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Track Kirsty

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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is health.

Liberal MP for Etobicoke North (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 42.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Could the parliamentary secretary tell me if Bill C-24 puts the best interests of children first? Has he personally reviewed the following articles of the convention, and does the bill meet the rights of the convention? They are article 1, definition of the child; article 3, best interests of the child; article 5, family integrity; article 6, survival and development; article 7, birth and registration; article 8, family relations; article 9, protection from arbitrary separation from parents; and article 10, family reunification.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. We have worked together often on health issues.

The interest in promoting the integration of older children into Canada seems to motivate the proposed language amendment. Some research shows that older children who lack capacity in one official language may have difficulty in acquiring one at an older age. This is not a sufficient reason to compromise the convention rights of children. The testing process is not a reliable indicator of a child's ability to become a productive citizen.

Does the member think that the requirement for children ages 14 to 18 to successfully complete both language and knowledge testing should be removed?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-24 proposes to amend the Citizenship Act by expanding the age requirements of applicants to 14 to 64 from 18 to 54 for knowledge and language requirements. This shift in age requirement will be problematic for immigrant and refugee children.

UNICEF has expressed concern in that testing could lead to challenges with reuniting children with their families and could therefore lead to the deprivation of the child's right to family reunification under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also does not take into account the stress that testing may cause or a child's ability to perform successfully in a test environment. These children may also be dealing with a fear of authority or trauma from their home country.

What does my hon. colleague think about this?

Petitions June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am please to present a petition regarding eating disorders. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are serious mental illnesses that can be fatal. More than 600,000 Canadians have been incapacitated by eating disorders. The sooner someone receives treatment he or she needs, the better the chance of a good recovery, but Canadians suffer long waiting lists for help and limited access to mental health services. The petitioners call upon the government to work with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive pan-Canadian strategy for eating disorders, including better prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support.

Foreign Affairs June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, gunmen abducted 20 women from a remote village in northeastern Nigeria, as 272 schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist Boko Haram continue to be held captive.

Could the minister of international co-operation tell us what specific resources Canada has sent to Nigeria to help search for the missing schoolgirls, whether these resources are on the ground, and whether Canada attended the Paris summit to boost the search for these schoolgirls?

Foreign Affairs June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Syria's civil war has killed 150,000 people and left over nine million people in Syria in need of help.

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution in February that demanded unhindered aid access in Syria, but the resolution has failed to make a difference. Now the UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution to allow cross-border aid deliveries into Syria without government consent.

What efforts is the government taking to support the passing of this resolution?

Divorce Act May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-560, an act to amend the Divorce Act in relation to equal parenting and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

My heart goes out to all those struggling through the breakup of a marriage, divorce, court cases for custody, and wanting more time with their children.

While I appreciate the terrible anguish of parents who want to spend more time with their children and the mover of the bill's intent—namely, to have two caring, engaged, and loving parents in children's lives—I believe the bill is fundamentally flawed in putting parental rights before the rights of children, the most precious and vulnerable among us.

The former Conservative minister of justice and Attorney General of Canada, in speaking to the Canadian Bar Association's annual conference in 2009 about equal parenting and the predecessor to this legislation, namely Bill C-422, stated that the best interests of the child are always paramount, and should be.

Bill C-560 was introduced by the member of Parliament for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin on December 12, 2013. This is not the first time the hon. member has introduced a bill regarding this matter.

The most significant changes that the bill would bring to the Divorce Act include the following: removing the current definition of custody from the Divorce Act and replacing it with parenting, defined as “the act of assuming the role of a parent to a child, including custody and all of the rights and responsibilities commonly and historically associated with the role of a parent”; creating a presumption that “allocating parenting time equally between the spouses is in the best interests of a child” and that “equal parental responsibility is in the best interests of a child”; adding factors that courts must consider in making custody orders; and altering the law on parental mobility.

The bill would represent a disservice both to children and to families by taking the focus away from children in favour of parental rights, detracting from the individual justice required by the Divorce Act, and promoting further and more fractious litigation.

The Divorce Act currently establishes that the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration in child custody cases. In other words, the rights of the parent are subordinate to the interests of the child. Bill C-560 seeks to weaken this in favour of the rights of the parents.

The best-interests-of-the-child test has been a fundamental part of most legislation relating to children for many years. It is used in federal legislation under the following acts: the Citizenship Act, the Divorce Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It is also used in some provincial legislation dealing with matters such as adoption legislation; child protection legislation; and custody, access, and child support for unmarried couples.

Equal parenting as defined in the bill appears to have received support from some observers, particularly certain parents' groups, but so far it has not received much support from the legal community.

The Canadian Bar Association, or CBA, represents some 37,000 lawyers, judges, notaries, law teachers, and law students from across Canada. The CBA's mandate includes improvement in the law and the administration of justice. The CBA family law section includes family lawyers from every part of the country. They are collaborative arbitrators, litigators, mediators, parenting coordinators, and practitioners. Their clients include children, fathers, mothers, grandparents, step-parents, surrogates, and so on.

The CBA family section believes that any discussion of “parental rights” is misguided when resolving arrangements for children and that the sole focus must be what is best for children. The CBA therefore opposes Bill C-560, as it would shift the way custody is determined under the Divorce Act to parents' rights and away from what is in the best interests of children.

Lawyers assist all family members during what are often impossibly difficult times in restructuring their responsibilities and arrangements following separation and divorce. As a result, the CBA family section sees the issue from all sides. The CBA firmly believes that the only perspective to foster outcomes that are best for children is to require that the courts and parents focus solely on the children's interests in making decisions.

