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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was let.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Human Rights April 30th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Inter-Parliamentary Union met recently in South Africa, where delegates from 135 countries adopted, without a single dissenting vote, the Governing Council's “Report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians”, which expressed “deep concern at the suspension of” Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya's “parliamentary mandate”.

I have raised Ms. Joya's suspension directly with the Prime Minister and with five cabinet ministers before the foreign affairs committee. To this day, the government remains silent while a woman parliamentarian, elected directly by her people, remains expelled from the Afghan parliament for her outspoken criticism of warlords and high level corruption.

It is reported that MPs called for her to be raped and even killed. She has been called a whore and a prostitute and pelted with water bottles while speaking, yet only Malalai Joya has been suspended from parliament and her passport and security detail revoked.

The government must support the IPU's recommendations and express its concern over the treatment of Malalai Joya and the suspension of her parliamentary mandate.

Business of Supply April 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have a very brief comment and then a question.

What Canadians find so distressing about the fact that we are debating this issue is that despite all of the supposed changes as a result of the Liberal sponsorship scandal, there are still very questionable practices by political parties that are under the microscope here. There are very serious issues we should be dealing with, but we are not and that is what is so distressing. Certainly what is distressing to me and my colleagues is that we are not dealing with climate change, as we should. We are not dealing with health care issues, as we should. We are not dealing with job losses and the growing prosperity gap.

I understand the parliamentary secretary to be taking the position, which he has now stated at least twice, that it is not illegal to transfer money from the central campaign to the local campaign, as after all, all the parties do it. I think that is true, and I do not think that is at issue here. But it is my understanding that is not what the Conservative Party is alleged to have done and why that party is under investigation by Elections Canada.

It is my understanding there are strong suspicions that the Conservative Party has devised a scheme to get around the spending limits and it may indeed have broken the rules with respect to local officials being required to authorize local ad buys before there is any basis for reimbursement.

Does the member not see a distinction between the issue of transferring money and doing it within the rules and the possibility of having devised a scheme that exceeds the spending limit and breaks the law that requires that local campaigns have to approve of such expenditures for them to be legal and authorized?

Business of Supply April 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I think sadly that the very questions that we raised on the front end of this in every debate, one was what are really the timetables and targets—

Business of Supply April 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will try to make a brief response to my colleague's question.

It is something of a tragedy and a serious crisis for the credibility of NATO. What we have on the one hand is the overwhelming majority of NATO nations that will not go near the Kandahar counter-insurgency. It is not because they are wimps, not because they are not well trained, not because they do not have the courage of their conviction, but because they are not convinced that this is the way to peace or meaningful development.

Knowing all of that, NATO nevertheless at its top level of command and as a military alliance organization is pleading with all these countries to go in and do what Canada is doing alone, with four or five other countries, to supposedly create the winning conditions for people to rebuild their lives in Kandahar.

The member is quite right to point out that there continue to be serious reservations about this strategy and this flawed mission in Kandahar, which is causing untold damage to people's lives, to infrastructure and to the reputation of Canada, unfortunately.

This is not because our men and women in the Canadian armed forces are not serving extremely capably and conscientiously. It is because they have been assigned to a mission that is deeply flawed and recognized to be so by the vast majority of NATO countries, never mind those outside of that military alliance.

Business of Supply April 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate this afternoon. I want to indicate at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster.

We are here basically debating a motion that is principally a procedural motion. It is not prescriptive, it is not proactive, and the guts of the motion, if I may put it that way, state that a special committee consisting of 12 members be appointed to consider the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

It is fairly unusual that the so-called official opposition would decide to use its opposition day to engage in such a procedural debate, but it has to be noted that the government had made a commitment, which has not been kept, to get on with creating this committee and so we too welcome the motion.

As my colleagues who have already participated in the debate this afternoon, the defence critic for the New Democratic Party, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam and the foreign affairs critic, the member for Ottawa Centre, have already indicated, we both welcome the creation of this committee and the opportunity in this brief debate to go beyond the procedural and take this occasion to address some of the more troublesome and substantive aspects of the Afghan mission debate.

We absolutely owe that. It is the very least we owe to the brave men and women in the armed forces, 82 of whom together with one outstanding Canadian diplomat have paid the ultimate price, but vast numbers of whom are continuing and many throughout their lifetime will continue to pay a very heavy price for the burden this has heaped upon them and the sacrifice that has been requested of them.

