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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is cities.

NDP MP for Beaches—East York (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree. It is true of everything that we do in the House. It is worth taking the time to get it right. However, continuing the theme of contradictions with the government, on this of all issues one would have thought it would have taken the time to get it right and to ensure there was ample study and expertise allowed to inform the bill.

On that same issue of contradiction, the government says that this is an incredibly important issue and yet over the last three years, it has cut almost $700 million from security agencies in Canada. Those cuts will continue into next year with respect to CSIS in particular, another $25 million or so.

The government purports to have great concern for the security and safety of Canadians and yet the process for this bill betrays its other interests. The way it budgets for security agencies also suggests that, indeed, it is not a priority for the government.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. There are some stark contradictions between identifying this issue of national security and intelligence services as one of great importance to Canadians and to the House, yet not providing the House and the public safety committee with sufficient time to discuss the matter, given the importance that it warrants.

There are a number of contradictions. The government, in fact, tracks a risky course by assuming that it has the correct answers on these matters. There are committees and committee processes for some very good reasons, and that is to allow outside expertise into this process to provide the benefit of its experience and expertise. By not giving sufficient time to allow people to comment on the bill before us, it puts this process at great risk, and that too is a contradiction to the importance the government says it provides to this issue of national security.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts.

In a sense, this bill has been a long time coming. It has been 30 years since this place turned its mind to the CSIS act. Much has changed. It makes sense to update or modernize this legislation.

We, on this side of the House, supported this bill at second reading, not because it was perfect, far from it, but out of recognition that there are many issues swirling around this and through the courts on matters of national security and intelligence services.

The bill has been returned to us, however, from committee unamended, in spite of the age of the current legislation and the issues confronting us on matters related to intelligence and national security. The bill had but four hours of scrutiny at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. True to form, amendments put forward by the opposition, recommendations put forward by expert witnesses, and cautions issued by experts were all turned aside, dismissed, and defeated.

We have before us a flawed bill, one not worthy of support. What this bill betrays is a government unprepared, unable, or incapable of doing the difficult but necessary work of ensuring that Canadians have both security and their civil liberties. Indeed, in this bill, and in the government's world view it would seem, civil liberties must wait for security.

It is arguable that in this bill and all that the government does, it tends to see civil liberty itself as a security risk. This would explain why the government so unflinchingly tramples over the rule of law, our own as well as that of others, and has such little concern about and does so little to provide civilian oversight of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Here is my case for this. First, the bill provides blanket protection of identity for all CSIS human sources in legal proceedings, including criminal and immigration cases. There is no opportunity provided for the accused or respondent to confront the accuser and test the evidence. Such an opportunity is considered a fundamental part of our justice system.

How courts respond to such a denial in practice is left to be determined. It is unclear from here. Will the courts respond so that this becomes an obstacle to successful prosecution, will they allow this to enhance their probability of successful prosecution, or will the courts challenge the constitutionality of this provision? All of this is to be determined.

Second, the practical implications and, indeed, the threat of this amendment, become clear when one notes that this bill amends the Canadian Citizenship Act by accelerating the timeline for the revocation of citizenship for dual citizens found to be engaged in terrorist activities and other serious crimes.

It is out of our deep concern for the expedited revocation of citizenship in the broader context of this bill that we have proposed amendments before the House at this stage relating to these provisions.

Third, this bill tries to escape the views expressed by the courts starting in 2007 with respect to CSIS actions and surveillance abroad. Those views were eventually set out in a decision by the Federal Court in 2013 that declared illegal the practices of CSIS for obtaining warrants for conducting surveillance of Canadians abroad.

The response by this government through this bill comes in the form of essentially continuing its practices under the cover of the following language in the bill: “Without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state...”.

Fourth, and perhaps most tellingly, while the bill gives CSIS new powers, it does nothing to enhance civilian oversight of the organization. More than that, it does nothing even to repair existing age-old shortcomings in civilian oversight of CSIS. The Arar commission concluded in 2006 that improved civilian oversight of CSIS was needed, but was ignored.

Privacy and information commissioners of Canada have asked the government to ensure that effective oversight be included in any legislation establishing additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies, such as this one. That too has been ignored.

We echo their call. Civilian oversight is our means of ensuring that security and intelligence services can do their part to provide for the security and safety of Canadians without diminishing our civil liberties.

Under the bill, the government gives civilian oversight not even secondary consideration. It gets no consideration. Under Bill C-44, civilian oversight, such as it is, staggers forward. The current review agency, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, is a part-time committee of the Prime Minister's appointees. We have been through Chuck Strahl and Arthur Porter as chairs. Now we have former Reform MP Deborah Grey as interim chair. Two of the five vacancies on the committee have in fact been vacant for months.

In the 2012 budget, the Conservatives eliminated the position of inspector general of CSIS. The inspector general was the internal monitoring unit within the service, responsible for checking all CSIS activities for compliance with the law. The inspector general's responsibilities were passed along to the Security Intelligence Review Committee with its rotating chair and vacant seats.

NDP members of the public safety and national security committee proposed three very reasonable amendments to enhance civilian oversight of CSIS. The first of these flowed from the recent SIRC report. It called simply for a requirement that CSIS provide complete and accurate information to SIRC in a timely manner in order to facilitate proper oversight of the service.

