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Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 42.20% of the vote.
Statements in the House
National Defence September 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, Canadians learned about the U.S. request for a larger military role against ISIL from the Prime Minister's comments in New York and not from a statement to Parliament. In the U.K., Prime Minister Cameron recalled Parliament to debate his country's role in the fight against ISIL.
Before extending the 30-day deadline for Canada's mission and before any larger role may be decided, will the Prime Minister inform Parliament of the nature of the U.S. request and will he commit to holding a debate in Parliament?
National Defence September 24th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the navy trusted the Conservative government's claims that it would replace its aging ships. What a mistake. Now Canada's only naval supply ships are being retired, but replacements the government finally commissioned are way behind schedule and will not be available for years. That means our navy will simply not be functional. Now the government is panicking and it may have to buy old, used American ships instead.
Let us give the parliamentary secretary another chance to level with Canadians. How much will the Conservatives' woeful incompetence cost when they have to cancel their made-in-Canada supply ships that they already commissioned?
National Defence September 23rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, part of my responsibility as Liberal defence critic is to speak with serving members and see first hand the conditions on bases right across the country. While previous governments always promoted this, I and my colleagues have been repeatedly blocked and denied permission to visit military bases. This is shocking partisanship because Conservative members have been invited onto bases inside and outside of their riding and even attended photo ops and cheque presentations on bases.
Why is there one set of rules for Conservative MPs and another set of rules for everyone else?
National Defence September 22nd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, Canadian Forces members are being forced by the government to hide their health problems to avoid being discharged and losing their pensions. In other words, if they ask for help, they get fired.
As a recently discharged corporal who knows about this said, “...if they speak up, then they lose their ability to keep food on the table.” It is unbelievable.
Conservative ministers promised that no injured service member would be released until they were ready and willing. Will the minister take responsibility for the well-being of the troops, stop breaking this promise, and fix this urgent problem?
National Defence September 18th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this week armed forces members and all Canadians are saddened by the tragedy of yet another military suicide and our thoughts are with the family.
As well, we are reminded of the failure of the defence minister to do what is needed and what he promised to do, which was to make more mental health support available, rather than to make more excuses, as he is doing today. Penny-pinching and budget cuts are the legacy of that minister. Nine months after promising to make this a priority, 40 mental health positions remain empty.
How can the minister delay this hiring when so many are in need?
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry September 18th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this year, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry celebrates its 100th anniversary.
I was honoured to attend the maple tree planting ceremony this morning at Rideau Hall to recognize this significant milestone.
The Princess Pats, as they are affectionately known, have a long history of serving Canada. The regiment was formed here in Ontario in August 1914 and was renowned for holding the line at Passchendaele at great personal cost.
Following the First World War, the Patricias were formed into a permanent force regiment and are now based in western Canada at Shilo, Manitoba, and Edmonton, Alberta.
Princess Pats' brave men and women have served with distinction in both World Wars, the Korean War, and in Afghanistan and were a critical part of NATO's Canadian Brigade Group in Europe. They have made Canadians proud serving as UN peacekeepers throughout the world.
It is truly an honour to mark this very special occasion. Please join me as we congratulate the Princess Pats.
Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, that is the very reason that my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie and I have both been very clear about the engagement of parliamentarians with respect to the details of the deployment announced so far. Real clarity as to what the parameters are is very important. Even more important, should there be any changes, Parliament should be engaged, participate, and be briefed fully on that.
We are very clear that scope creep is a dangerous thing. The deployment as it is today is not a combat role. We are supporting what is in front of us while asking for more clarity and for the government to do a full briefing and inclusion, not only on this deployment but on any planned changes.
Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie was very clear, as was I. The Liberals support this deployment in Iraq because of the reasons that have been mentioned in our speeches, because of the humanitarian challenges, and because of the unprecedented viciousness of ISIS.
Regarding the past number of years when I have expressed my concern about the withdrawal of funding from the Canadian Armed Forces, I see us, unfortunately, as being in a decade of deception with the Conservative government claiming to support the armed forces and in the meantime having hidden budget cuts and clawbacks that have been very costly. Today in the House there was a discussion about some of the human costs, in terms of suicides, through lack of support by the government.
I would advise the member opposite to consider what she and her colleagues can do to convince the Prime Minister and the minister to fully support the men and women in uniform so these tragedies stop occurring.
Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in this emergency debate. I appreciate the comments of my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie who is knowledgeable on the issue and who, on behalf of Canadians, went to see and experience the troubles in that region first-hand.
This is about Canada's military role in helping the people of Iraq defend themselves against terrorism by the Islamic State or ISIS, terrorism that is currently ravaging their country. ISIS does represent a very serious threat to security, not only in Iraq and in the Middle East but well beyond. Sad to say, there are reports of Canadian citizens who may have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS and who have returned to Canada, potentially to recruit for ISIS.
Today, we are debating what we heard today, which is the government's decision to send 69 military personnel into Iraq in an advisory role. This is in addition to the airlift mission that has been charged with ferrying humanitarian as well as military supplies throughout the country.
Liberals support sending this limited number of special forces personnel to Iraq in a non-combat advisory capacity for the set period of time of 30 days, as advised by the Prime Minister, to advise the military leaders in Iraq on their conduct of operations against ISIS.
