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  • His favourite word is police.

NDP MP for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 40.90% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act September 22nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question and for her devotion to equality in this country, which I have seen many times in the House.

I would say that any bill that deals with cyberbullying but ignores the rights of transgendered Canadians misses the group that is bullied more often than any other group in this entire country, both in daily life, in physical presence, and online. That is why I made that a focus of my speech today.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice raises a tragic example, but I wonder if he is familiar with the literally hundreds of examples of violence against people in the transgendered community every year in this country.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act September 22nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if that were actually being done, I might be supporting this bill, but many other things have been packed into the bill, things that I think are questionable. This is why I have lost my optimism. I thought the House of Commons could act to do something effective in cyberbullying, but I do not think this bill is it. I think it will spend its life before the courts, and I do not think we will accomplish the goal we set out to accomplish.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act September 22nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill C-13, and I think that is unfortunate.

Like many MPs, I had high hopes when the issue of cyberbullying first came before the House. I had high hopes that we would recognize the urgency with which we needed to respond to cyberbullying and the risk of suicides, especially when we were faced with the unfortunate examples of Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia and Amanda Todd in B.C. taking their own lives.

In fact, we did respond relatively quickly. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour introduced a private member's bill in June 2013. It was a simple bill that did not include a lot of extraneous material. It was a simple bill that would have made it an offence to produce or distribute intimate images of an individual without that person's consent.

Unfortunately, despite attempts to get unanimous consent to move the bill forward, the government said that it had to do a lot more study and think a lot more about what it wanted to present in a government bill. When that bill finally got before us in November 2013, nearly a year ago, as usual with the Conservative government we found a far broader bill than was necessary. It is a bill that includes many issues that have little or nothing to do with cyberbullying, including restrictions on telemarketing, theft of telecommunication services, provisions on terrorist financing, and bank financial disclosures.

What we have before us now is a bill with a much broader scope and one that includes bringing back many aspects of the Conservatives' previous Bill C-30, which was widely rejected by public opinion and especially by privacy advocates.

As someone who worked closely with the criminal justice system for more than two decades before coming here, I have some very serious concerns about the government's attempt to expand access to personal information, both with and without a warrant, that remains in Bill C-13

I am very concerned about the new and low bar for grounds for getting a warrant to get personal information. I see no justification for lowering the grounds for a warrant from “reasonable grounds to believe”, to this new category of reasonable suspicion. For that reason, of course, we proposed an amendment to delete this clause entirely from the bill.

In fact, I believe, despite the speeches we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, that the Spencer case this summer brings into question the constitutionality of many provisions of Bill C-13. This was an important ruling banning Internet service providers from disclosing names, addresses, and phone numbers of customers voluntarily to the authorities.

The bill would also create a worrying new category of those entitled to our personal information. It has expanded from the well-defined, in law, concept of peace officers, and we know who they are, to this unclear new concept of “public officers”. Does this mean tax officials? Who does this mean are public officers?

In committee we proposed 37 different amendments to try to narrow the scope of the bill. As my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour so eloquently put it a few moments ago, we were trying to make sure that this bill did not spend the rest of its life being challenged in court. Unfortunately, we did not see any of those amendments adopted, and I do not think we will see our amendments adopted at report stage.

I want to return to one surprising inclusion in Bill C-13 that I was happy to see there. For whatever reason, the government decided to reopen the hate crime section of the Criminal Code in clause 12 of Bill C-13. There is some connection there with cyberbullying and cyberbullying's relation to an escalation into hate crimes.

I think perhaps there was a justification, but I was very surprised to see that when the government listed the new identifiable groups to receive protection, it added national origin, sex, age, and mental or physical disability. Yet what was left out was gender identity.

The House of Commons had already agreed, in a vote on my private member's bill, Bill C-279, on March 20, 2013, by a margin of 149 to 137, with support from all parties, to include protection on the basis of gender identity. Therefore, there was a deliberate omission from this list of new protected grounds of something that we had already decided in the full House.

This is why earlier today I proposed an amendment to clause 12, which I had already placed in the justice committee. I was optimistic that we would be allowed to debate this bill again. I proposed this amendment in committee to try to correct what I felt was an error in the drafting of Bill C-13. It should have included gender identity, precisely for the reason I cited: we had already voted on this provision here in the full House of Commons.

