House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was international.

Last in Parliament March 2008, as Liberal MP for Toronto Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 52% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Marriage December 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, like the hon. House leader, I had the opportunity and privilege of participating in the debate on the question of the adoption of the law permitting marriage of same sex couples last year.

I say the privilege because I was proud to participate in that debate. It was a serious debate, as the hon. House leader has suggested. While it was an emotional debate, members treated one another with respect, even those who disagreed with one another profoundly on religious grounds or in other ways. In many ways, the debate in the House last time was Parliament at its best.

I will always remember, for example, how the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie put it, as repeated today by the hon. member for Hochelaga: “—the religion of some should not become the law for others”.

However, as I listened to the House leader today, I respectfully suggest to the House leader that this motion is different. This is an underhanded political manoeuvre. Is the House leader proud of the headline of the Globe and Mail editorial this morning? “[Prime Minister]'s shoddy motion” is what the Globe and Mail editorial called what we are being asked to debate today in this House.

The government does not even want a real debate. It is not giving enough time. It has introduced the idea of civil unions, which as it knows is exclusively a provincial matter. It is a smokescreen. It says it is not trying to re-establish the very inequality that was struck down by our courts.

As the member for Wascana has pointed out, this is purely a procedural motion. It is a debate about whether ultimately we should have a debate. If the government wanted to take this matter seriously, it would have introduced legislation, but it knows the composition of this House and it knows such legislation would never be passed by this House.

Instead, it resorted to a manoeuvre that takes us nowhere. It is not designed to take us anywhere. It is designed to divide the House, to divide the members of the House, and divide the Canadian population on an issue that has been settled. It is designed to divide our nation on an issue that a majority of Canadians wish to move on from.

Everyone in the House knows that the courts have upheld this across the country, including the Supreme Court of Canada, eight provinces and territories. I will not name them, but I respectfully disagree with the hon. House leader. It is not true that the Supreme Court of Canada did not rule on this matter. The Supreme Court of Canada specifically said in its judgment that it would not, in any way, pronounce on the matter in a way that would overrule the findings of the lower courts, and those findings were conclusively in favour of overturning the prohibition against same sex marriage, as everybody knows.

I praise the government for saying it will not use the notwithstanding clause. I say to the hon. House leader that I hope that is an undertaking that the government is making, whether it is in opposition or in the future at any time, that it would never introduce such a bill by using this notwithstanding clause. However, without the notwithstanding clause, as everyone has pointed out, this same sex debate we are having today is, in the words of the columnists and the editorial writers such as Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail, “a meaningless charade”.

However, that said, let us take up the challenge. Let us remind ourselves of why we voted as we did the last time. Let us remind ourselves of our charter. Let us remind ourselves of the debates that we had in this House when we first introduced changes to the Criminal Code to protect gay and lesbian couples from being attacked on our streets, when we introduced the human rights code changes which ensured there would not be discrimination, and when we went on to ensure that people could get their pension rights and be treated equally if they had the same status as heterosexual couples that had civil unions.

What we saw throughout the country and through this House was a movement. We saw an evolving sense of our human rights and it came from our constituents as well, not just gay and lesbian constituents but from straight constituents, from all races and all religions. They came to us and came to a conclusion that society was enriched ultimately by treating all citizens equally.

I remember years ago learning that a certain newspaper in Toronto, which I would not describe as a left-wing newspaper, had a policy that it would pay equal amounts to people who had same sex unions because it wanted to attract the best possible employees.

This is not just about equality. This is about creating a society which will be a richer society when everybody can participate in it and feel equal in it.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister avoided answering the question of the hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora, who wanted to know whether he thought that our society or the institution of marriage had suffered from the legislation permitting same sex marriage. It is the same question just asked by our colleague in the NDP.

I would like to suggest that the Prime Minister and his hon. members, who do not seem to understand the realities of the modern world in which we live, should go and take part in the gay pride parade in my city of Toronto, or elsewhere in the country.

To their great surprise, they would find grandmothers and children of all ethnic groups and representatives of multicultural organizations from all over participating enthusiastically. Why do they do this? They are taking part in something that celebrates our humanity, tolerance, respect for other people and ability to understand one another.

Some members of this House think that same sex marriage spells the end of society as we know it, that it shakes society to its core. I say to these hon. members that they should ask the Canadians who take their children to gay pride parades and deliberately put them in contact with this modern reality what they think of this celebration of our common humanity.

I have been a parliamentarian for many years and have followed all the debates about recognizing the rights of gays and lesbians, including amendments to the Criminal Code, to the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to Bill C-23, which gave equal rights to common-law spouses and entitled them to pensions. Some participants in these debates painted the most apocalyptic scenarios for our society, our children and the institution of marriage.

Far removed from all dogma, I believe personally that we should follow this debate with humanity and compassion, animated by a spirit of openness, inclusion and respect and with tremendous confidence in humanity’s ability to make changes to society out of deep respect for our differences. We should ponder the lessons of history. The same fears, the same dire scenarios were conjured up when interracial marriages were allowed in the United States or the Divorce Act was passed in Canada not so very long ago. We all remember that.

Our country’s history clearly shows that in the face of profound sociological change, Parliament has often crystallized the irreversible changes already seen in society, but has never jumped the gun. Parliament has always been able to adapt to deep-seated new movements in our society.

I will therefore in all humility as a parliamentarian and legislator be guided by the wisdom, tolerance and confidence expressed by our forefathers and foremothers who said yes to social progress and no to all the apocalyptic scenarios conjured up. I can only humble encourage all my parliamentary colleagues to do the same and recognize not only this reality but also the fact that Canadians accept it.

