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  • Her favourite word is status.

Conservative MP for London North Centre (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 37.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the motion put forward by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

It is incredibly disturbing that so many women and girls around the world continue to be victims of the inhumane practice of early and forced marriages. Right now, it is estimated that one in three girls in the developing world are married before their 18th birthdays. Disturbingly, some are married as young as five years old. This practice is harmful to girls in several ways.

Early or forced marriages hinder most girls' chances of completing an education, which puts them at even greater risk of violence and isolation. Many girls who enter early or forced marriages also typically have children at a very young age and because their bodies are not yet ready for child birth, it is estimated that approximately 70,000 girls die in labour each and every year.

Clearly, early and forced marriages are very harmful practices that threaten the lives and futures of girls around the world with devastating consequences. In fact, they are violations of human rights that often lead to social isolation, poverty and violence. This barbarism is unacceptable to Canadians. We must do whatever we can to strengthen the protection of vulnerable women in Canada and to support the rights of immigrant and newcomer women in the strongest possible way.

The motion we are debating today would help to do so by disallowing marriages by proxy and other non-in-person marriages in the immigration system. A marriage by proxy is where one or even both participants are not present at the ceremony and are represented by another person. Other forms of this type of marriage can be conducted by telephone, fax or Internet for the purposes of immigration to Canada.

While such marriages are not legally permitted to be performed in Canada, they may be recognized for the purposes of Canadian immigration law when conducted in jurisdictions outside of Canada where these types of marriages are legal. Some visa offices around the world regularly encounter marriages by proxy as it is a cultural practice in some parts of the world.

The sad truth is that these practices can be used to force individuals, usually women and girls, into non-consensual marriages. Should this motion pass, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to exclude proxy, telephone and similar forms of marriage for immigration purposes across all immigration streams. In addition, policy and operational guidelines will be updated to assist immigration officers in better detecting such forms of marriage.

Of course, we also recognize there are cases when a marriage by proxy is valid and there will be exceptions in the regulations for these valid types of marriages. Sponsored spouses who decide to marry by proxy will be encouraged to remarry in an in-person ceremony that meets the laws of the country where it is performed to have their marriage accepted for immigration purposes. They can also apply as common law or conjugal partners. Humanitarian and compassionate provisions may also be taken into consideration.

However, the focus of this motion is the increasing concern that some marriages by proxy, telephone, fax, or Internet can make it easier for someone to be forced into a marriage. In addressing the issue of forced marriage in our immigration system, let us also be clear about the intent of this motion. It is not an indictment of arranged marriages. An arranged marriage is a marriage in which both parties have the free will to accept or decline the arrangement.

On the other hand, all forced marriages are, by nature, arranged and when the consent of one of both parties to the marriage is denied, tools such as proxy marriage, telephone marriage and these other means of solemnization may be used to facilitate the forced marriage.

As I have already stated, some of our visa offices have encountered cases of spousal sponsorships that were, in fact, cases of forced marriage facilitated by proxy. This is not how Canada's spousal sponsorship program is intended to work.

Although this barbaric practice of forced marriage is illegal in Canada, we must further strengthen the integrity of our immigration system to ensure we uphold and strengthen the protections of vulnerable women. This is why our government is taking additional steps to ensure it does not occur on our soil.

As we know, the introduction of Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, would further strengthen the protections for vulnerable women, including those in our immigration system.

Among other measures, it would amend the Criminal Code to further prevent forced or underage marriage. These measures would criminalize: knowingly officiating at an underage or forced marriage; knowingly and actively participating in a wedding ceremony in which one party is marrying another against his or her will, or is under the age of 16 years old; and removing a minor from Canada for a forced or underage marriage.

In Canada, there is no national minimum age for marriage. Only in Quebec is the minimum age set at 16 years. In other parts of Canada, if members can even believe it, the common law minimum age varies from as low as 7 years old to 14 years. Setting a national minimum age of 16 years for marriage would make it clear that underage marriage is unacceptable in Canada and will not be tolerated here.

Other proposed amendments would create a new peace bond that would give courts the power to impose conditions on an individual when there is reasonable grounds to fear that a forced marriage or marriage under the age of 16 will otherwise occur. Such a peace bond could be used to require the surrender of a passport as well as to prevent a child from being taken outside of Canada.

Other amendments to the Civil Marriage Act proposed in Bill S-7 would require those getting married to give their free and enlightened consent to the marriage and would codify the requirements of the dissolution of any previous marriage.

