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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

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I very much agree with the member. We could have passed most of these bills as they came through the House. Then we could have had the choice to vote for those that did some good and to vote against those that did not.

There is no question that the neo-conservative agenda is not to deal with the reality of crime but to create the fear of crime unrealistically. We see it in the United States on FOX television, which the Conservative members, the neo-cons, would love to have play in Canada on all the channels to scare the public. Then they could offer a pseudo-solution. They way they approach this is they exploit the crime bills and crime victims, because they are being exploited as well.

Moneys spent on useless incarceration could be better spent on assisting victims of crime and deterring crime. However, the neo-conservative government has taken on the agenda that it is better to keep mental health patients in jail rather than in hospitals. Their agenda is to try to drive the fear of crime for political gain. That does not work in the Waterloo region.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, first, I will answer for myself. I wanted to ensure that I could give the speech today in the House. The member will have to watch to see how I vote when the bill comes concludes at third reading and how I will vote on Bill C-25 as well.

I have spent too many years of my life working to try to create safer communities than to be in agreement with a bill that does so much to hurt communities, destroy young and older people and not make our communities safer.

Once again, if the Conservatives want to fight crime and really reduce it, listen to the chiefs of police and do it through social development. It comes from that.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, everything the member says about who is in jail in the United States is exactly correct, and it is in that report. It is really unfortunate the “Unlocking America” report was just released yesterday. I think the members of the justice committee would have really benefited from studying it.

He spoke about what would happen to the first nations. Ultimately, they will be the ones who will carry the brunt of the changes. I can only hope the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, will strike down the bill as unconstitutional.

Let me point out something else the neo-cons tried to do. They tried to disenfranchise inmates from the right to vote. Given the high prison population in the United States of America, what happens has a real bearing on the outcome of an election because many people are disenfranchised and unable to vote. Those are exactly the people who the neo-cons would have not go to the polls.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to tell the member that I did not vote in favour of the bill. If the member had watched, he would have seen that.

The member opposite was a member of the Mike Harris hatchet job to social programs in the province of Ontario. Many of the crimes and gangs we see in the city of Toronto now exist because of his government in Ontario. When it was in office, it slashed the social programs, victimized communities and eliminated crime prevention programs.

If those members were really interested in public safety, they would heed the call of the police chiefs to keep the gun registry instead of trying to destroy it. The member has no lectures to give to anybody on crime prevention. The member, with Mike Harris, did more than anybody else to destroy it .

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am at the very essence of the debate. My point is people are putting out wrong information to serve political purposes that have no basis in fact.

I will table in the House a mailout by the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga. In it he says that the 2005 rate of violent youth crime increased by 22%, but in essence, youth crime in 2005 fell by 2%. This is the kind of fearmongering about which I am talking.

I said we end up victimizing a lot of people when untruths are spoken, when facts are misrepresented and when a community is portrayed as being more dangerous than it is. Waterloo region is a relatively safe community and its crime rates are relatively low. It is unconscionable that somebody would try to scare members of that community by putting out false information.

In wrapping up, if we want to create a more peaceful and secure community, the best way to do it is through prevention. Yes, there are some people who have to be locked up, and some for a long period of time, to protect the community. Make no mistake, the government is trying to make us as safe as people are in the United States, the most violent society in the western world. It has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

In putting this together as an omnibus bill, it is unfortunate that the government would put in parts of it that should not pass the House. Over time the Conservatives will be known for the neo-cons that they are and for exploiting people's fear of crime while doing nothing to address public safety.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the previous speaker for his speech and his understanding when it comes to dealing with crime and how to actually lower the crime rates.

I dare say that the scope of the bill is problematic. It troubles me, because instead of dealing with legislation one piece at a time, it puts a number of them together, some of which are good, but some of which are very offensive. Certainly that is not the way a minority Parliament should function, nor is it the way the Prime Minister when he was the leader of the official opposition said that a minority Parliament should function.

