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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was children.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Thornhill (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2008, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code June 19th, 2007

Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why I have been particularly disappointed and disturbed by the actions of the government. When one of its members had a petition which stated that 95% of his constituents did not support the gun registry staying intact, that clearly was not reflective of the vast majority of Canadians. It was a minority point of view. It clearly did not take into consideration the very serious situation that we have in our urban centres.

This is something that I will continue to speak out about. The fact of the matter is that there is no defence. There is no justification for changing and dismantling this portion of the gun registry. It is wrong in every sense. I am sure that we will defeat this. I am totally confident that we will defeat this, because it must be one of the worst pieces of legislation I have seen in the three years that I have been here.

Criminal Code June 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, it was the Liberal government that brought in mandatory minimums for firearms. If the Conservative government took this seriously, it would dismantle the bill, but not the registry. It would take more seriously the words of the vast majority of police officers, not the minority, those words that the member says he takes seriously on so many other issues, but for some reason, selectively, not on the gun registry.

Conservative members have no credibility. On the one hand they say they want to strengthen the safety of Canadians, but on the other hand they want to dismantle the long gun portion of the gun registry. They cannot say one thing and do the other. It is inconsistent.

Criminal Code June 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak today to Bill C-21. I am speaking steadfastly against Bill C-21, and further, against it moving forward to committee. This bill should not even be seeing the light of day.

Bill C-21, whose intention is to repeal the requirement to obtain and hold the registration certificate for a non-registered firearm, specifically rifles and shotguns, is a dangerous weapon in and of itself, created by the minority Conservative government. If it is passed, millions of people in possession of long guns will no longer be required to register their firearms.

This act means gutting the gun registry and seriously weakening gun control in our country. It means that the registrar of firearms will no longer issue or keep records of registration certificates for non-restricted firearms.

The Conservative minority government is seriously flawed and its wrong-headed objective to remove the long gun portion of the gun registry is patently wrong. Not only is this attempt by the government against the wishes of the majority of Canadians, as reflected in the Ipsos Reid poll with 67% of Canadians who said so, against the wishes of the majority of parliamentarians, against the wishes of the victims of the tragic recent Dawson College shootings and their families, as well as victims of other such tragedies and their families, it completely flies in the face of the vocally stated wishes of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the president of the Ontario police chiefs, York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge, the Centre for Suicide Prevention, and more than 40 national women's associations. All oppose strongly this attempt to cripple the gun registry and to weaken gun control in Canada, in turn diminishing the capacity of police to keep Canadians safe, to err on the side of caution, all for the sake of a flawed and ill-conceived election promise, even though it is clear that by including the long gun portion the gun registry works.

It is an important preventative tool. We cannot only look at the measures after a crime is committed. It is essential that we always strengthen prevention, not lessen it. This is inconceivable when we consider that on average more than 5,000-plus queries are made daily by police. Approximately 15,965 firearm licences have been refused or revoked since the firearms act came into effect, and this was born of the tragedy of École Polytechnique in Montreal. Also, more than 500 affidavits have been provided by the Canadian firearms registry to support the prosecution of firearms-related crime in court proceedings across the country.

As is abundantly clear, the gun registry in its entirety continues to provide a vitally necessary tool used by both police and the courts, helping to safeguard and strengthen the safety of Canadians. The safety of Canadians is paramount. This is not something to be taken lightly or trifled with and that is precisely what the Conservative government did when it implemented an amnesty last year and recently extended it for one more year, which has already resulted in an increasingly outdated registry.

This action by the government is of particular concern and is another blatant example of its pattern of governing by stealth, totally disregarding Parliament, its duly elected representatives, and in effect, then, disregarding, disrespecting and bypassing the very Canadians that we as MPs are elected to represent. The removal of the important long gun portion of the registry will have significant far-reaching implications that will reverberate, adversely impact Canadians and compromise the safety of Canadians.

Also, a number of legal implications surrounding the untracked firearms will definitely lessen our ability to carry out searches for firearms and ensure effective enforcement of no firearms conditions on bail or prohibition orders. The fact is that all types of gun deaths, homicides, suicides and accidents, have declined since the registry was brought into force. This includes deaths involving handguns and long guns.