Through these and other actions, our government is sending a strong message. Our country will not tolerate cultural traditions in Canada that deprive individuals of their human rights. Our government will continue to stand up for all victims of violence and abuse, and take necessary action to prevent these practices from happening on Canadian soil.

I would like to conclude by highlighting some of the investments that Status of Women has made, giving communities the tools to address harmful cultural practices: since 2007, over $70 million for projects to prevent and end violence against women and girls; of this amount, $2.8 million has been invested in projects that address harmful, cultural practices, such as violence committed in the name of so-called honour, forced genital mutilation and forced marriage; the elimination of child, early and forced marriage was a key priority for the Minister of Status of Women to raise as she led Canada's delegation to the 58th meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York earlier this year.

I support these measures and this motion. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important debate and I would like to thank my hon. colleague as well.

Violence Against Women November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women , a day that provides a solemn reminder that violence against women affects us all.

Ending violence against women and girls is a top priority for our government. We have taken action by increasing support for victims of crime, including through the victims bill of rights.

I am proud of our government's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls, which will counter violent crimes against girls. It will provide support for shelters, and preventative activities will help establish a DNA database for missing persons. It addresses violence by supporting aboriginal skills and employment training initiatives.

It is also our government that passed historic legislation that gave aboriginal women living on first nation reserves the same matrimonial rights as all Canadians.

Let us remember today to take action in our own local communities that will end violence against women and girls in all its forms, now and throughout the year.

Aboriginal Affairs November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our government's investments to address violence against aboriginal women and girls are very significant.

In fact, measures in the action plan released by the Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, on September 15, represent a total investment of nearly $200 million for five years. This includes new funding of $25 million for five years, beginning in 2015-16. There is also ongoing funding of $158.7 million for five years, beginning in 2015, for shelters and family violence prevention activities.

Starting in April 2015, there will be dedicated resources of $5 million over five years through Status of Women Canada to improve the economic security of aboriginal women and promote their participation in leadership and decision making.

Aboriginal Affairs November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would remind all Canadians that Canada is a country where those who break the law are punished, where penalties match the severity of the crimes, and where the rights of the victims are recognized. That is why our government has made it very clear that abhorrent acts of violence against aboriginal women and girls will not be tolerated.

We also believe in taking action. For example, economic action plan 2014 committed to a new investment of $25 million over five years to continue our government's efforts at reducing violence against aboriginal women. As a result of this commitment, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Status of Women released the Government of Canada's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls on September 15. I had the opportunity to sit on that committee, and one of the most important aspects of this action plan is that it responds in a very real way to the call for action from families and communities while also addressing the recommendations of the special committee.

There are three main areas in which our government is taking action. First, our government is taking action to prevent violence against aboriginal women and girls with specific actions that include the development of more community safety plans across Canada, including in regions the RCMP analysis has identified as having a high incidence of violent crime perpetrated against women and girls; projects to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and building healthy relationships; and projects to engage men and boys and empower aboriginal women and girls to denounce and prevent violence.

Second, our government is taking action to assist and support victims of violence. Specifically, the action plan supports family police liaison positions to ensure that family members have access to timely information about cases; specialized assistance for victims and families; and positive relationships and the sharing of information between families and criminal justice professionals.

Third, the action plan includes initiatives such as funding shelters on reserve on an ongoing basis, supporting the creation of a DNA-based missing persons index, and continuing to support police investigations through the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains.

We will also continue to work closely with provinces and territories, police services, and the justice system, as well as aboriginal families, communities, and organizations to address violence against aboriginal women and girls.

Science and Technology November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government is extremely proud of the world-class research being conducted through Canada's science, technology, and innovation ecosystem. The world-class research of federal scientists and researchers is helping us improve the quality of life for Canadians through improving public health, ensuring the safety of foods and products, building strong and vibrant communities all across the nation, and ensuring a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

To better support Canadians, federal scientists communicate these results promptly through regular media interviews and research papers. Government scientists are not subject to separate rules for communicating with the media. All federal public servants follow the same established rules under the Government of Canada communications policy.

The strength of Canada's capacity for innovation requires advanced research and innovation in all sectors involved in the science, technology, and innovation ecosystem. To that end, our government remains committed to ensuring support for science and technology to improve the lives of Canadians.

Science and Technology November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to comments made earlier by the hon. member regarding support for and conduct of publicly funded research.

