House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Kitchener—Waterloo (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I do find the comment passing strange. I will read the motion to the member so he can clearly understand it. I am surprised that he does not. The motion states:

The Committee recommends that the government allow any applicant (unless they have serious criminality) who has filed their first in-Canada spousal or common law sponsorship application to be entitled to a temporary work permit and an automatic stay of removal until a decision is rendered on their application.

An application is made. If the government says this application is bogus and makes a decision, the person is removed. There is no issue with that. Nobody is arguing that we will support a non-bona fide application. We believe in protecting the integrity of the system. We are saying that while we are in the process of dealing with the application, we do not separate families.

The member thanks me for saying that the Conservatives stand for family values. What I said was that they say they stand for family values, but they say one thing and they do something else. They are splitting families and they have no problem doing that, just like they have absolutely no problem in saying no to religious marriages in other countries and calling their children illegitimate. That is the Conservative Party's record.

I am amazed that some of my colleagues on the other side who happen to be Mennonites do not stand up and defend Mennonite marriages, and say that when we have a church wedding, we should not be discriminated against.

In terms of Bill C-50, I am afraid this is one member who will not support it. Bill C-50 very seriously undermines the objectivity of an immigration system that is being copied by all the countries they point to, such as Australia, New Zealand, Europe and England. The Americans are looking at it. Their senate is studying it because they want to have an objective system. The Conservatives would destroy ours so they could carry out their neo-conservative agenda.

Committees of the House May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to engage in this debate.

I want to say to the parliamentary secretary it is really unfortunate that he had his speaking notes prepared for him for the chamber and that he did not speak with the same rationality he did in the committee, because the policy we are looking at does not make any sense.

Cutting this down to the bare bones, what we have is that somebody applies for inland spousal landing. It is legal. There is absolutely nothing untoward about it. That is how the system was set up to work. However, the processing starts on that application and since it does not get done in time, it is passed on to removal, for no reason other than the fact that the application is not processed. Where does that make any kind of sense?

Somebody takes the right step and makes an inland spousal application to be able to stay here, which is quite proper, but because the bureaucracy does not deal with the issue fast enough, we are going to remove that individual. Where does that many any sense at all? That is what this comes down to.

I am shocked, and I am sure all the opposition parties are shocked, because for years we listened to that party stand in this House and defend family values. How much more of a family value can we have than not splitting husband from wife, father from children, sons and daughters, or mothers from their children? That is what this whole issue comes down to.

If the case were that somebody was found to have a relationship that was not bona fide and it was a marriage of convenience, nobody is arguing that this person be allowed to stay here. What we are talking about is that when somebody makes an application to keep their family together in Canada the case must be processed before one of the spouses is removed.

Mr. Speaker, you must be wondering about it as well because I am sure you heard the same speeches on family values coming from the Conservative Party. This reminds me of the kind of family values where Mexico refuses to recognize religious marriages as far as derivative citizenship is concerned.

However, I mentioned that it really is too bad that the parliamentary secretary gets up in this House and reads notes prepared for him by the department, because when we had committee hearings on this issue, there was a sign in his questioning that he actually understood the issue and knew that this issue was not right.

I am going to refer to the meeting where this issue was discussed in committee and the parliamentary secretary asked the official:

I know there's a concern about multiple applications, but from what I'm hearing, if one application isn't determined in 60 days, you make it a point between the two departments to expedite it. If you removed the idea of multiple applications and just dealt with the particular case, is there any reason why, as a matter of policy, the removal couldn't be withheld until the expedited process on that particular application is completed?

This is what we all agree on. I think all of us in the committee agreed on it.

I have had a number of cases, like most members of Parliament have had, in dealing with this. There are two cases in particular to which I will refer. One involved a young couple who were married last summer. The husband was born in Canada. His father had emigrated from Guyana. The husband attended the University of Waterloo, where he met his future wife, who came from Guyana to go to Wilfrid Laurier University. They met and kept in contact.

