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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was offence.

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

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 14% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Peace Bridge Border Crossing February 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority operates the second busiest passenger vehicle crossing in Canada, the Peace Bridge.

In 2004 the governments of Canada and the United States announced a land pre-clearance project at the bridge in order to ease congestion while at the same time maintaining high security standards. In good faith and with the financial assistance of the Liberal border infrastructure program, the Peace Bridge authority has continued with its plans for this pilot project by designing space to accommodate clearance facilities on the Canadian side of the plaza for both Canada customs and United States pre-clearance. The launch of this pilot project would be a breakthrough at local border crossings, very similar to the efficient and safe U.S. pre-clearance at our major airports.

All this progress, yet one stumbling block still remains. When will the federal governments of Canada and the United States agree to implement border pre-clearance which was announced in 2004? Should Canada be unable to resolve these difficult legal and operational issues with the United States by this spring, the Peace Bridge must revert to a traditional plaza design. This would be a tremendous regressive step and a huge setback to our trade with the United States.

Criminal Code February 6th, 2007

As I referenced in my speech, Mr. Speaker, there is no legal limit. I referenced the situation with THC and cannabis.

Admittedly, the substance in an individual's system can exist for up to four weeks, but there are also physical signs and physical conditions when the individual is pulled over on the side of the road and given the field test. He is then taken to the station and receives the DRE analysis, the expert analysis, which takes roughly three-quarters of an hour. The combination of all of these will conclude whether in fact there is impairment of that individual at that specific time. The existence of THC alone will not do so.

Criminal Code February 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code to strengthen the enforcement of drug impaired driving offences in Canada.

On November 4, 2004, the former justice minister under the Liberal government introduced Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This new legislation builds on Bill C-16 but includes stronger penalties than our bill had proposed.

Bill C-32, the Conservatives' proposed reforms to the Criminal Code, include increasing penalties. Drivers would be charged if in possession of illicit drugs. Drivers with blood alcohol levels exceeding .08 would face a life sentence penalty in the case of causing death and a maximum 10 year sentence in the case of causing bodily harm. These provisions are in addition to existing provisions that hold an alcohol or drug impaired driving offence that causes bodily harm to be punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and that such an offence that causes death is punishable by life imprisonment.

Impaired drivers would face higher mandatory minimum penalties. For a first offence, the fine would increase from $600 to $1000. For a second offence, sentences would increase from 14 days mandatory prison to 30 days minimum. For a third offence, prison sentences would increase from 90 days minimum to 120 days minimum. When the offence is punishable on summary conviction, the maximum term of imprisonment would increase from 6 months to 18 months.

The bill would also provide more tools for the police. Police would be able to demand that a person suspected of driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug participate in a sobriety test at the roadside and police would be able to demand that a person suspected of driving while impaired by a drug participate in physical tests and bodily fluid sample tests.

The Criminal Code currently makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle when one's ability is impaired by alcohol or a drug, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. There is a further offence with respect to alcohol while driving while one's blood alcohol limit exceeds the legal limit of .08%.

The anomaly is that currently there is no legal drug limit. There are non-quantifiable tests such as erratic driving and witness testimony. If the driver voluntarily participates, results of a drug test are admissible but this a very rare occurrence. As a consequence, police powers for obtaining evidence of drug impaired driving are very limited.

It is urgent that Parliament address drug impaired driving. The 2002 Senate special committee report on illegal drugs, “Cannabis: Our position for Canadian Public Policy”, found that between 5% and 12% of drivers may operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. Further, a survey by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation revealed that in 2002 almost 20% of Canadian drivers had taken the wheel less than two hours after consuming a potentially impairing drug. This included both legal and illegal drugs. These statistics and findings must be reversed.

In 1999, I chaired the justice committee when we studied the issue of impaired driving and prepared a report entitled, “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”. The committee was very frustrated with the appreciation that drugs play a contributing role in motor vehicle accidents but that there were no practical legal limits to test for drugs.