Iraq, as we well know, is very unstable, which is sad. This area was the cradle of human civilization. The government has lost control over large areas of the country, and the terrorist group, ISIS, has the goal of setting up a separate Islamic state in the region. They have no qualms about attacking and killing civilians, and persecuting religious minority groups in horrific and inhumane ways.
The newly formed government in Iraq, which includes Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish members, must coalesce to fight this vicious common enemy, but at present they need international help. As much as Canadians are angered by the events of the past few weeks, we must also take stock of these events and in a calm and rational way decide on a way forward. That is the reason the Liberals, under the leadership of the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, requested this emergency debate.
Canada has a long history of stepping up when needed. Our armed forces did so with distinction in World War I, World War II, Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and countless peacekeeping and humanitarian missions around the world. Canada also made decisions not to send troops into some conflicts. Thirteen years ago, in 2003, Canada's then-Prime Minister refused to have Canadian troops take part in the invasion of Iraq. Although he faced severe criticism at the time, including from our current Prime Minister, then the opposition leader, it turned out to be the right decision. In 2008, the current Prime Minister announced that he had changed his mind, and now considered the war on Iraq to have been a mistake.
What this tells us is that Parliament does need careful and thoughtful consideration before committing our men and women in the armed forces to go out into harm's way. The long lens of history is a good guide for us. Military action must be based on the best interests of our country. Our government's primary responsibility is to protect Canada and Canadians at home and abroad.
At times Canada has undertaken to share in the responsibility to protect people in other parts of the world who are at risk. We are known for the work we have done in the past in controlling outbreaks of violence. It is important to remember that those missions were dangerous, and members of our military were injured or killed in them. When we think of this current mission, we need to know all the facts, what the dangers are and how they will be handled.
It is in this light that we need to consider the situation into which we are sending our Canadian Forces members in this mission.
What is the mission? The Prime Minister says they are to be advisers.
What exactly does that mean? What are the risks? Where might this initial 30-day posting lead next? These are some of the unanswered questions that this debate is about.
It is essential that Canadians understand the specific nature of the mission the government is proposing. We expect to hear details from the government side. This includes outlining the specific activities our forces will be engaged in, and the expected duration of the deployment. When does it actually start? What are we committed to at this point? Canadians need to be assured that this deployment does not include what is called “close combat advising” in which our troops are in the field during combat.
Canadians need to know the outline of the spectrum of operations that the armed forces will be engaged in, the steps taken to ensure their safety, and how this mission will help contribute to Canada's national security interests. Most importantly, as my colleague has already outlined, Parliament must be fully consulted should the government consider extending the current mission, changing its scope, adding in new elements or new risks and responsibilities.
I encourage the Minister of National Defence to hold regular briefings with the opposition parties so that we are well informed about the mission and have the chance to contribute our ideas to ensure its success and to protect our troops. We also strongly encourage the federal government to increase the humanitarian assistance being provided to the million-plus refugees created by ISIS and to continue facilitating the resettlement of Iraqi refugees here in Canada. I look forward to hearing the defence minister's response to some of the questions and requests that I have just outlined.
On the higher level, the expectations for the role of our military are driven by Canada's foreign policy. Currently, I'm sad to say, our foreign policy is not very coherent. It is lacking in leadership. It is reactive, when planning is actually needed. I would say that the core of the current government's foreign policy is essentially domestic political strategy expressed through megaphone diplomacy combined with the pursuit of trade objectives. That is the Conservative foreign policy. This leads to a series of reactive actions and statements, reacting to global events or crises without a principled framework to guide decisions and actions. This is not acceptable. This absence of consistency in the government's vision of Canada's identity and role in the world is undermining our credibility among our international partners and doing a great deal of damage to Canada's hard-earned positive image on the world stage.
Not only is a coherent foreign policy missing, so too is a coherent defence strategy. In 2008, the current Conservative government trumpeted its commitment to stable and increasing funding for the Canadian Armed Forces for 20 years into the future, but within just two years, the Conservatives began a series of hidden freezes, cuts and clawbacks. Today, the army, navy and air force are scrambling to train, equip and support their members in the face of significant budget reductions, with cuts to operations and maintenance functions resulting in critical challenges to the forces' readiness.
Today, the National Defence budget has not only sunk to below the level it was seven years ago, despite the promises of a stable increase in funding, it is the lowest spending as a percentage of GDP for Canada since the World Bank began tracking that measure in the 1980s. It is now at 1% of GDP and still falling, compared with a budget of 1.3% of GDP under a prior Liberal government.
It is our duty as parliamentarians to ask the hard questions when we are contemplating putting our military members in harm's way. As Liberals, we stand behind the current deployment of 69 military advisers to help the Iraqi people stop ISIS. We are proud of Canada's legacy of global citizenship, contributed by our armed forces many times over the years. We are immensely proud of the quality of persons and unflinching dedication of the men and women in uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is our duty as parliamentarians in every way we can to contribute to supporting their safety and success.
National Defence September 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence should just stop pretending that his budget cuts are not contributing to the tragedy of suicides in the military. In fact, there have been at least 175 suicides among serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces during the 12 years of the Afghanistan mission; 158 soldiers were killed in combat during the same period. The death of a military member for any reason is a tragedy.
Can the minister confirm that more military personnel have died from suicide than from the combat mission in Afghanistan and commit to doing something to prevent these tragedies?