While the young woman had status initially in Canada, she went back to Guyana. The relationship continued, she came up for a visit and the young couple decided to get married. They filed for inland application, which happened during the summer. While this was granted, the young woman could not get a temporary work permit to engage in her occupation. She happens to be a financial professional.

I come from the riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. We have a lot of insurance companies in the riding. It is the home of Sun Life, Manulife and a number of others. Her skills were in demand, but she could not get a work permit until she had approval in principle, which did not make any sense. When a young couple gets married, we want the couple to start off their life with both of them being able to work. We know the financial strains that can happen in marriages, especially with young people who are paying off students loans or whatever.

The work permit was not allowed until the approval in principle came through, which does not make any sense. We are a country that brings in well over 100,000 temporary foreign workers to work in Canada, yet for people who want to be future citizens and build a family in Canada, we deny them the right to work while the bureaucracy goes through the file.

Another situation I had was in Chilliwack. The son of a friend of mine, who is a teacher, was involved with a veterinarian who happened to be from Holland. When the couple decided to get married, and her status would expire, she specifically went out of the country to make application because that way she could continue to work.

We have two very similar cases being treated totally differently by our officials in the handling of immigration matters for spouses.

I am sure most members of the House, who were here at the time, will recall a former minister who was in trouble around the whole issue of giving ministerial permits to people who wanted to get married and maintain their partners in Canada so they would not be split up.

The problem was, instead of having it down as a matter of routine by the bureaucracy, which is the way it used to be done, the rules were changed to require a minister's permit. This was totally wrong, and the minister was in trouble for showing compassion. The case she happened to deal with spun out of control. It was referred to as “strippergate”, as members will recall.

The basic foundation of it was that a Canadian male married that woman and therefore she was allowed to stay because she got the permit. Given the problems associated with that, we changed the rules back to the way they were. The rules are, if people marry, they can apply to have them stay inland while the case is being processed. There is nothing difficult about this.

I heard questions in the chamber about the queue and about how the time spent in lineups to get into Canada might be harmful.

I would like the House to consider this situation. CBSA expends resources to get people out of the country. Because their application has not been processed, it will have to start to process the application out of the country once again, which will take a lot of time and will back up the queue. Instead of doing that, why do we not dedicate the resources that CBSA spends to go after people who have made legitimate applications to land in Canada to keep their family together, pass it to processing and ensure it gets done. This is not rocket science.

The way the rule stands is just not defensible. It does not make any sense. It is the height of ridicule of a bureaucracy to split up families. We know problems are created when a family is split up for a period of time. They suffer emotionally, financially and psychologically.

Too often our officials separate families for absolutely no good reason. They claim that children are not deported if they are born in Canada. However, the reality is when parents are moved out of the country, the children will be split from them. In the case of undocumented workers, the children follow their parents even though they were born in our country.

I do not understand the change in the approach of the parliamentary secretary. Why does he not go back to the common sense approach that he expressed in committee?

The Conservative government claims it is the pillar of family values, yet it is quite willing to split up families for no good reason. Why? The bureaucracy does not proceed fast enough. Why not? Money has been wasted on border services to round up people, which they never should round up, to send them out of the country. This ends up creating more work in getting people back into the country, and families are being split apart.

I call upon the parliamentary secretary to go back to the common sense approach he had in committee. I call upon him to persuade the minister and his colleagues in the Conservative caucus that keeping families together is a good thing. Splitting them apart unnecessarily is a bad thing. That should not be too difficult. I really am shocked that the Conservatives have not seen that point before, particularly the parliamentary secretary who understands the issues.

The money we spend to remove people from Canada, and I am not sure if it is 10% or 11% of the cases related to this, seems to be a real waste of resources. The government claims that we have to bring in more and more temporary foreign workers because of unfilled positions. To not issue a work permit to a spouse, while a case is being processed, also does not make any sense.

People who make refugee claims are allowed to have a work permit because we want to ensure they have a chance to support themselves. We also want to ensure that when people come to Canada, the first thing we do not say to them is that they have to rely on assistance from someone else, but rather they should come into the country and work. This is a good thing. I am surprised, from that perspective, why this does not make any sense to the Conservatives.

