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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Huron—Bruce (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Member for Mount Royal October 25th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, on October 28, 2004, in response to a submission for a ministerial review, the member for Mount Royal, who was then the minister of justice, concluded that Steven Truscott had likely suffered a miscarriage of justice. The case was then referred to the Ontario Court of Appeal, a process which eventually led to the acquittal of Mr. Truscott, hence righting an injustice that had spanned nearly five decades.

I am on my feet now, with the benefit of hindsight, to compliment the member for Mount Royal for his foresight and astuteness with respect to the process that was to be undertaken. While did not fully appreciate it then, I know now that the decision was the right one. I would like to extend my appreciation, on behalf of Steven and Marlene Truscott and their entire support network, to my colleague from Mount Royal.

While it is true that the member has a renowned international reputation on human rights and law, I would like to point out to all members of the House that, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Truscott family, that reputation is most certainly deserved and well earned.

Petitions June 7th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have a group of petitioners who have asked the House to consider the merit and the public support for the restoration of the Point Clark lakeshore, specifically the improvement of water quality and beach conditions from Amberley Road to Pine River.

They also make the allegations that low lake levels, the presence of man-made groynes, the invasion of certain plant species, the population explosion of certain migratory and non-migratory bird species, poorly maintained and managed sceptic systems, manure and fertilizer runoff, and the foul odour and health conditions have rendered the beach unfit for human activities. They state that further deterioration and human health risk is having a serious negative impact on the residential and tourist activities in the area.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to undertake any and all legal and regulatory measures required to clean up the said conditions and to restore the ecosystem to a natural state.

Committees of the House June 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food respecting the agricultural framework policy, including the dissenting opinion.

Canadian Forces May 30th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, on Monday of this week the Minister of National Defence, in response to a question regarding funeral expense compensation to the families of our fallen soldiers, replied that his department had paid the full costs for troops killed in Afghanistan.

Today the parents of Corporal Matthew Dinning went public with the truth on this matter.

Will the minister today rise in his place and simply apologize to all affected families for his misrepresentation of the facts or will he continue to show contempt for such a personal and private matter?

Steven Truscott January 31st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, on September 19, 1959 in the Goderich, Ontario courthouse, Justice Ferguson sentenced Steven Truscott to death. On that day nearly 50 years ago, a child's innocence was stolen and a cloud settled over the Canadian justice system that remains still.

I can remember as I listened live to the sentence. In the years that followed my belief that a miscarriage of justice had occurred grew in leaps and bounds. Public concerns grew equally until finally on October 28, 2004 the Liberal justice minister said that there was reason to believe that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. With this he referred the matter to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Earlier today on live national television the court began the process of hearing this matter. I am optimistic that the five justices considering this case will see that there is indeed reason to believe that Mr. Truscott was wrongfully convicted.

I wish Mr. Truscott and his family well as they enter into this process. I look forward to a day when Steven can wake up for the first time in half a century an innocent man.

Petitions January 30th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour this morning to present, on behalf of a good number of constituents in my riding of Huron—Bruce, a petition dealing with the issue of marriage. They are petitioning this Parliament to reopen the issue of marriage and to repeal or amend the Marriage for Civil Purposes Act in order to promote and defend marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions November 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege this morning to present, on behalf of constituents from the riding of Timmins—James Bay and the riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. The petitioners request that we look at the whole issue of literacy and the fact that the government recently cut funding for the literacy programs.

The petitioners would have us understand that the elimination of adult illiteracy is a key component in ensuring Canadian competitiveness in the global market as well as ensuring the quality of life of thousands of Canadians. They would call upon us to reinstate the funding to literacy programs cut by the Conservative government and undertake a national literacy strategy to ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to achieve this vital skill.

Criminal Code June 21st, 2006

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-338, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (procuring a miscarriage after twenty weeks of gestation).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Mississauga South for seconding this motion.

I am placing before the House today a bill which is long overdue. It is not only a pleasure but an honour to introduce a legislative package that seeks to respond to the Supreme Court's 1988 appeal to Parliament to establish a legal framework to replace the system struck down by the Morgentaler decision. Since then, Canada has been the only developed nation in the western hemisphere with absolutely no law governing abortion.

