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  • Her favourite word is thanks.

Conservative MP for Sarnia—Lambton (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 52.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House April 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the motion by the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, which states:

That this House endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007, and call upon the Parliament and Government of Canada to implement fully the standards contained therein.

As I am sure the House is aware, on September 12, 2007, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians and the Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement indicating that Canada could not vote in favour of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The following day, Canada delivered an explanation of vote, setting on the record its position on the declaration. Canada stated, among other things, that the declaration did not provide practical guidance to states and that some of the provisions were overly broad and capable of a wide variety of interpretations.

Since taking office in 2006, our government has acted on many fronts to improve quality of life and promote a prosperous future for all aboriginal peoples. This agenda is practical, focuses on real results, and has led to tangible progress in a range of areas including land claims, education, housing, child and family services, safe drinking water, and the extension of human rights protection to first nations on a reserve.

We are also pushing to have section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act repealed. This would ensure the protection of fundamental human rights for all aboriginal people, including aboriginal women, who are often the most vulnerable.

It should be noted that Canada supports the spirit and intent of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, but further negotiations were necessary to achieve a text worthy of Canadian support that truly addressed the interests of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world.

Canada's position has remained consistent and principled. We have stated publicly that we have significant concerns with the wording of provisions of the declaration, such as those on lands, territories and resources; free, prior and informed consent when used as a veto; self-government without recognition of the importance of negotiations; intellectual property; military issues; and the need to achieve an appropriate balance between the rights and obligations of indigenous peoples, member states and third parties.

Canada voted against the adoption of the current text because it is fundamentally flawed and lacks clear, practical guidance for implementation. These comments apply to a number of different areas of the law, including intellectual property.

Clarity of language should be an important consideration before a government decides to commit to any document, yet articles 11 and 31 of the declaration include a number of terms where the international community has not been able to come to a consensus as to their nature, scope or legal implications. These terms include, for example, “traditional knowledge”, “traditional cultural expressions” and “free, prior informed consent”.

Let us take, for example, the term “free, prior informed consent”. During the vote on the declaration, the Canadian ambassador stated that some of the provisions dealing with the concept of free, prior informed consent were unduly restrictive. Provisions in the declaration said that states could not act on any legislative or administrative matter that might affect indigenous peoples without obtaining their consent.

While Canada has a strong consultative process, reinforced by the courts, as a matter of law, the establishment of a veto power over legislative or administrative action for a particular group would be fundamentally incompatible with Canada's parliamentary system. Such a comprehensive veto power would impact on intellectual property and other federal and provincial laws.

The declaration also refers to the “violation of their laws, traditions and customs”. Such language could imply the recognition of a body of aboriginal intellectual property law in Canada without having first identified and studied these laws, determining how many such laws exist across Canada, how they interface with federal and provincial laws and policies, and whether they pose any concerns for Canada's ability to honour its international legal obligations.

This concern is increased because there is no explicit reference in the declaration that states such aboriginal customary laws would be subject to Canada's national laws. I would further add that we are not aware of any country, in particular our major trading partners, that recognizes dozens if not hundreds of domestic intellectual property regimes.

Some may suggest that any implications for Canada's intellectual property regime and intellectual property rights holders posed by these two articles would be minimal, as they would apply only to aboriginal communities. Let us not forget that intellectual property law recognizes a property right. One characteristic of a property right, intangible or otherwise, is the ability to exclude others from using the property.

We can consider, for example, that a traditional symbol in the public domain is governed by some aboriginal customary law. If the aboriginal customary law were to be recognized as having priority over Canada's intellectual property regime, it would affect the ability of all Canadians, including other aboriginal Canadians, to use the symbol in a new work, such as a painting, for example. If the symbol were incorporated in an existing trademark held by a foreign rights holder, it would raise questions as to the legal status of the trademark. Recognizing a new intellectual property regime in such a manner and without consulting Canadians is not acceptable to this government.

Supporters of the declaration have stated that Canada should not be concerned because the declaration is not a legally binding instrument, yet there could be attempts to rely on the declaration as an interpretive tool and to demand that the federal government bring its policies in line with the declaration. The precise wording, therefore, is very important. And to this point, the declaration has in fact already been cited in legal proceedings in Canada.