The Minister of Public Safety and National Security has repeatedly defended this decision by stating that Canadians will not be any less safe with these actions because owners will continue to be licensed even while long guns would no longer have to be registered. This is completely misleading, erroneous and disturbing. The fact is that we need both: licensing the individual and the registration of every firearm, including long guns. Without the critical requirement of registering each long gun, police will not know how many long guns people possess when approaching a potentially dangerous offender or crime scene. There could be 5, 10, 20 or more.

This diminishes the capacity of our law enforcement personnel and puts our officers and others at higher risk because, in the words of the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski, who also opposes removal of the gun registry and the long gun portion, “information is the life blood of policing”. He says, “The more information we can give our front-line officers, the better position they are in to perform their duties”.

The Conservative minority government is demonstrating a smoke and mirrors approach on this issue at the expense of the safety of Canadians. It is time for the Conservatives to come clean, be honest with Canadians and tell them that licensing and registering are not one and the same, as both are equally essential to Canadians' safety. One cannot take the place of the other. This fact cannot be overstated.

Clearly, the Conservative government knows it is on very shaky ground and is not secure in this action. This is further reflected in its new firearms advisory committee, which the Conservatives have kept secret. As my hon. colleague from York West said, “They have turned the committee into a gun-loving secret society”. That is, until the muzzle slipped, she said, and the member for Yorkton—Melville boasted that the Conservative faction was stacked with pro-gun activists opposed to gun control.

Unusually, there was no routine announcement and there were no biographies released. This was kept under wraps and under the radar of accountability. As the member for York West continued, she said, “Why did the government change it from the firearms advisory committee to the firearms advocacy committee?”

As the member for London West continued, she said, “If the government really supports the police, why was the Canadian Police Association left off this list?” Why was there no representation, she wondered, asking, “Could it be because it dared to support the gun registry?” She asked, “Why does the advisory committee only hear the voices of the pro-gun lobby?” She asked where the balance is that we had before when we were in government.

The Conservative government has repeatedly put forward money as the primary rationale for these dramatic changes to the gun registry, as the rationale for taking out the long gun portion and weakening gun control. The fact is that since the government's amnesty was implemented, there have been virtually no savings. Total spending remains stable, this after the government crippled the gun registry and after the two year amnesty for long gun owners who are exempted from the existing law.

As the former vice-chair of public safety and national security committee, I participated in the committee meetings on both the departmental estimates and the Auditor General's report. The Minister of Public Safety meanwhile implied that by cutting the long gun registry the government would be saving $10 million this year, when in fact his own deputy minister expressly testified that the $10 million in savings would happen no matter what, because they were administrative savings due to management. It had nothing to do with reducing the registration of long guns. This was erroneous again. This completely debunks the government's supposed rationale.

In addition, I state strongly on behalf of Thornhill residents and all Canadians that we must invest in the safety of Canadians. It is non-negotiable.

While on that committee, I vigorously supported a motion to keep the gun registry intact in its entirety, including the long gun portion. This motion was unanimously passed by all three opposition parties yet was ignored by the Conservative government. The government continually states that it supports the average Canadian, yet when it comes to gun control, and in fact all issues, it is completely out of touch with what Canadians want and displays a total disregard toward the wishes of the majority of Canadians, the wishes of the average Canadian.

To the contrary, the government turned its back on Canadians and used a backdoor, non-transparent method of weakening gun control, getting around what it clearly saw as a little nuisance: Parliament and therefore Canadians themselves.

The Conservative minority government's dogged determination to fulfill its ill-conceived election promise despite indisputable facts and the absolute responsibility of government to do everything in its power to ensure the safety of its citizens is indefensible. Anything less than a fully intact gun registry is unconscionable.

Tonight we heard the Minister of Public Safety say that the government's intention with Bill C-21 is to dismiss the long gun portion of the gun registry. The truth is out. The Conservative government, through this bill, is dismissing the safety of Canadians. This is shameful.

We also heard the minister tonight call the registration of guns in Canada an unfortunate journey. This belittles and makes light of Canadians' safety and it is also a major slap in the face to those who have been victims of firearms.

From day one the government has made it abundantly clear that it is ideologically committed to weakening gun control in our country. In fact, incredibly, tonight we heard from one of the hon. members who spoke that it probably would be good to abolish the entire gun registry.

