested in how they could be applied retroactively because I think the whole idea of the anti-terrorism legislation is to prevent a terrorist event, not go back in time, but, nonetheless, I know there are others in this House who feel differently about it. However, we need to at least have the provisions that would look forward to any proposed or possible terrorist event in the future.
What these amendments do is say that law enforcement must have to convince a judge that all other reasonable efforts have been made to deal with this, without having an investigative hearing. At an investigative hearing people are rounded up and asked to come before a judge and there are questions, and it is somewhat of an infringement on civil rights.
Nonetheless, a judge is involved within 24 hours. In other words, a hearing has to be conducted in a very swift fashion, and the same applies to preventative arrests. In fact, the people under the provisions of our law have to be released within 24 hours, and as others in this House have pointed out, these provisions are actually less onerous than those in countries like United States, United Kingdom and Australia. These amendments in the Senate call for that.
Also, another important change is that the bill now has narrower wording stipulating the grounds on which an individual may be detained. It is useful and responsible for legislators to be precise and to not leave it open to misuse. This bill and the amendments that are placed in it allow for that.
There are other provisions that call for the review of this legislation, in fact, making it mandatory to review these provisions. Rather than as an elective, Parliament is required to review these provisions at the appropriate time and interval.
These enhancements improve these measures. We never like to infringe on the civil liberties of our citizens, but at the same time we have to have measures in place that adequately safeguard our citizens. We are blessed in this country that, although I know some would argue the other way, our law enforcement people act responsibly and we have to have continuous oversight.
The RCMP has been under the public microscope lately and I am sure it has some improvements to make. This is not a police state, and we want to make sure it never even comes close to that, but our law enforcement people generally will use these tools only when they have to.
I recall at the subcommittee we had a panel. We looked at the provisions of the former Bill C-36, and this was particularly in the context of the security certificates. Even though security certificates are outside the scope of the anti-terrorism legislation, the subcommittee was tasked with looking at the provisions of the security certificates.
There was an official who came from the Department of Public Safety and National Security with a brief and a dossier on an individual who was an alleged Iranian assassin and who was being detained under a security certificate. Of course, some of the material in the dossier had to be whited out to protect allies who had provided various information and sources of information, on the grounds that it would compromise our national security. The dossier was nonetheless a very thick dossier and the official took the subcommittee through this file, indicating why this person was being detained under a security certificate.
On that same panel, there was a representative from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. I remember turning to him at that point in time and asking whether, after hearing the profile of this particular gentleman who is being detained under a security certificate, would he like to have this person as a next door neighbour. It was kind of a risky question, but I thought it was a reasonable question to ask. In response, he said that he would not. If anyone heard this dossier, they would say that no reasonable person would want this person as a next door neighbour.
He was opposed to these kinds of provisions. I asked what the problem was and he replied that it was the process. We agreed that the process needed improvement and that is why, with respect to security certificates, that was enhanced.
We need to understand that citizens of this country want their government to have a balanced set of measures that would keep their families and themselves safe and secure in their neighbourhoods, and would have the optimal balance between those requirements while protecting the civil liberties of Canadians, which is equally important. Balance is something that we must continue to strive for in the House.
Bill S-3 provides a very good balance between those two competing elements and I certainly will be supporting it.
Criminal Code April 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).
I should note that the bill was originally introduced as Bill C-13 in the first session of the 39th Parliament. It passed all stages in the House of Commons, was sent to the other place and is back here now with some amendments, which I and my colleagues believe enhance the bill. I will be supporting the bill, and I expect my colleagues on this side will as well.
We support the bill because it would a number of positive things to improve and enhance our criminal justice system. Some of these matters are quite procedural and technical in their nature, but, nonetheless, they are very important to ensure the system in the country works efficiently, effectively and brings justice to all.