The second proposed amendment would have ensured that those appointed to SIRC had the expertise necessary for the role, such as in the administration of justice and national security and so on.

The third proposed amendment called for appointments to SIRC to have the support of the Leader of the Opposition so as to extract ourselves from this process of partisan appointments to such critically important oversight roles.

These are all simple, reasonable amendments to a very important component of the security intelligence services, all rejected by the Conservatives, leaving civil liberties at risk, easily and unnecessarily sacrificed under a government that seems not to believe that civil liberties and national security ought, indeed, co-exist if we are to live in the kind of Canada that we desire.

Our democratic values must not be compromised in the pursuit of enhanced public safety. They need not be compromised. Protecting civil liberties and public safety are both core Canadian values, and improvements to one must never, and should not and need not, come at the expense of the other.

As Privacy Commissioner Daniel Carrion put it, it is understandable that the government would want to consider boosting the powers of law enforcement and national security agencies to address potential gaps, but any new tools should be accompanied by a beefed up role for the watchdogs who keep an eye on spies and police.

The fact is that despite all its shortcomings, this bill could have been improved when it went through committee, a process by which we can arrive at well-informed policy. Instead of giving the bill the careful study it deserved, it was rammed through committee, which only heard four hours of testimony from independent experts.

The Conservatives have once again rushed legislation through the House with total disregard for any recommendations for improvement. This, unfortunately, has become a defining characteristic of the government.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit confused about the hon. member's position. It sounded like a fine and thorough analysis of the bill, yet he ends up saying that we really need certain types of oversight. When one uses that type of language, about needing certain oversight of CSIS and yet the bill does not provide that oversight, I am left wondering how it is that he ends up reconciling that requirement for oversight with his support of a bill that does not have it.

Petitions December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today with respect to the interim federal health program. The petitioners wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that refugees fleeing war-torn areas such as Afghanistan have been denied medical care upon arrival in Canada and that pregnant women and children have been unable to access care because of a lack of health insurance.

The petitioners believe that all people in Canada deserve access to health care services. Therefore, they call upon the House of Commons to rescind the federal government's cuts to the interim federal health program and end this barrier to care for refugees.

Social Development December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in Beaches—East York, legions of volunteers are gearing up to pack and deliver holiday hampers to thousands of neighbours, thanks to the Neighbourhood Centre north of the Danforth and Community Centre 55 to the south. We all have gifts to give, and I thank all of my constituents for giving of themselves so generously at this time of year.

However, we in this place have the opportunity give much more than anyone else. We can create a more generous and compassionate Canada. Instead, successive governments have left gaps and traps for Canadians to fall into everywhere, fully aware that many will fall into them, fully aware that many will not be able to get out of them.

We do this to ourselves and we do it to each other, in areas from from child care to seniors' health care to veterans' care to supporting women and children caught up in abusive and violent relationships. We will never replace the need for family, good neighbours, and a supportive community, but we in this place ought not to be standing by while so many Canadians struggle and are in need of our help.

National Health and Fitness Day Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech. I am a bit concerned about the claims he has made for the fitness tax credits. In this day and age, certainly in my riding, a lot of constituents simply cannot afford to put their kids in sports programs. The leagues, while run very efficiently by volunteers, are expensive. The government has proposed to put pennies in the pockets of people who actually need dollars in order to put their kids in sports programs and reap all the benefits.

I worry about a bill of this nature. The member has talked of extravaganza and tax credits that, frankly, are not meaningful to a large proportion of Canadians. If we are serious about getting kids engaged in sports for all the great health and social reasons that flow from that, why is the government not doing something more meaningful to put real dollars back into the pockets of people these days who do not have them so their kids can participate?

Poverty November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, not every Canadian family benefits. Income inequality has become a hallmark of Canadian cities.

The new report from TD Bank says that it is stunting our economic growth and threatening our long-term prosperity. The report identifies the damage done by the Liberal-Conservative tag team, together making the poor poorer and the rich richer. There are too many young people struggling for a foothold and too many families struggling to provide.

When economists around the world are advising governments to “lean against income inequality”, why are these guys always leaning the wrong way?

Petitions November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today with respect to local food, which is signed by constituents in and around my riding of Beaches—East York.

The petitioners point out that buying local food cuts down on transportation and greenhouse gas emissions, that buying local foods gives Canadians access to fresh and nutritious food and that federal departments and agencies should lead by example and support Canadian farmers by buying local food.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Government of Canada to require the Department of Public Works to develop a policy to purchase locally-grown food for all federal institutions.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. While I support this bill moving forward to committee for review and study, I am happy that I managed to convey in my speech that this bill is clearly missing an entire response to the issue of child sexual abuse. Clearly, prevention is the critical piece in all of this. It is what one would hope for and think of as any response to criminal activity. First and foremost, this fundamentally has to be be about preventing these things from happening and harming and hurting people.

The story I told is a story about irrecoverable loss, not just for the boy and young man who ended up committing suicide, but for all of the victims, and there were many in this set of circumstances. These are things that people have to live with for the rest of their lives. They have to live with the pain and hurt. To the extent that we, as members of Parliament, can focus our attention on ensuring that young people in this country never have to experience these things and that kind of pain and hurt, and not have to live with that for the rest of the lives, surely we must put our minds to doing just that.