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Track Irwin

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is justice.

Liberal MP for Mount Royal (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a petition from residents of my riding calling for the removal of any public monument in the name of a person who has advocated or promoted genocide as defined by the Criminal Code.

In particular, the petitioners draw the attention of the House to the statue in my riding of Queen Isabella of Spain, who oversaw the iniquitous Spanish Inquisition, which included the expulsion of all Jews from Spain on pain of death and the forced conversion of those who remained also on pain of death.

The petitioners urge the House to consider legislation preventing the memorialization of persons who have committed deplorable acts such as these and to ensure we do not glorify those responsible for dark chapters in our--

Criminal Code June 6th, 2014

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-610, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and introduce this legislation, which amends the Criminal Code's provisions on animal cruelty. In particular, it creates a new offence of inadequate and negligent care of animals. The bill establishes an offence for anyone who negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal or bird, or, being the owner, wilfully or recklessly abandons it or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter, and care for it. It also punishes those who negligently injure an animal or bird while it is being conveyed.

As hon. members know, Canada's animal cruelty laws are woefully out of date. They have not been updated since the 1890s. In my view, this bill represents an important step toward modernizing the law, although I realize more will be done.

Given the order of precedence, I realize this bill may not see debate before I leave Parliament. I would thus invite the government to consider adopting this legislation as its own and to introduce long-overdue animal cruelty reforms so that Canada's laws respect and protect animals against actions that show disregard or contempt for their security and well-being.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, not only would it make it more difficult to access citizenship, it would make it more difficult to keep citizenship.

I am unable to understand how such a piece of legislation that is so seriously constitutionally flawed could have been introduced to this chamber to begin with. I cannot understand how the legislative advice the minister received with regard to the requirements of constitutional compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms regarding any proposed legislation could have passed constitutional muster.

Perhaps I should not be surprised. There is a record of introducing legislation that has been not only constitutionally suspect but constitutionally challenged. Again and again the courts in this country have pronounced the legislation unconstitutional. Effectively, it should not have been introduced to begin with.

The government should not be introducing yet another constitutionally flawed bill, imposing litigation, in effect, at taxpayers' expense, which at the end of the day will result, yet again, in another court pronouncement that this legislation is unconstitutional, putting our whole citizenship legislation in flux and uncertainty.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this is one of the clauses that could lead to an abuse of discretionary power. It is one of the many abuses mentioned in my presentation.

What concerns me—and it must be pointed out—is the problem of constitutional issues. In this bill, many clauses are basically unconstitutional and make it possible to abuse the rule of law, the fundamental principle of equality before the law, and the principles of right of mobility and multiculturalism, which are enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are fundamental and constitutional principles.

For this reason, and for all the other reasons, we must reject the bill.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act. While I support the objective of clarifying the test for residency and also the approach with regard to the retroactive restoration of citizenship for additional lost Canadians, I have serious concerns with respect to the bill's principles and policies as a whole. I submit it will not strengthen, but in fact prejudice, Canadian citizenship, and in particular undermine the fundamental principles of Canadian law and policy that have long underpinned our citizenship regime.

There are too many problematic and constitutionally suspect aspects of this bill to address all of them in my allotted time. Accordingly, I would invite members who are considering voting in support of this legislation to consult, among other resources, the comprehensive and persuasive briefs of the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, submissions of constitutional experts, and others, who have identified the serious flaws in this bill while making the case for its rejection.

I will focus primarily on those proposed yet seriously problematic reforms to the Citizenship Act that would fundamentally alter the concept of Canadian citizenship, ultimately resulting in the creation of two unequal classes of Canadians. Indeed, Bill C-24 marks the unprecedented introduction of citizenship tiers for the first time in Canadian history. Not only would this bill make it more difficult to obtain citizenship, it would make it easier for the government to revoke it.

