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  • Her favourite word is chair.

NDP MP for Newton—North Delta (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 33.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

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

Mr. Speaker, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan has been one of my mentors, even before I became a member of Parliament. She has done amazing work in the area of aboriginal and first nations communities. She has also been very calm and thorough in addressing critical issues. The member is a role model for many us on how to do the work of a parliamentarian, and I thank her for that.

As with many other issues that need to be addressed, we have seen a pattern in the government. There can be legislation introduced by the opposition that just sits there. The Conservatives do not want to debate it or address those issues. However, when they put forward legislation, they want to rush it through.

I think there is unanimity in this room. We do want to address cruelty to animals. However, this bill, even though it goes part way, has major flaws that we want to see debated.

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

Mr. Speaker, the member is far more of an expert in this area than I am. I appreciate that she is the critic for this area and does amazing work, not only in representing her riding but also in educating us on many issues.

I am looking forward to the debate. Right now both concern me, and the consecutives concern me more. However, I need to hear more debate.

We have parliamentary democracy for a reason and legislation goes through the various cycles for a reason. My big fear at second reading is that just because the government has a majority, it seems to think it can truncate different parts of that parliamentary process to get to the end goal. Sometimes when that it is done, harm is done.

For me, every stage of the legislation is important. I have been in the House for second reading of some bills and have not seen one colleague from the other side stand to speak to it. In this case, members might wonder who they are debating. The government brings in the legislation and we need to debate that with the it, as well as hear from colleagues on this side and from the other opposition party at the other end.

As well as participating and hearing from this side, a critical element is to have government members stand, debate and present their cases. If those cases are compelling, then my mind could be changed. That is why I come to the House. Those who have known me for the last number of years, in whichever job I have done and wherever I have been, know I do listen and I do change my mind if I hear cogent and coherent arguments.

Right now, some of my colleagues are saying that I do not. It is very disrespectful because they are impugning my intentions. Only I have the right to determine what I say and what my intentions are.

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

No, Mr. Speaker, it does not.

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

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, and my colleague across the way may not have been in the room at the time, I do support it at this stage. I do want it to go to committee, and I do want to have a full array of witnesses come forward.

One point that I will disagree on with my colleague across the way, with a great deal of respect, is that what she is saying is not always the case. She made the assertion that at committee stage witnesses are heard and a robust debate takes place. However, since I have been in this Parliament, we have had a major piece of legislation go through without any witnesses being called.

I have been the vice-chair on a number of pieces of legislation at committee, and I have seen how they have been pushed through with very little attention being paid to opposing points of view on anything that the government has brought forward.

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-35, also known as Quanto's law. It would amend the Criminal Code regarding law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals. I support the bill at second reading, though I hope that some work will be done to it in committee.

First of all, it would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge what happened last Wednesday and what it felt like to be back in my riding over the weekend. I can tell members that wherever I went in my riding, people were deeply concerned. They were very thankful for our safety, but they were also very sad about Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

For many of them, to see their MP back in their riding and back doing the work of Parliament gave them a certain amount of reassurance. I remember talking to some constituents about other MPs as well. Many of the constituents expressed that it was good that we were not going to let what happened last Wednesday make us take drastic steps. We should let the authorities do their work and the investigation, and we need a very measured response to what happened.

Absolutely, we need to review things, but right now, we are thinking of Corporal Cirillo. We are also thinking of his six-year-old son, his family and his friends.

I also want to acknowledge our heartfelt gratitude to all of the men and women in uniform in our building here, and those who came in, who risked their lives. They put themselves in harm's way in order to ensure the safety not only of the MPs but of the young children visiting and the other members of the public and the staff on the Hill as well.

It is these kinds of tragedies that remind us that Canada is a multicultural nation. It is a nation that loves. For me, I was so touched this weekend, because for so many people, that is what it was about. Let us not look at our neighbours with different sets of eyes. Let us just hold hands and get through this together. I felt that over and over again.

Many of the religious places helped, whether they were a masjid, or mosque as many of us would say, a gurdwara, a mandir, or a church. Many held prayers over the weekend. Once again, they were prayers of gratitude and prayers acknowledging what has happened. People were praying that we continue to be the peaceful nation that we are, that we continue to love as we have always done, and that we continue to be inclusive.

It would have felt strange if I had not said a few of those things today in light of what happened last week, but as we are here to do the business of the people and debate the bill, I will get back to talking about this particular piece of legislation.

