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  • His favourite word is senate.

NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 53.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament here assembled to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. They point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial and occupational causes combined, yet asbestos is not banned in Canada.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all of its forms; end all government subsidies to the asbestos industry both in Canada and abroad; and stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

Justice November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand the government's reluctance to deal with this issue. The Prime Minister stood right there and apologized to the survivors of residential schools because it was the right thing to do. Louis Riel was wrongfully tried, wrongfully convicted, and wrongfully executed in a case of both justice and mercy denied. What possible rationale could the government have to fail to refuse to consider the simple, symbolic gesture to remedy this long-standing historic injustice?

Justice November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, most Canadians know that Louis Riel was a hero, not a traitor. Now even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acknowledges that his trial was a sham and a travesty and did not meet any of the standards of fairness, either then or now.

Will the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and her government agree with a growing number of Canadians that Parliament should reverse the conviction of Louis Riel so that our history books can accurately reflect that he was never guilty of treason and that his execution was a historic miscarriage of justice?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we have all wrestled with these issues in a sincere attempt to do the right thing for our children. The issue of sentencing keeps coming up, and Conservative members asked some questions of NDP members about why we do not support longer sentences all the time in every situation, as if that always makes things better.

Would my colleague care to comment on the lack of evidence proving that longer sentences make safer streets or that longer sentences will solve the problem of child sexual molestation?

The medical community agrees that pedophilia is a psychological condition and that reason and logic do not always enter into the mind of the type of predator that preys on children for sexual gratification. The sentence might be a 50-year sentence, but that person might not have the rational capability to weigh the risk of the action he or she is about to take.

Could the member point out the flaw to this notion? Could she point out the lack of evidence that longer sentences in and of themselves, without the necessary treatment, necessarily lead to safer streets or safer children?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if we are serious about the efficacy of the bill and if we are serious that the goal is to make our streets and our children safer, then we have to be concerned about this, because if locking up more people and mandatory jail sentences led to safer streets, the United States would be the safest country in the world. It has 2.3 million people locked up in prison, and they still have rampant urban strife, violence, and social problems.

We have to question, first, whether stiffer sentences will stop a pedophile who has a psychological disorder and maybe does not use the reason and logic of penalty versus the action he or she is going to take, and second, whether in other situations and other types of crime, locking people up is really going to create safer streets. There is no empirical evidence to have us believe that.

Some states in the United States are going bankrupt because they are locking up so many people, such as Texas, Florida, and California. They are starting to say that their tough on crime agenda is bankrupting their budgets and not making their streets any safer and that all they have is more people locked up.

If we are serious about efficacy and serious about safer streets and safer children, let us make sure we are doing things right.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Sherbrooke had a valid point. By and large, since 2006, in the previous three Parliaments, we have seen the Conservatives rather cynically exploiting what is a standard neo-Conservative tool across the world, which is the politics of fear. They are building up a straw man and then saying that the only people who can protect us from that straw man is them, because they will get tough on crime. There is an awful problem there. Bill C-26 may be the exception.

Some of the mail-outs into my riding from the Conservative Party show a picture of a man sneaking into a bedroom window with a knife and a mask. It more or less is saying that this junkie will kill people in the night with that knife if they do not vote Conservative, because only the current Prime Minister can protect them from this straw man. The politics of fear are cheap and cynical and only lead to stacking up prisoners in prison like cordwood and passing the burden onto the provinces to pay for those prison cells.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I should say at the outset that I intend to split my time with the member for Ottawa Centre.

I am glad to be able to participate in this debate on Bill C-26. I said earlier in the question and comment period that I appreciated both the tone and the content of most of the speeches and remarks made today, given the gravity of the subject matter and the obvious unanimous condemnation, by all parties and all members of Parliament, of this sort of activity. There can be no doubt that we genuinely want to do the best job that we humanly can to stop this kind of activity and to do all we can to pass good legislation.

Much of the bill deals with sentencing and I want to start with that in my remarks. We know that sentencing is an art as much as a science. It is a real challenge for judges to achieve the balance of the three things that sentencing seeks to do. In the first case, it is to punish bad behaviour, obviously. The public demands and is justified in demanding that perpetrators be punished. Sentences usually are and should be crafted and measured in such a way as to accurately reflect the degree of public condemnation for the nature of the offence. In this case, there could be no higher condemnation of the public.

The third and perhaps most critical element of sentencing is to deter and stop the practice. Hopefully, the sentence is significant enough that people will think twice before they risk undertaking this abhorrent practice, for fear of the punishment. However, that is where it becomes really sticky with this particular type of offence, because the psychiatric profession considers pedophilia to be a psychological disorder. I am not sure a pedophile, someone who is engaged in child sexual abuse, makes a rational choice of, “I had better not do this or else I am going to go to jail for 6 months, 9 months, 18 months, 10 years”. I am not sure reason and logic enter into it with a person who has this appalling disorder.