The member mentioned the study “Unlocking America”. I used to be involved with an organization called, Youth In Conflict With The Law. It was named after the proposed youth in conflict with the law act which ended up being the Young Offenders Act. I started working with that organization in 1976 after I left university. One of the focuses we had was to try to deal with offenders within the context of the community and to do as much as we could at the community level to create a safe and secure community. One of our mottos was that crime and justice is a community responsibility.

For all the reasons mentioned by the previous speaker and documented in “Unlocking America”, getting tough on crime does not work. In “Unlocking America” nine leading U.S. criminologists and sociologists who have spent their careers studying crime and punishment did an exhaustive study. They pointed out that the approach of getting tough on crime, building more jails and incarcerating more people, just does not work. It might make great television and it might make great news in the tabloids, but it is an approach that just does not work. It ends up being very expensive. Beyond being very expensive, it ends up being very destructive.

Bill C-2 is one bill, but another one which will be coming forward is Bill C-25 which deals with young offender legislation. I find it very frightening that under this particular bill, unfortunately, people who go into the system as young offenders can end up in the penitentiary system, not for committing a great deal of crime in the community, but for reasons such as committing a crime within the institution itself.

Numerous people came forward at the committee hearings on this bill. One of them was Dr. Anthony Doob, a criminologist from the University of Toronto, who very clearly showed that the perception of crime in many ways is driven by the media and by politicians who want to exploit the fear of crime and does not truly have that great a basis in reality.

In his studies, Dr. Doob asked the people in one control group for their reaction to headlines from tabloids. Dr. Doob gave another control group transcripts of the trial. Dr. Doob found that in cases where people had the information, they had read the transcripts and understood the judge's reasoning, they either agreed with the judicial sentence, or thought that the judicial sentence was too harsh. This was in total contrast to those in the group that received their reports on crime from the media, from the tabloids, or from television programs.

The media love to tell about the goriest crimes that have occurred in the local community, or in the country. But if there is nothing in Canada, then they will look to the United States, and if there is nothing there, then they will look to any continent on the planet for their special diet of criminal activity. These reports frighten people. Usually they hear these reports just before they go to bed at night.

It has often occurred to me that those folks and politicians who engage in that kind of fearmongering are victimizing a large number of people. People begin to believe that the relatively safe community they live in is much more dangerous than it is. That is not right. Parliamentarians and political parties should not be engaged in that kind of fearmongering.

Another individual who made a presentation was Kim Pate, who is with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. Unfortunately, Kim did not have enough time to talk at committee, but she did talk at length about the challenges faced by inmates who suffer from mental health problems in the federal institutions. She also talked about the over-representation of particular minority groups that are incarcerated. In Canada there is a disproportionate number of aboriginal people incarcerated. This raises some very troubling questions. Miss Pate also talked about the number of institutional charges that will be put on somebody entering the system, to the point that the individual, for whatever he or she has done in the institution, could be declared a dangerous offender.

Today I talked about Ashley Smith, a young woman who was due to be released from prison today. She was sentenced in New Brunswick as a young offender at the age of 15. She took her life on October 19 in an isolated jail cell at the Grand Valley federal institution in Kitchener following an extensive period of solitary confinement. Four correctional staff at Grand Valley were charged with criminal negligence causing death. One correctional staff member at the Saskatoon Regional Psychiatric Centre has also been charged with assault.

Ashley's tragic death has raised a number of troubling questions that must be answered. How did a young girl struggling with mental illness, incarcerated as a young offender, end up, through excessive institutional charges, in federal correctional facilities thousands of kilometres away from home? What can be done to improve the way we deal with offenders so that we minimize the recurrence of such tragedies? When will we learn as a society that it is more feasible to invest in community safety and crime prevention programs than to pursue draconian laws that incarcerate more and more people at the expense of public safety? I underline at the expense of public safety.

