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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

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

Mr. Speaker, I was not here when the member for Windsor—Tecumseh made his intervention, but I know this individual is very thorough and concerned on the issues of privacy.

I share the member's concerns about the cuts recently announced where the Law Commission will no longer be with us. However, I am not sure I want to abrogate my role and function, and the role of the justice committee to another authority. This review should be done by Parliament and I am sure, the message is there, that we will bring this forward as quickly as we can.

It is important and we all realize this. I think this law will probably pass almost unanimously and there will be a lot of cooperation in getting the review of the act done. It will be studied very intensely because it is a very serious intrusion on the rights of individuals. It is such a terrific law enforcement tool that we want to improve it for the betterment of society, not only within Canada, as I said, but across the globe.

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

Mr. Speaker, certainly, the mandatory review is overdue by perhaps nine months. Unfortunately, the justice committee who had undertaken this review is a very busy committee, with many bills before it. Quite frankly, I have some sympathy for the members of the committee. They are really overwhelmed by the job that they have in front of them. It is just a matter, I believe, of resources to bring this forward.

This review will happen and this bill will not take away from that, but these technical amendments were required now to strengthen Bill C-18 and to make it a very workable piece of legislation which would further increase the law enforcement tools of our country.

To wait for the review for us to put forward these amendments would not be right either. I see the Minister of Justice is with us. I am sure that he will ensure that this review comes forward as effectively and as fast as possible.

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this evening to speak to Bill C-18 which introduces a series of technical amendments to strengthen Canada's DNA databank laws. Canada is one of only a few number of countries in the world to have a National DNA Data Bank.

The legislation is similar to Bill C-72 introduced in the 38th Parliament. That Parliament came to an abrupt end when the current Conservative government collaborated with the other opposition parties to prematurely bring down the Liberal minority government.

These new legislative changes will allow for the implementation of Bill C-13, the former Liberal government's original DNA databank legislation. At the urging of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and police organizations across the country, the former Liberal government undertook a wide range of consultations with government agencies, privacy groups, and forensic and genetic organizations which led to the introduction and passage of Bill C-13. Bill C-13 is acknowledged as a key law enforcement tool.

Forensic DNA analysis has been instrumental not only in securing convictions but also in exonerating wrongly convicted individuals as some recent high profile cases have shown. Mr. Milgaard and Mr. Guy Paul Morin were just mentioned a few minutes ago.

As one of the most accurate methods of obtaining solid evidence in criminal investigations, deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA as it is commonly known, is found within the chromosomes of every living organism. Except for identical twins, it is believed that no two people have the same DNA. Based on that premise, DNA from bodily substances found at a crime scene may be compared with the DNA obtained from a suspect in order to determine whether both samples came from the same person.

The benefits of using such a system are numerous. Police are able to identify and arrest repeat offenders by comparing DNA information from a crime scene to the convicted offender's index. They are also able to determine whether a series of offences was committed by the same offender or whether more than one perpetrator was involved. Police are able to cross reference and link DNA profiles to other cases within and across jurisdictions.

Using DNA profiles help focus police investigations by more quickly eliminating suspects whose DNA is already in the databank in a case where no match from crime scene evidence is found.

Finally, the knowledge of DNA testing to solve crimes may also deter offenders from committing further crimes.

The National DNA Data Bank is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and is used to assist Canada's law enforcement agencies in the investigation of a serious crime. The databank has two indices or data indicators. The crime scene index would contain DNA profiles from bodily substance found at the scene of a designated offence or within the body of a victim or any other person or thing associated with the commission of a designated offence.

The convicted offenders index contains DNA profiles taken from offenders either on their consent or following an order by the courts. It applies to offenders convicted of designated Criminal Code offences as well as people who are subject to the military code of service discipline and convicted of a designated offence under the National Defence Act.

We are keenly aware of the significant privacy concerns, particularly in relation to the retention of biological samples. Strong arguments have been advanced by the scientific community indicating that in its view the retention of biological samples is essential for the DNA databank to be able to adapt to technological changes in the future.

We are aware that the field of forensic DNA analysis is developing rapidly and forensic scientists have told us that as the technology evolves the DNA profiles of today are likely to become obsolete later on. Samples retained can be reanalyzed using new technology thereby insuring that Canada's databank is able to keep pace with technological advances.

Bill C-13, the DNA Identification Act, will authorize police to collect DNA samples from offenders convicted of designated criminal offences. The 38 primary designated offences were selected because of the nature of the offence, the seriousness of the offence, and the likelihood that some biological evidence would be left at the crime scene by the perpetrator. These include the most serious personal injury crimes including homicide and sexual offences. The legislation also provided for the inclusion of DNA to be collected from offenders of designated offences committed before the DNA Identification Act came into force.