One needs only to see the many accounts of the horrendous damage to limbs and lives, and the statistics are really quite mind boggling about the psychological damage, the emotional damage that many of these veterans will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

We also owe it to the Afghan people. There have been a great number of voices that have tried to articulate back here in Canada, on behalf of many of the Afghan people, the concerns they have about how the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan, instead of creating greater security in their lives, has actually deepened the problems that plague them in their everyday lives. Unfortunately, the government has been unusually resistant to hearing and unwilling to hear the evidence that has been brought forward again and again.

Hopefully this committee will be an opportunity to air some of those concerns with a completely constructive intent and one hopes a constructive outcome because we have known from the very beginning that there is no military solution to the quagmire in Kandahar. That has been documented over and over again, and yet it continues to be the case that military strategies, more military troops, more military equipment remain the principal preoccupation, the principal response of the government.

I want to say, to be fair, that I have heard some encouraging words here this afternoon from both sides of the House. Members are recognizing more and more that there is no military solution. With short shrift being given, in terms of strategy and particularly in terms of the allocation of resources to development strategies and diplomatic engagement, the situation is not going to improve. That is being increasingly recognized.

I hope very much that what can be accomplished in this special committee on Afghanistan is the opportunity for the voices to be heard, the specific commitments and ideas based on experience to be heard, and what it means to engage in a political process that is the only way to create any kind of lasting peace and meaningful development in Afghanistan.

I hope the voice of Seddiq Weera will begin to be heeded.

I hope the voice of Seddiq Weera will begin to be heeded. Seddiq Weera has spoken before committee on many occasions about the fact that without a political process, without a meaningful commitment to building security and stability in people's lives, the investment will have been wasted. Let me quote briefly what he said:

--a counter-insurgency focus, and that focus is going to fail us. Even Manley's report is telling us how we can win the military intervention. It's a military track that we are focusing on only to achieve are fighting war on terror in Afghanistan in the wrong way. Isolate the terrorists and bring the Afghans to the political mainstream; for that there is no process.

He goes on to outline what it means to get on to a political track, and without it, it is not going to bring any peace and development to the people of Afghanistan.

I hope that the committee will listen and heed the voice of Oxfam's Matt Waldman, who sets out a positive agenda for community peacebuilding. He states:

Given that existing community peacebuilding has such a significant impact on peace and development, yet benefits only a fraction of the population, there is a powerful case for greater donor support for NGOs engaged in peacebuilding--

He goes on to talk about how there must be a framework for a national strategy for community peacebuilding not just for development. He advocates a national steering group followed by a series of parallel provincial conferences to elaborate local strategies.

I hope that the committee will listen to voices like that of Surendrini Wijeyaratne of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. She warns that even clear strategies to achieve peace and reconciliation, including transitional justice, will not just evolve on their own.

She warns that the prospect for peace grows more remote as violence continues unabated and no concerted efforts are made to engage the parties in a dialogue for peace. She urges Canada to be that voice advocating for peace, and very concretely she calls for a rebalancing of the diplomatic development in military strategies to place greater emphasis on building conditions necessary for an eventual peace process.

She also calls for encouraging the international community and the Afghan government to strengthen conditions for a future peace process and coordinate current efforts for peace. The lack of coordination was one of the things correctly identified by the Manley report. Unfortunately, the recommendations that followed seemed not to flow from the actual insights and analysis of the problems in the current counter-insurgency mission.

The spokesperson for CCIC also put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of supporting women's participation in ongoing peacebuilding efforts and identified the fact that without that there will not be any meaningful lasting peace come out of this.

We supposedly are signatories to the women, peace and security provisions of UN resolution 1325, but there is not an ounce of evidence that the government has taken the challenge of putting women front and centre in the peacebuilding process and has actually supported that in any meaningful way.

I commend to people the very concrete, wise recommendations of those who have been there on the ground and who understand what peacebuilding and robust diplomacy really needs to consist of because without it, this investment will have no prospect for success and no help to rebuild the lives of the beleaguered people of Afghanistan.

International Treaty Accountability Act April 2nd, 2008

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-530, An Act to ensure accountability in respect of Canada's obligations under international treaties.

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege this afternoon to introduce a bill entitled, “an act to ensure accountability in respect of Canada's obligations under international treaties”. If enacted, the Minister of Foreign Affairs or any minister responsible for implementing Canada's international obligations would be required to submit to each House of Parliament a report setting out Canada's progress in implementing the international treaties to which Canada is a signatory.

