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NDP MP for Sackville—Eastern Shore (Nova Scotia)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 54.10% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Grey Cup November 25th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I stand today on behalf of the New Democratic Party, except for three of our members, who are extremely proud of the fact that the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the 101st Grey Cup, their fourth victory. As a 10-year-old boy at Empire Stadium in Vancouver, I witnessed personally the defeat of the Ottawa Rough Riders by Ron Lancaster, Ed McQuarters, and George Reed. It was a fabulous game, and that was their first Grey Cup.
Yesterday, in the comfort of my own home, along with my friends and whatever else we had with us, we witnessed Saskatchewan yet again win the Grey Cup, the 101st, to start of a new century of football.
I want to personally say for my colleagues from Hamilton, sorry, but next year is their year. Mark my words, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will win the Grey Cup.
However, that said, for the people of Saskatchewan and to the town of Regina, I say what a great football atmosphere, what a great football town. Our personal congratulations go from the leader of the NDP to everybody in Saskatchewan for a tremendous victory. God love the Riders.
Questions on the Order Paper November 22nd, 2013
With regard to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC): (a) how many adults serving custody sentences in the federal correctional system previously served in the Canadian Forces (CF) and RCMP from 2001 to 2013 inclusive; (b) how many of these adults specified above served their custody sentence in (i) federal minimum security prisons, (ii) federal medium security prisons, (iii) federal maximum security prisons; (c) how many offenders on conditional release previously served in the Canadian Forces and RCMP from 2001 to 2013 inclusive; (d) what is a breakdown on the types of offences committed by adults with previous service in the CF and RCMP for those serving custody sentences in federal correctional facilities and offenders on conditional release from 2001 to 2013 inclusive; (e) has CSC determined a re-conviction rate for adults who previously served in the CF or RCMP from 2001 to 2013 inclusive; (f) what is a breakdown of the types of rehabilitative needs adults who previously served in the CF and RCMP accessed while serving their custody sentence or conditional release (including psychological, social, or occupational training opportunities) from 2001 to 2013 inclusive; and (g) how many adults serving their custody sentence or conditional release with prior CF or RCMP service were treated for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or Operational Stress Injuries from 2001 to 2013 inclusive?
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
With a question like that, Mr. Speaker, there is no question that this member from Quebec will be a long-time member of Parliament in the House of Commons.
She is so right. It gets people off the streets, out from under bridges, out of abandoned trailers, out of the back alleys, and out of the holes and ditches they find themselves in. It gets them into a safe, warm, and loving environment. While there, they get the medical help and counselling they need. That is the human approach to assisting those who end up that way.
I ask everybody here who has children, what if it is one of their children who ends up in that situation? Would members throw them in jail? Would they punish them, or would they hug them, show them the love, and give them the help they need? I ask that as a father of two children. I have been blessed with my children, but I know people whose children, unfortunately, have had very difficult and challenging times. When that happens, that is when the hand of friendship, the hand of humanity, what we call social democratic values, reach in, lift those people up, give them the help and guidance they need, and show them the love they require.
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, as you know, my community is much smaller than Vancouver or Toronto. I thank my colleague from York West for that important question.
We do it in a different manner. We do not have the population base or that type of visible intravenous drug use on our streets. There are homeless people, do not get me wrong, and we know what some of them may be up to, but there is simply not that large a population in that regard.
Usually what happens in a particular case of that nature is that shelters, such as the Salvation Army, Phoenix, Adsum House, Beacon House, and all these organizations, assist these individuals to try to give them a lift up. However, my community just does not have the sort of problem that exists in Toronto and Vancouver.
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague and my personal friend very much for a very important question.
We are not to judge how a person ends up there. The reality is that these people have worth. As a Canadian society, as a society that cares for one another, we should be looking at these individuals and not judging them.
What we should be doing is taking the opportunity to work with them and help them, not only on the medical side but on the social side and the religious or spiritual side or whatever one wants to call it. If we do that, can give them a leg up, and help them be productive citizens in our society and feel that they have worth, in turn they will become advocates for other people who may find themselves in that situation. That would indeed be a good thing.
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I will take the first 30 seconds to congratulate him and the great province of Saskatchewan on its future victory over the Ticats. I can say that we were not whipped on this side of the House. I send my condolences to my colleagues from the great city of Hamilton, as well, but congratulations to the Ticats for even getting there.
I will come back to the serious issue of InSite in British Columbia, the safe injection site. It is an extremely serious issue. As I said prior to question period, the men and women who find themselves at the bottom of the ladder, as we say, in the deepest hole they can find themselves in, who have unfortunately turned to intravenous drugs, or drugs of any kind, are in a really desperate situation.
