Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the congregants of a church within my riding, I present a petition in support of Bill C-38, the civil marriage act.
Lost his last election, in 2006, with 35% of the vote.
Petitions May 4th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the congregants of a church within my riding, I present a petition in support of Bill C-38, the civil marriage act.
Conservative Party of Canada May 2nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, recently Preston Manning and Mike Harris called upon Ottawa to cut the heart out of Canada's health care system by scrapping the Canada Health Act and opening wide the door to privatization. The Leader of the Opposition tried to distance himself from the report claiming, “It's not my position. It's the position of an independent think tank”.
In October 2004 the Leader of the Opposition was a keynote speaker at the Fraser Institute's 30th anniversary celebration. Mr. Speaker, who do you think the other three keynote speakers were? They were none other than Preston Manning, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein.
The Leader of the Opposition is due to deliver a lecture given annually by an individual who “shares the vision and supports the mission of the Fraser Institute”. It makes me wonder why the Conservatives had a convention at all when they could have had the Fraser Institute write their policy for them.
Earth Day April 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, today over 500 million people from 180 countries will celebrate Earth Day.
This year Canadians have many more reasons to be hopeful about our environment and to continue to experience pride in Canada. Canada and this government boldly pursued Kyoto's objectives on the international stage, while here at home the Conservative Party denounced Kyoto and attempted to prevent its ratification.
Last February, thanks to the efforts of this government, Kyoto became international law. Immediately afterward, this government tabled Canada's greenest budget to date, followed by an ambitious and achievable plan that will allow us to honour Kyoto and ensure a competitive, innovative and prosperous green economy for generations to come.
Canadians are not fooled by the Conservatives' attempt to camouflage their opposition to Kyoto. Let me quote the Leader of the Opposition:
What I am supportive of is, frankly, not ratifying the Kyoto agreement and not implementing it.
The Conservatives' position on Kyoto is just another reason why the Conservatives are so out of touch with Canadians.
Property Rights April 21st, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 227 brought forward by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville which calls upon the Government of Canada to financially compensate all persons who have been deprived of personal or private property or have suffered a loss in value of property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.
Needless to say, the scope and effect of the motion is titanic. My time today does not permit me to outline all of the potential difficulties, both in law and in policy with Motion No. 227. I will instead attempt to highlight a singular issue, the ways our legal system would be severely negatively affected by the motion, specifically in the areas of proceeds of crime, the forfeiture of offence-related property and sentencing, to name but a few.
Currently, the Criminal Code provides for court order forfeiture of proceeds of crime after a conviction for a broad class of offences. Once convicted, if the Crown can show that the property is the proceeds of crime and that the property is connected to that crime, it is forfeited to the Crown.
Even further, if no connection is established between the offence for which the offender was convicted and the property, the judge may still order the forfeiture of the property if he or she is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the property is the proceeds of crime.
If the government were to in fact implement Motion No. 227 as currently written, it would mean simply that our proceeds of crime regime under the Criminal Code would become next to useless because the government would be required to reimburse convicted criminals who have already had their ill-gotten gains stripped under its authority.
This clearly would run contrary to the goals of the criminal justice system and the view that in Canada crime should not pay. It would also run contrary to the unanimously expressed view of the House in a motion voted less than a month ago that Canada's proceeds of crime legislation should in fact be strengthened through a reverse onus provision.
Our proceeds of crime regime is essential, especially in the fight against organized crime. The proceeds of crime legislation attempts to ensure that the profits from criminal activity are not used by these criminal groups to commit further crime, for the recruit of further members, or to allow for the facilitation generally of our criminal operations. This motion critically jeopardizes this fight.
Further, the Criminal Code provides that where a person is convicted of an indictable offence and the court is satisfied the property is offence-related property, and that the offence was committed in relation to that property, it may be forfeited. In this case, offence-related property means any property by means or in respect of which an indictable offence is committed or that it is used or is intended to be used in connection with the commission of an indictable offence under the Criminal Code.
Once again, if the government were to enforce the principle, as articulated in Motion No. 227, this entire scheme and this power under the Criminal Code would become useless because the government would be required to compensate the criminals for the offence-related property that was forfeited.
Just as alarming is the effect the motion would have on the property seized for violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Similarly structured to the offence-related property scheme under the Criminal Code, the courts are given the power under the CDSA to order the forfeiture of property such as marijuana grow houses, lamps and other pieces of property which satisfy the necessary legal tests. Stripping police and prosecutors of an important tool, as Motion No. 227 purports to do, would do nothing more than fuel this criminal phenomena and take leaps backward in the fight against this criminal industry.
A further impact of Motion No. 227 on the operation of our criminal justice system relates to the negative blow it would have on the imposition of monetary penalties under the Criminal Code. There are numerous offences under the code which allow for the court to impose a fine flowing from a conviction for an offence. The potential impact of this motion on our fine system is evidenced by the powerful monetary penalties which are available to the courts and sentencing organizations, as there is no limit on the amount of fine which can be imposed on an organization convicted on indictment.