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

Corporate Social Responsibility April 1st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, why is the government so grotesquely irresponsible when it comes to corporate social responsibility?

More than 1,000 mining companies are listed on Canadian stock exchanges, more than any other country. Canadian based companies conduct 40% of all mineral exploration in the world.

According to the UN, extractive companies are the most frequently cited in complaints of corporate human rights abuses in the developing world.

National round tables in 2006 involving industry leaders and development NGOs called for Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility, an independent ombudsperson to investigate claims of Canadian corporate abuses in developing countries, and withholding public support from the worst offenders.

In April 2007 the parliamentary secretary assured the foreign affairs committee the government would respond rapidly to these recommendations. In July the Prime Minister stated, “Implementation of these recommendations will place Canada among the most active G-8 countries in advancing corporate social responsibility”.

A full year later, why is the government still deadly silent on corporate social responsibility?

Afghanistan March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to listen to the member for Scarborough—Rouge River speak and the member for Edmonton—Strathcona before him.

I was hoping that the member for Scarborough—Rouge River might pick up the challenge that was presented by the absolute assertion by the member who spoke before him, the member for Edmonton--Strathcona, that we could not possibly negotiate with the Taliban and that anyone who thinks that we could possibly launch a peace process does not have any idea of what is going on there.

I listened carefully and I completely agree with the member for Scarborough—Rouge River when he says that we cannot be armchair generals. He may or may not have been in the House earlier this afternoon when I quoted a number of generals and a number of defence ministers who stated that it literally was immoral. I want to ensure that I do not misquote the Dutch commander in Uruzgan who said that if the international community cannot find a political solution, then we have no moral right to ask our young people to expose themselves to that danger.

We have had numerous other comments from the U.K. defence minister, a Dutch military commander, and Major General Andrew Leslie, former chief of Canadian land staff, who himself said, “Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you”.

I am sure the member also had the opportunity to meet with the courageous, intelligent six women members of parliament from Afghanistan when they were here. They said that it was absolutely a mistake to say that we cannot negotiate with the Taliban. They said that we needed to make a distinction between those who do not support the Taliban but who fight with the Taliban because they are starving and they need jobs and a livelihood.

I want to ask the member whether he is prepared to acknowledge that there is a difference between the Taliban, with whom it is necessary to negotiate and get a peace--

Business of Supply March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the public safety minister assert that the security situation is much improved.

It is, therefore, not totally surprising to me that he will not listen to the position, the views and the information that the New Democratic Party brings forward on this issue. What is surprising is that he rejects the very contrary view that has been expressed and documented by the World Food Programme, the International Red Cross, Oxfam International and the United Nations itself. Apparently, the minister is not prepared to listen to that evidence either.

I would like to ask him to comment, if I could, on the position expressed by the U.K. defence minister when he stated:

A peaceful, developed Helmand cannot be won by the sword, and the longer we try, the greater the tragedy.

The Belgium defence minister stated:

The situation is deteriorating,...and, over time, NATO forces risk appearing like an army of occupation.

The French defence minister stated:

One should not try to bury one's head in the sand:..the encountering real difficulties...the situation is not improving,

Could I ask the minister to--

Business of Supply March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member from the Liberal caucus who just spoke for acknowledging what it appears the Conservatives, with whom the Liberals have entered into an alliance around supporting the continuation of the counter-insurgency war, are not willing to admit.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood has quite correctly acknowledged that what we are seeing in Kandahar is not an improvement in the security situation but in fact a deterioration. He spoke about the recent Oxfam report, to which my colleague referred a few moments ago, “Community peacebuilding in Afghanistan”, in which it is absolutely acknowledged that security is deteriorating.

Red Cross officials have echoed those concerns and have talked about how really serious it is that NATO-sponsored provincial reconstruction teams often are treated with suspicion by Afghans, who believe that the teams are being controlled by foreign soldiers and so on. The UN has acknowledged 34 aid workers killed in the previous six months, with 76 abducted and 100 convoys and facilities looted. The UN World Food Programme reported that in the month of October alone 30 of its vehicles had been attacked and looted at a cost of $750,000 in stolen aid, compared to just five such attacks in the previous 12 months.

Given that reality, how is it that the member and his colleagues feel comfortable and feel that it is a responsible thing to do to critically sign on to a continuation of that counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar instead of getting onto a solid path of building peace?