The “Unlocking America” report makes the point that over-charging, which has occurred in the United States, has done absolutely nothing to bring down the crime rate. It has done everything to destroy families and communities and to perpetuate discrimination. This has been going on much too long.

In talking about crime prevention, I will come back to my community, the Waterloo region. We have been working on community based crime prevention since 1978. Next year we will be hosting the 30th annual justice dinner. We will bring in speakers on how to improve public safety through social development in our community.

We are not the only community that says this is the way it should be done. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police talks about creating public safety and reducing crime, not through the hiring of more police officers, not through building more jails and not through hiring more jail guards, but through social development that addresses the root causes of crime.

In 1993, following on the excellent work of a Progressive Conservative government, the justice committee, with Mr. Horner as chair, produced what is known as the Horner report. The Horner report called upon the government to fight crime through social development.

My community took up that challenge at that time and we created the Waterloo region's Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council. The very first chair of that council was Larry Gravill, the chief of police.

The membership of the council includes all the social service organizations, local governments, non-governmental organizations involving criminal justice, the crown attorney's office and the police force. We worked collaboratively on how the community could address the root causes of crime.

Over the years many other folks have come forward to chair the council, be they from the school board, local government or the Children's Aid. The last chair we had for the committee was Matt Torigian, and he has been appointed and designated as the new police chief in Baden.

Surely that approach is much more preferable to the approach that is put forward in the bill, particularly on the mandatory minimums and the designation for dangerous offenders.

An interesting thing I did in my questionnaire was to ask whether we should have the traditional Conservative neo-con approach to fighting crime, or whether we should do it through social development. I am happy to say that two to one, the citizens in my community want to fight crime through social development.

I mentioned that the neo-cons like to put out wrong information and try to tell untruths. I will give an example. The member for Kitchener—Conestoga put out a householder where he said, and I will be quite willing to table it--

Correctional Service Canada November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, Ashley Smith was supposed to be released from prison today.

She was sentenced as a young offender at the age of 15 in New Brunswick. She took her own life on October 19 in an isolated jail cell at the Grand Valley federal institution in Kitchener following an extensive period of solitary confinement.

Four correctional staff at Grand Valley and one correctional staff member at the Saskatoon Regional Psychiatric Centre have been charged.

Ashley's tragic death raises a number of troubling questions that must be answered.

How did a young girl struggling with mental illness and incarcerated as a young offender end up, through excessive institutional charges, in federal correctional facilities thousands of kilometres from home?

What can be done to improve the way we deal with offenders so that we minimize the recurrence of such tragedies?

When will we learn as a society that it is more feasible to invest in community safety and crime prevention programs than to pursue draconian laws that incarcerate more and more people at the expense of public safety?

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 26th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would draw my colleague's attention to a report in the United States entitled “Unlocking America”. The top nine criminologists produced the report and essentially said that the policies of get tough on crime in the United States were totally counterproductive.

The United States has about two million people incarcerated at any particular time and the report shows a racial basis for who is incarcerated. The report says that one-third of all black males and one-sixth of Latino males versus 1 in 17 white males will go to prison during their lives.

Why would the neo-conservative government copy the tactics of another neo-conservative government when it has been clearly shown that they do not work? When the Conservatives talk about producing safety, they actually are making things more unsafe.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Day Act November 21st, 2007

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-485, An Act respecting a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Day.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to present this bill in the year of the 25th anniversary of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms defines us as Canadians. It makes all Canadians who come from all over the world equal before the law.

This bill would enable Canadians to appreciate our past and our present and to look forward to the future.

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

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act November 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, there were a number of people in the Toronto locale, 18 in total, I believe, who were charged with terrorism. They were very sensational charges. The government did a lot to manage the news on them. Those folks were not charged under the security certificate section, but they are being charged with terrorist activities and under the Criminal Code.

Since this incident happened in the member's geographic district of the GTA, could she tell us anything about these 18 people?