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

Charter of Rights and Freedoms October 30th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, first I want congratulate my colleague across the way for doing something his government has not done. He actually spoke about the importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As we know, this is the 25th anniversary of the charter which was enacted April 17, 1982.

Having said that, to me the charter is very much a living document, which I think my colleague across the way said as well, but it is a living document to protect human rights. I think there is a differentiation as to how we might regard what human rights are about.

If we look at section 7, it states:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

It then lays out in the legal section of the charter as to how we protect those rights. We are talking about something that is very much an animate object, which is human beings. Whereas what the member is talking about when he talks about property rights is an inanimate object.

Property rights, to a large extent, are under provincial jurisdiction. They do not rise to the same level as do basic human rights. When one talks about security of the person, one is talking about the security of the individual to not be detained as Mr. Arar was detained and not to be sent to a place of torture the way Mr. Arar was sent to a place of torture.

When we talk about the issue of the security of the person, it is important to focus on all those areas where those rights are still being abused.

I can tell the member across the way what is important to me when we are talking about rights. Let us take something that has been before the House for the past 10 years.

An issue that has been before the House for the last 10 years is something very basic. It is called citizenship rights. Citizenship rights affect deeply each and every Canadian. It is an issue that the citizenship and immigration committee has studied for the last decade and actually beyond the last decade.

In the last Parliament, we tabled an important piece of work from the citizenship and immigration committee which was unanimously approved. It was about upgrading Canada's citizenship law because something as important as citizenship right now is not covered in law. It does not fall under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In spite of the fact that the Conservatives, when they were in opposition, were unanimous in support of putting citizenship laws under section 7 of the charter, when they became the government they ignored it. They ignored their own previous stance of a decade. What did they do? They decided, even though it is the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the 60th anniversary of the first Citizenship Act which was enacted in 1947 and the 30th anniversary of 1977 Citizenship Act which was enacted in 1977, they did not even see the importance of introducing legislation to update those laws.

The hon. member across the way mentioned a veteran in relationship I believe to the gun laws. We have a great deal of respect in the House for veterans, keeping in mind the soldiers who are now serving abroad, in Afghanistan in particular but in other places as well.

What I find mind-boggling, when we talk about section 7 of the charter, is that we do not respect the citizenship rights of the children of our veterans who fought for this country in the second world war.

When we talk about the whole issue of the charter, the access to justice, it is the government across the way that got rid of the court challenges program which gave people access to justice.

I will cite the example of Mr. Joe Taylor, but his case represents thousands like him. Mr. Joe Taylor is the son of a Canadian veteran who fought for this country in the second world war. Mr. Taylor wanted to assert his Canadian citizenship, which he was ordered to receive by an order in council. What happened is that the government denied Mr. Taylor his citizenship on two grounds: first, he was born out of wedlock; and second, because of an archaic section of the Citizenship Act, when he was 24 years old he did not know that he had to apply to retain his citizenship. Mr. Taylor won his case when Federal Court judge, Mr. Luc Martineau, ruled in September 2006 that the minister--

Automobile Industry October 30th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, last year the Canadian auto sector had a trade deficit for the first time since 1987 and is on track for a much larger one this year.

Massive restructuring at GM and Ford, and the huge rise of the Canadian dollar have eroded our auto trade surplus for exports to the United States. At the same time, our automotive trade deficit with the rest of the world has grown.

The result has been the loss of tens of thousands of Canadian jobs in this sector. The region of Waterloo alone has lost 2,850 auto parts jobs in the past three years due to closures and downsizing.

Canada has a $3.5 billion trade deficit with Korea, $1.7 billion of which is in the auto sector. An unfair trade deal with Korea will mean over 4,000 more jobs lost in the auto sector and over 30,000 manufacturing job losses for Canadians. We must say no to a free trade agreement with Korea.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 18th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would really love to engage in that debate.

Let me say to the member for Abbotsford that I have been to his community and there is a great injustice going on to many Mennonites who live in his community who are being denied citizenship unduly because their great-grandparents had religious weddings and not civil weddings, so we consider their kids to be born out of wedlock. I hope the member for Abbotsford will do something to fight that in his constituency.