This motion would impose an obligation on the government to stop collecting such fines and perhaps even repay fines previously collected.
On a regular basis, courts across Canada are ordering the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and offence-related property and also imposing substantial fines for persons convicted of federal offences.
The motion fails to recognize valid existing laws and policies for which all sides of the House likely support, including those in the area of criminal law. The motion is substantially over broad and is poorly conceived. To say the least, the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville would cause the collapse of the Canadian criminal justice system and therefore cannot be supported.
Civil Marriage Act April 21st, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the marriage bill before the House represents a balance between two important objectives that have driven the government's handling of this issue from day one.
The first is the extension of equal rights to a minority group, in this case, extending access to civil marriage to same sex couples who wish to make the same significant commitment to each other in a marital relationship as opposite sex couples.
The second is to ensure the equally fundamental and compelling guarantee to freedom of religion. In this context, that means the freedom of religious groups and officials to make up their own minds about this issue, to set their own requirements for marriage and to marry only those persons who meet those requirements.
Religious groups already have had this right for some time. Religious groups already refuse to marry people who would be able to marry civilly. For example, those who are divorced cannot marry in some religions and those who are first cousins, but they can marry in a civil ceremony.
The intent to balance these two compelling Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be seen in the structure of the bill. Its essence is contained in two simple provisions. The first states, “Marriage for civil purposes”, and I stress civil purposes, “is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. The second states, “It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs”.
The intent to balance these two principles can also be seen in the preambles to the bill. Two in particular speak of religious freedom:
WHEREAS everyone has the freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
WHEREAS nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.
The intent to do so can also be seen in the government's decision to first refer the bill to the Supreme Court of Canada last year before the tabling the bill in the House. One of the government's main concerns in doing so was to ensure that religious officials had the necessary protection under the charter. In response to concerns by some religious groups and individuals, the government posed the question directly to the Supreme Court:
Does the freedom of religion guaranteed by paragraph 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs?
The government is already firmly of the view that religious freedom would not be affected by the bill and now the Supreme Court of Canada has also provided that strong endorsement. In fact, it made some of the strongest statements ever on the nature of the charter's guarantee of freedom of religion. The court said:
It therefore seems clear that state compulsion on religious officials to perform same-sex marriages contrary to their religious beliefs would violate the guarantee of freedom of religion under s. 2(a) of the Charter.
The court went on to say that religious freedom was already protected by the charter and that religious officials would be protected from being compelled to perform both religious and civil marriages and religious institutions would be protected from being forced to provide their sacred spaces.
Earlier Supreme Court cases have upheld the right of religious institutions to compel observance of their religious tenets by officials and key employees, such as teachers. This would seem to be a very clear protection. However, if further more specific protections are desired, for example, for civil marriage officials, commercial provision of services to the general public, rentals, et cetera, the Supreme Court has indicated that they would have to be added in provincial and territorial laws as these matters are within its jurisdiction and not that of the federal government.
Some have used this fact as a basis to suggest that the federal government should not be moving ahead with the bill at all as it cannot guarantee religious freedom. In my view that is a deliberate misunderstanding of what the court said. The charter already provides that protection and so the court clearly has said that there is no need for further specific protections, which is also my understanding of where some of the provinces and territories are on this.
At a recent meeting with the provinces and territories held by the Minister of Justice, the attorneys general of two of the most populace provinces, namely Ontario and Quebec, both said that they had experienced no problems with religious freedom despite thousands of same sex marriage ceremonies.
However, many provinces and territories have provided additional protections by amending their laws to add specific protections for religious freedom. For example, Quebec has had specific protection for religious officials who refuse to marry a couple since the 1960s. Others already exempt religious organizations from their human rights codes.
The Minister of Justice has encouraged the provinces and territories to look again to ensure that religious freedom is protected in all their laws, as the federal government is doing. In reference to specific cases that may come before the human rights tribunals, he expressed the view that there could be some accommodation of religious freedom under most circumstances.
Indeed many of the cases brought forward by the members opposite to demonstrate that religious freedom is at risk have nothing to do with marriage. The cases are about protection from discrimination in the provision of services to the general public.
This is not a new issue. Provincial human rights codes add sexual orientation to their lists of prohibited grounds of discrimination, starting in 1976. Where a religious group has a clear policy about who it will rent out its space to, for example, parishioners or only organizations that are religious in nature, there has been no problem in the past. However, yes, where an organization of any kind offers its services to the general public, it must offer its services to all the general public and not discriminate on any basis, be it racial grounds or because of sexual orientation. This is a completely separate issue from whether the bill will affect the guarantee of religious freedom found in the charter.