This government sees science and technology as an important contributor to a strong and prosperous society. Since 2006, the government has provided more than $11 billion in new resources to support basic and applied research, talent development, research infrastructure, and innovative activities in the private sector, including more effectively aligning federal support for research and business needs.

I am proud to say that this government's investments have made Canada internationally known for its research strengths, highly qualified personnel, and advanced research infrastructure. For example, Canada is ranked number one among G7 countries for higher education expenditures on research and development as a percentage of GDP.

Our investments are clearly making a difference. In the highly competitive global environment, where innovation and collaboration matter more each day, the world has taken notice of Canada.

Our federal departments and agencies produce over 4,000 scientific publications per year. Moreover, Canada produces some 5% of the world's peer reviewed articles. That is pretty impressive for a nation with less than 0.5% of the world's population.

Our government strives to maintain this research excellence. Through economic action plan 2014, our government announced significant measures that enhance support for advanced research.

The new Canada first research excellence fund, with resources of $1.5 billion over the next decade, will help Canadian post-secondary institutions excel globally in research areas that create long-term economic advantages for Canada.

Our federal granting councils play a major role in boosting our research performance by funding programs in the natural and social sciences, engineering, and health.

Successful Canadian science requires collaboration among all members of the scientific community. It requires governments at all levels to put in place frameworks and policies that support research success. It requires universities and colleges to inspire and develop tomorrow's highly educated workforce, and it requires our businesses to continue to invest and commercialize.

As the hon. member knows, it is important to not only perform world-class research but to communicate the results. Federal scientists regularly provide media interviews and publish thousands of research papers every year. The Government of Canada communications policy directs federal institutions to cultivate proactive relations with the media and to respond promptly to enquiries. Further, through open government, the government is opening access to federal research and is supporting openness and transparency.

We have taken action, because we are committed to turning ideas and innovations into new knowledge and products that will result in jobs, growth, and prosperity for all Canadians.

Sunshine Foundation of Canada November 18th, 2014

I am honoured to rise today to pay tribute to a group of amazing people from my riding of London North Centre who are meeting with members of Parliament today.

Since 1987, the Sunshine Foundation of Canada has been trusted by families and health care providers to make dreams come true for kids across the country. Sunshine is the only national Canadian charity fulfilling dreams for kids with severe physical disabilities or life threatening illnesses, giving them the opportunity to build confidence as they see their dreams come true.

Sunshine fulfills dreams in two ways. One is with one-day whirlwind DreamLift adventures that transport 80 children by plane to a Disney theme park. I had the honour of being at the very first one 25 years ago. It also fulfills individual dreams, like meeting a hockey hero or having a customized racing chair or tricycle.

If members were to have the great fortune to meet with one of Sunshine's team today, they would note just how deeply they care for Canada's kids.

I welcome all members to drop by the Speaker's lounge today at four o'clock to hear more about the great work being done. I thank the volunteers at Sunshine for caring and for giving kids the confidence to dream big.

Aboriginal Affairs November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the members think that everyone wants a national action plan. I sat on that committee, and not everybody wants a national action plan or a national inquiry.

However, here is a quote that I would like to share from Bernadette Smith, the sister of Claudette Osborne, who has been missing since July 2008. She said that the action plan is something that her family has been waiting for, and stated, “I would like to thank [...and] the Government for their commitment to addressing this issue. [...] We've had numerous studies on this issue and the time for action is now. We can't stand idly by and talk about this without taking significant action”.

Action is what they want. This action plan will have a direct impact on families, and it will help keep our women and girls safe.

Aboriginal Affairs November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, again, this was a horrific crime, and I commend the Harper family for their courage and determination throughout this ordeal.

We understand that the police have arrested two suspects in this case, thanks to the family's brave decision to go public with its story and to work closely with the police.

There are have been more than 40 studies into the plight of missing and murdered aboriginal women. Now is not the time for more studies. Now is the time for action. The member mentioned that there was no action plan. There is an action plan, and we are supporting women and girls and aboriginal women and girls across Canada.

Aboriginal Affairs November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this is an appalling and horrific crime. Our thoughts and prayers are with Rinellle Harper, who has shown tremendous courage and determination, and with her family. We understand that police have arrested two suspects in this case, thanks to her family members' brave decision to go public with her story and the close work they did with the police.

Canadians can count on our government to take violent crime seriously, including crimes against women and children. Since we came to office, we have toughened sentences for murder, sexual assault, and kidnapping, and imposed mandatory prison sentences for the most serious crimes.

The opposition consistently votes against them.