There is no scientific consensus on the threshold drug concentration levels in the body that cause impairment making driving hazardous. Unlike the Breathalyzer tests used for alcohol, there is no objective test to measure drug impairment. Further, there is no measurable link between drug impairment and drug quantity. In addition, traces of some drugs could remain in the body for weeks. For instance, the active ingredient in cannabis can be detected for up to four weeks, although its impairing effects do not last. Because there is no scientifically proven threshold, it is not possible to propose a legal limit.

Because there is no clear drug limit testing, a drug recognition expert, DRE, is acknowledged as a necessity.

The lack of authority for police to make a demand for drug testing was a concern that was raised in a number of credible submissions to our committee, such as the Canadian Bar Association, the Province of Ontario, the Canadian Automobile Association and others, who called for expansion of police powers to allow a demand for drug testing.

The committee had concerns about drafting such provisions. Parliament would need to provide legislative guidance on what would constitute reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the offence has occurred. Further, the power to demand bodily samples for drug testing, such as blood, would be intrusive and require consideration of potential violations of the Charter of Rights.

Notwithstanding that, the committee in recommendation 12 suggested a Criminal Code amendment to allow a judge to authorize the taking of a blood sample to test for the presence of alcohol or drugs based on reasonable and probable grounds that an impaired driving offence has been committed. The committee also recommended consultation with the provinces and territories to develop legislation aimed at better obtaining evidence against suspected drug impaired drivers.

The Department of Justice consulted extensively with the provinces and territories, following which the Liberal government introduced two identical pieces of legislation in two subsequent parliaments to deal with this problem. Indeed, the Liberal Party takes impaired driving very seriously. Unfortunately, both Bill C-32 and Bill C-16 died on the order paper when elections were called in November 2004 and 2005 respectively. The Conservatives have reintroduced very similar legislation, with stronger penalties, however.

Passage of the new Bill C-32 will be a significant step toward making roads safer and protecting the public. It will give the police the authority to demand standardized field sobriety tests at the roadside. The officer must have reasonable suspicion of alcohol or a drug in the body before making the demand. The standard test involves walking heel to toe, following with the eyes the officer's hand movement, and balancing on one leg with the other leg held in front about six inches off the ground.

These roadside tests take about 10 minutes. If the driver fails the roadside test, the officer then would have reasonable grounds to demand a breath test on an approved instrument in the case of alcohol. In the case of a drug, the officer would have reasonable grounds to demand an evaluation by an officer certified to do drug recognition expert or DRE tests back at the police station.

The purpose of the evaluation is to identify the class of drugs, if any, that is causing impairment. The evaluation further involves physical tests and checking of vital signs. This evaluation takes about 45 minutes. Following the identification of a class of drugs, the officer could then demand a sample of a bodily fluid, urine, blood or saliva, to test for the presence of a drug.

Refusal to comply with a police order to submit to a roadside sobriety test or to an evaluation at the police station, or to provide a bodily fluid sample, would constitute a criminal offence, just as it is now an offence to refuse a police order to submit to an alcohol breath test.

The idea with the drug impaired driving investigation is not to prove that a concentration of a particular drug is exceeded and that therefore the person is impaired. As previously indicated, there would be few drugs for which there would be a scientific consensus on the concentration level at which there would be impairment for the general population of drivers.

The bill proposes no legal limits for the wide range of drugs. Instead, the idea is to provide for the investigation of a driver's drug impairment by observing physiological symptoms that are unique to a particular class of drugs, and then to confirm with a bodily fluid sample whether the drug was indeed present.

If the tests do not show impairment, the driver is free to go. If the officers see a medical condition, they can obtain medical help.

The combination of steps, that is, the police officer observing the driver's ability to perform the simple tasks of the roadside standardized field sobriety test, the results of the more comprehensive testing by the drug recognition expert, and the confirmation by the independent laboratory analysis of the presence of the drug identified by the DRE as causing the impairment, will provide the necessary checks and balances.

Let us consider the charter considerations. We know that the demands for alcohol breath tests on approved screening devices at roadside, without a right to contact counsel, have been found justifiable by the courts under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, pursuant to the section 1 demonstrable justification limitation on a right.

The right to counsel must be given following the demand for an alcohol breath test on an approved instrument back at the station and before the approved instrument testing is done. It is anticipated that the same practice would prevail for the DRE evaluations envisaged under Bill C-32.