Specifically, Bill C-24 provides that an applicant seeking citizenship must intend to reside in Canada upon obtaining citizenship. This provision would ultimately empower the minister to revoke citizenship from naturalized Canadians based on a finding that they initially misrepresented their intent to reside in Canada. As a result, naturalized Canadians who, for example, engage in extensive international travel for legitimate reasons, such as to visit family or engage in work abroad, would be left in a state of standing uncertainty as to whether their international travel would provide the government with the basis for citizenship revocation on the grounds that they misrepresented their intent when making their initial citizenship applications.

Simply put, it is both wrong and unconstitutional to place this heightened and unequal burden on naturalized Canadians. Indeed, whether this threat is acted upon, the result would be a chilling effect on the mobility rights of naturalized Canadians, thereby creating two unequal classes of citizens under the law: naturalized Canadians for whom international travel may provide a basis for citizenship revocation, and Canadian-born citizens who may travel freely.

New immigrants to Canada are active members of our society. They pay taxes and contribute positively to our nation's economy. Indeed, I am extremely proud to be able to represent one of the most ethnically diverse ridings in the country, the rainbow riding, or comté arc-en-ciel de Mont-Royal. I myself have been witness to how a reasonable and respectful immigration system treats new Canadians as full and equal Canadians, and contributes positively to the community and the perception of Canadian society as constituting a multicultural mosaic. Indeed, section 27 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to multiculturalism as a constitutional norm.

Simply put, there is no societal or governmental interest achieved in creating an arbitrary distinction and disparate impact and burden on mobility rights between birthright Canadians and new immigrants who have come here lawfully to better their own lives, and who in turn strengthen the fabric of our nation. Indeed, approaching immigration and integration in such a derisive and discriminatory matter is at odds with Canada's long history of being a welcoming and inclusive nation.

Critics such as the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers have argued that the “intent to reside” requirement will provide “broad discretion to a citizenship officer to speculate on the future intentions of a citizenship applicant and deny citizenship based on an alleged lack” of future intent to reside. While the government certainly has the right to restrict immigration, it should do so directly and with clear and express justification, and not based on fear, stigma, speculation, or prejudice.

Apart from the discriminatory effect of this bill that I have described, the legislation is also objectionable on the grounds that it would make Canadian citizenship impractical, if not entirely inaccessible, for many who would otherwise contribute positively to our country, and in particular to our economy.

Moreover, not only would this bill negatively impact permanent residents and naturalized Canadians, it would also establish new grounds for revoking citizenship for all Canadians, including those born here, subject only to a vaguely worded requirement that revocation not conflict “with any international human rights instrument regarding statelessness to which Canada is signatory”.

As the Canadian Bar Association explains:

Citizens who may be subject to citizenship revocation include those born in Canada who are presumed to be able to claim citizenship in another state through one of their parents....

Not only would this approach raise a whole set of interpretative challenges for the courts, it would enable the government to change the substance of this restriction by unilaterally withdrawing from a treaty without consulting Parliament. All of this, of course, ignores the glaring constitutional questions posed by this bill in general, and this specific flawed provision in particular.

I will remind the House of the wording of one of the foundational sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 6(1). It says:

Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.

There is no exception in the charter. Section 6(1) does not distinguish between naturalized, dual, or Canadian-born citizens, as would Bill C-24.

While I regret the seeming presumptiveness of reading from the charter to hon. members in this place when we all have obligation to uphold, protect, and defend it, given the bill we are debating and the interventions in debate thus far, it does seem possible that some members in this place may not be as familiar as they should be with this and other charter provisions.

Indeed, one must wonder how it is possible that this bill is before us at all with no report of its charter non-compliance, given the requirements of section 4(1) of the Department of Justice Act that the minister review government bills for consistency with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and table a report of inconsistency, if such is found. Entrenched charter rights, in particular mobility rights under section 6, due process rights under section 7, and equality rights under section 15, are engaged by this bill and would likely be infringed.