What these sites do is take these men and women in and allow them to continue that habit while hopefully giving them the counselling and the means to be get off the drugs so that they can realize that life is beautiful, that they have worth and are loved, and that they and their families can live normal lives.
If we do not do that, they will end up under bridges. They will end up in the back alleys and everywhere. I should know. I grew up in British Columbia, in the Lower Mainland. I saw the east end of Vancouver.
Again, I go back to my colleague from Vancouver East, our representative there for the last 16 and a half years, and my colleagues from the Lower Mainland. They know what we are talking about. The reality is that this site is really a godsend to these people. It is a beacon of hope and trust.
I understand the Conservative philosophy. They do not like the idea of people using illegal drugs. That is also our philosophy. However, we have a great divide on how we react and how we treat people who use drugs. They look more at the criminal aspect of it, and we look more at the health aspect of it. That is the difference between the Conservatives and the NDP.
We encourage all people not to use intravenous or illegal drugs of any kind, ever. That is a wishful thing to say. As long as we have been on this planet, people have somehow managed to abuse themselves in particular circumstances for a variety of reasons.
There is only one person who can judge those individuals, and that person has a lot higher standing than me. It is simply not for me or anybody in this House of Commons to do that. These people are human beings. They have worth. They have lives. At one time, they had mothers and fathers who loved them. For whatever reason, they found themselves in a very terrible and unfortunate situation.
We on this side of the House are very concerned about the legislation coming forward, not necessary because of what the government is trying to say but because of the ulterior motives behind it. We understand how the Conservatives work in legislation. The devil is always in the details. What is the real motive for their doing this?
If the bill gets to committee, we will be able to examine it very carefully and get witnesses in. The government will hear not just from members of Parliament. They will actually hear from people whose lives were saved by InSite and safe injection sites.
With that, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on this important issue. Mr. Speaker, I wish you the very best this weekend.
Veterans November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, by the time all Canadians go to bed tonight, we will lose 150 World War II, Korean, and modern-day veterans either to illness or through the aging process. Two-thirds of those impoverished veterans and their families will not qualify for the Last Post Fund because the litmus test is still at $12,000 for the entry level. That is what the Liberals gave us back in 1995; before that it was $24,000. Twenty years later it is still at $12,000.
Allowing these families and the heroes of our country to have a dignified burial and cremation service is the last chance for a grateful nation to say “goodbye and thank you”. Will the government now raise that litmus test so that more veterans and their families can have the dignified service they so rightly deserve?
Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I am proud to carry on the debate on the important discussion of InSite and injection sites.
Although I was born in Holland, I was raised in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. I understand all too well what the east end of Vancouver was like in the 1960s and 1970s. It was not the greatest thing, because one saw a tremendous amount of people, for a variety of reasons, with severe drug or alcohol addictions. There were folks down there from all walks of life. It was an extremely unfortunate circumstance as a young man to witness the tragedy of what happened to these people's lives.
Fast forward to years later, and we have InSite.
I am the first person, along with everybody else in the House, who would encourage every Canadian not to use illicit drugs whatsoever. That is the main principle, but it is very difficult to get people off illicit drugs if they are in the back alleys, street corners, throughways, under bridges, or anywhere else.
The best way to get to these people is to show them compassion and the dignity of their lives. They may be on the bottom rung of the ladder, in a deep hole where they keeping digging it deeper and see no way out with the exception of an overdose or possible suicide. It is the Canadian people, the good people of Vancouver, east end Vancouver, and former municipal and provincial politicians who had the insight to come up with InSite. They were able to get these people off the streets and into a shelter. Even though they were still using drugs, there was an ability to work and consult with them to get them off the drugs and allow them to become productive members of our society.
On the other hand, we can just ignore the problem. They will be back on the streets, under bridges and in vacant lots, but then we will have the paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and social caseworkers going in when the situation has gone too far.
I know everybody in the NDP, Conservative Party, Liberal Party and other parties here are very clear that we do not want young people or anyone resorting to illicit drugs of any kind. However, when that situation arises, it is best to get them off the street to a place where they can be safe and get counselling. They can then understand that there is hope and a possibility that life can be better for them.
InSite is all about that. Injection sites are all about that. It is to show the compassion and love that we have for these individuals who are going through a very severe and difficult time.
Some of these folks may have come from the aboriginal community, some may have gone through a divorce, some may have psychological or physical problems, and some may have come from our police, firefighter, or veteran community. We do not know where these people have come from, and to be honest, I really do not care. All I see is a human being.