While the bill would not remove a woman's access to abortion, it would seek to make certain that any decision to terminate a pregnancy be taken prior to the fetus attaining its 20th week of gestation.

I trust that at some point we will have fulsome debate on this matter in the House and bring our laws to a standard similar to those other countries where the protection of the unborn is given its due status.

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

Criminal Code June 14th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, more than a decade ago when I rose for the first time in this place as a newly minted MP, full of lofty ideals and untested enthusiasm, I verbally underscored my belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

Since that time I have been tested in nearly every conceivable manner. My perceptions and beliefs have been challenged and, in some instances, I have altered my positions in a manner that more accurately reflects evolving constituents' wishes and feedback or in a manner consistent with the ever-changing state of knowledge on a given subject.

That aside, my core beliefs or what I view to be absolute truths have stood the test of time and remain a constant factor in my voting record.

With the latter in mind, I am on my feet this evening but this time I will frame my remarks within the specific context of Bill C-291.

For many, Bill C-291 represents just another round in the age old abortion debate. It represents a nibbling away at the edges of the perceptions of the 1988 Supreme Court decision on the subject. I would reject any such notions and I challenge those people to lay solid evidence on the table here tonight defending that position, which I would believe to be rooted in specious logic.

First, to be absolutely clear, Bill C-291 is not a bill about abortion. It is a bill about protecting women from violence. To be precise, Bill C-291 is about protecting the choice of a woman to carry a fetus to full term. Surely we can agree that a woman has every right to make that determination.

Many Canadians do not understand that there are no protections in place for viable unborn children who, despite the mother's desire to carry to full term, are harmed or terminated at the hands of those seeking to perpetrate violent crimes. In some cases the said violence is committed in a manner specifically targeting the unborn child. This is astounding to me.

I for nearly 13 years have listened to some of my colleagues speak on the merits of a woman's right to choose but now I learn that some of those same people will not vote to protect the woman's choice if it involves the choice to keep her baby.

When the member of Parliament for Vegreville—Wainwright sought to defend this bill against irrational committee allegations that it was unconstitutional, he cited several instances to the committee where violent and criminal actions were perpetrated upon third party against prospective mothers who had chosen to carry to full term.

An example that has already been cited this evening is the one about Olivia Talbot of Edmonton who was 27 weeks pregnant with her son Lane Jr. In November 2005, Olivia was shot three times in the abdomen and twice in the head. Because we offer no legal protection for unborn children today, no charge could be laid in the death of baby Lane.

Another pregnant Edmonton woman, Liana White, was slain by her husband in the summer of 2005. Again no charges could be laid in her baby's death.

Many of my constituents and, indeed, many Canadians would be shocked to learn that when an attacker kills a woman's unborn child no charges are laid in the death of that child even when the attacker purposefully intended to kill the child.

To use the words of the member for Vegreville—Wainwright, his bill seeks to address this injustice by making it a separate offence to kill or injure a pre-born child during the commission of an offence against the child's mother. That offence would be the offence of which the person would have been found guilty had the injury or death occurred to the mother. In other words, the unborn child would be treated as if it were a human being and the existing legal protection already defined for human beings in the Criminal Code would apply.

The exact offence depends on what existing sections of the Criminal Code would apply under a specified set of circumstances. Just to be clear, Bill C-291 is not seeking to invent new offences. In the same vein I should point out that Bill C-291 actually excludes abortion. The provisions of the legislative proposal would apply only while a perpetrator is committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother.

Again, Bill C-291 is not about limiting a choice but rather it is about instituting protections for women when they have decided that they wish to carry their child to term.

I also understand that some have objected to Bill C-291 because they have come to believe that the Supreme Court has determined that a fetus cannot be afforded the legal protections of a human being as defined by the Criminal Code. To that I would again say respectfully that notions to this effect would be inaccurate.