I was very optimistic in committee. After all, two of the five government members in the justice committee had voted for my private member's bill. Therefore, I expected when I proposed the amendment it would pass in committee by a vote of 6 to 3 in favour, because that is how those members had previously voted on the very same provision in Bill C-279. However, at the last minute, one Conservative changed his vote and one member was substituted out of committee. Hence, my amendment was defeated 5 to 4.

This is why I placed my amendment on the order paper again and asked the Speaker to take the unusual step of allowing it to be put before the full House again. The Speaker ruled that my amendment did not meet the test set out in our rules, which would have allowed it to come before the House today as part of this debate.

The problem, of course, is not the Speaker's ruling. It is instead that the government, which always posed as neutral on the provisions of my private member's bill, has found a way of using a government bill to undo the decision that had already been taken in the House on Bill C-279 to provide protection against hate crimes to transgender Canadians. This shows a fundamental disrespect for the will of the majority as already expressed in the House. Therefore, when it comes to respecting the rights of transgender Canadians, it turns out the government is not as neutral as it was pretending to be. This perhaps explains what has happened to the same provision we could have been talking about today, over in the Senate in Bill C-279.

The second problem we have in achieving protection against hate crimes for transgender Canadians is, of course, the Senate. The bill has been before the Senate two different times. The first time was in the spring of 2011. It was approved by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate, which failed to act at all before the election was called. Therefore, that provision died before the Senate.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-279 passed the House of Commons on March 20, 2013, a year and a half ago. It has been in the Senate for a year and a half. I know they only meet three days a week, but there are still plenty of sitting days for them to deal with this. In fact, in 2013, it did pass second reading. In other words, it received approval in principle. Now we have the House of Commons saying that what we were supposed to be dealing with in the bill to be true and the Senate, in principle, agreeing. It was sent to the human rights committee, which held hearings and approved Bill C-279 without amendment and returned it to the full floor of the Senate, where a third reading and final vote was not called. The House prorogued and that bill started over.

Here again is where the supposed neutrality of the government on protecting transgender Canadians against hate crimes comes into question. The bill could have been expedited through the Senate, as it had already been through all the stages there. Even simpler, the bill could have been sent back to the human rights committee, and since it had already held hearings and dealt with the bill, it could have been returned quickly to the floor of the Senate. Instead, the government leadership in the Senate sent the bill to a different committee, the legal and constitutional affairs committee. This is an interesting choice. This not only meant that the committee would have to hold new hearings, but it is the busiest committee in the Senate, with the government's crime agenda. It means this committee will have to deal with bills like the one we have before us today, Bill C-13; Bill C-36, dealing with sex work; and Bill C-2, dealing with safe injection sites. It will have to deal with all of those before it ever gets to a private member's bill.

Again, the fig leaf of neutrality claimed by the government is looking a little withered, since decisions on where the bill is going and its timing are made by the government leadership in the Senate. It is beginning to look a lot like the government intends to let Bill C-279 die in the Senate once again.

The final obstacle to achieving protection for transgender Canadians against hate crimes, and I think the real reason gender identity was omitted from the new groups protected in the hate crimes section 12 of Bill C-13, is the failure to recognize not just the fundamental justice of providing equal rights to transgender Canadians, but the failure to recognize both the urgency and the inevitability of doing so.

Transgender Canadians remain the group most discriminated against in Canada. They remain the group most likely to be subject to hate crimes and most disturbingly, they remain the group most likely to be subject to violence when it comes to hate crimes. All transgender Canadians are looking for is the recognition of the same rights that other Canadians already enjoy. We are missing a chance here in Bill C-13 to provide equal protection against hate crimes to transgender Canadians.

There was a time when other Canadians did not enjoy the equality they do today. There were provisions in our law that seem incredible now. There was a time when Asian Canadians could not vote or practise the professions. There was a time when I, as a gay man, could have been jailed for my sexual orientation, fired from my job, or evicted from my housing. Now, fortunately, that time has passed.

I am disappointed, then, that we are missing a chance today to move forward to the time when we look back and cannot imagine that transgendered Canadians did not enjoy the same rights and protections as all other Canadians. I know that day will come, and I will continue to work to make sure it is sooner rather than later.

Health September 22nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister talks, but her actions betray a real sense of complacency here.