Moreover, such an approach would be inconsistent with Canada's position in ongoing self-government negotiations where Canada has insisted that the Government of Canada retain exclusive law-making authority in relation to intellectual property in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Apart from my comments about the government's concerns with the declaration, I would add that Canada's national intellectual property regime does not discriminate against its aboriginal citizens or any other group of people in Canada. All Canadians, aboriginal or otherwise, benefit equally from Canada's national intellectual property regime within Canada and abroad.

The government is working to better understand the concerns of Canada's aboriginal peoples regarding the interface between their cultural heritage and Canada's intellectual property regime. For example, we have provided funding to allow aboriginal Canadians to take part in relevant meetings of the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Convention on Biological Diversity. We have also accepted invitations to go to aboriginal communities to explain the benefits and limitations of Canada's national intellectual property regime and to learn their concerns about intellectual property law.

We believe that this measured, step by step approach to addressing the concerns of our aboriginal citizens regarding intellectual property represents the best way forward. Adopting a text that is fundamentally flawed and lacks clear, practical guidance for implementation is not to anyone's benefit.

Oil Heritage April 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to inform the House about a historical Canadian event that is taking place in my riding this year.

Lambton County is the birthplace of the oil industry in Canada and the world. The village of Oil Springs is home to the site of the first commercial oil well in North America which was dug in 1858. This area is also home to Canada's first oil gusher, first oil exchange and first oil company. Today oil is still being produced using the same techniques used by early oil producers.

To commemorate this 150th anniversary many events are occurring from February to December. I invite everyone to visit us and listen to the music of the working jerker lines, operate a spring-pole drilling rig, let one's nostrils tingle with the sweet smell of black gold, and discover the stories of Lambton's foreign drillers who helped drill many of the great oil fields around the world.

To uncover a truly fascinating oil history and heritage that changed our lives as Canadians, come and celebrate Canada's oil history in Sarnia--Lambton.

The Environment April 1st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, my riding is home to the St. Clair River. It is of great benefit to the local economies in the region and nearly 170,000 citizens rely on the river for drinking water.

For many years there have been few, if any, cleanup dollars from senior levels of government. Funding for serious environmental issue was very hard to come by.

Could the Minister of the Environment please tell the House how the government is supporting the people in my riding in helping to clean up the St. Clair River?

Health March 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues in the House for speaking on this issue today and for the support that they have shown thus far. I certainly hope Motion No. 409 is successful today.

Health March 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have made my motion as broad an aspect as I can to give Health Canada a chance to address this the best way possible. I have asked for amendments to the Food and Drugs Act or to the Hazardous Products Act. That will leave it open for Health Canada to see which is the best way to go forward with the motion, so that non-corrective lenses can be regulated as a device.

Health March 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the fact that the general population is unaware that there is no regulation is the largest issue that we are dealing with here. People are not aware that these lenses are not regulated. There are regulations in other countries. There are none in Canada.

In addition to the things that I have talked about, with the flow of oxygen which can cause swelling and ulceration of the cornea and ultimately infection, there can be an accumulation of debris such as dirt or dust if the lens is not properly fitted.

If there is no regulation, there is no one to teach proper fitting and do the proper fitting. An accumulation of debris can certainly damage the cornea and cause infection as well.

People may experience chemical or allergic reactions to the lens. I think we are seeing allergic reactions to different substances much more often in our society today.

If people are not taught the proper way to handle these lenses, they can be contaminated with micro-organisms. Again, we are looking at serious irritation or infection. There certainly are a lot of different issues that can affect people. Some of these conditions can be corrected and some are not able to be corrected. Serious damage can be done.

Some of the lenses can cause temporary changes in the shape of the cornea and that can affect people's vision and perception. Night driving can become a problem for some people.

The dangers are wide-ranging. Anyone who has vision as I do certainly knows that it is something we need to protect. I feel very strongly about this motion. I hope the motion is supported in the House.

Health March 7th, 2008

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Minister of Health should regulate non-corrective, cosmetic contact lenses as medical devices under the Hazardous Product Act or the Food and Drugs Act.

Mr. Speaker, it is my duty to rise today and bring attention to a most serious matter, one that has been taken lightly for too long. Hopefully in my address today I will be able to successfully enlighten the House as to the severity of this matter.

Hopefully we can begin to have a fruitful debate on an issue that stems in part from a crucial lack of regulation due to a classification oversight. Today I will show the House how this very same lack of regulation is putting Canadians in communities from coast to coast to coast in a greatly elevated atmosphere of risk.