As we all know, this legislation is now being labelled as “Quanto's law”, which is in memory of the Edmonton Police Service dog that was stabbed to death while trying to stop a fleeing suspect in October 2013. Paul Joseph Vukmanich pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences, including evading the police. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from owning a pet for 25 years.

We all know the important role that enforcement animals, military animals and service animals play, and we are all very concerned when any harm is done to them deliberately. It is because of this that the bill is here.

Having come from a family that has had dogs for many years, since the kids were little, it is very hard for me, and I think for many of us in this room, to imagine how someone could attack a dog or any other service animal. However, it does happen. When I was telling my grandchildren that we would be debating the bill, my granddaughter's reaction was, “Why is it only for law enforcement animals?”, so I explained the background of the bill to her. Of course, she still cries about Buddy, who passed away a while ago, every time she looks at her photos. Our pets are very close to us.

However, we have some concerns with Bill C-35, even though we are supporting sending it to committee. Once again, our concerns point to something we have seen all too often. When we see a piece of legislation come forward, it does not matter what it purports to do, because when one looks at the details, there is always a little twist in there that makes it more difficult for us to see what it would entail. However, there are two areas of the bill that cause us major concern, and it will not be news to anybody, because I have expressed concern about minimum and consecutive sentences before. The introduction of minimum and consecutive sentences causes us great concern, and we will bring amendments at the committee stage.

I am hoping, unlike in the past, that we will see a certain level of co-operation from the government side so that we can address the legislation in the way that parliamentarians are supposed to in a democracy. The opposition at committee stage and in the House plays a critical role in pointing out flaws in a bill, and a good government, one that believes in democracy and the parliamentary process, would heed some of that input, accept amendments and then have a robust debate.

What would Bill C-35 do?

Concretely, the bill would amend section 445 of the Criminal Code. It would create a new offence for killing or injuring a service animal, law enforcement animal or military animal while the animal is on duty. It would set a minimum sentence of six months if a law enforcement animal is killed while an offence is being perpetrated, and it would provide for the sentence imposed on a person to be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.

Members can see the difficulties we have with the bill, which are points two and three that I just made. As in much of the legislation that has come from across the way, including omnibus legislation, which is usually thicker than the phone books in most municipalities in the country, the devil is always in the details.

I have to express my deep concern that here we have a laudable bill that could have gone through with much speed, although the government across the way has other ways to achieve that speed. However, the bill could have gone through, but it has been tainted by the introduction of minimum sentencing, which clearly reflects the repressive agenda that the government is bringing forward. Once again, it would tie the hands of our judiciary, and once again it would have the legislative branch hampering the work and independence of the judiciary.

Even before the judge in question or a jury hear the case, the sentence has been predetermined, and that is disconcerting. The sentence may have happened anyway, or it might have even been a longer sentence, but once again it takes away the judiciary's discretion.

I want my colleagues across the way to think seriously about the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing on the criminal justice system. If crime could be solved just by putting people in prison, then the U.S. would have no crime today. Many states spend more on prisons than on many of their other programs. If just putting somebody in prison could solve the issue, then the U.S. would be crime free.

We hear about overcrowding in our prisons. We have heard testimony to that end with regard to another bill. That creates a concern as well.

My major concern is that we would be tying the hands of the judiciary. We would be taking away the jobs of those who are appointed to make judgments.

Hope springs eternal, in me at least, and I am sure in many of us. I am still hopeful that the government will not use many of the tools that it has used before to silence debate in the House.

Legislation has been sent to committees where no witnesses have been heard, and I am talking about a major piece of legislation that would have redefined citizenship. The government's majority on the committee used bullying tactics and time allocation to make sure the legislation was pushed through without hearing from any expert witnesses. A closure motion was brought forward only last week. My colleagues across the way seem to feel that time allocation is the way that they have to do business. I find that disconcerting.

I am hopeful that when we look at legislation now, especially after last week, that we realize we are here to represent our constituents. When we debate bills here, all of us, no matter whether we are independents, Conservative, NDP, or Liberal, have a contribution to make. Every one of us is here to represent our constituents. Every one of us wants legislation passed through the House that has had due diligence, proper oversight, and that will not be open to all kinds of other challenges.

I grew up with in England with a saying that sometimes people can be “penny wise and pound foolish”. I think of that saying often, as we rush through legislation that ends up being challenged in the courts and costing Canadian taxpayers a huge amount of money. I think of that when laws are passed that make no sense and take away people's rights.

My colleagues and I support this legislation at second reading, but we do have major concerns. We want to hear from witnesses and we want to express those concerns. We will definitely be bringing forward amendments.