How can Canadians have any confidence in the Conservative government when it is clearly putting a misguided, deeply flawed election promise before the safety and well-being of Canadians? The government, through this bill, will fail to uphold the most important responsibility of any government: the safety of its citizens. I take this very seriously, as do Canadians.

I do not support Bill C-21 and I definitely do not support sending it back to committee. This bill should not even be on the table. To pass it would go against the very sensibility of the majority of Canadians, against what they know is right and what they know is in keeping with the needs in Canada today. What I do support is protecting Canadians and strengthening, not weakening, gun control in our country.

Criminal Code June 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, why is the minister continually misleading Canadians, telling them that licensing is adequate when that will not register each gun? Police will not have that prior information, when approaching a potential crime scene, to know whether there are five, ten, twenty or forty long guns. Why is the minister continuing to put forth the notion to Canadians, which I believe is completely erroneous and incorrect, that they will be just as safe without registering every long gun?

Quarantine Act June 14th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act, as it has recently been the focus for the health committee, of which I am the vice-chair. I believe that this bill, as amended in committee, warrants our support and passage in the House today. This important legislation is invaluable to the health and safety of Canadians, our top priority.

Only four short years ago this country was devastated by a SARS epidemic that led to 45 deaths in Canada, not to mention the enormous impact on our health care system and economy. One of the most serious consequences of the violent spread of a life-threatening disease is the fear and panic that it causes for Canadians.

The fear that plagued Canadians during the SARS outbreak was enormous. A deadly virus was spreading in our largest city and it seemed as though it could not be stopped or contained. The fortunate critical lesson we learned, and it was unfortunate as well, with the devastating tragedy and the loss of innocent lives, is that Canada is not immune to communicable diseases.

As a result of this catastrophic situation, Canada received a serious wake-up call and moved quickly to establish the needed tools in the management of disease, virus prevention and containment. The Quarantine Act, along with the passage of Bill C-42 as amended, is vital in protecting the health, wellness and lives of Canadians.

Prior to the new Quarantine Act, which had been given royal assent on May 13, 2005, legislation had not been modernized since 1872, five years after Confederation. In a globalized 21st century world that has come to know about the very detrimental rapid effects of the spread of influenza, the West Nile virus, et cetera, the original legislation in 1872 was greatly outdated and ill-equipped to deal with a SARS pandemic. In our increasingly smaller modern world where we move across borders within the global community, we must be ever vigilant and aggressive in taking preventive and protective measures to safeguard the health of Canadians.

The Quarantine Act was born in the wake of the SARS disaster and was introduced by our previous Liberal government in October 2004. As I mentioned, the Quarantine Act received royal assent in May 2005, though without this proposed section 34. Section 34 of the Quarantine Act requires advanced reporting from conveyance operators. Bill C-42 has ironed out the areas of concern that have been raised which originally held back this portion of the legislation and brings the Quarantine Act to completion.

I fully support Bill C-42 as amended. Bill C-42 was presented to the health committee with the government proposing to omit land conveyances from the act. After careful review and examination, my colleagues and I were in favour of ensuring that land conveyances are included in the mandatory reporting by conveyance operators in proposed section 34. This is paramount, as the legislation as amended and combined adds enhanced protection to Canada's public health system, and I truly believe that including land conveyances in the list of air and water transportation is an essential element of the act and will further enhance the safety of all Canadians.

Bill C-42 also streamlines the process of reporting by conveyance operators as the legislation requires that these individuals report directly to quarantine officers “as soon as possible” before a conveyance arrives at a destination if there is any suspicion whatsoever that any person, cargo or other thing on board the conveyance could cause the spread of communicable disease listed in the schedule, or a person on board the conveyance has died, or any prescribed circumstances exist.

The process of reporting these outlined instances to a centralized system of special quarantine officers “as soon as possible” closes up any holes by emphasizing the parties who must be in communication with one another and by eliminating any potential discrepancy of timing, as the legislation currently states that conveyance operators must report any suspicious incidents immediately, which was not good enough.

Finally, the bill, as amended, also adds the words “as soon as possible before” in proposed section 34; where a conveyance departs from Canada through a departure point, the operator must disclose any circumstances of concern. Once again, this emphasizes the urgency of reporting before the conveyance departs from the country of origin and crosses the border.