I would suggest that there are aspects of the bill that need further consideration. I do express reservations regarding the new offence of driving while in possession of an illegal drug, where any person found in possession of a controlled substance while operating or in the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or sailing equipment is guilty of an offence. This provision would apply whether the person is in personal possession of the drug or the drug is simply in the vehicle, provided that the individual knowingly had possession of the drug without lawful excuse for such possession.

I agree with those who claim that this new offence does not belong within Bill C-32 as there is no connection between possession of a drug and impairment and possession of a drug that is already prohibited under section 4 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Of necessity there will have to be an educational component of this new impaired driving strategy, under either the justice or the health department. Individuals using marijuana may or may not know that they could be impaired and should take this legislation very seriously. Individuals taking prescription or off the shelf drugs may not understand that they could come within the boundaries of this legislation and must ensure that they do not operate a motor vehicle while influenced by such drugs.

I have every confidence that NGOs such as MADD will continue to put out relevant and compelling information in this respect. The federal government should either do the same thing or provide funding assistance to organizations such as MADD to do so.

Impaired driving continues to be a scourge on our society. I will continue to support legislation that will help not only to reduce it but to eventually and ultimately eradicate such conduct.

Government Programs February 2nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to stand with post-secondary students not only in my riding, from Brock University and Niagara College, but from across the country.

The Conservative government has cut the $55.4 million summer career placement program. This program was designed so students could gain the work experience required to obtain full time employment after they completed their post-secondary education, while providing non-profit and charitable organizations, municipalities and the private sector with clever and industrious youth employees.

On average, 50,000 students across Canada are hired every year through the summer career placement program. The loss of this program means that students will graduate with less work experience, but will also be saddled with more student debt. In the short term it will make it very difficult for students to find jobs this summer.

It is not clear why the Conservative government has decided to gamble with the future of the youth in our country. I call on all members of the House to join with me and our college and university students in opposing these cuts. To gamble with the future of Canada's youth is to jeopardize the future of Canada.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act December 12th, 2006

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-395, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Welland.

Mr. Speaker, this is a bill to change the name from that of one municipality within the riding, which actually consists of five different municipalities. We would like to change the riding name to Niagara Centre South, which is very similar to the name that represented roughly the same area in the 38th Parliament and before that. I would ask respectfully that the House consider the renaming of the riding.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Shipping October 26th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the new regulations of the Canada Shipping Act do not apply to no-ballast-on-board transoceanic vessels. Many of these ships travel through the Great Lakes carrying a number of invasive species in the sediment and water in their ballast tanks. I have deep concerns that this poses a major threat to the environment and to the Great Lakes.

The new regulations of the Canada Shipping Act should require no-ballast-on-board vessels to undertake all measures to eliminate invasive species from their ballast water tanks prior to reaching our shore.

I propose mandatory regulations for such ships requiring them to conduct a saltwater flushing of the ballast tanks at least 200 nautical miles from Canadian waters.

The sustainability of our environment in the Great Lakes is at stake and this flaw in the regulations must not go unaddressed. I call on the government to stand up for the environment and to ensure that offshore ships travelling through our waters are compliant.

Witness Protection Program Act October 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-286 would amend the Witness Protection Act to include spouses whose lives are in danger because of the action of their spouse, which is defined to include former spouse, common law partner or former common law partner. A common law partner is a person who has cohabited in a conjugal relationship with another person for a period of not less than one year.

Violence against women remains a serious social problem, despite advances in public awareness, support services and judicial and policy responses such as peace bonds, firearm prohibition orders, incarceration, no contact communication orders, restraining orders. To an irrational abuser, however, civil remedies, such as supervisory orders, custody orders for children or division of matrimonial property, may exacerbate a situation to the point where the only final recourse for the victim's spouse and her children is to escape the threat of personal harm by disappearing.

A commentary on Bill C-286 points out that this proposed legislation will introduce a subtle yet important shift in the rationale for the witness protection program. The existing program is to promote law enforcement by protecting witnesses who are in personal jeopardy because of their involvement in police activities. The proposed bill will add a related but separate purpose, the protection of persons who believe their lives to be in danger from their spouse or former spouse. This protection for individuals would be a goal of its own and not directly related to broader police activities.

