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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is process.

NDP MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 48.90% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for talking about the importance of farming in his community. It is important in mine as well.

I want to refer to the investor state dispute resolution mechanism. Earlier I pointed out the fact that it was a very secretive process. It is also costly for governments to have to defend themselves on these dispute resolution mechanisms.

Could the member comment on the fact that this really needs to be a more open and transparent process and safeguards need to be put in place for countries so they do not get involved in these costly battles?

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to turn to the investor state resolutions youth settlement mechanism for a moment. There was a report issued by the International Investment Arbitration on Public Policy and it highlighted some of the concerns raised with regard to the lack of openness and transparency. In fact, it said:

Unfortunately, a recent review by the International Chamber of Commerce of its arbitration rules maintained a very high level of confidentiality in ICC arbitrations involving states, such that the existence of a claim against a state, the identity of the arbitrators, the text of orders or awards, and any amounts awarded against a state will continue to be kept confidential. While this level of confidentiality may be appropriate in commercial arbitrations, it precludes public scrutiny of ICC arbitrations involving states and makes it difficult to evaluate the policy implications of a state's decision to authorize investment arbitration under the ICC Rules.

In the House we often call on the government to engage in activities around openness and transparency. With the investor state resolution dispute settlement mechanisms, that openness and transparency is absent.

Could the member comment on the secretive dealings of those mechanisms?

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Surrey North for that very eloquent presentation of the NDP support for the Canada-Korea free trade agreement.

In the speech given by the member for Vancouver Kingsway, he noted that in recent years South Korea had emerged as a global leader in environmental economics, investing billions in an ambitious green growth strategy aimed at improving energy efficiency, while boosting renewables and green technology. Then, sadly, he turned to Canada's track record.

In the report, “The Maple Leaf in the OECD”, comparing progress toward sustainability, it indicated that according to recent tracking polls, 90% of Canadians believed it was very important for national identity that Canada be a leader on the environmental issues. However, Canada's environmental performance was one of the weakest of all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The data shows Canada's overall environmental performance is far behind other OECD countries, with a rank of 28 out of 30, virtually at the bottom.

In Korea there is a green growth in action and it has become only the third country to issue a report using the proposed OECD green growth indicators. It is looking at CO2 emissions, environmental and resource productivity, energy productivity, domestic materials consumption and so on. On many measures, Korea is in the forefront of a new green economy.

Could the member comment about the fact that Korea could show leadership to Canada, which is such a laggard when it comes to environmental measures?

Petitions October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have two sets of petitions signed by hundreds of people from Nanaimo—Cowichan who call upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18, an act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food, that would restrict farmers' rights or add to farmers' costs. Further, they call upon Parliament to enshrine in legislation the inalienable right of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for that informative speech.

One of the issues that has come up with regard to animal cruelty and this particular piece of legislation is that we had two private member's bills proposed by New Democrats before the House.

One is Bill C-232, which was introduced by my colleague for Parkdale—High Park. This bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences. In short, animals would be considered people and not property. Part of the reason the bill was introduced is that the current definition of “animal” is inadequate.

The second is Bill C-592, which was introduced by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. This bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and what is meant by “intended acts of cruelty”.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that although the Conservatives have been in government since 2006, they still failed to introduce good legislation with regard to animal cruelty.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to continue in the vein of mandatory minimum sentences.

Earlier in my speech I quoted from an article by the Heritage Foundation in a legal memorandum of February 10. In this memorandum, it is contended that mandatory minimum sentences did not reduce crime. University of Minnesota law professor, Michael Tonry, has concluded, “the weight of the evidence clearly shows that enactment of mandatory penalties has either no demonstrable marginal deterrent effects or short-term effects that rapidly waste away”. The article states, “Statutes imposing mandatory minimum sentences result in arbitrary and severe punishments that undermine the public’s faith in America’s criminal justice system”.

Could the member comment on that? Does she agree that mandatory minimums can undermine the faith of citizens in the justice system?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government, with its continued use of mandatory minimums, seems to be saying, in part, that it does not trust judges to review the evidence before them and use their knowledge, expertise, and long history in the courts to make the appropriate determination about what an appropriate sentence would be. By imposing mandatory minimums, in this particular case, it continues that line of reasoning and thought that seems to be evident in so many other pieces of legislation we have seen before the House.

