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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is military.

NDP MP for St. John's East (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 71.20% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Correctional Service Canada February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, staff at the Atlantic Regional Treatment Centre for mentally ill prisoners in New Brunswick have been notified that the centre will close on April 1. Some 45 of the total capacity of 50 beds at Shepody are currently occupied, and we are told that current and future inmates with severe mental illness will be transferred to Archambault near Quebec City, where 100 of 119 beds are already occupied.

Could the minister confirm that he has ordered the closure of the Atlantic Regional Treatment Centre for mentally ill prisoners?

National Defence February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, universality of service continues to be a policy that haunts the Canadian Armed Forces. It has been condemned not just by soldiers but by the National Defence and the Veterans Ombudsmen. An internal report by DND shows that 70% of Afghan war veterans will be involuntarily released by the CAF within 10 years of deployment. This policy of discharge for those who face mental health challenges must be changed.

When will the minister finally do the right thing, the fair thing, and fix this harsh and arbitrary policy?

National Defence February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we are looking for a bit of clarity from this government, not just more and more rhetoric.

The Minister of National Defence knows that he should not be publicly musing about becoming militarily involved in Libya or Syria. He knows full well that Canada has not made a legal case for bombing in Syria. The Prime Minister has said that it would require the support of the Assad regime to do so.

Can the minister assure the House that there are no plans for military operations in Syria or Libya?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague from Victoria mentioned the matter of unlawful. The Minister of National Defence mentioned many times over the weekend that we should not worry, that lawful protests and dissent were okay.

However, so many times, whether it be a strike that is not exactly in keeping with the existing labour laws, protest movements like Idle No More, or some of the matters that the member mentioned, they are clearly not authorized by law, which is the proper definition of “unlawful”. It seems to me that it is a very serious problem. It is fooling people into thinking that it is harmless, because if they are not breaking the law, they have nothing to worry about. However, the issue of lawfulness is a real problem for the application of this legislation.

Would the member care to comment on that?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the discretion to decide whether there is a violation of the charter of rights is quite astonishing. In fact, clause 42 says, “The Service shall not take measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada if those measures will contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, unless they go to a judge.

The determination would have to be made by CSIS officials that they would violate the charter. Who is CSIS to make these determinations in the first place? Only if the people at CSIS were sure that it would, would they then go to a judge.

When we look at the experience of CSIS in dealing with the judiciary already, it has been found to have misinformed—in other words not told the truth—to Mr. Justice Mosley in an application in relation to getting secret powers. There is a real question here as to whether this would be abused, would likely be abused, or would be possible to abuse, particularly if there is no oversight.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the member gets his information. I am sure he must have misunderstood whatever might have been said by the Leader of the Opposition, because we are clearly not going to support it, nor would we keep in place if it were passed, as it is unconstitutional legislation. I cannot imagine how the son of the father of the charter of rights can ask his caucus to vote in favour of legislation that clearly would give a judge the power to override in secret, on an individual case, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I say to the hon. member that if they are pushing hard against it, they are pushing with a straw.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Victoria.

Bill C-51 is now before us so that we can debate something that is of great importance to the people of Canada. I think its short title is the “anti-terrorism act, 2015”. There is a real question as to what it is really about.

In fact, The Globe and Mail, one of the oldest and most prominent newspapers in Canada, says:

On close inspection, Bill C-51 is not an anti-terrorism bill. Fighting terrorism is its pretext; its language reveals a broader goal of allowing government departments, as well as CSIS, to act whenever they believe limply defined security threats “may”—not “will”—occur.

That is a pretty fierce condemnation of a piece of legislation by what purports to be a serious government interested in dealing with terrorism.

Let us make no mistake. Terrorism is a real threat and everyone agrees that public safety is a top priority for any government. However, Canadians do not have to choose between their security and their rights. This is in fact a false choice presented to the people of Canada by the current government and by the Prime Minister.

When the member for Ottawa West—Nepean was announcing his retirement as foreign minister, he quoted John Diefenbaker that "Parliament is more than procedure—it is the custodian of the nation's freedom.”

I believe that is right. What we are doing here today on this side of the House is what we can and must do as parliamentarians to protect the freedoms of Canadians, because that is the issue here. The issue is that we need to have concrete measures that would keep Canadians safe without eroding our freedoms and our way of life. Unfortunately, time and time again, the current Prime Minister and the current government is putting politics ahead of principle.

Once again, The Globe and Mail stated, on February 1:

Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he [the Prime Minister] now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties.