A lot of my Conservative colleagues over there profess to be of the Christian faith. I ask them this: what is the Christian thing to do in this regard? It is to reach out with an open hand and show the compassion and love that these people deserve in order to turn their lives around, and there is a lot of evidence of where this has happened.
My great colleague, the representative for Vancouver East for the past sixreen and a half years, has been in the forefront of this struggle. She has represented Vancouver East with great pride and honour and with great distinction. We are very proud to have her, one day in cabinet, but right now in our caucus. She is an outstanding human being who understands the situation probably better than anybody else in the country or in Parliament.
With that, I will resume this most vital discussion shortly after question period.
Priority Hiring for Injured Veterans Act November 20th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, first I personally want to thank the government for bringing forward this piece of legislation. I think it is an important topic. To me, any day that we can talk about veterans, RCMP members and their families, and the men and women who serve our country on a regular basis is always a good day for the House of Commons, because these are the types of subjects we should be discussing on a more constant basis.
Before I start, I want to give personal kudos to my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, my personal friend and seatmate next to me in terms of the riding in Nova Scotia, for his father, who was known as W.L. “Red” Chisholm. He was in the Canadian Air Force. He received the DFC and bar. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2005. I want to offer the greatest round of applause and gratitude to my colleague, his late father, and all those who served our country for their tremendous service.
I understand exactly why the government brought this particular legislation forward. I am one of the few people here who had discussions with the late Jack Stagg, the former deputy minister and the former minister of veterans affairs, when it came to the actual implementation of the new veterans charter. Even though there are a fair number of concerns and issues with it, I am proud to say that I worked with our party to help the other parties get that legislation through, because in the end, when we compare apples to apples, it is a better program than it was before.
That said, there are many deficiencies within it.
Because it is a living document, everyone, including the veterans associations, was assured that when problems are recognized, the document could be opened up immediately and the problems dealt with right away. The unfortunate part is that the first crack in the charter was on Bill C-55, an important piece of legislation that received unanimous support from the House of Commons, in order to improve the lives of a lot of veterans out there financially.
We have heard other concerns with the new veterans charter. The reality is our committee will be looking at that hopefully in the most non-partisan way we can to, as the minister said yesterday, and in a proactive, non-partisan manner give recommendations to the minister so that the minister can then go to cabinet. We know that budget time is coming up and that all the departments will be looking at the same Canadian tax dollars and the best way to allocate them. I thank the minister and the parliamentary secretary for listening to the debate today. We would like to give him some basic recommendations that he can then take to cabinet to improve the lives of all veterans, RCMP members, and their families.
Getting back to the particular aspect of priority hiring for military personnel who leave the military either on a volunteer basis or through what we call a 3(b) release for either physical or psychological injuries, we applaud this idea, but in the veterans charter, priority hiring was one the major aspects. It shows us that the system did not really work well when legislation has to come forward seven years later to deal with this issue once again.
We found out over the years that the Department of National Defence was the biggest employer of veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs was next. All of the other departments did very little in hiring veterans in that regard. Hopefully, with this legislation, we can encourage on a proactive basis, through the Public Service Commission and everyone else, the opportunity and ability for the heroes of our country to remain gainfully employed, because the entire aspect of the veterans charter, and this was the key selling point, was care, not cash.
I say this very clearly. The ability for them to understand that although they are 24 years old and injured they still have worth, not just to themselves and their families but also to their country, and the ability of the government of the day to provide programs and systems to ensure that they and their families get the benefits they richly deserve in order to lift themselves up, be gainfully employed, and have economic opportunities right through the natural part of their lives was the key to this.
I am pleased to see that the government has now offered an opportunity through legislation to ensure that we get this right. However, there are some questions we have to ask when the bill gets to committee.
I would like to tell the minister and the parliamentary secretary that the federal New Democrats will be supporting this legislation. We hope to be able to make some friendly amendments when it gets to committee on several things, such as who will be monitoring, through the Public Service Commission and departments of the federal government, to ensure this works for veterans and RCMP members.
We want to include RCMP members as well. It may be an oversight by the government, but because RCMP veterans also have to go to DVA to get their benefits, we feel they should also be included in this important legislation so that they too can have the opportunities that our military veterans may have in future employment with federal departments right across the country.
As has been said before by my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House, the men and women who serve in our military and RCMP have tremendous skills. Whether it is Helmets to Hardhats or working for the Coast Guard or CSIS or whatever it is that they do, these men and women can provide great service to all of Canada in this regard.
I am pleased to say that we will be supporting the bill, but we would like to see the RCMP included.
My second point is also very important. I met with many groups. I met with Helmets to Hardhats and with people in other departments, and I can say that an awful lot of veterans leave the military with some sort of psychological concern. Certain triggers can affect different veterans in different ways.
