Madam Speaker, I appreciate that very much as well and again, our hearts are with you and all the members of Manitoulin.
I have been reflecting on Bill C-3 and what an honour it is to stand in the House in this place. At the same time, I look at it from a different angle and l say why do I have the right to stand in the House and speak to Bill C-3. It is not because I sit on the justice committee. It is not because my office overlooks the Supreme Court of Canada, it is because I was duly elected to come to this place to represent all of my constituents.
I am a bit of a political geek. Along my path of trying to become a politician, I used to go on the various parties' websites and look at each individual MP and always be in absolute awe and dive into what they were doing and saying. Rona Ambrose was one person who resonated with me. For some reason, she really stuck with me and it took until last night for me to really understand why that was. Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity yet to meet Ms. Ambrose and I hope at some point I do. I would love to talk to her at some point in time and what better platform to use than the House.
She was so far ahead of her time on this legislation. Unfortunately, as we all know, it has been introduced twice. It has failed twice and now it is being introduced for the third time. I believe it will get unanimous consent in the House and I do not want to speak for anyone, but I believe that to be the case. We have to celebrate the groundbreaking achievements that she made with this legislation. I want to thank Ms. Ambrose for her leadership on this legislation and I could never be prouder than to stand here in this place and speak to that.
I have 20 minutes, but I could probably talk for two hours or more.
First and foremost, there are four females in my life who have been incredibly influential to me along the way on my path to where I stand here today, proud and excited to be a Canadian.
First and foremost is my mother. My mother allowed me opportunity. She allowed me the gift of being myself. She allowed me the gift of openness, truthfulness, not being pushed into a corner. She allowed me to smile. She allowed me to make my own decisions without fault and for that I will always be grateful.
The second person I admire, and this is a slippery slope, is my lovely wife Allison. It always goes my mother and then my wife, because my mom is the one who is going to send me a text afterward.
The second one is my wife Allison, coming up on 22 years, a woman who, again, allows me to do what she knows I believe is right, is right for Canada and is right for this world. She gives me the freedom. She gives me the longest dog leash ever to let me come to Ottawa and do what is right, absolutely without any question.
The third woman, who is why I am so passionate about Bill C-3 today, is my daughter Faith. Faith is 17 years old. She is going to graduate, likely with honours, this year from grade 12. Her ambition in life, all she wants to do, is to be a veterinarian. Notwithstanding the fact that it is tougher to get into the school to become a veterinarian in Canada than to become a general practitioner, the very fact is I do not care what she wants to do, but I am awfully proud of her.
Regarding the fourth person, about a year and a half ago when I was running to become a member of Parliament, I went to a school in the town of Essex, in my riding, and I spoke to a grade 5 class. When I got there with my handler, so to speak, we had to go to the principal's office. Who greeted me, other than this amazing young woman?
Her name is Jade. She is about yea tall, and has the most bubbly, energetic, fantastic, positive attitude one could ever imagine. I am telling members that they have never met anybody like this. By the way, I am happy that she is as young as she is, because she could run for my spot and probably beat me. She is just fantastic, and there are no rules with her. Yesterday, because I have not had a chance to talk to Jade as of late, I asked her teacher from last year if we could please set up a Zoom call, and we did. Not only did I get to speak to Jade for about 20 minutes, I also got to speak to the rest of the class.
Why am I saying this? Every day that we wake up we can learn something new, and I have to tell the House that if I did not say this, it would be an injustice to Jade. I asked Jade to tell me something exciting and what she wants to do. I was thinking she wanted to be the Prime Minister of Canada. I did not know what she wanted to do. Members have to understand that this beautiful young lady is just fantastic and full of passion for life. She said she wants to work in a museum.
I said, “In a museum? That is neat. Tell me something that I do not know.”
She said, “I know,” and she had her hand up.
I love it. She said, “I bet you don't know what a pangolin is.”
I said, “A penguin?”
She replied, “A pangolin.”
I said, “I have never heard of a pangolin in my life.”