The DNA databank is of little or no use for identifying serious offenders unless it already contains their DNA profile. There are criminological studies which suggest that offenders who commit serious offences have previously committed less serious ones. Some have advocated expanding the primary designated offence to include less serious offences.

In Canada, any broadening of the category of designated offences to provide for mandatory DNA sampling would be subjected to the charter of rights scrutiny. The taking of bodily substances from individuals is considered an intrusive process constituting a search. The challenge is to seek a reasonable balance between the rights of an individual and the desired protection of society.

Bill C-18 would add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder or to cause another person to be murdered to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions which would apply to offenders convicted of a single murder, sexual offence or manslaughter prior to June 30, 2002, when the legislation establishing a DNA databank came into effect.

During the course of the original hearings on the DNA databank, consultations indicated strong support for the creation of a National DNA Data Bank, but there were also concerns regarding Canadian values of privacy, public protection and individual rights guaranteed by the charter.

Various interest groups, including the Privacy Commissioner and the Barreau du Québec, suggested the bill did not contain sufficient safeguards to protect the use of DNA profiles from the samples of victims, cleared suspects, and people who volunteered samples to help police in their investigations.

As a consequence, the former government brought a motion to clarify that access to the information contained in the crime scene index shall be permanently removed if it relates to a victim or person who has been eliminated as a suspect in a criminal investigation.

The current legislation also proposed a change permitting the destruction of samples when the provincial attorney general certifies that the order was made for an offence not intended to be included in the DNA databank. This simpler approach would eliminate the expense of having the attorney general make an application to a court to have the order quashed.

In certain circumstances, the legislation would also allow a court to require a person, who wishes to participate in a hearing relating to an order for the taking of samples of bodily substances for forensic DNA analysis, to appear by video links, such as a closed-circuit television or a similar means of communication, for the retroactive hearings. This would significantly reduce the costs and security associated with transporting the offenders eligible for retroactive sampling.

As we all know, crime and criminal activity knows no borders. Offenders must be apprehended and prosecuted whenever they are found and law enforcement agencies must have the tools to do so. This legislation would allow a foreign law enforcement agency, for the purpose of the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offence, to submit a DNA profile for analysis and would allow the results thereof to be communicated to the foreign government by the commissioner.

The series of technical amendments set out in Bill C-18 would strengthen our country's DNA databank law and would improve law enforcement, not only within this country but beyond our borders as well.

Criminal Code September 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-277, a one paragraph bill that simply proposes to double the maximum sentence for communicating on the Internet for the purposes of luring a child from five years to ten years.

No one will doubt that the act of luring a child over the Internet is simply reprehensible. In June 2002 the former Liberal minister of justice, Martin Cauchon, announced that tough new legislation protecting children from sexual exploitation, Internet luring and child pornography received royal assent.

The new law fulfilled a commitment made in the 2001 Speech from the Throne. The legislation also met with commitments undertaken by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice at their meeting in September 2000 to create a new offence of Internet luring. In these discussions, the penalty for this offence would have been discussed and a consensus would have been reached.

In the justice committee's deliberations on this new section of the Criminal Code, I was impressed with the presentation of a report on child exploitation and the Internet submitted by the Canadian Resource Centre for the Victims of Crime, and I wish to reference some of the information provided.

The Internet has made the world a smaller place. It has also made it more dangerous for our children. While we encourage our children to take advantage of the benefits of the net as a wonderful tool for education and obtaining information, we must also ensure that they are aware of the dangers and that we take the necessary steps to protect them. There is a dark side to the Internet.

Chat rooms have opened up our homes to virtual strangers who can pretend to be anyone, any age and either sex. They can talk to children in complete secrecy. They can prey on a child as the child's parents sit in the very next room. They can entice a child to meet in person, where the risk of sexual abuse becomes imminent, and they do. Pedophiles who used to be isolated can now find victims without leaving the security of their own homes, at little expense and reduced risk of being caught.

Millions of children are online in their own homes, in public libraries, schools, or at a friend's house. Children who come home from school to an empty house may turn to the Internet as much as they used to turn to television. They may not feel any threat by talking to someone online, especially when they believe it is a child like themselves. After a few weeks or months of communication, they are not strangers any more and that new-found friend is actually a sexual predator ready to claim another unsuspecting victim.

The Internet does not respect any global boundaries. This makes it difficult to police. Experienced users were operating with virtual anonymity, although law enforcement in some parts of the world are struggling to catch up. Countries like Canada have recognized this new form of child sexual exploitation and have begun to dedicate the necessary resources and attention to this growing problem.