I am speaking, of course, of the issue of non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses regulation in Canada.

Today I have the privilege of being able to present to my fellow parliamentarians what we could consider the initial phase in opening up a larger debate on the various benefits of regulating non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses.

In the next few minutes, I ask members to listen to my words about the severity of this issue, because the first time I spoke with members of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, I was sincerely surprised at the underlying health issues associated with using these contact lenses. What is truly needed to alter the existing status quo toward non-corrective lenses is change within the essential classification policy.

In the past, prevailing conventional wisdom was that the coloured contact lenses that some of our high school age children have perhaps actually worn were not a Class II medical device. This is in direct contradiction to the fact that while non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses pose no refractive merit, they still possess the identical health risks that corrective lenses do and in fact are more dangerous than regular corrective lenses. This belief is shared by eye care professionals across the industry.

Countless individuals across all age barriers are consumers of these unregulated contact lenses and countless individuals are increasing non-repairable damage to their eyes without even knowing it.

Motion No. 409 states quite explicitly:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Minister of Health should regulate non-corrective, cosmetic contact lenses as medical devices under the Hazardous Products Act or the Food and Drugs Act.

This brings about the necessity of amending either the Hazardous Products Act or the Food and Drugs Act in order to bring non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses under the same regulation as corrective lenses.

As such, we can successfully alleviate the risks associated with the use of non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses. We can ensure that consumers of such a product are receiving professional supervision when it comes to matters of their vision. Thus, regulation is needed to ensure that non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses are properly fitted to the individual eye.

There is a simple reason why non-corrective lenses are more strenuous than corrective lenses for the human eye. For those who have never handled a contact lens before, I point out that they are incredibly light in weight. Thus, a contact lens maintains its light weight and possesses a strong refractive capacity by being composed mostly of water.

It is the nature of the refractive capacity that allows the contact lens to serve as a corrective lens. Because it alters a bodily function--in this case it allows the human eye to focus better and increase our overall field of vision-- it is recognized as a type II medical device.

Corrective contact lenses are quite comfortable. They breathe, although most opticians still advise that there is an associated risk of wearing even a corrective contact lens.

Recently, my executive assistant, on a visit to his optician here in Ottawa, was surprised to learn of non-repairable damage done to his cornea. He had been wearing a corrective lens with a cosmetic tinting to alter his eye colour, albeit slightly.

It was the thin layer of ink within the contact lens that suppressed his cornea's natural ability to breathe. Over time his cornea became scratched. This is also known as a torn cornea. As such, and at the request of his optician, my assistant switched to a corrective lens without the cosmetic tinting. This allows his eyes to breathe much easier during the course of a day, although his optician has advised him that he should ultimately consider ceasing to wear lenses on a daily basis permanently.

Accordingly, the risks associated with wearing a lens over the cornea are greatly increased with the usage of a coloured contact. Thus, the damage to my assistant's eye could have potentially been far greater had he been wearing a non-corrective cosmetic lens. Yet, despite this increased risk, there are zero regulations for non-corrective contact lenses.

Wearers of these lenses almost always wear the lenses to alter their eye colour to a more desirable tone. This requires a thin layer of ink injected into the watery contact lens. This pocket of ink blocks the natural path of oxygen one would find in a corrective non-coloured lens.

Moreover, in 2003, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists reported that a contact lens, coloured or not, was a plastic foreign body that rests for hours, days or weeks on the most delicate and most important image-forming structure in the eye: the corneal epithelium.

Contact lenses are composed of tiny polymers that are cooked together by the miracle of modern chemistry into long, intertwined strands that form a curved plastic sheet. These units effectively create a barrier that prevents normal amounts of oxygen from reaching the eye.

As stated already, this process is much worse in coloured contact lenses, of which the majority of cosmetic lenses are.

The lack of oxygen to the cornea is extremely damaging. When one sleeps with these coloured lenses still placed over the cornea, oxygen starvation increases further potential for damage. During meetings with opticians, I have personally heard of stories whereby students in university, completely unaware of any risk, would wear disposable lenses, which were to be thrown out after a month, for longer than six months on occasion.

Again, the risk increases when we are discussing these terms in regards to non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses.

There are literally thousands of people across Canada right now doing damage to their eyes and they do not even know it. What is worse is that they will not know because they will never be made to see an optometrist in order to obtain non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses as they would be forced to under existing regulation for corrective contact lenses.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to proactive studies into the damaging effects of non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses, we are now seeing research that indicates the strong risk of wearing these lenses. The industry has collectively united and organizations, such as the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Optician Association of Canada, have lobbied to see what type of regulatory controls can be applied to non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses.