Maybe the department can take notes and get back to us on this point: will the department offer intense training to companies and departments throughout Canada on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or operational stress injury so that they will be able to understand sensitivities that a veteran may be going through and watch for triggers? A company may have a well-qualified veteran working for it, but in a new environment the veteran may experience something that triggers that reaction.
Several years ago at the DND dockyards, there was a veteran who got a job with the DND firefighters. The problem was, and this is no disrespect to them, that they were not properly advised or trained on the individual, their new buddy. This person had some pretty serious psychological concerns, but the people he was newly working with did not fully understand or appreciate what he was going through, so he just could not work there any more. He could not handle the stress of that new environment.
This outcome can be avoided if we are proactive in this regard. When an individual who has PTSD, OSI, or a physical injury passes the qualifications and gets hired in a new department, the people in that department should already fully understand that veteran's situation. This is not only a hero of our country, but a person who has some concerns that he or she has to deal with on a regular or maybe a lifetime basis. We simply do not know. I think sensitivity shown to these individuals would be very helpful in integrating them into a new work environment.
I admit that I did not wear the uniform of Canada, but many of my friends and many colleagues in this House did. For those who have served for a long time, the military becomes a way of life. The RCMP becomes a way of life. For those who have been firefighters or police officers for many years, such as the Minister of Veterans Affairs, it becomes a way of life. However, the day comes when that uniform comes off. That is a pretty serious moment.
I remember many times people telling me that the proudest day they ever had was when they put on the red serge for the first time at Depot in Regina, and the saddest day was when they took it off. These are people who had a wonderful career, but when you talk to them after they leave, they are in a blue funk for a while. There is a feeling of “Now what do I do?”
Also very important is that we will be asking the government to give an individual prior to being released from the military and getting training for an occupation in a different field all the opportunities, the financial and human benefits, in order to walk them through that process, because many of these veterans believe, in some cases, that all they can do is work for the military.
That may not happen, but we have to be able to encourage them in a positive way by ensuring that there are benefits to help them get through, educational or occupational benefits or whatever it is, to be able to carry on and move through the next door, as they say, in order to obtain gainful employment and be a productive member of society. That is exactly what we would hope to do through the legislation.
I want to assure the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the parliamentary secretary that we on this side of the House will be supporting the legislation. We hope to be proactive and maybe work on amendments. We will bring witnesses and maybe other departments before the committee to explain exactly how they anticipate accepting the arrival of military and RCMP veterans and ask what they would do in order to enhance the comfort level of welcoming them into the new family they have, to make them feel very proud of what they have done. It needs to be understood that when veterans have injuries, either physical or psychological, it is a serious problem to deal with.
I look at Senator Roméo Dallaire and what he has done to work through the condition he has suffered over the years. He is a beautiful, classic example of someone who has a very serious psychological concern about what he experienced in Rwanda and elsewhere, and how, with the help of his family, the Liberal Party and others, he was able to manage his concerns and become a very highly respected citizen, not only of this country but of the entire world. He is a shining example of what can happen when one falls on one's knees, gets picked up and is able to move forward, and, as they say in the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to bash on. That is what we will be hoping to ensure with the legislation.
Again, I thank the parliamentary secretary, the Minister of Veterans Affairs and my colleague, the Liberal critic, for being here. In fact, I have to say that every single time we have debated a bill on veterans, the minister, regardless of what party, has always sat through the entire debate. On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoy that because it shows that the individual in question cares. Of course, I could go on and talk about all the failures of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but that would take another couple of hours. After winning that award yesterday, I do not think it would diminish my standing in the House of Commons.
At this time, I want to say that at the very end of the day the men and women who serve our country are our true national heroes. They and their families deserve everything we can do to assist them to become gainfully employed in employment that is meaningful and challenges them, so that they wake up in the morning and go to bed at night knowing they have done something that they and their families can be proud of. For that, I am very proud to say that the leader of the federal New Democrats and myself will be supporting the legislation.
Priority Hiring for Injured Veterans Act November 20th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. One of the questions I have for him is with regard to the opportunity for veterans who are disabled, either physically or psychologically, to be retrained and have opportunities for them, their spouses, and their families to enter into the workforce to become productive citizens once again and to feel that they add worth to our society. That is the whole aspect of the new veterans charter.
However, the problem is that a lot of additional benefits that these veterans may require are very difficult to access. The bureaucracy to get them is quite challenging.
First, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on his new post as critic for the federal Liberal Party and wish him good luck in that assumption. I would also like to let him know that I will assist him, and the government, at any time, when it comes to issues of veterans affairs
I wonder if he would comment on my comment. That would be greatly appreciated.