The protection of children has always been a priority for Canadians as well. As more and more Canadians recognize the value of the Internet and get online in their homes, the risks to their children increase as online predators go searching for new victims. There is an acknowledgement, both inside and outside Canada, that we need a coordinated law enforcement to deal with this problem.

Pedophiles may use the Internet for a variety of reasons, including validation through communication with like-minded people, to find potential victims and to trade child pornography. Pedophiles who use the Internet to search new victims may be the predatory type who have above average intelligence and have the economic means to operate the Internet, as was referenced in the publication “Use of Computers in the Sexual Exploitation of Children”.

Some online services and Internet service providers allow parents to limit access by their children to certain services and features, such as adult oriented websites, chat rooms and bulletin boards. In addition, there are filtering features built into the popular Internet browsers that empower parents to limit their children's access only to those sites that have been rated appropriate for children. Other useful tools are software programs that block websites, newsgroups and chat areas that are known to be inappropriate for children.

Most of these programs can be configured by the parent to filter out sites that contain nudity, sexual content, hateful or violent material, or that advocate the use of drugs, tobacco or alcohol. Some can also be configured to prevent children from revealing information about themselves, such as their name, address or telephone number. They help, but they are not foolproof.

Children benefit from being online, but can also be targets of crime and exploitation in this as in any other environment. Just like there are good and bad people in schools, parks and our homes, there are good and bad people on the net.

The fact that crimes are being committed online, however, is not a reason to avoid using these services. To tell children to stop using these services would be like telling parents not to send their kids to school because of some high profile cases of teachers preying on their students. Parents need to instruct children about both the benefits and dangers of cyberspace, and how to protect themselves.

We all have a stake in protecting our children. Governments, Internet service providers, educators and others should focus resources and efforts into educating children and parents about the dangers that the Internet presents.

There are over 100 million Internet users around the globe. The overwhelming majority are people who use the net for work, research or to communicate with family and friends. Even if cyberstalkers and predators represent only a small percentage of users, we are still talking about a significant number of offenders and even more potential victims.

The complexity of the Internet means that solutions are equally complex. The net is truly international and laws about crime committed against children, in particular child pornography, vary from country to country.

We owe it to our children to do what we can to protect them from predators, whether it is a family friend, camp counsellor or a pedophile on the net. It is only logical that Canada would enforce the same laws on the net that we do in the real world. While this may be a difficult challenge, society's efforts to protect children must not change simply because technology has changed.

The global nature of the Internet makes any police response difficult because offenders and/or victims may not be in the same country. This underscores the need for an international approach to this problem and Canada must be at the forefront of such an initiative.

Society is only now beginning to learn of the dark side of the Internet. The sexual exploitation of children is only one of the many other types of crimes committed online. Sabotage, fraud and hacking all present major problems for companies, individuals and governments, and all deserve a law enforcement response. However, there is no more precious commodity than our children and no more important priority than their well-being.

What is an appropriate sentence for the Internet luring of a child? That is really the crux of the debate today. I would suggest that there are a wide range of opinions. For a child who has been sexually abused or harmed in other ways, and most especially the parents and friends of such child, 10 years imprisonment as suggested by the bill may be inadequate. That is an understandable response. For the sponsor of the bill a maximum of 10 years is more in line of what he feels is appropriate.

For the government of the day four short years ago and its justice minister, as well as the justice ministers of our 10 provinces and three territories, five years imprisonment would have been an appropriate response. The approach of the Conservative government and its predecessors, the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party, have the same theme: more incarceration and double, triple the prison times. That will certainly deter child sex predators and pedophiles, that will be the fix for them.

Four years ago the former Liberal government put in place this offence with a sentence that was thought to be appropriate under the circumstances. Before we change that sentence, I would like to see the empirical evidence and statistics to support the premise that an increase in penalties, a doubling of penalties, is warranted. Then we can respond to this legislation in an informed and educated way.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 September 27th, 2006

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A full agreement was signed between the United States and Canada. As far as I was concerned, I did not think it was reasonable to continue with hearings on the agreement when it was a done deal. It was signed and finished. Now we have a new bill that imposes export duties and it is appropriate that we debate it. We may in fact hear from some of the same people.

With respect to the agreement, it is over. To waste money travelling to Quebec, to B.C. or to Ontario with respect to the agreement would not be appropriate. It is appropriate to consider such initiatives, possibly, as we continue the debate on this bill, which I assume will go to committee after second reading stage.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 September 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House perceive ourselves as a constructive opposition and we take initiatives and make decisions based on that constructive word.