Thus, for nearly five years the Canadian Association of Optometrists, also known as the CAO; the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the COS; and the Optician Association of Canada have actively lobbied Health Canada to regulate non-corrective lenses under the auspices of the Food and Drugs Act regulations.

As a result of the lobbying efforts by the CAO, COS and the Optician Association of Canada, Health Canada commissioned a third party risk assessment of cosmetic contact lenses. This study determined that the risks associated with non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses were indeed sufficient enough to justify regulation by Health Canada.

However, to this day there has been a succinct lack of progress made on this health issue. This is despite numerous reports on the dangers of lack of regulation on the issue.

Motion No. 409 would open up the regulatory book and allow Health Canada to ensure that manufacturers of these contact lenses would be forced to assume a certain degree of stewardship responsibility for the distribution and sales of these non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses.

Without this regulation, studies, such as the 2003 review of “Ocular Complications Associated with the Use of Cosmetic Contact Lenses from Unlicensed Vendors” taken from Eye & Contact Lens: Science and Clinical Practice, vol. 29, issue 4, will be for naught.

This study used retrospective, observational and clinical settings to determine that coloured contact lenses being dispensed without a prescription or proper fitting procedures being utilized posed a sincere health risk. As such, the study was successful in calling attention to the unauthorized sale of cosmetic contact lenses.

Since the initial appearance of health issues related to non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses appearing on the radar of health and eye care professionals, there has been an influx of Canadian reviews by organizations such as CAO, COS and the Optician Association of Canada that show uninformed lens wearers are increasingly experiencing acute vision threatening infections and inflammations in addition to a ciliary flush in one or both eyes. This is in addition to the more common conjunctivitis.

Other common issues that appear in association with contact lens use include: corneal abrasions, giant papillary conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers and microbial keratitis.

In all of my meetings with eye care professionals, I have noticed a common theme among the repeated calls to action on this issue. There are three main areas of concern recognized by eye care professionals.

It has been deemed essential that regarding a regulatory framework for non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses there should be a consistent legislative and regulatory framework for the federal regulation of contact lenses.

In addition to the call for a consistent legislative and regulatory framework of this issue, it was also deemed critical that there be a transparent, evidence and science-based process when changes are being considered to regulations that affect the eye care profession.

Moreover, it should be an inclusive process that takes into account the expertise of eye care professions, who have been calling attention to this serious issues for quite some time now.

Furthermore, supporters of Motion No. 409, within the eye care profession, are quite prepared to support any changes to existing parameters regarding the existing framework, and are willing to assist where necessary.

There is a reason why I am passionate about this motion and it has to do with our responsibility in this House to ensure the safety of Canadians, especially in regard to their own personal health.

Furthermore, the support of the various members of the CAO and COS is a testament to the commitment of qualified eye care professionals to ensure that this motion is properly supported.

It is also important to note that Health Canada is fully aware of the repercussions of this motion and, as such, is supportive in its views that non-corrective lenses must come under the same regulation as corrective lenses. Only with the support of the House is this possible.

I call on fellow parliamentarians today to support Motion No. 409.

Business of Supply March 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, could we ask for unanimous consent to see the clock as 1:30?

Status of Women March 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate International Women's Week, the opposition is trying to deny the truth about how our government is making a difference in the lives of women. We have provided funding for organizations that work to create safer neighbourhoods, for example, and that mentor and train young women in marginalized communities through projects that provide them with real opportunities and get real results.

In fact, the Minister of Indian Affairs and the Minister of Status of Women recently announced that five new shelters will be built to help address violence against first nations women and their families. Can the minister remind the opposition of how our government is taking concrete measures to help women in ways that actually benefit them?

Business of Supply March 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, certainly we know that the record of the previous government was not one of creating new child care spaces. We know that did not happen. We also know that last year the Liberals voted against $250 million for the provinces to create new child care spaces. That was in our budget.

In our party, we do have a record of delivering choice and support to parents. The universal child care benefit is extremely well received. I have comments on a weekly basis from young parents in my riding who support it. We also know that choice in child care does not mean that everyone has to be in a institutionalized child care space. There are choices. The universal child care benefit provides that choice.