I have no doubt that all members of the House agree that support for victims of domestic violence is needed and most commendable. The act will, however, be meaningless unless additional financial resources are committed to cover the expanded role of the federal government and the RCMP.

Currently, spouses who are in such danger that they feel they must flee their surroundings and change their identities do now have some measure of protection under a little known ad hoc process called new identities, unless this has been a victim of the Conservative government's latest round of cuts to federal programs.

With the help of information from police, women's shelters and victims groups, the program assists desperate women in life-threatening situations gain a new identity and relocate by providing them with new social insurance numbers and ensuring continuity of federal social benefits such as employment insurance. This does prevent some devious predators from surreptitiously tracking down their estranged spouse. However, with no separate funding sources, the assistance provided is not comprehensive and falls far short of its aims and objectives, which leads us to the need for this act.

Bill C-286 would also provide a new solid base for the new identities program.

Subclause 7(2) of the bill sets out the factors which should be considered in the case of admitting a spouse to the program. They include: the nature of risk to the security of the spouse; the nature of the injuries caused to the spouse by the severe psychological damage inflicted on the spouse by the other spouse and the criminal record, if any, of the other spouse; the circumstances that cause the spouse to believe that his or her life is in danger; alternative methods of protecting the spouse without admitting the spouse to the program; and such other factors as the commissioner deems relevant.

Unless the criteria for entry are somewhat strict, the program could result in an unmanageable situation in which applicants flood the system. Spouses would have to believe, on reasonable grounds, that their life was in danger by reason of acts committed against them by their spouse and would have to be recommended for admission by a law enforcement agency, which could also include government departments.

Participation in a spousal witness protection program must be well thought out by a prospective candidate who must appreciate both the short term and long term complications. If elements of organized crime are a threat, one is most happy to disappear without a trace. Under the spousal program there is the family dynamic of parents, siblings, grandparents left behind, which could complicate matters. Children who, with the passage of time, may forget or play down the violence and abusive behaviour of the parent left behind, may work to reconnect with the parent, thereby blowing the cover of this protective veil after much time, effort and expense.

In most cases, under the current program, the RCMP erases all traces of a witness' former identity, moves the persons to a new province, pays for job re-training and provides money for re-establishment. A handful of abuse victims have been admitted to the existing program, but mainly for those who have testified against their partners.

When we consider the tremendous number of victims of domestic abuse and violence in our country, one can readily appreciate that there could be much take up under these programs and the funding necessary for the programs would be substantial. At the present time, the witness protection program costs range from $400,000 to $500,000 per witness, which is very significant.

As this bill entails expenditures of money, I hope that the sponsor of the bill has sought an opinion on whether a royal recommendation is required, and if so, that the Conservative government will in fact support such a recommendation. The costs in and of themselves should not defeat an initiative that is worthy of further consideration.

Although it goes beyond the scope of the proposed legislation, serious consideration should be given by this government to working with our provincial partners to provide additional resources to deal with preventive measures and sound programs to get at the root causes of domestic abuse and violence, whether they be programs for counselling in alcohol and drug abuse, anger management, debt management, stress management, gender sensitivity--something we did not see much of on the other side of the House yesterday--marriage counselling, or other interventions that may prevent violent and abusive behaviour. This wish list is extensive but so necessary if we are truly to address the issue of spousal abuse and violence.

We must assist the service and delivery providers throughout this country with much needed resources, either indirectly through the provinces in our social transfers, or directly to the social agencies for assistance programs that do not offend the federal-provincial jurisdictional responsibilities. The bottom line is that the groups and organizations on the front lines need help and financial assistance, help that will pay dividends in diminishing the demand and the need for extensive utilization of a spousal witness protection program.

One of these front line agencies in my riding of Welland is Women's Place of South Niagara, a crisis centre and provider of shelter for women and their children who are victims of domestic abuse and violence. Its doors are open to those who are forced to flee their residences, often in emergency situations, and sometimes with just the clothes on their backs, in order to protect themselves from serious injury or worse at the hands of a physically aggressive spouse or common law partner.