Similarly, cases could be made that provisions of Bill C-24 would also infringe on sections 11 and 12 charter rights as well, let alone section 27, to which I have otherwise referred.

This is but a brief snapshot of why these charter rights are engaged and infringed. Whereas principles of fundamental justice include the basic entitlement to procedural fairness, the punishment of exile as it would be applied to Canadian citizens in this legislation could also infringe section 7 of the charter.

In another example, the new grounds for revocation, which would apply only to a class of Canadians deemed to be dual citizens under this bill, would violate the principle of equal citizenship and draw an impermissible distinction based on the enumerated ground of national origin, under section 15 of the charter. Time will prohibit me from elaborating further in this regard.

It is clear that this legislation should have been rejected, even by the government's own alleged standards of review as set forth in its court documents to the effect that the government considers a bill as being charter compliant unless its likelihood of withstanding a charter-based challenge is only 5% or less.

It does not take a constitutional expert to see that this bill is seriously constitutionally suspect, even allowing for the government's particularly low threshold. Therefore, I must take this opportunity to ask why, in light of the government's recent legislative record of constitutionally suspect provisions, it would today seek to pass yet another bill that would trigger expensive, time-consuming, and foreseeable litigation, which would ultimately be struck down in part, if not full. Even more troubling perhaps, it would put the Canadian citizenship regime in a state of flux and uncertainty.

I have only touched on the particulars of this fundamentally flawed and constitutionally suspect legislation.

I wish to emphasize that tiered citizenship as contemplated by this bill is both unethical and unconstitutional. I see no reason why the government should be seeking to restrict immigration to Canada. I would therefore put the question directly to the members to this place. Is there any reason, let alone a compelling one, to make it more difficult for law-abiding applicants to achieve citizenship? Is it the case that we have decided that diversity no longer represents a societal virtue and Canadian value? Is it the case that multiculturalism is no longer a constitutional norm?

The government has yet to justify the primary legislative changes accomplished through the bill in any compelling, let alone constitutional, manner, and its advancement will only continue to create stigma and prejudicial fallout for new immigrants.

For these reasons, I would urge all members to join me in affirming respect for Canadians, respect for the charter, respect for the foundational principle of equality, and respect for multiculturalism and to therefore oppose Bill C-24 and uphold the rule of law.

1989 Tiananmen Square Protest June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, wherein hundreds of Chinese citizens were murdered for standing up for rights and freedoms.

As we remember and reflect upon the protestors' courage and sacrifice, China's government continues to deny that this brutal crackdown occurred, targets those who commemorate it, and seeks to sanitize the facts of history.

Twenty-five years on, the people of China remain subject to ongoing repression and oppression, where Chinese human rights advocates, citizens, and journalists are subjected to police monitoring, imprisonment, and torture; a legal system devoid of judicial independence; limitations on religious worship; criminalization of speech; and massive repression of minorities, exemplified in the assault on the Falun Gong and ethnic minorities like the Uyghur and Tibetan people.

We must speak out on behalf of those who cannot be heard, bear witness to the continued oppression and repression, ensure that human rights are at the core of the Chinese-Canadian relationship, which we otherwise value, and that the memory, history, and lessons of Tiananmen Square will never be forgotten.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 26th, 2014