She said, “Well, it's just an aardvark with a whole bunch of scales on it, and they're really pointy, so nothing can get at it.”
I said, “Wow.”
Her teacher from last year, Mrs. Armstrong, was an enormous role model for that young woman, and I thank Mrs. Armstrong enormously for what she has done. I am telling members that Jade is the reason I stand in the House so proudly, and I know we have to fight going forward.
Why do I bring up these stories? Why do I bring up the women? It is because it is absolutely vital that we protect them. Let us just suggest, for a moment, that my mother, my wife, my daughter or Jade, along that path, had been assaulted. I do not believe any of them have ever been assaulted, but in the event that they had been, how would that have impacted my life? How would it have steered the ship of my life if they had not received due justice? Because of that, I am incredibly proud to stand here and celebrate my mentors. I am sure the members of the House have many mentors as well.
I had a Zoom meeting on October 27 with an amazing woman: Marion Overholt. We discussed the training for judges on sexual assault cases. I am going to read through a few of her points. First and foremost, I was a firefighter for seven and a half years, and we responded to all types of calls, whether a fire or a heart attack, but we responded, at some times, to assault victims, when the ambulance could not get there quickly enough. I remember one very dearly that I will not give details of. I recall it like it was yesterday, but I did not realize the people who were behind this. As a firefighter, I would go and put a fire out and go home to my family, but it continues on. I did not realize that until after this discussion with Ms. Overholt.
She has actually appeared before the justice committee in the past. She has 37 years of practice. She is a community legal aid worker, and works out of the local OPP detachment. She said, “In the past, victims have shied away from pressing charges, because they do not think that they would be believed.” That is an incredibly powerful statement. If those four main ladies in my life did not believe that they would be believed, it would be an absolute injustice.
Ms. Overholt went on to say that sexual assault often happens in private, intimate settings involving no witnesses and often without clear evidence. The narrow focus then becomes about credibility. Often, the victim will not testify but the complainant will, potentially widening the gap.
What does that mean? To me it means this, and I am going to go back to the basics.
Next year, hopefully, I will proudly see my daughter off to university somewhere, be it in Calgary, Guelph or the U.S. if COVID ever gets under control there. I believe that she needs the right, the confidence and the belief that if something happens to her, she can come forward and have a voice and not feel victimized, but will know that the courts and the justice will do their due diligence for her.
Getting back to my meeting on October 27th, Ms. Overholt went on to say that Crown prosecutors don't actually represent the victim. They represent the Crown, whereas the defence lawyer is there for the defendant.
That was an interesting conversation. The next time I am told that I am guilty or that I am a victim, I would certainly think that the Crown would go the other way and reach out to the victim, especially when the victim does not necessarily have a voice.
She went on to say that the burden of proof is high: Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Victims often describe the trial as being worse than the assault.
What does that mean? We had some great discussion about this.
It takes so long to get to court. If somebody is victimized tomorrow, blessed that they are not, it can take years to get to court. By the time it gets to court, the healing process of the victim has begun to, I would suggest rudely, at least put a scab on it. The moment that it goes back to the court, the victim has to look the defendant in the eye, listen to the testimony, and the band-aid with the scab comes off, and they have to again live through what they already went through years prior. It is deplorable, and it is wrong.
I will speak quickly about training.
As I mentioned, I was in the fire department, and I trained for CPR, WHMIS and high-angle rescue ropes. In my personal business, I had to train for confined space. There were all kinds of training. This upcoming week, as a member of Parliament, I am taking harassment training. My point is that nobody is above the law, and should not be. If members of Parliament are good enough to do training, surely our judges are fine to do training. Why do I say that? Well, nobody is perfect. I do not really call it “training” so much as “tools in the tool chest.” Let us have an open discussion, and if there is a case in Ontario then let us see what is happening in B.C. If there is a case in B.C., let us see what is happening in Newfoundland, and let those judges integrate and talk about this, because, quite frankly, this is a much larger discussion.
To conclude, I really want to thank Ms. Ambrose for bringing this legislation forward. I will be very proud and honoured to vote in favour of Bill C-3.