Times have changed and we must move on. The House has moved on and the country has moved on. Under the present law, religious institutions are protected while all others are included.

We join countries like the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and others. Let us think of South Africa and imagine the example this would send to a country like South Africa if we were to reverse ourselves on the fundamental principle of human rights. Why would this country, a beacon to others around the world on human rights, reverse itself and go backward in time? What kind of an example would that be to South Africa and dozens of other countries that are looking to us as an example?

Let us solemnly undertake in the House today that we have debated this issue and that we will move on. I respectfully ask the Prime Minister, his party and his colleagues in his caucus to promise this House and this country that this will be the last time, that this is not just a strategy for another election issue, that they will not inflict this agony on gay and lesbian Canadians, and that they will tell them that this will end and that our social cohesion will no longer be roiled by threats to the droits acquis once and for all.

A week ago Monday, this House voted on a motion about our country and we all spoke movingly about our country. We voted in that debate and at the end of that debate we voted to be inclusive.

I remember the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie speaking with great emotion about how her identities as a Quebecker and a Canadian fit perfectly together.

Many others have spoken in the same vein saying that their identity as Quebeckers and their identity as Canadians are perfectly in harmony. We should ask ourselves whether after tomorrow's vote the gay and lesbian communities will be able to say the same? Will they say that their personal identity and their national identity are compatible and even complementary? Will they be proud to be both and proud to play a role in our society? If they feel anything less than that and less than their fellow citizens, I believe we will have failed our constituents, our country and future generations of Canadians who are asking us to continue to create this country as a place where we live with one another in respect and tolerance and show a light to the rest of the world which will enable them and us to move on to other issues of importance and move away from the traditional, I say hatreds, the traditional fears of the past. Let us move on from the past and let us move to the future in a way that is Canadian and in a way that is respectful to our charter and of our fellow citizens.

Marriage December 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is a free vote by a government determined to become the first in our history to restrict the rights of a minority protected by our Charter.

Furthermore, his plan is a charade. The motion mentions the protection of civil unions, when everyone knows that civil unions are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.

Why do the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice not have the decency to put an end to this charade, which is so divisive and creates such agitation among our citizens?

Marriage December 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, unlike the present government, I can say that on one of the proudest days of my political life, I shared in the celebration of the marriage of hundreds of gay and lesbian couples at City Hall in Toronto, couples from Canada and the United States celebrating their commitment to one another and making them full and equal participants in society. Each ceremony was a milestone on the road to equality and human rights for us all.

Why on earth, given his clear understanding of the charter prohibition against what he is doing, would the Prime Minister reopen a debate today that creates agony for some and discord and divisions among us all?

Firearms Registry November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, facing that, we have the courage of the De Sousa family and of Hayder Khadim, who are here with us today, and who, despite their grief and their injuries, have come to Ottawa to talk about this important issue. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has not even deigned to reply to their letter.

As the Dawson College victims have said, it is morally reprehensible for this government to choose to listen to the NRA rather than to the victims of violence here in our country.

Can the Prime Minister show some courage too, and abandon his ideology and listen to the victims who are suffering here in Canada?

Firearms Registry November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it may be just exactly that fact, the newness of this new government, that the people of London rejected last night in their byelection as not representing what they want to see in terms of our values. That is not where we want to go. We do not want a government that prefers its own ideology over the facts. The government prefers the wishes of a gun lobby over the well-being of Canadians.

Police use the gun registry 5,000 times a day. The courts use the gun registry. Dawson College victims want the gun registry maintained and Canadians support them. Why is the minority government flying in the face of the will of Canadians? Why will the government not reverse its morally reprehensible decision to scrap our gun registry?

Firearms Registry November 28th, 2006

We learn quickly, Mr. Speaker, that the term “affection” is a relative matter.

In Ottawa today we have both the De Sousa family, who lost their daughter Anastasia in the Dawson College shooting, and Hayder Kadhim, who still carries in his head and neck the gunshots he received at that terrible event. It is a terrible memory for us all, but one that gives Canadians hope for our future. Graciously they have come forward to share their pain, their stories and their determination to maintain the gun registry as vital to securing the safety of our communities and our schools.

Why is the government rejecting the facts about gun violence? Why is the Prime Minister continuing with his ruinous policy of trying to dismantle the gun registry?

House of Commons November 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, perhaps you will forgive me if I take an extra second at the beginning of my question to thank all members of the House for their kindness. It does show that in this House we are all elected to do the best for our constituents and the best for our country. Ultimately our character and our respect for one another must transcend our partisan wishes or we will never survive this.

Government Policies November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the right hon. Prime Minister would like to answer this frank and simple question. Has his minister resigned?

Government Policies November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, you will appreciate I was not naming a member; I was referring to a state of mind over there.

Canadians cannot trust this government when it comes to the environment and climate change. Now it has no credibility on the debt issue and every time it talks about taxes and priorities, it is trying to manipulate Canadians.

Why will the Prime Minister not admit that he could not care less about the environment or about the very foundations of our economy? Or is this just one more thing we have to accept in this government's cruel new world?

The Economy November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government is actually acting to plunge us deeper into the hole, not take us out of it. That is crazy.

While the Prime Minister has Canadians wondering about their environmental future, the finance minister is engaged in an exercise of bafflegab about the economy never before seen in our country.

The minister has made up something he now calls the national net debt, but there is no financial voice in the country that takes this malarkey seriously. The problem is that his deliberate confusion is not helpful for our citizens and it is not helpful for our capital markets.

Why will the government not be honest on the most basic facts about the economy? When will we get the truth from the finance minister, flim-flam Flaherty?