House of Commons photo

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

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the intervention by the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek on the bill.

I know it is not possible for all members to sit in all committees, no matter how interested and concerned they are about particular legislation. However, I think the member may also be aware that our colleague who sits on the public security committee, the member for Surrey North, has indicated that the overwhelming testimony before that committee was to oppose Bill C-3 in the form in which it was presented.

I agree that some small amendments have made it less odious, less objectionable, but not sufficient for the NDP caucus to support the legislation.

Of the 20 written submissions to the public security committee to deal with this, only 1 recommended support of BillC-3? Of the 17 witnesses who did not have written submissions but nevertheless gave convincing oral submissions, only 1 recommended support of the legislation.

Could the member comment on what that says about being responsible or unresponsive to the informed views of people with considerable scholarly background, legal background, involvement in human rights and civil liberties activities and organizations over a very long period of time?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that was a very sincere comment: he does not really like to do that but...? Give us a break.

I think I have made my point clear. We have a fundamental disagreement here. I absolutely believe that overwhelmingly we are well served with very competent judges. I also believe that we have a legal system that for a very good reason exists with checks and balances, with due process.

Yes, there may be instances in which some information should be withheld, but that is a far cry from the kind of hang 'em high, lock 'em away and throw away the keys kind of justice system that is too often conjured up in people's minds when they are fearful about the possible threat of terrorism.

We have to be very careful not to succumb to that. As Barbara Lee has said, “let us not become the evil we deplore” in the attempt to defeat terrorism.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to make it clear that I absolutely acknowledge that there is such a thing as terrorists potentially being in our midst, but I do not think we solve one problem by creating another huge problem, which is that in the process of deciding that suspected terrorists can be such a threat, we have to suspend all of the fundamental principles and practices of our legal system.

I am not a lawyer. I do not pretend to know where there could in fact be some limitations warranted in terms of the public divulging of some information, but what I do know is that when we basically try to convict people without any due process of law, without even their knowing what they are charged with, without their having any legal representation, or in other words, no legal rights whatsoever, we have created a huge problem to deal with another problem.

I do not believe for a moment that there is not a way to ensure that due process takes place. Yes, possibly there are some aspects of information that should not be fully divulged to the public, but to not have some divulging of information to legal representatives who can participate in the due process is just simply not acceptable.

It was acknowledged, and I personally think that it went much too far, that there were aspects of the record in terms, for example, of the Arar inquiry that perhaps should not have been fully publicly divulged. I do not think anybody ever argued otherwise. I think it was pretty clear that there were massive amounts of redacting, that is, blacking out with black pens information that had more to do with protecting people in our legal system than it did with protecting the accused. But I want to say that I think there are reasonable limits in such cases.

What I do think is that what is proposed here is simply inadequate to the test of due process and the fundamental elements of our legal system that we must uphold in regard to anybody who is being tried and potentially can be convicted of criminal activity or terrorist activity.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, which deals with security certificates.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to sharing my time with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

I have to say that I already was very concerned about the legislation that is now before the House. If we just take a moment to remember, it is legislation that aims and purports to fix flawed legislation that was struck down by the Supreme Court for some very good reasons. Now what we have is flawed legislation to replace the flawed legislation.

The legislation that has now been introduced by the Conservatives has been left really until the last minute. I think they are hoping that some kind of fearmongering and trying to muster public opinion will actually put pressure on members of this House to cave to the notion that we should cut debate short and we should just ram it through without critiquing it, which is actually what the parliamentary secretary proposed a little while ago, I have to say to my surprise and horror.

When I heard the comments that he was making in his defence of this flawed legislation, I just could not believe that members of this House, and probably he is representative of his colleagues, have learned absolutely nothing from the very problematic situations that have been created. Frankly, to be honest, many of them were created by the previous Liberal government, but in the instance of security certificates, these have been in place for a very long time.

What has come to light is that when people are placed under suspicion of possibly having engaged in some kind of terrorist activity, a great many fears flood to the fore and people seem quite prepared to say, “Let us just trample on human rights. Let us suspend civil liberties. Let us throw due process on to the scrap heap. Let us be satisfied that we are going to make some mistakes”. Without due process we will never know for sure. We will just entrap some people who may be completely innocent, and we will never have a way of knowing whether that is the case, because those people will have virtually no rights whatsoever to due process under the law.