The public health officer is supposed to help Canadians deal with the threat of a public health crisis. However, as Canadians worry about enterovirus D68 affecting their kids, or the ebola pandemic spreading outside Africa, the Conservatives have refused to fill this important office for 15 months.

There are constant cuts to the Public Health Agency budget. There is no public health officer. Why will the minister not take public health seriously?

Points of Order September 22nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order to ask you to select the amendment I submitted for debate and vote at report stage on Bill C-13, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. I understand that you will be giving a ruling on this after question period today, and I wanted to make sure that I made this submission before then, as this is a motion that was proposed and defeated in committee.

As stated in the note to Standing Order 76(5), the Speaker can select a motion that was defeated in committee to be debated at the report stage, “...if the Speaker judges it to be of such exceptional significance as to warrant a further consideration at the report stage”.

I would like to explain why this motion warrants consideration and why it is of such exceptional significance to members that it should be considered again. The motion is to amend clause 12 of Bill C-13 to add “gender identity” to the definition of “identifiable group” in subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code concerning hate crimes.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, the House previously decided on this issue during its consideration of Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity). Clause 3 of Bill C-279 replaces subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code and in doing so adds to the definition of “identifiable group” those members of the public distinguished by gender identity.

Clause 12 of Bill C-13 would replace that same subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code and would add to the current definition of “identifiable group”:

...any section of the public distinguished by national...origin, age, sex...or mental or physical disability.

However, clause 12 of Bill C-13 does not use the current definition in the Criminal Code, as amended by the House by Bill C-279, and therefore deletes a provision by omission. If the House adopts Bill C-13, we will not protect transgender Canadians from hate crimes, despite having already affirmed this principle in this same Parliament.

This one amendment to the Criminal Code makes up half the substantive content of Bill C-279, my private member's bill, which passed third reading in this House on March 20, 2013. The members of this House will recall that it was passed by a majority of members in a vote of 149 to 137 with support from all parties. Again, a change to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill C-279 is a short and specific proposal to offer protection from hate crimes to transgender Canadians. In all likelihood, the 149 MPs who supported Bill C-279 at third reading would also support the motion I proposed in committee had they had the opportunity, since this motion is identical in content to that proposed in Bill C-279.

With Bill C-13, as it will be reported back to the House later today, the government would be, in effect, attempting to override this part of Bill C-279, which was passed by a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

I believe that the note to Standing Order 76(5) was written specifically for situations like this one. This is an exceptional case in which a motion defeated in committee because of five government MPs would most certainly be supported by at least 149 MPs if it were moved in the House, and it would therefore pass. If the vote were held in the House of Commons rather than in committee, the outcome would be completely different. You can therefore be assured, Mr. Speaker, that this motion is not of a repetitive, frivolous, or vexatious nature or of a nature that would merely prolong unnecessary proceedings at the report stage. This would not be a repeat of the committee stage, since the outcome of the vote would likely be very different from what it was in committee. Some MPs would certainly oppose the motion, but it seems obvious to me that a majority of MPs would once again vote to provide protection from hate crimes to transgender Canadians.

There are several precedents where the Speaker referred to the note to Standing Order 76(5) to identify a motion as being of exceptional significance to the House as justification for selecting it for debate at the report stage, even though it had been proposed and defeated in committee. Mr. Speaker, let me remind you of those precedents.

One involves Motions Nos. 3 and 4 at the report stage of Bill C-23, an act to modernize the statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations. On April 3, 2000, the chair occupant said to the House:

Motion No. 3 in the name of the member for Burnaby—Douglas is identical to the text of a subamendment moved in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during a meeting on March 23, 2000 and defeated in a recorded division. Motion No. 4 in the name of the member for Elk Island is similar to another motion moved in that committee. Under normal circumstances such motions would not be selected for consideration at report stage. I have looked carefully at the two motions and after appropriate consideration, I am convinced that they do fulfill the requirements to be selected in that they have such exceptional significance as to warrant a further consideration at report stage.

Another example took place on February 18, 2002, at the report stage for Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. Speaker Milliken stated as follows:

...there are motions similar to those that were rejected by the committee. Usually, such motions are not selected, because they would generate discussions that have already taken place in committee. However, the note in the Standing Orders allows the Speaker to select these motions if he deems that they are of such importance that they deserve to be examined again at report stage. I believe that these motions respect that criterion and therefore they will be selected for the debate.