With regard to the appointment of Justice Marc Nadon: (a) who did what and when prior to the Selection Panel being convened; (b) who determined the process to be followed with respect to the most recent appointment process to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC); (c) was the process for Justice Wagner designed with the departure of Justice Fish a year later in mind; (d) was the process for Justice Nadon designed with the forthcoming departure of Justice LeBel in mind; (e) in the breakdown of appointment process costs provided in the answer to Q-239, what accounts for the “Acquisition of Machinery and Equipment” cost associated with the appointment of Justice Marc Nadon; (f) was there a competitive bidding process with respect to the goods and services in (a); (g) what accounts for the greater cost of “Legal Services” for the appointment of Justice Marc Nadon relative to the reported costs provided in the answer to Q-239 for other Justices; (h) are the costs for the legal opinions of Justices Binnie and Charron included in the “Legal Services” heading for the appointment process of Justice Marc Nadon reported in the answer to Q-239; (i) if the answer to (f) is no, under what heading are these opinion costs found and, if not reported in the answer to Q-239, where are they reported; (j) were the legal opinions of any Quebec jurists explicitly sought with respect to the eligibility of Justice Marc Nadon and, if so, (i) whose opinions were sought, (ii) on what date, (iii) at what cost; (k) were the legal opinions of any Quebec jurists explicitly sought with respect to the eligibility of a federal judge to assume a Quebec seat on the SCC and, if so, (i) whose opinions were sought, (ii) on what date, (iii) at what cost; (l) how long will the materials relative to Justice Nadon's appointment remain on the website for the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada;

(m) when were these materials first posted; (n) under what guidelines will they be removed; (o) how was the decision to seek outside legal advice relative to Justice Nadon's eligibility made, (i) by whom, (ii) on what dates, (iii) why; (p) did the Department of Justice render an internal opinion as to the eligibility of Justice Nadon to assume a Quebec seat on the SCC; (q) what assessment or evaluation of the Nadon nomination has the government undertaken to improve the process for the next appointment; (r) what assessment, evaluation, or review of the Nadon nomination will the government undertake so as to learn from it; (s) with respect to the statement of the Minister reported by CBC on March 24, 2014, that "we'll examine our options as we ensure that the Supreme Court has its full complement" what specific options were considered by the government; (t) did the government consider re-naming Justice Nadon after the decision in Reference re Supreme Court Act, ss. 5 and 6 and, if not, why did the Minister not rule this out when asked subsequent to the ruling's release; (u) on what specific dates did the Selection Panel engage in consultations relative to the process that resulted in the nomination of Justice Nadon; (v) did any consultations or meetings of the Selection Panel occur after July 15, 2013; (w) were any outside lawyers consulted on the amendments made to the Supreme Court Act during the nomination of Justice Marc Nadon; (x) was Quebec consulted on the amendments made to the Supreme Court Act during the nomination of Justice Marc Nadon; (y) was the Barreau du Quebec consulted on the amendments made to the Supreme Court Act during the nomination of Justice Marc Nadon; (z) were any documents, presentations, or memos prepared for ministers or their staff, from April 1, 2013 to present regarding Justice Marc Nadon and, if so, what are (i) the dates, (ii) the titles or subject-matters, (iii) the department, commission, or agency's internal tracking number;