I have had many occasions over the last several years since 9/11 to recall the prophetic, profound warnings of a very courageous member of the U.S. Congress who stated that in the attempt to defeat terrorism, let us not become the evil we deplore.

I consider that it is succumbing to evil, that it is embodying evil to say that we do not owe the same kind of due process to every single human being who comes before our courts, to ensure that they are not wrongly convicted, and to ensure that any conviction takes place in a court of law with due process and not based on rumours, suspicions, prejudices, Islamophobia, or any other form of hatred. I consider that it is all the more reason for us to take even more time to be cautious about what kind of legislation we put in place.

My colleague from Surrey North, the public security critic in the NDP caucus, has very aptly cited the instance of Maher Arar and the courageous battle that was conducted to clear him of exactly the kinds of prejudices, presumptions and condemnation. He was placed under suspicion, not through security certificates but through the unbelievable events that resulted in his being spirited away from Canada because of information that was wrongly provided by Canadian authorities to American authorities, and in turn American authorities were prepared to send him off to Syria to be tortured.

It seems to me that it is a particularly appropriate time for us to take a few moments to think about the honour that was bestowed on Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh last night at a very well-attended event addressed by a previous ambassador of Canada who gave distinguished service to the United Nations. What it recognized is that all of us are indebted to the courageous struggle that Monia Mazigh engaged in to bring her husband home. Calmly, clearly, simply, but profoundly, she asked for her husband Maher Arar to be returned home to Canada, to be returned home to his family, and to be returned home to justice.

Let me say again that this did not happen under the security certificates. Effectively, he was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion and was treated without due process, even by the authorities, and perhaps especially by the authorities in this climate. I remember how infuriated I was when cabinet ministers in the previous Liberal government were prepared to ask me if I was not worried that if he was found to be a terrorist I would be tarnishing my own reputation. My reaction was that this will never be allowed to be a fear as long as I live and breathe when someone is placed under suspicion without the benefit of due process.

Let us take a few minutes to think calmly about what it is that we are discussing here today. I am trying to be calm, but I feel very provoked by the comments made by some members in the House over the last while. Those comments show that nothing has been learned from the horrible events that have been visited on the lives of too many people because of the suspension of due process. That goes to the heart of what our Supreme Court exists to do. It exists to ensure due process and to strike down the law when it finds that due process is not assured.

I know that there will be some argument made about the fact that some other countries have now put this kind of system in place, such as New Zealand and the U.K., but there are already serious indications of how flawed the so-called reformed legislation is when it comes to the treatment of people placed under suspicion of terrorism. Let us be very clear. No society has ever been made safer by trashing due process of law.

I have only a couple of minutes left. I want to say once again what has already been said by many of my colleagues and by the member for Surrey North, who has done a superb job in addressing the very heart of this matter, and that is that this legislation is flawed for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons I have already explained, such as the suspension of due process, but also, ironically, for those fearmongers who keep trying to dredge up absolute horror for the public, the irony is that security certificates do not punish people who are plotting terrorist acts.

The fact of the matter is that our criminal legislation should be dealing with this problem. That is the way in which we should be dealing with any handling of suspected terrorists.

I plead with all members to pay careful attention to the fundamental principles that are at stake in this instance. Let us be clear that any society which tries to become more secure by trashing human rights and civil liberties is likely to end up being both less secure and having a lot less freedom for all of its citizens.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am genuinely taken aback by the comments made by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.

On the one hand, we are dealing with legislation that the government could and should have brought in a good deal sooner. It should have given ample time for full and serious consideration of the legislation now before us but it made a decision to delay to virtually the 11th hour before it started to confront us, the members of the opposition, with the fact that this is urgent because we have a deadline that was set by the Supreme Court of Canada almost one year ago.

I do not want to be unfair to the member. I know him to be a conscientious member. I disagree with him fundamentally on a great many things but on occasion I have had reason to actually agree with him on some things. However, I am genuinely taken aback. I think Canadians would find it shocking if we were to ram ahead and put into place the provisions of something that was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada because it was found to be a very serious flaw in a piece of legislation that could cause major problems for people.

I believe I heard the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park a few moments ago say that we needed to be clear here, that we are talking about persons who are a danger to society and we are talking about protecting the public against such people.