On one hand, the government is defending this policy. Essentially, the Conservatives are parroting the nonsensical evidence we heard from the officials at the citizenship and immigration committee. On the other hand, under the guise of Bill C-50, they really do not want to open up the debate to the extent it should be. Instead, they are saying that the whole system is wrong.

I ask the parliamentary secretary and the government to use a little common sense. Look at the policy, use some innate common sense and fix it. This is not rocket science. Somebody makes a legal application and then, because the bureaucracy does not process it in time, we remove that individual.

When I asked the officials in front of the committee if they could tell us what the percentage of approval of these cases was, they said it was 90%. Then I asked the officials if they could tell us how many people they got rid of because the department was unable to process the case in time and how many of those people came back in because their relationship was legitimate. The officials told me that they did not know and that they did not keep statistics on that, which surprised me.

Why not? Why would the department not keep statistics on something that simple? Then perhaps it could judge the quality of its decision making at the front end, instead of making these ridiculous decisions, removing individuals and making them go through the whole process of applying from outside, and splitting up families. How does this make sense? It does not. The only people it seems to make sense to are those in the Conservative Party, who are supposed to be the paragon of virtue by trying to defend family values. They quite lackadaisically will have families torn apart.

I do not think there is a whole lot more to say about this, except to ask the parliamentary secretary to do a better job to persuade his colleagues and the minister in caucus that it is worth keeping families together and standing up for family values.

Ukrainian Famine and Genocide Memorial Day Act April 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I agree wholeheartedly with what my colleague has said. There is no question in my mind that it was a genocide. I can speak from the viewpoint of someone who actually lived under the brutal heels of Joseph Stalin and what he did to societies behind the iron curtain.

When my colleague mentioned that people disappeared into Siberia and there was a state of terror, I can attest to that. I can attest to the paranoia when that black car came by or came down the street, as to who would be picked up and taken away.

The collectivization of the farms was tried all throughout eastern Europe. There was a real resistance by the farmers to go into the process of collectivization. It is well known that the small plots of land that people owned produced more than the collective farms that were put together.

The horrors of Joseph Stalin have to be recognized, and we have to recognize this as a genocide.

National Day of Mourning April 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today is the National Day of Mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace.

Last year in Ontario, 378 workers died and over 333,000 claimed compensation for work related injuries.

To mark this occasion, the Canadian flag is being flown at half-mast on the Peace Tower in Ottawa and on all Government of Canada buildings across Canada.

It is a shame that the secretly commissioned report by the Conservative government would abolish the half-masting of the flag on this special day. The half-masting of the national flag is an honour and expresses a collective sense of sorrow shared by all Canadians.

We all need a reminder to work harder to prevent these deaths and injuries and keep our workers safe. There is no greater symbol of this than the half-masting of our flag.

The National Day of Mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace deserves this recognition.

Half-masting of Peace Tower Flag March 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Peace Tower was constructed as a living national monument to peace. Its initial purpose was to commemorate the cessation of hostilities at the end of the first world war, which it did by seeking to perpetually remember the ultimate sacrifices made by thousands of brave young Canadians from across the nation.

More recently the Peace Tower has come to be seen by most Canadians as a place where we as a nation can wear our emotions on our sleeves. That is to say, when tragedy strikes Canadians expect to see the flag lowered to half-mast as an outward expression of national grief.

As a matter of fact, the rules posted on the website of the Department of Canadian Heritage clearly state:

The half-masting of national flags is a well-established procedure whereby countries bestow an honour and express a collective sense of sorrow. Given that such flags are recognized as paramount symbols of their nations, the act of half-masting is a dramatic visual statement that speaks to the sense of loss that is shared by all their citizens.

To paraphrase what that says, when our nation wants to show that it has suffered a collective loss, a loss worthy of our recognition and respect, we lower our national flag as a symbol of our grief.