Some of the aspects of the bill, for example, increase the maximum fine that can be imposed for a summary conviction offence from $2,000 to $10,000. The $2,000 limit had not been changed for some 30 years. The bill also calls for the suspension of a conditional sentence order or a probation order during an appeal. That enhances this law as well.
The proposed bill also provides the power to delay the sentencing proceedings so an offender can participate in a provincially approved treatment program. That is very important. In many cases we can lock people up and throw away the key, but eventually they will get out and have to be functioning and responsible citizens of our country. Therefore, if we can help someone deal with drug or alcohol abuse or some other social problem, this is to be very much encouraged.
In the case of a person serving a youth sentence who has received an adult sentence, the bill clarifies that the remaining portion of the youth sentence is converted to an adult sentence. This follows through on some of the changes that were made previously to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and something I think many Canadians often do not fully comprehend.
There is an impression that young people can commit crimes at will, flaunt the system and do not receive the types of sanctions that many Canadians think they should. However, we need to understand that if we put young people in jail, they can become hardened criminals. If they are not rehabilitated or given the appropriate treatment, in jail they will become even worse criminals. When they get out, they will offend again.
It is important that all criminals be rehabilitated while they are serving their time. At the same time, the youth criminal justice changes we made when we formed government allow a judge, at his or her discretion, to sentence a young person as an adult if, in the view of the judge, that young person deserves to be sentenced as an adult.
If I recollect correctly, the cutoff is age 14, and that is a very young. When people tell me that the age should be reduced further, I tell them that it is not something I would advocate. In fact, 14 is young enough. I think many judges would not be inclined to impose an adult sentence on someone of those young years unless the circumstances warranted it in the view of the judge. Nonetheless, it is important to have that provision so a judge can have the flexibility to do things like that.
One aspect that is not in the bill, although I hope it will come at some point in time, is an initiative that our government started. After two years of serving as government, I am surprised the Conservatives have not really acted upon it. It has to do with the modernization of investigative techniques.
I notice in the bill there are amendments which call for the use of telecommunications to forward warrants for the purpose of endorsement and execution in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction where the search warrant was obtained. Therefore, there are measures in the bill dealing with telecommunications, but we still do not have legislation to modernize investigative techniques for our law enforcement personnel. Let me describe what that is.
If we look at our Criminal Code today, if law enforcement officers can convince a judge that there are significant grounds, the judge can execute a search warrant. However, the search warrants and the wiretapping warrants are tailored to technologies that have been superceded, although not completely, and replaced by other types of media, other types of technology.
For example, wiretapping warrants on our books today, in terms of law, deal mostly with land phone lines. We know criminals today use wireless devices. They use cellphones, computers and the Internet. The problem is our laws are archaic in the sense that the police cannot tap these types of technologies. The problem, again, is criminals have moved ahead of law enforcement. In fact, some criminals will make a few calls on a cellphone and then chuck it away. They will do the same for other kinds of wireless devices.
When we were the government, we began a process to modernize these investigative techniques. It raised some concern in certain quarters that this was calling for a change in the ability or the power of the police to seek out a wiretap. The reality is it changed nothing in that regard. Law enforcement would still have to convince a judge that the wiretap was necessary. The only thing that it would do is it would allow the wiretap to be executed against a cellphone number, or a BlackBerry, or an Internet account, or some other telecommunications device.
While there is some confusion and some angst among citizens and others about what this type of legislation would do, in fact, it would do nothing more than what is on the books right now. It would not give the police the power or the authority to wiretap someone's line without a duly executed warrant by a judge.
The Conservative government talks about how it is getting the job done and how there has been 13 years of inaction. Here is something upon which the government should be acting.
There are a couple of other issues with telecommunications companies and servers. There are costs associated with adapting this technology or being in a state of readiness. If a warrant is executed by law enforcement officers, they need to have the capability and capacity, the technology within their own shops. There are costs associated with that.