We are talking about putting in place the kind of legal provisions that do not try to convict people and condemn them without there being a fair and legal process. Has nothing been learned by the government from the horrors or the Arar fiasco? Has nothing been heard from the counsel offered by the vast majority of members who appeared before the public safety committee and who said that this was severely flawed legislation and that it, too, would likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court?

How can the member turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the overwhelming evidence that was brought before the very committee that he sits on for the purpose of weighing the legislation that is before him and before this House?

Alzheimer's Disease January 30th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on a matter dear to my heart: the urgent need to declare dementia a national health priority.

The most prevalent dementia, Alzheimer's, is a degenerative brain disorder with no known cure, affecting one in thirteen Canadians over sixty-five. Only a national Alzheimer's strategy supported by increased funding for research, treatment and care and more adequate protection for vulnerable adults will prevent this deadly disease from overwhelming our human services system.

Family caregivers in homes and institutions in every community struggle to care for those suffering from Alzheimer's. They deserve our support. After question period today, our Speaker has invited every MP to learn more about the Heads Up for Healthier Brains campaign being waged by Alzheimer Society of Canada.

The Alzheimer's challenge cuts across political party lines and regional divides. I call upon all members of Parliament to come together and work together to meet this challenge.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 28th, 2008

With regard to the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons: (a) what is the government's position on this issue; (b) why did the government abstain from the UN First Committee resolution vote on effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium; (c) how many DU-tipped stockpiled weapons exist within the Canadian armed forces; (d) have DU weapons been utilized in any combat missions involving Canadian forces in Afghanistan; (e) have DU weapons been used in any Canadian military operations in Kandahar; (f) what measures has the government taken to ensure other International Security Assistance Force or Operation Enduring Freedom partners do not use DU weapons; and (g) what research, if any, has the government sponsored or funded analyzing the potential risks or health hazards associated with the use of DU weapons, and what have been the findings, conclusions or recommendations produced by this research?

Questions on the Order Paper January 28th, 2008

With respect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: (a) what is the current status of federal and provincial negotiations in regard to Canada's ratification of the document; (b) what stage of the ratification process has the Convention reached; (c) has the government consulted with the provinces on their position in regard to ratifying the treaty; (d) what position have the provinces taken; (e) what, if any, amendments must be made to provincial legislation in order to accommodate the ratification of the Convention; (f) are such amendments being made; (g) are federal-provincial negotiations ongoing; (h) what negotiations have taken place; (i) who is conducting these discussions, mediations or negotiations; (j) what is the timeline to complete these negotiations; (k) which government departments are involved in these negotiations; (l) has the government consulted with non-governmental organizations during the ratification process; (m) what advice has the government received from agents of civil society; (n) is the government studying the unsigned optional protocol; and (o) what is the timeline for these considerations?

Questions on the Order Paper January 28th, 2008

With respect to Canada's international development commitments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): (a) what funding has been allocated to assist the land distribution commission in North Kivu; (b) what assistance has the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provided to state agencies in their capacity to collect tax revenue; (c) what contributions has CIDA made to projects preventing and eradicating smuggling from the DRC; (d) which international agencies and non-governmental organizations are involved with CIDA's project number A032983-001 (Project Against Sexual Violence (DRC)), and which provinces are the principal beneficiaries of the project; (e) what measures have been taken in order to provide women with civilian justice; and (f) what socio-economic reintegration policies does the project support?

Unborn Victims of Crime Act December 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this afternoon, in the dying moments of this fall session, to speak to Bill C-484, a bill that its sponsor has chosen to entitle the unborn victims of crime bill.

Having reviewed this private member's bill, and even before hearing the speech of the member who has introduced it, I came to the conclusion that there were some major concerns about it. They have lead me to indicate that I am unable to support such a bill.

It is a private member's bill and it is important to remember that. Every member has the opportunity to consider where he or she stands on the bill. However, a brief discussion among my colleagues does not lead to the conclusion that there is a great deal of support or enthusiasm for the bill.

At the outset, I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. I listened to his comments, which came after my having read the bill. Therefore, I was even more intent on listening to what he would say in introducing the bill, to determine whether he would dispel some of the very uncomfortable concerns I had about the possible implications of the bill.