While the bill refers to equal parenting, it would not actually advance equality. Rather, it would change the primary focus in custody and access matters from what is best for children to equal parental rights.

“Parenting is not about adults claiming rights”, says Patricia Hebert of Edmonton, vice-chair of CBA's national family law section. “It is about the desire and ability to put children's interests first”.

She continues:

The bill is based on the faulty assumption that equal parenting time will work for all families, regardless of abilities, circumstances, needs, history, challenges or attitudes of all those involved. In reality, the proposed change is clearly about promoting parents' views of equality at the expense of the interests of children, who are affected by their parents' separation.

The CBA agrees that shared parenting is a good outcome for many families. Where equal time and responsibility can be shown to be in the best interests of children, judges can and do make that order under the current law, but the CBA understands that one size does not fit all.

The CBA objects to the proposed legislation, which says equal parenting time and responsibility must be ordered in every case. This would require judges to justify any other outcome by ruling that the best interests of the child would be “substantially enhanced” by a non-equal regime. This clearly makes children's interests a very low priority, which is contradictory to the stated goals of Canadian family laws as well as Canada's obligations under the Hague convention on the rights of the child.

Finally, I would like to bring forth questions asked by my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Charlottetown, of the current Minister of Justice regarding Bill C-560 at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. My colleague asked:

A private member's bill is coming before the House, C-560, dealing with the Divorce Act. Back in 2009, your predecessor...indicated that the best interests of the child are always paramount. Given that this question is about to come before the House, what are your views on that, sir?

The Minister of Justice answered:

I can tell you, having practised some family law—as you have in Prince Edward Island—that the long-held legal maxim and the jurisprudence definitely supports that the best interests of the child will remain the primary concern. I see no change in that regard.

In closing, children must always be our primary concern. This legislation seeks to weaken that. This is not acceptable to the Liberal Party of Canada. This is not acceptable to the Canadian Bar Association. This is not acceptable to the present Minister of Justice or to the former Minister of Justice. This is why we will oppose the bill.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 26th, 2014

With regard to maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH): (a) in the answer provided to written question Q-208, (i) what services, key health and nutrition interventions are included in “scale-up integrated productive, maternal, newborn, and child health services”, (ii) what specific services and interventions are included in “family planning services”, (iii) what are the specific “commodities” referenced, (iv) what does “we are prepared to do more” mean, (v) what diplomatic and financial efforts has the government made or is considering, “to do more”, and in what Canadian and global forums, beyond the announced summit Canada will host on MNCH in Toronto at the end of May; (b) what consideration has the government given to a signature Canadian contribution to the post-2015 development agenda; (c) what consideration and diplomatic efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to support the inclusion of a specific high-level goal in the post-2015 agenda to improve health and nutrition outcomes for women, newborns, and children; (d) what financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to improve the health outcomes for (i) women, (ii) newborns, (iii) children, broken down by initiative; (e) regarding the Muskoka Initiative, what consideration and diplomatic and financial efforts, and in what forums, has the government given to (i) recommit to the investments made, (ii) extend and increase this Initiative or a similar one, beyond 2015 and beyond the $2.85 billion envelope, (iii) targeting the efforts of this Initiative to more effectively reach and provide health care to the most vulnerable mothers, newborns, and children, (iv) recommit to the vaccine investments made in this Initiative and to extend and increase the commitments made; (f) what diplomatic and financial efforts has the government made, or is it considering, and in what forums, to increase investments aimed at (i) strengthening local health systems, (ii) reducing the burden of infectious disease, (iii) improving maternal and child nutrition; (g) what diplomatic and financial efforts has the government made, or is it considering, and in what forums, to increase investments aimed at (i) prevention and treatment of neo-natal morbidity and prevention of neo-natal mortality, (ii) increased access to emergency obstetric care, (iii) prevention and treatment of childhood infectious disease; (h) what diplomatic and financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to increase investment in reproductive and sexual health interventions, particularly regarding adolescent girls; (i) what consideration, and diplomatic and financial efforts has the government given to (i) broadening, strengthening and harmonizing the MNCH Accountability Frameworks, (ii) prioritizing universal birth registration, civil registration, and vital statistics, (iii) increasing investment in the collection, processing, and dissemination of data, especially at the local level; and (j) what consideration has the government given to the Lancet Global Investment Framework for Women’s (LGIFW) and Children’s Health, and the Lancet Commission for Investing in Health (LCIH), (i) to the Framework’s proposed two percent increase in spending, (ii) what diplomatic and financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to start a discussion regarding the LGIFW?

Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health May 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 6.6 million young children die of preventable causes, and nearly 300,000 women die from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth each year. These unacceptable deaths must be avoided, by ensuring all women and children get the prevention, treatment, and care they need. They must have access to family planning, vaccines, proper nutrition, and prevention of and treatment for diarrhea, HIV-AIDS, malaria, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Together let us all ask what action the government is taking to support improving health and nutrition outcomes for women, newborns, and children in the post-2015 agenda. Is the government undertaking Muskoka two, and will it increase funding beyond 2015 to specifically target the hardest to reach? Will it make a signature Canadian contribution to the post-2015 development agenda?

Every woman and child lost is a tragedy to the family, community, and country, and a reminder that we still have work to do.

Foreign Affairs May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the fighting in the Central African Republic has become more brutal, left thousands of people dead, displaced hundreds of thousands, and left 2.2 million people needing humanitarian aid. The children of CAR are witnessing terrible violence: maiming, killing. The number of children being treated for severe malnutrition in the capital has tripled since January.

Will the government provide peacekeeping support in line with our capabilities if asked?