There are also costs on a going forward basis if we require these telecommunications companies, like a server or mobile phone company, to retrofit to ensure their technologies are capable of putting these wiretaps on this technology. If this law were passed, companies would have to ensure the technology was engineered in such a way that if a warrant were executed, they could implement the wiretap on a cellphone, or on a BlackBerry, or on an Internet account. I believe this is holding the government back from doing something on this initiative, and that is a wrong reason.
Why should we be compromising the safety and security of Canadians because some telecommunications companies are anxious and nervous about the costs they would be faced with to adapt and execute this type of technology?
When we were the government, there were a lot of discussions and negotiations back and forth. My recollection is that there was some compromise, some meeting of the minds, as to how to move forward in this particular environment.
If my memory serves me correctly, these companies indicated a willingness on a going forward basis to build in the technologies and infrastructure needed so they would be in a state of readiness for warrants like this to be executed. I am not sure where those discussions went finally, but it is a matter of negotiation.
As for retrofitting, that is a bigger issue. It is a question of making the law come into force so the companies would have to retrofit all their technology, which is a big ticket item, and that is a matter for negotiation with the government.
However, I am surprised that it has taken two and a half years to negotiate something that would be reasonable in the circumstances. With the passage of time, the safety and security of our citizens have been put at risk. I do not think that is acceptable.
In fact, when we had the new civilian Commissioner of the RCMP, Mr. Bill Elliott, come to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I asked him if the tools he needed to deal with this type of technology were there to make sure we were up to date with the technologies the criminals were using. He indicated that it would be an improvement if enabling legislation were in place so that we could beat the criminals at their own game.
Therefore, I encourage the government to bring forward legislation such as this, which would modernize our investigative techniques and give the police the same tools that criminals have. Does it make any sense for police officers to be using land line phones when the criminals are using not land lines but other technologies? It seems to me that this is an initiative that could have been incorporated into this bill, but it was not. I do not know where that particular item is.
We find in this bill that there are some improvements in the process that deal with our justice system. As I said earlier, I think some of them are more housekeeping in nature, but it is important housekeeping. It is something that I would encourage this House to support.
As an example, the amendments say that a summary conviction trial with respect to co-accused can proceed where one of the co-accused does not appear.
Another feature introduces changes to the process with respect to the challenge of jurors to, among other things, assist in preserving their impartiality.
It also brings in other amendments with respect to language rights provisions of the Criminal Code. This is a very important part of this legislation.
It means that an accused is informed of the right to be heard by a judge or a judge and jury who speak the official language of Canada that is the language of the accused, or both official languages of Canada. The amendments to this bill codify the right of the accused to obtain a translation of the information or indictment on request.
These are very important elements. We live in a bilingual country. We value our bilingualism. It is part of our national heritage. It is part of our strength as a nation. We also respect the right of individuals to be heard and listened to in the official language of their choice, one of the official languages of this country. I think that is also a very important part of Bill C-13.
I encourage the House to get on with this bill. It has been here before, it has been in the other place and it is back. Again, while sometimes the members in the other place are criticized, or that institution itself is criticized, there are many fine and competent people over there who can add value to legislation. In this case, I think they have done that.
I would encourage members of this House to support Bill C-13 in its current form. I certainly will be voting for it.
Criminal Code April 15th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, much discussion has been going on in the Toronto area, led by the mayor, David Miller, about the need to ban handguns. In our last election platform our party promised to eliminate handguns.
What disturbs me in the debate on this issue is that it is being characterized that if we ban handguns this will solve the problem. I do not think anyone would be naive to purport that.
While many of the handguns that are used to commit crimes in Toronto come across our border, we also know that 30% to 50% of them are sourced from within Canada. Handguns are stolen from people who legally own them and then a black market develops for these handguns. Many people in Toronto have been victims of crimes committed with legal handguns, not just black market handguns smuggled across the U.S.
I wonder if the member supports a ban on handguns and if she sees a ban on handguns as part of a bigger array of responses to the crime that we see in some of our cities.