He devoted a considerable part of his speech in the House this afternoon to the victims of families that have lost a wanted child, the successful outcome of a pregnancy through a violent attack on a pregnant women.

I do not think there is a single member here, regardless of where they stand on this bill, who cannot empathize 100% with the grief that such a loss would cause an individual and their loved ones. However, it has reminded me that there is a good reason why we do not turn over the drafting, or the crafting or the adoption of laws in a democratic and diverse society to people who are singled out for being grief-stricken by personal tragedy.

I did not expect to say this until I listened to the amount of focus on the issue of grief, but I returned briefly in my own life experience to my period of time as a psychiatric social worker. Grief is a very normal human emotion, and it is something around which we comfort people and support them. However, we also know that grief is almost always accompanied by feelings of anger, despair, rage and quite often revenge.

In our democratic society, we have long decided that revenge is not a proper basis for drafting or adopting our laws. A great deal of psychiatric evidence indicates that if there is a great deal of reinforcement for the notion of revenge, when someone has suffered a loss through a violent, unacceptable act, it impairs the emotional healing process.

I do not want to go further down that road, but my discomfort with the bill, before hearing the comments of the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, has been deepened and intensified by the amount of emphasis he placed on the issue of grief, anger and rage. I do not question his sincerity about identifying and empathizing with the grief, but I think it is a very questionable basis for introducing such a law.

Let me say that I also heard many comments about how this is something that women very much want and need, and he even referred to some polling. I have to say I would need to be convinced based on a great deal more information than he shared, but if he wanted to share the basis for a claim that there is a very high percentage of women who are really looking for this, I would give it my consideration.

However, I would find it extremely surprising, because I have to say that in my almost 40 years of involvement in the women's movement, and my 28 years in public life, where it has been well known that I very much see the responsibility of myself and every other woman in public life to be responsive to women's concerns, I have never had a single woman, a single advocate, a single representative of a single organization, or an individual family member come to me and say that this is a law they would like to see implemented.

That does not mean it is not worthy of introduction and consideration, I want to say that, but to cite it as something that large numbers of women want and need, I find surprising. Maybe I am a little bit suspicious about that, when I would think that if this was something widely felt and wanted by women there might be some indication in the House and there would be a good number of women here for this debate and wanting to put forward their views.

Maybe I am a little unfair in saying this, but in regard to coming from the caucus with by far the least number of women in the House, then one wonders whether it is really an authoritative basis for the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park to talk about how much women want and need this.

I will speak from my own personal experience. In my region of Atlantic, the government party has run 32 men for Parliament in the 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, so I am not sure about the authoritativeness of speaking on behalf of women's pressing needs.

Let me say, however, that there are a lot of things women desperately need that have been ignored by the government. Not one of them that has ever come to my attention is a call for this kind of bill. Women certainly need a lot more protection against domestic violence and violence that is visited on them in far too many communities.

I would say that at the heart of my concern about the bill is that it does indeed arouse considerable concern, real apprehension, about whether it is in fact a thinly veiled step in the direction of recriminalizing abortion in our country. I am sure there are going to be protestations, with people saying, no, no, that was made clear, the language was made clear and all the rest of it, but let me say that it further made me uncomfortable to hear several references, both from the Conservative sponsor of the bill and from the Liberal who spoke in support of it, to a number of American states, mostly southern U.S. states, and in particular, South Carolina, as one of the states that has had considerable experience with this bill.

Let me say the evidence is very clear that the bill not only could become a thin edge of the wedge in the direction of recriminalizing abortion, but actually identified as one of the benefits of the bill is that to adopt such a bill could in fact accomplish that very objective that sponsors of the bill in South Carolina have cited as the reason for their introduction of the bill.

There are many more things I could say, but I think that in the final analysis the point is that women need to be protected far more effectively and aggressively against violence, and that is the best way to protect vulnerable fetuses. If that were the objective, then we would be very much wanting to support such a bill.

We do not, however, feel persuaded. As I say, it is a private member's bill. I do not want to speak for others in my caucus, but I, for one, am very uncomfortable with where the bill is intended to go and what its real purpose is. I want to say that those concerns have already been expressed by a good many of my colleagues, so I think members have gotten the impression: I will not be supporting this private member's bill.