Where does that come from? It comes from the provisions in the bill itself, which would give additional powers to CSIS that it does not already have and, arguably, does not need; and which would allow for information-sharing broadly between 16 government departments. The bill does not specify this would be limited in nature. It would cause problems that have been described and outlined by many prominent citizens—former prime ministers, former leaders of political parties, academics, legal expects, former justices of the Supreme Court of Canada—all of whom have condemned the legislation as going too far and giving unnecessary and dangerous powers to government agencies with a profound lack of parliamentary oversight.

The government's position on oversight is that we already have enough, that we have a robust system. We do not. We do not have any system of oversight for the Canada Border Services Agency. We have an appointed body, SIRC, that deals with CSIS, but it is not an oversight agency. It says so itself in its most recent report and it makes the distinction between oversight and review. It says it is a review agency that looks at things some time after the fact. It does not have oversight on a continuous basis over what is going on in the moment on the day. Therefore, it is not an oversight agency. It says so itself and recognizes that oversight is a different value and is required.

Its provisions have been put before the House to provide the kind of oversight that we could use, oversight that some of our Five Eyes friends have over intelligence. Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America have robust parliamentary or congressional oversight with the power to know what is going on and to keep an eye on things.

This has been rejected outright by the government. There was private member's bill, Bill C-622, that would have modernized a piece of legislation that was before the House in 2006, a piece of legislation that arose out of the committee that you, Mr. Speaker, sat on, along with the current Minister of Justice, who said at that time that this would be a desirable, necessary, and important measure to be undertaken. That bill died on the order paper, but Bill C-622, which proposed modernizing that legislation to some extent—which I am not saying we agreed with entirely—was before the House and was defeated by the government at second reading.

Also before the House is Motion No. 461, a motion that I presented to the House on October 24, 2013, calling for a special select committee of the House, like the one the Speaker and the Minister of Justice sat on, to devise the best and appropriate form of oversight by Parliament that might be required given the change in circumstances since 2004 and the experiences of other jurisdictions, for us to devise the best system for our Parliament.

Although it was offered up for debate, the government House leader refused to allow it to be debated, saying there was no necessity for any more oversight than already in place. That flies in the face of all the experts, the academic experts and people who have studied this time and time again, such as lawyers, judges, former leaders, and former prime ministers, who have all said that parliamentary oversight must be present in a system that protects the rights and freedoms of individuals in this country when we are dealing with this kind of legislation.

The bill is is extremely intrusive. It gives significant police powers, including the power to disrupt activities. I heard the Minister of National Defence—who all of a sudden is the spokesperson for Public Safety, as I do not know what happened to the Minister of Public Safety, who seems to have disappeared off the map since the new Minister of Defence was appointed—say several times over the weekend in various interviews that “No, no, no, we're giving powers to the judiciary, not to CSIS”. That is wrong. The power to disrupt in section 42 of the bill would be given to CSIS directly. It would only be when CSIS decided that whatever it wanted to do would actually violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that it would have to go a judge, and the judge supposedly would be allowed to tell CSIS that it could break the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I do not think that is constitutional. I do not think a judge can have a licence by legislation to violate the Constitution of Canada, which is what the bill would allow. That is how bad this legislation is. that in itself is enough to say that the bill is bad, wrong, unconstitutional, and cannot be supported. I will leave it at that.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the hon. member, and I listened to what he was saying here today about oversight and the things that are needed to fix this bill. I have some sympathy for the member's position in a sense, because his leader has said that no matter what the member says, no matter what amendments are made or refused, he is going to vote for the bill.

I wonder why the members of the Liberal Party have abdicated their responsibility as parliamentarians such that when a measure is coming forward that they say they do not agree with, they have committed in advance to voting for it. How is that doing one's parliamentary job?

I just do not understand it. A party that seeks to be in government says, “Well, we are not in government, but we will support the government, even though we are opposed to what it is putting forth”.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened with care to my colleague's exposition of the law, and it bothers me tremendously to know that even though we have a fixed election date and the law now says that the next election will be on October 19, even if we wanted to ensure that at each election we had a fresh voters list for Canadians living abroad, surely the doors could be open now.

How many people do we estimate would have to register and be processed and do all of those things within the 35 days of a writ? What possible reason could there be for not starting that process on January 1 of an election year under the fixed election law?

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question, I am reminded by my colleague. I would ask if the member could answer that.

It is pretty clear what the Prime Minister said after the meeting with Premier Davis. The Prime Minister's Office said that it “was always intended to compensate hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for demonstrable losses...; it was never intended to be a blank cheque”.

Here are talking points replacing a defined agreement that was about something else entirely. That is unfortunately the way the current government operates.