(aa) with respect to the Minister's appearance before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Thursday, November 21, 2013, wherein he deferred to Ms. Laurie Wright (Assistant Deputy Minister, Public Law Sector, Department of Justice) on a question regarding consultations in the matter of changes to the Supreme Court Act and wherein she said “In this particular case, I'm not aware that there were any consultations with the Barreau du Québec. It's not unusual for the government to consult in circumstances such as this, though”, (i) were there any consultations with the Barreau du Quebec and, if so, on what dates, (ii) was the Minister aware personally of consultations, (iii) what role would the Minister personally play in such consultations in 'usual' circumstances, (iv) if there were no consultations, why were none held, (v) were any consultations requested by the government in this regard; (bb) with respect to the various costs reported in the response to Q-74 related to Ms. Louise Charron, Mr. Ian Binnie and Professor Peter Hogg, what accounts for the difference in these costs; (cc) were the three named individuals asked the same total number of questions and with the same exact wording; (dd) in addition to these individuals referenced in part (z), who else was asked and on what date with respect to the question of the eligibility of a federal judge to assume a Quebec seat on the SCC; (ee) with respect to the statement of the Minister of Justice in the House on October 17, 2013, "The eligibility and the opinion that we have received from Mr. Justice Ian Binnie, which has also been endorsed by Supreme Court Justice Louise Charron, as well as a noted constitutional expert Peter Hogg, is very clear", (i) when were Justice Charron and Professor Hogg provided the opinion for Justice Binnie, (ii) how long did they have to review it before reporting to the government; (ff) with respect to the statement of the Minister of Justice before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on November 21, 2013, that “legal opinion prepared by respected former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie which [...] was supported by his former colleague, the Honourable Louise Charron, as well as by noted constitutional expert, Professor Peter Hogg”, (i) did the Minister use “supported” to mean “endorsed”, (ii) did the Minister mean that all conclusions were agreed in wholeheartedly by those cited; (gg) with respect to the Minister's comments before the Ad Hoc Committee on the Appointment of SCC Justices that “I would add that this opinion was reviewed by several eminently qualified individuals, including the Honourable Louise Charron as a former judge of the Supreme Court of Canada herself. The opinion was also reviewed by Professor Peter Hogg, a recognized constitutional expert and author. Both of them expressed unequivocal support for Mr. Justice Binnie's conclusions”, is “several” used to mean “more than two but not many” as defined by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2 ed.) and (i) if so, who other than Justice Charron and Prof. Hogg is included in the class of “eminently qualified individuals” who reviewed this opinion, (ii) if not, in what sense was the word "several" used in this context and to convey what; (hh) was Justice Binnie informed that his opinion would be made public and, if so, was this part of the arrangement the government made with him; (ii) can Justice Charron publicly release her opinion that was rendered to the government and, if not, why not; (jj) can Professor Hogg publicly release his opinion that was rendered to the government and, if not, why not; (kk) will the government release the opinions of Justice Charron and Prof. Hogg and, if not, why not; (ll) how did the government decide from whom to seek opinions; (mm) how did the government determine whose opinions to release; (nn) other than the Minister of Justice, who in the Department of Justice, in the Prime Minister's Office, and in the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada reviewed the Charron and Hogg opinions; (oo) where are the Charron and Hogg opinions currently stored, who has access to them, and what is the plan for retention; (pp) concerning the Selection Panel that considered Justice Marc Nadon’s candidacy, (i) how were members of the Panel chosen, (ii) what qualifications were sought, (iii) how did each of the members of the Panel meet the qualifications in (ii), (iv) what measures are in place to ensure that Aboriginal candidates are considered in the work of the Panel; (qq) who was the Executive Director of the SCC Selection Committee for this process and how was this person selected;

(rr) what protections were in place to ensure that members of the Panel elevated mid-summer to Cabinet were not influenced by their Cabinet role in the work of the Panel; (ss) with respect to the Prime Minister’s statement regarding Justice Nadon in the House on April 1, 2014, that “pendant les consultations, tous les partis de la Chambre étaient d'accord avec l'idée qu'on pouvait nommer un Québécois de la Cour fédérale à la Cour suprême”, (i) to what consultations is the Prime Minister referring, (ii) was the Prime Minister part of these consultations and if so in what capacity, (iii) if the Prime Minister was not part of these consultations, by what means was he informed of their contents, (iv) to what extent are these consultations public, (v) if these consultations were public, in what manner can records of them be accessed, (vi) if these consultations were not public, are their contents protected by any privilege or confidentiality agreement and if so, what are the consequences for any individual breaking consultation confidentiality, if any, (vii) on what basis was this statement made, (viii) how can a party involved in these consultations express its disagreement “avec l'idée qu'on pouvait nommer un Québécois de la Cour fédérale à la Cour supreme”, (ix) how can a disagreement, such as the Prime Minister suggests did not occur, be made public within the ordinary course of consultations; and (tt) with respect to the Prime Minister’s statement in the House on April 1, 2014, that “Évidemment, c'est une grande surprise de découvrir qu'il y a une règle tout à fait différente pour le Québec que pour le reste du Canada”, (i) when was the Prime Minister first informed that there exists a different rule for the appointment of judges from Quebec vis-a-vis the rest of Canada to the Supreme Court of Canada, (ii) did the Prime Minister personally solicit, receive, and review legal advice on this point within the context of the Marc Nadon appointment, (iii) what steps were taken to mitigate any such surprises that might arise during the appointment process?