In fact, hearings on the softwood lumber industry continued through the spring into July and August. Unfortunately, there was a rudimentary agreement initialled by Mr. Harper in April, which was flushed out by a black and white--

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 September 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the last part of her question, I was not privy to the negotiations, if there were any, between the principals of the Liberal Party and the NDP.

The member opposite talks about trust. How can one trust a government or a forestry regime that has no regard for trust? There were seven decisions in Canada's favour and the U.S. ignored them. It has no respect for the rule of law, so why we would trust it otherwise?

We have had security for 24 months, not seven years, not nine years, but 24 months. Perhaps I should not be asking questions but I wonder if the member opposite would go the line as guaranteeing that this agreement will last seven years or nine years. The only guarantee we have is for 24 months.

Twenty per cent of Canada's forestry industry dollars are left in the United States; $500 million for the very lobby group that started this whole schemozzle and another $450 million for some meritorious initiatives. Those are Canadian dollars in the United States doing wonderful things. Should we be involved with the United States when there are so many burning issues in Canada? Is our lumber industry there to subsidize the United States in making improvements to that country? I think not.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 September 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the current dispute on the softwood lumber has existed for nearly 20 years and is clearly the most important trade issue between Canada and the United States. It is commonly known as “lumber dispute four”.

The issue centred on what is called stumpage fees, the amount charged by the Canadian government to lumber companies to harvest timber from public land. The U.S. lumber industry claimed that the stumpage fees were too low, thereby amounting to unfair trade subsidies.

In 2001 the U.S. government responded by imposing duties on Canadian softwood lumber entering that country. To date these duties, illegally collected from our forestry sector, have amounted to over $5.4 billion. The Washington-based Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports further claimed that Canadian firms were dumping product into markets at less than fair value.

Until the Conservatives came to power, the Government of Canada consistently and continually defended our forestry management regime, denying that it was subsidizing the lumber industry or that softwood lumber was being dumped into the U.S. The issues have been litigated seven different times through the U.S. courts and NAFTA and WTO trade panels, and Canada has won all seven decisions.

These decisions favourable to Canada mean that we are not guilty of subsidizing, we are not harming the U.S. industry and we are not dumping.

Let us think back to the January 2006 election campaign and the Conservative promise to demand that the U.S. government play by the rules on softwood lumber, repeal the Byrd amendment and return more than $5 billion in illegal softwood lumber tariffs to Canadian producers.

Let us move forward a mere three months to April 2006, when the Prime Minister announced, with great fanfare, that he reached an agreement on the softwood lumber issue. Although the details were missing, it was readily apparent that the Conservatives had broken their campaign promise to the lumber producers and to Canadians.

With the proposed agreement, the Conservative government has abandoned the Canadian position and has thrown away all the precedent-setting decisions favourable to Canada. This will negatively impact future disputes on the softwood industry when we become engaged in “lumber dispute five”, which I have no doubt will come in the not too distant future.

The implications reach beyond the softwood lumber trade, to all trade sectors with the U.S.

The credibility and integrity of this dispute resolution process of NAFTA and the series of rulings based on trade provisions have effectively been washed away. The dispute settlement chapter of NAFTA, chapter 19, just went out the window. So much for the rule of law, so much for justice and so much for fair play, let alone free trade.

The Conservatives should hang their heads in shame for this sellout. Not only has the Conservative government acquiesced into a settlement adverse to our forest industry, it has undercut Canada's rule-based trading relationship with the U.S. which will now encourage other U.S. sectors to ignore trade rules and, instead, seek political decisions in their favour, which will lead to more trade uncertainty. And for what? For 24 months of trade peace on the softwood industry; two short years.

The members opposite have chortled that it is a seven year agreement, with an option for two more years. However, the devil is in the details. They want Canadians to overlook the escape clause that allows either party to get out after 24 months. There is a stipulation that no retaliatory action can take place for one further year after this, but does this Conservative government really think that a government or a forestry industry, which refuses to respect the decisions in seven separate trade disputes, will respect these provisions? It is not likely.

Twenty-four months; two years. Members can be the judge. No, the Canadian people will be the judge in the next election.

What about the $5.4 billion of illegal tariffs that have been collected from our lumber companies? One billion dollars, or nearly 18% of these illegal tariffs, will be left on the U.S. table instead of being returned to the rightful owners in the Canadian forestry industry.

The ultimate insult is that $500 million of this will go to the coalition for U.S. lumber imports, the very organization that has led the charge against our softwood industries, the very lobby group that started this trade war. It is a sweet deal for it. Effectively, we reimburse it for its legal fees and expenses, even though it has consistently lost the decisions, and we also provide the coalition with a slush fund for future legal and political attacks to fight “softwood lumber five”. It is a sweet deal, indeed.