Currently, section 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada defines a human being as a child that has completely proceeded in a living state from the body of its mother. Furthermore, section 222(1) of Criminal Code of Canada defines a homicide as the act perpetrated by a person when directly or indirectly by any means causes the death of a human being. To me this seems simple enough.

Currently the Criminal Code of Canada does not consider a fetus to be a human being as defined by the code. This proposal would seek to extend certain legal protections to the fetus in instances when the mother was being victimized in a criminal manner. This would have no impact on other debates involving fetal rights, or the greater issue of abortion in general. It would simply seek to add certain protection to women who might fall victim to violent criminal activities.

Again, while generally speaking I support a pro-life stance on the issue, in this instance I support freedom of choice, that is to say, the freedom to choose to conceive and deliver a child without threat of violence being perpetrated against prospective mothers.

I would also like to take a moment to address this notion of Bill C-291's constitutionality. I happen to believe that the committee is mistaken with respect to the state of the court's notions on the subject. Again while I do not believe that Bill C-291 is unconstitutional and I do not outright accept that it is about abortion, for the purpose of responding to claims to the contrary, I would offer the following.

First, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that it is incumbent upon Parliament to establish parameters under which an abortion could be permitted. For example, in The Queen v. Morgentaler, Smoling and Scott in 1988, when the Supreme Court struck down the abortion law, it was done for procedural and administrative reasons only. The court clearly did not find a charter right to abortion, but rather articulated that it was up to Parliament to determine what level of protection to afford the unborn child. It said it had to be done in such a way as to balance the rights of the woman with the rights of the fetus. In that instance Chief Justice Dickson said:

I agree that protection of foetal interests by Parliament Is also a valid governmental objective. It follows that balancing these interests, with the lives and health of women a major factor, is clearly an important governmental objective.

Justice Beetz said:

I am of the view that the protection of the foetus is and, as the Court of Appeal observed, always has been, a valid objective in Canadian criminal law...I think s. 1 of the Charter authorizes reasonable limits to be put on a woman's right having regard to the state interest in the protection of the foetus.

These sentiments were echoed again in 1989 by the court in Jean-Guy Tremblay v. Chantale Daigle when the court stated:

The Court is not required to enter the philosophical and theological debates about whether or not a foetus is a person, but, rather, to answer the legal question of whether the Quebec legislature has accorded the foetus personhood....Decisions based upon broad social, political, moral and economic choices are more appropriately left to the legislature.

This was restated in 1997 in Winnipeg Child and Family Services v. G. (D.F.) In this case involving a glue-sniffing pregnant woman, the issue at hand was whether child protective services could force a pregnant woman into custody in order to protect the unborn child. As in the previous case cited, the Supreme Court said that according to the existing law, the unborn child had no rights and therefore the woman could not be forced into custody. The court stated:

The law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person possessing rights.

The court went on to ask at what stage would a fetus acquire rights. The court said that such thorny moral and social issues were better dealt with by elected legislators than the courts.

What I am trying to say is that the Supreme Court has consistently called upon Parliament to step up to the plate and to provide the courts with guidelines with respect to fetal rights. I respectfully submit that Bill C-291 was a genuine attempt at just that.

In closing, I would unreservedly underscore my support for Bill C-291 and renew my objection to the logic that has deemed the legislation to be unvotable. I firmly believe that the process was politicized in a manner that ignored legal precedent and continuing requests from the Supreme Court on the subject. I would like to compliment the member for Vegreville—Wainwright for putting this legislation forward in the House.

Hopefully this debate will bring this matter to light in the future so that we can actually deal with the complexities of the issue rather than hide behind the politics of it.

Committees of the House June 12th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am not privy to the composition of that body that is bringing forward the study, but I presume that most of them are dairy producers or at least are involved in that sector.

I would expect, if I know that industry well enough, that they will probably conclude that the action being taken today is appropriate. That may very well be one of the things we are doing. If they come forward and suggest that we not go in this direction, I suppose then it is our duty as a committee, if that is what we are going to hear in the House, to make a determination of whether we know better or they know better. That is something we will have to determine once that decision is made.