Questions on the Order Paper May 26th, 2014

With regard to costs and expenses related to appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada: (a) what accounts for the difference in costs between appointment processes; (b) who and what entities submit costs for reimbursement; (c) are any costs rejected for reimbursement and, if so, (i) on what basis, (ii) who makes the determination, (iii) what criteria are used in making the determination; (d) what reimbursement requests were rejected for the appointment processes of (i) Justice M. Rothstein, (ii) Justice T. Cromwell, (iii) Justice M. Moldaver and Justice A. Karakatsanis, (iv) Justice R. Wager, (v) Justice M. Nadon; (e) in the breakdown of appointment process costs provided in the answer to Q-239, how are the following categories defined (i) Travel and Telecommunications, (ii) Information and Printing Services, (iii) Legal Services, (iv) Translation and Professional Services, (v) Rentals, (vi) Miscellaneous Supplies, (vii) Acquisition of Machinery and Equipment; (f) what types of costs are included under the headings (i) Travel and Telecommunications, (ii) Information and Printing Services, (iii) Legal Services, (iv) Translation and Professional Services, (v) Rentals, (vi) Miscellaneous Supplies, (vii) Acquisition of Machinery and Equipment; (g) who bears the costs incurred in the following categories and, if costs are shared, with which entity or entities are they shared: (i) Travel and Telecommunications, (ii) Information and Printing Services, (iii) Legal Services, (iv) Translation and Professional Services, (v) Rentals, (vi) Miscellaneous Supplies, (vii) Acquisition of Machinery and Equipment; (h) why are there no “Information and Printing” costs associated with Justice Cromwell’s appointment; (i) what was the maximum budget set for the appointment processes reported in the government’s answer to written question Q-239; (j) what accounts for the greater costs of “Translation and Professional Services” for the appointment of Justice Wagner relative to the reported costs provided in the government’s answer to written question Q-239 for other Justices; (k) what accounts for the great increase in rentals costs for “Rentals” associated with the appointment of Mr. Justice Wagner compared to other Justices reported in the answer to Q-239; (l) what ensures transparency with respect to the costs incurred in judicial appointments; (m) who assess the reasonableness of costs incurred, and how; (n) who assesses the legitimacy of expenses, and how; (o) are receipts that are related to the appointments process consultable and, if so, (i) by whom, (ii) how, (iii) under what circumstances; (p) who ultimately approves the expenses and what is the role of Treasury Board in this regard, if any; and (q) is there a maximum budget set for an appointment process and, if so, (i) what is it, (ii) how and when was it determined?

Justice May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court hears its last case of the term next week, going an entire session without a full complement of judges from Quebec. Will the justice minister inform the House when he will name a new judge and by what transparent process? Will he commit to appearing with the justice before a parliamentary committee prior to any appointment?

Holocaust Remembrance Day May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, national Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds us, as the survivors know only too well, of horrors too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened, of the Holocaust as a war against the Jews in which not all victims were Jews, but all Jews everywhere were targeted victims.

It is symbolized by the marking this year of the 70th anniversary of the mass deportation of 430,000 Hungarian Jews to the death camps in Auschwitz in 10 weeks, representing the fastest and most brutally efficient extermination of the Shoah.

I commemorated the rescue of the remnant of Hungarian Jews by Raoul Wallenberg in the March of the Living in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Wallenberg, the disappeared hero of the Holocaust, demonstrated that one person can confront evil, can resist, can prevail, and can thereby transform history.

Holocaust survivors with us today, including those rescued by Wallenberg, are the true heroes of humanity. With them we pledge to never again be silent or indifferent in the face of evil, never again to acquiesce in racism and anti-Semitism, and always to speak and to act on behalf of our common humanity.

Never again. Jamais plus.