Occasionally an intervention of this nature is the catalyst to defuse an increasingly violent relationship, allowing the parties to reassess such a relationship and either to proceed to a more amicable or at least rational separation or to work to a possible reconciliation and a new respect for one another. Too often this is not enough.

I have listened with astonishment and horror to the anecdotes of abused women from the shelter who are brave enough to tell their stories anonymously. I question how our society allows such situations to occur and why there are not the resources for prompt interventions. It is a sobering fact to learn that some women, for many different reasons, endure up to 30 incidents of abusive behaviour before they seek help to leave an abusive relationship for a much better life.

Some advocates for victims of domestic abuse and violence would like to see a totally new program of protection with decisions of acceptance into the program being managed or reviewed by professionals trained and skilled in making assessments of abused women and children, instead of leaving it to the RCMP to decide which victims need protection. Their concern is that the policing authorities could limit their choices to victims of abusers who have been criminally convicted of a serious related criminal offence. Police involvement would still be required but augmented by the input of trained professionals.

In this discussion I also wish to point out that legally acquired rifles and shotguns are the weapons of choice in cases of domestic homicide. It has been pointed out that guns are frequently part of the cycle of intimidation and violence that many victims face in their homes. For every woman who loses her life at the hand of a spouse with a firearm, there are thousands who are threatened or live in fear. In fact, one shelter worker with the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters estimated that at least 30% of her clients had been threatened with a gun. The opponents of licensing and registration tend to come from regions where guns are more common, such as rural communities and the west. Ironically, these regions are also where firearms figure more prominently in incidents of domestic violence.

The Firearms Act introduced measures for licensing of gun owners and registration of firearms. Coupled with appropriate training and implementation, these measures are essential to removing firearms from situations where women are at risk. Licensing of gun owners is essential to keep guns away from potentially abusive spouses or individuals with a history of violence.

I would hope that the sponsor of the bill would urge his government not to proceed with its commitment to gut the firearms program. Protection of women and children from domestic abuse includes much more than including them in a witness protection program.

The inclusion of spouses in the witness protection program is the last, the final safety net in cases where counselling and criminal law have been ineffective. Women who fall into this category must be given this opportunity to save their lives and those of their children. That is why I will support this bill moving to committee stage for a full consideration, including the testimony of knowledgeable witnesses.

Government Programs October 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, once again the minority government has shown its contempt toward vulnerable Canadians. Yesterday, the President of the Treasury Board insinuated that advocacy does not achieve results and that it does not actually help people.

The fact is that the government has cut funding for literacy services, has dismantled advocacy programs for women, has abandoned older workers and has dismissed the value of volunteerism. It is clear that the real mandate of the government is to silence those who would voice discontent toward it for preying on those most vulnerable.

It is time for the government to finally do what it promised during the election, to stand up for Canadians. It must reinstate funding for the programs it has cut. It must recognize the critical importance of advocacy in the democratic process. However, most important, it must lend an ear to the voices of those most disadvantaged in the country.

An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification October 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the intrusiveness was not in the method of taking the sample. It is a pin prick, which many diabetics do daily, or the plucking of a piece of hair.

What information an analysis of a sample can reveal could be of concern in years to come, but I agree with the member that this is mirror duplication of Bill C-72. I certainly will be pleased to support it. It is good legislation. It is needed legislation. It will improve enforcement when used as an enforcement tool and assist our law enforcement agencies.

An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification October 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, that is the key question with this legislation. It is a very intrusive process and the storing of this material can certainly reveal a lot about individuals. As scientific expertise improves, we do not know what the DNA analysis will provide. We are amazed at what it provides us now.

For those who know, when we toured the facilities at the RCMP offices here in Ottawa and saw how analyses were done and what a DNA sample goes through, it was very enlightening. It is always a balance between the protection of society and the rights of the individual. We have in a very fair way balanced that and will continue to do so.

We are certainly mindful of our requirements regarding the charter. If we exceed our boundaries, I am sure the courts will bring us back on line and if amendments are required to the legislation to conform with the judicial precedents and decisions, then we will do so.