Canadians are a generous and accommodating people, but this is simply ludicrous. This is simply incomprehensible.

A further sum of $450 million will go, not to the U.S. treasury, but to the U.S. administration for yet unnamed meritorious initiatives.

What does this mean? I heard one trade lawyer at committee speculate that it will go to buildings and bridges and other goodies offered in a U.S. election year. Is that preposterous? Perhaps not. I will tell members what it is. It is simply ludicrous and incomprehensible. Canada should not be interfering in U.S. elections.

The whole issue confirms that the U.S. is a trade bully. It is prepared to play by the rules only when it feels like it and when it is to its advantage.

However, there is another bully in this game: the Conservative government and its Prime Minister. Members opposite will say that the majority of the forestry industry has agreed to this agreement, so why all the fuss? The reality is that no one in the forestry industry claims that this is good deal but the industry is on the ropes. Keeping in mind flagging lumber prices, a rising dollar and soaring energy costs, in addition to five years of illegal duties, which realistically represents their profits, they cannot afford to fight any longer. An 80% dollar is better than bankruptcy in anyone's eyes.

We also must keep in mind the Prime Minister's ultimatum to accept the deal or the reluctant lumber companies will be on their own in any subsequent legal battles. By the way, the government is withdrawing the loan guarantees provided by the previous Liberal government, loan guarantees that would have kept our lumber companies afloat financially while they reclaim 100% of their money through the legal process.

The lumber industry has been subjected to tremendous pressures, with ministers phoning large companies and MPs phoning small mills with a consistent and blunt message: “take it or leave it, take it or else”.

If this were not enough, the Conservative bullies have imposed a 19% levy on all refunded duties deposited on any holdout company. When faced with such punishment from their own government, it is no wonder the majority of the forestry industries are prepared to sign on to this agreement. They have no choice but to give in to such objectionable tactics.

Where do we go from here? As I understand it, the illegal 10.8% combined anti-dumping and countervailing duties levelled by the U.S. will be replaced at current price levels by a 15% Canadian export tax. Can anyone believe that? The export tax is higher than the current U.S. duties under today's market prices. The system is designed to protect U.S. producers from Canadian lumber exports at times of low market prices, when American mills are least able to compete.

Are members baffled by the Conservatives' squeals of delight that this is a great deal for Canada? I am and so are Canadians.

The deal would also cap Canadian exports at 34% of the U.S. lumber market. Our producers now have a quota when there was none before. This will effectively prevent any Canadian growth in the U.S. market. Our very efficient Canadian sawmills that have kept up with technological improvements cannot reap the reward of being on top of their game. So much for free trade.

The Conservative softwood lumber deal will have a negative impact on industry, which will also impact some of the over 55,000 workers in that industry, as well as the resource based communities in which they live. Who will stand up for the nation's forestry workers and these communities?

There is much to criticize in the proposed softwood lumber agreement. The Liberal Party's role is also to offer alternatives.

Our commitment to the softwood lumber industry in a supplementary aid package would have included: $200 million over two years to enhance the forestry industry's competitive position, improving its environmental performance and taking advantage of the growing bioeconomy; $40 million over two years to improve the overall performance of the national forest innovation system; $30 million over two years to improve the competitiveness of the workforce to promote upgrading of workplace skills and to provide assistance to older workers impacted by forest industry layoffs; $100 million over two years to support economic diversification and capacity-building in communities affected by job losses in the forestry industry; $30 million over two years to develop new markets for Canadian wood products; and $200 million over two years to fight the spread of the pine beetle in B.C. forests.

Notwithstanding strong concerns from the softwood lumber industry, provincial governments, forestry sector workers and resource based communities, the government has rushed into this agreement solely for its own political interests and not for the interests of those adversely impacted by this agreement.

This is why I will be supporting the amendment put forward by the member for Beauséjour to eliminate the punitive tax measure imposed by the bill, as well as the subamendment proposed by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Canada Transportation Act September 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is the third attempt at getting this through. Certainly, when legislation is cut off because of an intervening election or dissolution of Parliament, a full and complete review of the act is not possible. We will hopefully be able to do that this time and that would be very beneficial.

Canada Transportation Act September 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, certainly, with any complaints system a prompt response for the little guy, the Canadian, against the big airline industry may get lost in the shuffle when the government gets involved. An independent complaints commission will cut through that and it will be much better for constituents in our respective ridings and for Canadians. Canadians will have a quick, independent option to complain to and get a quick response.