Serious concerns have been raised, with regard to Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill that was referenced, and a number of other bills, that the Conservatives continue to undermine the ability of judges to make appropriate decisions.

If there are judges who are completely outside the norm in sentencing, there are other ways of dealing with it other than putting mandatory minimums in bill after bill.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, of course, the member is also a lawyer, so she has had some personal exposure to the criminal justice system.

Like many people, I did a Google search today in preparation for speaking. I was looking for both the pro and con arguments with regard to mandatory minimum sentences. Interestingly, the legal memorandum by the Heritage Foundation provides some arguments for and against. The problem is that in the United States, prosecutors are actually the ones making some determinations about mandatory minimums, because prosecutors are defining what the charge will be. Sometimes they are defining the charge so that it does not fall under a mandatory minimum. There are people somewhere else in the chain of decision- making in the United States who are making decisions about whether mandatory minimums will or will not apply. That has been raised as an issue in Congress. Although there are some opinions in favour, they have more to do with procedural things in the United States.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Newton—North Delta for her very kind comments. She has also done yeoman's work in the House, particularly with regard to issues recently around child care. I want to acknowledge the good work she has done. As well, the member clearly indicated that the New Democrats would be supporting Bill C-35. It was interesting to hear questions from the other side.

We talk about this place being a democratic institution. Part of being a democratic institution is ensuring that my constituents are represented in the House. That means as members of Parliament we should have an opportunity to rise in the House to speak to particular legislation. The members ask why do we not just get it to committee. I do not happen to sit on the justice committee, so I would be unable to participate in the questioning of witnesses and in any debate at the committee with regard to the legislation. Therefore, it is important that I am able to rise in the House to express what I think are concerns for my riding and to have that voice on the record.

Again, we support the bill and as the member for Newton—North Delta rightly pointed out, we do have concerns. However, let me talk about what the substance of the bill is.

According to the legislative summary, Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), is as follows. It is also called Quanto's law in honour of the police dog which was stabbed to death while helping to apprehend a fleeing suspect in Edmonton, Alberta in October 2013. Quanto had four years of decorated service and had participated in more than 100 arrests. The legislative summary says:

Currently, an offence is committed under sections 444 and 445 of the Criminal Code (Code) when someone wilfully kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures cattle or when someone kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a pet wilfully and without lawful excuse.

There are also a number of provisions that address cruelty to animals, including section 445.1 of the Code, which establishes that it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal.

The legislative summary goes on to talk on to talk about what the new offences are and it indicates:

Clause 3 creates new subsection 445.01 (1) of the Code,3 which establishes that it is an offence to wilfully and without lawful excuse kill , maim, wound, poison or injure a law enforcement animal while it is aiding a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer's duties; a military animal while it is aiding a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out that member's duties; or a service animal while it is assisting a person with a disability.

It goes on to say that, “A minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months takes effect only if a law enforcement animal is killed”.

Subsequently it refers to the consecutive sentences clause 2:

Clause 2 of Bill C-35 creates new section 270.03 of the Code, which establishes that, if the abovementioned offences are committed against a law enforcement officer...the sentence imposed shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.

We certainly support an initiative that protects service animals. We know they play a very important role in aiding police officers, border security in airports where the service animals are being used for drug detection. We support legislation that enhances the protection for these animals, but as other members have rightly pointed out, there are some serious concerns with regard to the continuing use of mandatory minimum sentences and the consecutive sentencing clause within the legislation.

I want to turn for a moment to the mandatory minimum sentences. There have been a number of scholarly articles written over the last several years with regard to the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences in the United States. I want to quote an article that was published February 10, 2014, by the Heritage Foundation. The articles says, “Reconsidering Mandatory Minimum Sentences”. In the abstract, it indicates:

Mandatory minimum sentences are the product of good intentions, but good intentions do not always make good policy; good results are also necessary.

With respect to each crime, is justice best served by having legislatures assign fixed penalties to that crime? Or should legislatures leave judges more or less free to tailor sentences to the aggravating and mitigating facts of each criminal case within a defined range?

There were numerous arguments with this article, both for and against. As members can probably tell, I am not in favour of mandatory minimum sentences, so I will quote from the parts that support my argument.