I would love to have a bill go through all stages in a respectful manner, and being respectful does not mean just sitting here; it means listening and responding to the issues that are raised.

There is already legislation in place and fines set out, in section 445 of the Criminal Code, for all animals other than cattle. That is already there. Therefore, we can reassure our families and friends who have cats, dogs, or other pets, that there is already legislation in place. This is an amendment to that legislation, which specifically targets service, enforcement, and military animals. It is there for a reason. We have legislation when a crime is committed against RCMP officers or the military while they are on duty, and this is to parallel that.

It is no surprise that there are forces and police departments across this country who may be supporting this bill. I know that the Edmonton Police Service does support the bill, and it is fair to assume that there are others who support it too. I support this bill because it is good to have legislation that is very explicit. However, as I said earlier, I do have some concerns.

I would like to quote Staff Sergeant Trevor Hermanutz of the Edmonton Police Service canine unit, who said that officers are pleased with the law. He stated:

We know that now we have a law that is going to put some teeth to the matter—the fact that when people want to injure or kill law enforcement animals, there are some serious legal consequences to their actions....

I would advise members, and the numbers may have changed since I read this document, that the RCMP currently has 157 police dogs in service across Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency has 53 dog and handler teams. We are not talking about thousands of animals, but there is definitely a number that is over 200.

There is not a person in this House, it does not matter which side, who in any way condones animal cruelty. I can say on behalf of my colleagues that we condemn all forms of animal cruelty. That is a position we have supported for a long time. It is reflected in Bill C-232 and Bill C-592. At the same time that we condemn that cruelty, we are also very cautious. We have been bitten one too many times, I suppose. The Conservatives, my colleagues across the way, always manage to put some zingers in the bills that they introduce. Sometimes I wonder if those zingers are to see whether we would oppose the bill. However, this time I am seriously hoping that they will look at our concerns at committee stage and assist us in adding some amendments.

I want to say again that we support this bill. However, there are two things that we do have serious concerns with and which I will reiterate; they are the minimum sentences and the consecutive sentences. We are looking forward to hearing expert witnesses, but not one or two witnesses being given to the opposition and then the government saying it is done. We want a robust debate. This is an opportunity for us to discuss minimum sentencing, its impact on the system, and how it impacts the role of the judiciary.

Social Development October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, research shows that investing in child care is beneficial not only for children and their parents but to society and the economy as a whole. However, according to the OECD and the UN, Canada ranks last in spending for early childhood education among comparable countries. Will the minister inform the House what steps the government is taking to invest in early childhood education and child care, so parents have more choice?

Social Development October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin released a report that found children are at risk in unlicensed daycares. He says:

The stakes in the child care system are high. Mistakes put the lives and welfare of young children at risk.

Unfortunately, across Canada, only 20% of children have access to regulated child care.

Could the government inform the House how many of the promised 125,000 child care spaces were created?

Diwali October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Diwali is always an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the past year, to look ahead, and to plan for the future with renewed optimism. For me personally, never has the reason for this celebration hit closer to my heart than now.

Yesterday many people in my riding of Newton—North Delta and all over the world gathered with family and friends to give thanks, to reflect, and to celebrate the victory of goodness in all of us. Ultimately, it is the goodness of the human spirit that triumphed in Ottawa. Hundreds put themselves in harm's way to protect, comfort, and help those who needed help and people they had never even met. We thank them.

Every Canadian can share in hope for the future. Around the world, our multicultural nation is a beacon of hope. We pride ourselves on our openness and we strive to build an inclusive society.

One day late, and on behalf of my NDP colleagues, I wish everyone a very happy Diwali. Happy Deepawali. Aur naya saal mubarak.

Next Wednesday, the member for York South—Weston will be hosting our first Diwali on the Hill.

Aboriginal Affairs October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, sadly, it is not just first nations children that the government treats as second-class citizens.

In first nations communities struggling with high unemployment, the government is still allowing employers to bring in temporary foreign workers. Why? Because the government is simply not counting first nations unemployment.

The Conservatives' latest round of program reforms do nothing to address this gaping loophole. What is the minister going to do to ensure that job opportunities in their own communities actually benefit aboriginal Canadians?

Employment Insurance October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, at $550,000 per job, it is the Conservatives' proposal that makes no fiscal sense.

The PBO has shown the Conservatives' lack of transparency when it comes to EI. First they built up a surplus by cutting benefits while keeping premiums high. Then, like the Liberals before them, they dipped into the EI fund to use it for their own pet project, funding a tax credit that does not do what it is supposed to do.

When are the Conservatives going to quit playing games and get serious about helping unemployed Canadians?