Lastly, I would like to refer to the precedent established on June 10, 2005, at the report stage for Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005. Again, Speaker Milliken had originally rejected Motions Nos. 5 and 6 at the bill's report stage. After hearing a point of order raised by the chief opposition whip, he reversed his ruling and selected the motions for debate at the report stage. In response to a question from a government MP who disagreed with him, the Speaker said:

Motion No. 1 to amend clause 9 to put back in words that were deleted in the committee was allowed. I understand they are the same words. I allowed those to be debated because, as I say, the minister made submissions that indicated he thought this was a matter of public importance. I am prepared to make the same arrangement with respect to Motions Nos. 5 and 6 and I have so ruled.

Mr. Speaker, my request is even more significant, if we consider the precedent that would be set if this motion is not selected for debate. The House previously decided on the issue of gender identity when a majority of MPs chose to include provisions in the Criminal Code that would protect transgender Canadians. Without the amendment I have proposed, Bill C-13 would do exactly the opposite. It would reverse a decision reached democratically in the House following several hours of debate and a recorded division.

It is also worth noting that the 149 MPs who supported Bill C-279 included many government MPs. The five Conservative MPs who opposed this amendment to Bill C-13 in committee were not representative of all their colleagues. By allowing the government to rewrite subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code to eliminate the changes made by Bill C-279, we are going against the wishes of the majority of MPs in the House who supported that bill. What this means is that if a majority government does not support a piece of private member's business, which is the case for Bill C-279, it can introduce a government bill reversing the provisions of the private member's bill. All the government has to do is ensure that the members who sit on the committee during the clause-by-clause study of the government bill are among those who opposed the private member's bill in question. I believe this creates a dangerous precedent for private members' business.

This amendment is of significant importance for MPs and for public safety, as demonstrated when Bill C-279 was debated in the Commons and was considered by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment should be selected for debate at the report stage so that all MPs may decide on this issue. This is not a matter that can be resolved by a mere handful of government MPs on a committee of the House. It deserves to be considered again in the full House of Commons.

Given that this motion is of exceptional significance to the debate at report stage, and in view of the precedents available to the House, I respectfully request that you select it for consideration at the report stage of Bill C-13 and that you allow the members of this House to vote on it separately as a stand-alone motion and one not tied to any of the other votes at report stage proceedings.

Privacy September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' campaign to silence anyone who disagrees with them has now reached a new low. Not only has the government ordered audits of charities, including environmental and anti-poverty groups, in an attempt to silence potential critics, now we have learned that the Government Operations Centre spied on nearly 800 public meetings and demonstrations across Canada. The events included a peaceful vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women and a public university lecture.

How much is the current government spending on surveillance of Canadians who are only exercising their democratic rights?

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am going to refer back to another piece of my own experience. I was in East Timor at the time of the vote on independence, and the Indonesian military reacted with extreme violence. There were 1,500 people killed. The entire infrastructure of the country was destroyed. What Canada did then was send the Canadian Forces immediately to help rebuild housing, rebuild water systems, and meet those immediate needs. The need there was not to intervene militarily between Indonesia and the newly independent East Timor. It is an example of where we were very effective in meeting the real needs.

I guess I would like to see perhaps a good justification for the military mission and for actually providing more military materials that will contribute to the conflict. We certainly know that the need for humanitarian assistance is great.

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am glad he did. I am glad that we had the opportunity to stand here and talk about this as much as we have, but it does not substitute for the government taking up its responsibilities to provide, not just us in the House but Canadians, with a clear picture of what we are committing Canada to, in this case in Iraq.

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would say to the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie that it is the government's responsibility to present its program in the House of Commons. It is not the official opposition's responsibility to present its program. The hon. member for Westmount--Ville-Marie is the one who called for this emergency debate, and I assume--

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for the hon. member for Edmonton Centre and for his service to the country. He and I have always had a great relationship, and I feel that this is kind of a softball question. How in the world could we have scheduled a debate on what the government intends to do in Iraq? How would we put forward a motion about what the government intends to do in Iraq? That is exactly our point. We have not heard from you something we could actually vote on.

It would have been very difficult for us to do that as an opposition day motion when we do not know what you intend to do—