I do not have time, unfortunately, to go through some of the cases, but in the conclusion, it says:

Congress was right to be concerned about reducing sentencing disparity and ensuring that sentences are neither unduly lenient nor unduly harsh. Nonetheless, just as law should be tempered with equity, so should rigid sentencing rules leave room for adjustment in certain cases where a legislatively fixed sentence would be manifestly unjust. No statute can account for every variable in every case, and the attempt to do so with mandatory minimums has given rise to punishments in some small-scale drug possession cases that are completely out of whack with the purpose of the federal sentencing laws.

Again, I want to stay with cases in the United States. Over a number of years it has had its “three strikes and you're out” laws and some other mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have now proven to be not that effective.

There was an article on February 22, entitled “Texas an unlikely model for prison reform”. It is a California senator who quoted this, but the article states:

For over 30 years, spending on our prison system has steadily climbed from 3 percent of the state's operating budget to 11 percent. Even during the depth of the Great Recession, spending on prisons and jails increased while spending on education and health care was slashed. It continues to increase today. It doesn't have to be that way. There are alternatives, and unlikely as it might seem, Texas seems to be leading the way...

Among the members of his board of directors are national conservative leaders Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich.

That is to highlight the fact that it not just the New Democrats or Democrats or Liberals who are indicating that there should be a review of the mandatory minimum sentencing; it is also conservatives in the United States.

The article continues:

How is this happening? Texas is investing in alternatives to incarceration that are proving to be cheaper and more effective at keeping people out of prison. It is also doing a better job of rehabilitating people to keep them from reoffending and...back in prison.

Texas uses risk-assessment and better probation procedures to divert large numbers of nonviolent offenders away from the prison system, keeping them away from hard-core criminals. It requires strict implementation of victim-restitution measures, while offering alternatives to prison such as civil sanctions, drug courts and drug-abuse and mental health treatment. It also offers rehabilitation programs like job training for those in prison to prepare them to re-enter society. And Texas has invested heavily in reducing the caseloads of parole and probation officers so the state can keep better track of the people it supervises and help them move in a new direction.

Texas, which I think most people would agree has had a fairly strong approach to the criminal justice system, is implementing measures that do not rely on mandatory minimums and other such measures. It is actually looking at rehabilitation.

When we talk about prison reform, I want to reference Howard Sapers, the ombudsperson for prisons. For years, he has been raising the issues around how people are treated once they are in the prison system and how many of the things that happen do not contribute to keeping people out of jail once they are released. Many other voices out there are speaking up.

However, the last point I want to touch on is the failure of the current Conservative government to adequately address prevention measures, because the best measure in the justice system is to stop people from going to jail in the first place.

The Institute for the Prevention of Crime at the University of Ottawa has a number of resources, but it also has an article titled, “Building a safer Canada: effective planning for crime prevention”. In the introduction to this, it states:

Safety is a vital component of our quality of life. Our police and criminal justice systems play an essential role in helping to achieve these goals, and we should continue to do everything we can to help make them more responsive, efficient and effective.

However, there are no easy solutions to the problems of crime and victimization, and little evidence that simply relying on more enforcement and more punishment will significantly increase our individual and collective safety...

There is also a convincing body of evidence that prevention is an effective way to move forward. The concern is that Canada is not doing enough to make the best use of this knowledge and expertise—we need a sustained commitment to doing more to translate proven approaches into common practice.

Because my time is almost up, I do not have time to go through the whole article, but it has a framework for prevention planning. It says that there are five interconnected questions. One is understanding the problem and developing a vision, an action plan, and responsibility centres. Second is concentrating resources. Third is relying on evidence-based approaches. Fourth is assuming adequate and sustained support, and fifth is informing and engaging the public.

In conclusion, New Democrats support Bill C-35, but we look forward to a full review at committee.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton—North Delta clearly outlined why the New Democrats will support the legislation. However, she also outlined some of our concerns.

I want to refer to the speech that was given by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, in which she highlighted the fact that the New Democrats had two private members' bills before the House dealing with animal cruelty.

In her speech, she referenced Bill C-232 from the member for Parkdale—High Park. Her bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences. In short, animals would be considered people and not just property. She went on to say that the definition of animal was inadequate, which Bill C-232 would attempt to address.

The second private member's bill is Bill C-592 from the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. That bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and what is meant by intents and acts of cruelty.

Since 2006, we have seen a failure on the part of the Conservative government to address some very valid concerns with regard to animal cruelty. Could the member comment on the government's failure to address some of those other issues?