I regret that the government no longer shares my thoughts on this matter. I say “no longer” because when Canadian soldier Lieutenant Chris Saunders was lost as a result of a tragic accident aboard HMCS Chicoutimi, the Conservative MP who is now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works demanded that the Peace Tower flag be lowered without delay. As I recall, every member of the House supported that contention and the Peace Tower flag was lowered.

It is important to mention that under the previous Liberal government, the Peace Tower flag was lowered when Canada suffered the loss of a soldier.

By contrast, since forming government the Conservative Party has remained steadfast in its new-found opposition to the idea that the flag should be lowered upon the death of a Canadian soldier. After rolling back the previous Liberal government's policy of respect, the Conservative government set out its own rules.

This essentially summarizes the way I feel on this matter, and I believe that it summarizes how my constituents feel. The lowering of the flag atop the Peace Tower essentially costs nothing, but the gesture would clearly show that every Canadian from every corner of this nation is truly saddened each time a member of the Canadian Forces is lost in combat. Lowering the flag would show the family members of the specific fallen hero that we stand with them, just as their loved one stood with us as a country.

For me, this is not a partisan political matter. I for one would be more than pleased to stand up and applaud the Prime Minister if he would just do the right thing and lower the Peace Tower flag each time this country pays the ultimate price for our military interventions.

In closing, let me say to all my colleagues in the House that while we might differ in our opinions as to whether or not we support a particular mission, we stand united in support of our men and women in uniform along with others who, in carrying out their duties, make the supreme sacrifice on behalf of Canada and the cause of peace.

Afghanistan March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, originally when we went there, we saw the tour of duty being about a year. It was very clear at the time. The Chief of Defence Staff, who was just being appointed, assured us that before we agreed to the mission that we would have the capacity to do other missions around the world as well, such as Darfur.

All members in the House are getting calls from members of their constituencies saying that we need to take a leadership role in Darfur. Obviously we cannot because we are stuck in Afghanistan, which is not a very satisfactory situation.

The fact is the Kandahar region is the hottest spot in Afghanistan. That is why the government now is agreeing to get extra help from other countries going there. We are not going to stay in the highest casualty spot forever. It takes away from our ability to do the kind of reconstruction and the kind of diplomacy we want to do. It also takes away from our capacity to do other missions.

Afghanistan March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the parliamentary secretary that we have a NATO mission, with Canada under the umbrella of the United Nations. Canada wanted to bring NATO in specifically because of the rotation issue. They are supposed to rotate out. Troops do their tours of duty under NATO within that mission and after a certain period of time get rotated out.

It is unfortunate that all NATO members are not bearing the same burden as we are. We are into the hottest part of Afghanistan and the casualty rate for the number of soldiers involved is high. I look forward to the rotation out.

Getting back to the point of failed states, that is the biggest strength we have on this planet right now. It very clear that we have to do it under the auspices of the United Nations, but if we can get the NATO alliance in there, as we have in this case because we had the capacity to respond, that is a good thing.

We also have to ensure the UN has the capacity to keep dealing with the failed states. There are a number of failed states in Africa and it is very conducive and helpful to have people from the continent partaking in the UN missions.

Afghanistan March 10th, 2008

There are only a few of them in the House but I remember the member used to be a member of the Reform Party and they came to Ottawa to do things differently and one of the things they were going to do is not heckle. I would really appreciate if the member would remember his roots.

It is good that we are having this debate and most members who want to speak are able to speak. There is no question that we have many viewpoints coming forward and different parties are presenting different viewpoints.

Before I get into the debate, it is important for all of us to realize the very heavy toll that is being borne by our engagement in Afghanistan. Seventy-nine soldiers have been killed, along with a diplomat and thousands of people in Afghanistan who became casualties of this war, civilians I might add. It is a very difficult situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

I recall meeting with a mujahedeen in the eighties in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. That gentleman was involved in fighting against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. I mention that because it is very important that, as we try to help the Afghans establish a civil society, we recognize that it is a country that has undergone a great deal of hardship and occupation. It is also important that we, as part of a NATO force, be seen as people who are facilitating the Afghan people in establishing a civil society.

The soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice carried out the mission that we as members of Parliament and the government of the day set for them. Let there be no question that every member of this House supports our soldiers. Whether we agree or disagree with the mission, we all support the soldiers. In recognizing their sacrifices, it is important that we honour their service at the point in time where we might have casualty, as was very strongly suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, by commemorating the occasion by lowering the flag in the morning and having a moment of silence in the House. It is something that the previous government did.

That is important because we as Canadians mourned with those troops and mourned with their families. There is no question that it should not be a situation where we try to keep the public away from the repatriation of the bodies, which thankfully was changed. The price we pay for having this engagement should not be downplayed.

When we talk about issues related to how we deal with detainees in Afghanistan, we need to recognize that while we are there to establish a civil society and set in place institutions, it is important to deal with human rights and with detainees.

When one supports an internationally accepted norm for dealing with detainees, it is important that the international norm be observed. However, it should not be used to say that one is supporting the Taliban instead of our soldiers, because let us be very clear that there is nobody in this House who does not support our troops.

I listened to the comments earlier on by the member of the Conservative Party, the caucus chair. He talked about his experiences in Uganda under Idi Amin. He talked about how thousands of Asians who settled in Uganda were uprooted because of their race and ended up being expelled. He mentioned that he was still a baby when he was a refugee coming from Uganda. He talked about the price paid by the people who were expelled and who were ostracized in that country.

Canada took his family in, as Canada has taken in many families. He mentioned how important it was, how he looks at Uganda now and how he very much appreciates the evolution that has been taking place.

Many people know my situation. Fifty-one years ago, I came here as a refugee after the Hungarian revolution. On October 23 of last year I returned there with a parliamentarian delegation led by the now defence minister who was the foreign affairs minister at the time.

I recall vividly the revolution in November 1956 when the Soviet tanks came back into Hungary, having withdrawn at an initial stage, and the prime minister of the time, Imre Nagi, asking for help and the call going unheeded. It resulted in 200,000 Hungarians fleeing Hungary. It occurred to me at the 50th anniversary, as all the members of NATO and people from around the world were there, that they came 50 years late.

I was very pleased to see the developments in Hungary and eastern Europe and the democratization. However, the reality is we are no longer caught in the cold war as we were before. It is not a question of either side controlling client states. The situation we are in now is we will have failed states. Afghanistan was a failed state. There are a number of other failed states such as Darfur and Zimbabwe that we in the international community need to pay attention to.

Our legitimacy in Afghanistan and trying to establish civil society is not just doing something for those people over there. It is the world coming together collectively under the United Nations umbrella, in this case NATO. What we are doing is trying to deal with a failed state because it is going to deal with the security of the whole world. We need to get used to the idea that we will need to go into failed states and do these kinds of activities.

The biggest problem I have had with the Afghan mission is that Canada cannot be doing the heavy lifting forever. We are caught up in Kandahar and our casualty rate is higher than anybody else's casualty rate. Now that we have a clearer timeline on rotating out, I think it is great. It is something we can all support. The fact that we will be putting more emphasis on diplomacy and development is also very good. I would venture to say that all members of the House agree that we should put more emphasis on development and diplomacy.

As I talk about the world community and how collectively we will need to ensure each other's security, it is important to mention that collectively we will need to try to bear some influence on the United States to ensure it does not go off and undertake unilateral missions, as it did in the case of Iraq.

That mission has really undercut us, the United States and the rest of the world in dealing with Afghanistan. There is no question now in the United States that the war as turned out to be very unpopular. It is not fulfilling the mission that it was set up to fulfill. All the Democratic candidates have said that they will take the troops out of Iraq. The debate now is how quickly they will do it.

The lesson learned is we have to ensure that when we operate in the international forum and when we deal with failed states and try to bring them into the family of democracy, we do it under the umbrella of the United Nations and in alliances, not in unilateral missions.

Afghanistan March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

I am pleased that we are actually having a debate this time around because the last time we dealt with the issue of extending the mission we really did not have much of a debate. Most members were unable to--

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 6th, 2008

I will be voting against, Mr. Speaker.