Where a charter case has looked at the balance between equality rights and religious freedom, religious freedom has been protected. For example, in the recent Supreme Court of Canada case of Trinity Western, if a specific provincial human rights tribunal order does not respect freedom of religion, the charter can be used to challenge that order, as was the case, for example, in the Brockie case where the court amended the original tribunal order to protect religious freedom.
The Supreme Court of Canada specifically added in its recent decision in the marriage reference a reminder that provincial human rights codes should also be interpreted to protect the religious freedom. Previous court decisions at the lower levels on same sex marriage also indicated clearly their decisions could not have an impact on religious marriages, but only on civil marriage. Somehow this will not be enough for some people. They seem to fear that the Supreme Court could change its mind at some unspecified time in the future and religious freedom is slowly being eroded.
Yet after all these changes to the civil law of marriage, the different religious faiths have remained free to maintain their traditional religious practices and most have done so. Freedom of religion has a long history in Canada prior to the charter. That is one of the reasons it was added as a fundamental freedom to the charter.
Religious freedom has maintained and will continue to maintain its strength, as exhibited by the reference decision. The Prime Minister already has already that it is only where religious freedom would be threatened that he would consider using the notwithstanding clause. The government will uphold religious freedom and religious freedom of all major religious groups, meaning we have no more business telling the Catholic Church that it must marry persons of the same sex than we have telling the United Church that it cannot do so.
This act defines civil marriage. It does not change holy matrimony.
Conservative Party of Canada April 18th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, an election fever has beset the Conservative Party so severely that it has been muttering many policy commitments which must be the result of a fever induced hallucination.
For example, last week, after aggressively and consistently campaigning for eight years against the Kyoto protocol, Conservatives claimed to support it, but they may have changed again today.
Now the Conservative policy delirium has led them to pledge their support for the Liberal government's new deal for cities and communities.
Let us look at the facts. The Conservative Party, and the Alliance Reform before it, has never ever proposed any new programs or new money for municipal infrastructure. In the last election, it campaigned on scrapping the $5 billion strategic and rural infrastructure funds.
Recently it voted down all party resolutions concerning investment in urban transit or other municipally based infrastructure. As well, the leader of the Conservative Party is on record as being opposed to any new deal for municipalities.
Instead of derailing all of the progress that has been--
Immigration April 12th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to reflect on last month's observation of Anti-Discrimination Day and to honour the men and women of the Settlement and Immigration Services Organization of Hamilton, our outstanding community based centre dedicated to the well-being of new Canadians who choose to settle in the greater Hamilton area.
Hamiltonians are very proud of the diversity of immigrant services offered by this organization. Highlighting its work are the programs directed at the promotion of social justice, equality and equity. It is family sensitive and well networked. All federal and provincial stakeholders mandated to spearhead the integration of almost 4,000 new immigrants who arrive in Hamilton annually participate.
The professionals at SISO break down barriers that immigrants and refugees inevitably face as they seek to become Canadians. As a member, I along with others salute those committed to this wonderful program in Hamilton and to those beyond, from coast to coast to coast in our great Canadian home.
Leader of the Opposition March 11th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, as we eagerly anticipate the Alliance Conservative convention, one national newspaper is predicting, “Convention will be more tightly staged than Cirque du Soleil”.
First, the Leader of the Opposition decides to muzzle the grassroots members at their convention on social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. Then, facing a revolt from party members and special interest groups, he lifts the gag order and announces there can be debate on those issues.
Having looked at the rules of procedure for the convention, I thought all members of the House would be interested to know that the debate on these important issues will last exactly two minutes. Four lucky delegates will be given 30 seconds each to air their views.
Is that what the Leader of the Opposition calls democracy in action?
Canadians should not be surprised at the heavy-handed measures that the Leader of the Opposition has used to hide his party's true agenda from the Canadian people.
Status of Women March 10th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, over the last 20 years women have made real progress toward achieving gender equality. Women and girls throughout the developing world are taking action. Canada too has committed to gender equality in all of its CIDA programming.
I would like to personally thank the Minister of International Cooperation for her work on addressing the global fight against HIV-AIDS and her initiative in the promotion of gender equality.
Will the minister update the House on what Canada is doing to address gender inequality and women's lack of empowerment globally?
International Women's Day March 8th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, on this International Women's Day I rise to remember and recognize our women parliamentarians. They include the late Agnes Campbell Macphail, the first woman in the House of Commons elected in 1921; the late Cairine Reay Wilson, the first woman appointed to Canada's Senate in 1930; and the late Right Hon. Ellen Louks Fairclough, one of my constituents and the first woman to be appointed to the cabinet initially in 1957.
I ask all members to join me in acknowledging and thanking all the current women parliamentarians in this House and the Senate for their commitment and outstanding contributions that continue to benefit Canada and the world.