That is not to say that everyone who engages in child sexual abuse is a pedophile or has a psychological disorder. Some do, such as the most offensive types of business people who are selling and marketing the product of child pornography. That, I agree, we not only have to denounce and put a significant deterrent in place, but also punish thoroughly and without reservation.

Part of this bill, as I read it, gives the judge greater direction, I suppose, and in fact takes away the discretion of a judge in dealing with concurrent sentencing versus consecutive sentencing. In thinking this through, and staying with the example of child pornography, there is more than one offence associated with the production and distribution of this product, so to speak.

The actual assault on the child, of course, is a crime and warrants a strict sentence; the documenting of it, making a film of it or taping it, is a crime in and of itself; and then broadcasting and publishing the documented assault is a third crime. Therefore, there are really three criminal offences wrapped into the one act, as the law currently stands. I believe it is section 163.1 in the Criminal Code. These could be treated as one single offence and one sentence or three sentences to be served concurrently rather than consecutively.

In my view, and we will see if it gets amended or commented on during the committee stage, I do not disagree that it is reasonable to consider all three of these assaults as warranting their own punishment applied. One might say the same if there are multiple children involved. It could be perhaps 10 separate crimes with 10 individual children. I think the argument is warranted to make it a concurrent and not a consecutive issue.

While I have the floor, I want to recognize and pay tribute to a woman from Winnipeg named Rosalind Prober, who is the president and founder of an organization called Beyond Borders. This organization was founded in 1996, and she has been a tireless champion for the protection of children, both domestically and abroad. Her organization, Beyond Borders, is the Canadian arm of an international NGO based in Bangkok called ECPAT, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. It was Rosalind Prober who pushed for the first sex tourism laws in 1996, when Lloyd Axworthy was the foreign affairs minister. At the time, she appeared before committees saying that sex crimes of this nature against children, committed by Canadians, should be extraterritorial. In other words, the laws of Canada should and must apply to Canadian citizens as they travel abroad.

That was a breakthrough. That was almost a sea change in the mindset of Canadians, bringing awareness to the fact that sex tourism to exploit children was becoming a growing international problem. I am very proud that it offended the sensibilities of Canadians to such a degree that we expanded our domestic laws to apply to Canadians travelling abroad. It has not always worked. I have a number of examples where even the laws we have in place regarding this have failed to deter some fairly egregious examples, but I will not go into those here today, because there is no benefit.

As Bill C-26 stands, I am glad the NDP's justice critic said at the outset that we are going to support the bill to get it to committee. I think it warrants it. It deserves it. We owe it to our children to pull out all the stops and do all we can to pass the best laws possible to protect them.

I point out that the Minister of Justice, in introducing the bill, when he appeared before the justice committee, pointed out that sexual offences against children had increased 6% over the last two years. This is in spite of a number of measures taken since 2006. This Conservative government, in three parliaments, in 2006, 2008, 2011, implemented the Safe Streets and Communities Act, mandated aggravated assault where the child is under 16 years of age, made it illegal to provide sexually explicit material to a child, and raised the age of protection from 14 to 16 years of age. There are about 10 or 15 legislative changes to the Criminal Code regarding the protection of children and doing our best to stop the sexual exploitation of children, yet the minister claims that there is a 6% increase over the last two years.

We really have to look at the efficacy of the efforts made to date, and it is not unreasonable to question, then, the efficacy of the proposals put forward in Bill C-26, because frankly, everything we have done has failed to stop the escalation of these appalling incidents.

I know I am going to vote in favour of the bill to get it to committee so it can be studied more thoroughly. We owe it to our children. It is one of the most important things we can do in this 41st Parliament.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to say at the outset that I appreciate both the tone and the content of the speeches made to date. I think it is a reflection of how seriously we all take this issue.

My question will be brief and quite specific. The hon. parliamentary secretary was speaking about the difference between consecutive and concurrent sentencing, which those of us who are not lawyers maybe do not have a full grasp of.

However, as I understand the parliamentary secretary, he was saying that in the case of someone making child porn, there would be three offences, perhaps, including the actual abuse of the child, the documenting or the making of a record of that abuse, and then the broadcasting of that abuse. They may be separate crimes but the problem is that the judge might see fit to impose only one sentence for those three offences, or three sentences served concurrently, rather than consecutively.

I would like him to expand a bit further on that.

Also, the notion of volume discounts surely is offensive to the sensibilities of anyone in this room, given the nature of the crimes. What in Bill C-26 would stop this notion of volume discounts?

Petitions November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to present a petition signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians who call upon the House of Commons and Parliament here assembled to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. In fact, more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial and occupational causes combined.

Therefore, these petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for asbestos workers in the communities they live in; end all government subsidies of asbestos, both in Canada and abroad; and stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

Petitions November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians who call upon Parliament to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. The petitioners point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial and occupational causes combined.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for asbestos workers and the communities they live in, end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.