I would like to acknowledge that there is no time more appropriate than the present to pass Bill C-42 in the House. Only a few weeks ago, an Atlanta man with a rare strain of highly contagious tuberculosis boarded an aircraft from Europe to Montreal. He rented a car in Canada and drove back to his home in the United States. In the final step of his journey to the U.S., this individual used ground transportation to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

This case highlights several reasons why Bill C-42, as amended, must be supported and why this act is so critical to the health of Canadians and others, those in the United States as well. Although we hope people will self-report communicable diseases, it is clear that we cannot rely on this. We must have measures firmly in place.

While studying this bill in committee and upon debating whether or not land conveyances should be listed in section 34--as it was proposed by the government to delete them--one witness remarked that the exemption of land conveyances was justified as the risk of disease spreading from Canada's only land crossing to the U.S. was minimal. With the new information resulting from this recent TB case, we are now aware of the reality. There is enough of a risk between Canada and the U.S. to have firm, clear measures in place. We cannot take the chance with Canadians' health.

This recent incident of travel from Canada to the United States by land is a clear example reflecting how important this act is. If one individual can go from Canada to the U.S. with a communicable disease, then in fact there is a threat of disease spreading by land both ways. Again, it only takes one such person or incident to put people in both nations at risk.

As we have seen with the case of TB, sometimes that one person will not be willing or cooperative enough to self-report. Therefore, we must have mechanisms in place to prevent the spread of disease, and we need the strongest legislation possible.

Even more telling of the urgency to make sure that the Quarantine Act errs on the side of caution and covers all modes of transportation is that in Canada alone 266,000 travellers a day are coming in through 119 border crossing stations and international airports. The sheer quantity of travel activity is impossible to contain completely, and we all know that when we are dealing with such high volumes on a daily basis nothing can be guaranteed.

That being said, we must do everything possible to avert this type of catastrophe. This was one of the reasons why I, along with others, strongly advocated for land conveyances to be listed and included, as we had it originally, in addition to air and water travel. Given the daily activity of entry into Canada, we should have as many mechanisms in place within our control as possible, not fewer but more. When it comes to the public health of Canadians, it simply would be irresponsible on our part to settle for anything less.

The TB case also disproves another testimony that was presented by a witness at the health committee on the issue of self-reporting. The witness placed particular emphasis on individuals' ability to self-report, saying that we could rely on that, negating any need for land conveyances to be listed in the proposed section. As we have seen, we cannot merely count on individuals to self-disclose, rely entirely on the goodwill of people and put all Canadians' health in their hands alone. As we have seen, we cannot afford to take this route. It is far too risky. We must never leave the health and safety of Canadians to chance. Prevention is paramount.

Bill C-42, as amended, provides more protection for Canadians and allows us to better manage public health threats. Canadians look to their government for protection. They expect us to be ready to deal with health risks and they look to us to look out for their interests.

When Bill C-42 was first introduced in the House, I was surprised that it proposed that land conveyances be removed from section 34. I was very concerned that we had forgotten the steep price that we had to pay as a result of the SARS epidemic only a few years ago, in both human lives and economic fallout. I had constituents whose lives were tragically affected by the SARS crisis. The impacts were devastating.

Where possible, I stressed at the committee my views about strengthening the act, not diluting it. Accurate and timely information is a key element to the successful management of health issues and risks. We learned our lesson from SARS. We do not want to have to learn it again. We established the Public Health Agency of Canada. We appointed Canada's first Chief Public Health Officer to coordinate efforts in managing public health concerns.

We can never afford to be complacent when it comes to the safety of Canadians. It cannot be emphasized enough that Canada is not immune to outbreaks of disease and infection. Germs and communicable diseases do not respect borders.

I spoke vigorously, along with other members of committee, at those hearings to put land conveyances back in the legislation because the extra layer of protection that it adds for Canadians is essential to providing comprehensive coverage. It is illogical to list two modes of cross-border transportation while leaving out the third. I believe that when it comes to the safety of Canadians they would agree that this is in their best interests. The more mechanisms we have in place to deal with health risks in this day and age, the better chance we have to protect them.

This additional protection also serves to provide Canadians more assurances that the federal government is covering all the bases. The SARS outbreak caused a sense of panic in Canadians that I hope we will never know again. I want Canadians to have faith that their federal government is doing everything in its power to strengthen public health care safety, because panic and fear can spread even faster than a virus. We must be responsible leaders in doing our utmost to protect Canadians. I support Bill C-42 in realizing that central objective.

Of course, it is impossible to guarantee complete prevention. We do not live in isolation. The world has become smaller and travel has skyrocketed. Globalization and multinational and transnational corporations have made intercontinental travel seamless and a commonplace form of everyday business.

While little in this world, with the multitude of countries, can be 100% foolproof, it is our absolute responsibility to make sure that all parts of our quarantine provisions are tight and coordinated. Canadians need to know that, no matter what, as a federal government we have maximized our ability to protect our citizens. First and foremost, the federal government is accountable to Canadians.

We want to assure Canadians that we are doing our very best to minimize their risk and safeguard their health and well-being. I support Bill C-42 as amended. I believe that it seeks to accomplish this goal.

Canada Transportation Act June 14th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, could the member tell me whether the wording change from “as is deemed minimal” to “reasonable” would significantly impact the ability of residents, or diminish their ability, to reduce significantly, or in an appreciable way, to actually improve their quality of life from now till then in terms of the noise and vibrations?

I ask this question as this issue has been an ongoing one in my community over a long period of time. I and the local councillors have been working very hard with residents who have been very frustrated in trying to work with the proper authorities. They have seen some periods of improvement but there have been many steps backward. They have long awaited what appears to be a real significant opportunity or mechanism that will actually help them to improve the situation that affects them at so many levels.

Therefore, I would ask the member's opinion on whether this wording change, which appears to me to be the case, would diminish their capacity to reduce the severity of this problem.

Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre June 11th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, recently I had the pleasure of joining members of the Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre on their walkathon fundraiser.

The centre is a self-sustaining community organization which benefits many members of Thornhill and York region. Proceeds from the walkathon will be used for renovations to their temple. Members of the centre also have future plans to build a seniors residence.

The walkathon is only one of the many events that I have attended. I have seen so many seniors, some of them with heart conditions, at these events. It is very poignant and inspiring.

The centre has a thriving seniors club that meets regularly, and free Sunday school for children. It provides settlement programs to help newcomers and also assists battered women. The centre's tireless efforts never cease to amaze me.

It was a pleasure to walk with community members of all ages. I have visited the centre many times over the years and am continuously impressed by its members' unwavering commitment to community building.

I wish the members of the Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre continued great success in all their endeavours.

Summer Jobs Program June 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, we still do not have the information the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development promised to provide to the House on his bungled Canada summer jobs program.

Today there is no way that Canadians can access this list to show which organizations qualified for the program funding for this year.

The minister promised in the House that the information would be made public by the end of May but he has broken his promise. What is the reason? What is he trying to hide? When will the unaccountable minister tell Canadians how he is distributing the funds?

Seniors May 28th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, June is seniors month in Ontario, an opportunity for us to recognize and pay tribute to the significant contributions made by seniors to the quality of life in our communities.

This year's theme is “Active Living: Share Your Experience”. Older Ontarians have worked hard and continue to contribute to the prosperity we all enjoy today. Celebrating seniors month has become our collective way of honouring and giving something back to them.

Thornhill has many active and vibrant seniors groups. It is always a pleasure to meet with groups such as the Giuseppe Garibaldi Seniors Club which holds many events for the Thornhill Seniors Centre. They are incredible. Recently, the club used funds from the new horizons for seniors program, a Liberal initiative, to purchase new technology for the centre.

On my recent visit to the Glynwood Retirement Community, I was impressed by the desire of residents to share their knowledge and experience on the many issues facing Parliament. Seniors are living healthier and longer lives and we, the next generation, have a responsibility to support their continued well-being and participation.

I encourage everyone to join in the celebrations as we thank our seniors for their invaluable contributions. I continue to be greatly inspired by them.

Foreign Affairs May 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, Canadians were appalled to learn that Conservative members voted against a motion by my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, to refer the genocidal comments of the Iranian president to the International Criminal Court.

The Iranian government has become a haven for those who deny the horrors of the Holocaust and who incite genocide against Israel but the Conservatives have no problem accepting this behaviour.

Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs support his caucus in its recent offensive actions at the subcommittee on international human rights last week?