In terms of the issue of crime, in our community we are tough on crime. I helped set up the Community Safety & Crime Prevention Council. That was one of the things I worked on, and we have the best one going in the country outside of Quebec. We have the chief of police, the crown attorneys, the social agencies, the school officials and the city officials working together to prevent crime.

I can tell members that this whole war on drugs that they want to ape from the United States of America is very harmful. What they are going to end up doing is criminalizing hundreds of thousands of young Canadians for no more than smoking marijuana.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 18th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I remind the member that he was one of the ones who taught me how to stand up and speak for my constituents. I have not seen much of that lately coming from that member.

On the issue the member just raised, he and I sat on some committees relating to child pornography. I will say that it was the previous government that put in legislation on child sex tourism that would charge Canadian citizens abroad if they engaged in that activity. The proof is in the pudding, charges have been laid and the warrants are out, and as soon as that person is caught he will be extradited back to Canada to face justice.

Let me tell the member about crime prevention because this is something I know a little bit about. Prior to becoming a member of Parliament I was involved in crime prevention. I do know that when we spend a dollar on prevention we save $7 on incarceration. I know it costs more money to put one person in jail for a year than what it costs to put a person through university with room and board for four years.

I know about one of the causes of crime and that we have to campaign against is bullying in the schools. This is one of the most important crime prevention tools that we can have.

I say to the member opposite that his Prime Minister is the poster child for a bully and that is something he should be addressing.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 18th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address the Speech from the Throne. I will try to start out on a positive note and end on a positive note.

Let me start by congratulating my colleague from Yukon for his hard work on bringing some light to human rights abuses in Burma. I congratulate all members of the House for making Aung San Suu Kyi the third honorary Canadian citizen. That is something of which we can all be proud.

The second honorary Canadian citizenship was accorded to Nelson Mandela, who did so much to fight against apartheid. He dedicated his life to that fight. After a lengthy period of imprisonment, he started the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and made sure that South Africa could maintain civil society. I congratulate him on that.

The first person to be an honorary citizen was Raoul Wallenberg. He was a Swedish diplomat in Budapest in 1944. His role in fighting to save Jews in the Holocaust from the Nazis and the Arrow Cross is something that is to be admired by everyone. For the people of Canada to make him the first honorary Canadian citizen speaks well for our country. Unfortunately, Mr. Wallenberg died in a Soviet gulag.

I mentioned Budapest. That is the city of my birth. I was born in 1946 and my family came to this country 50 years ago. My father, who was a Jew, lived through the Holocaust. He lived through the brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin as well.

Along the way my family gained a very deep appreciation for human rights and civil liberties. One of the things for which I have a deep appreciation and have fought for in my parliamentary career and when our party was in government is human rights. The one document I take my guidance from is our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I have been here 50 years, 25 years without the charter and 25 years with the charter. I am deeply disappointed that the throne speech and the actions of the government have not made any mention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is supposed to unite all of us under the law. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is about that. It is very disappointing that there is no mention of it in the speech.

We are talking about citizenship. I hold in my hand a document, which is the report of the United Nations on the stateless. I am very disappointed to see Canada featured in this report because we have citizenship laws in our country that make people stateless.

The Speech from the Throne talks about honorary citizenship. It seems to me that when we have a Canadian veteran who fought for our country in the second world war, the birthright of his child should be recognized. That is not the case.

We have a Canadian veteran's son who is taking this case to the courts, Mr. Joe Taylor. His father fought for the liberty of our country and the government is taking him to court. It said it would take him all the way to the Supreme Court because he won a decision ordering the government to restore his citizenship.

An article was written in the international magazine, The Economist, which says “Lost in Kafkaland”. It mentions a 70-year-old woman who has been kicked out of our country and denied citizenship because of archaic laws. I cannot underline strongly enough, for the importance of our reputation abroad, that we bring the our Citizenship Act in compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is 25th anniversary and it is time.

When the Prime Minister was in Australia, he said to the Australian parliament and the press, “I have Senate envy. You elect your senators”. The Prime Minister should have had citizenship envy. Australia suffers from many of the same problems we do with citizenship in our country. It enacted its citizenship act on July 1, Canada Day. It is time for us to catch up. We do not belong in a report of the United Nations that lists countries that make people stateless.

The other issues I have, since I cannot be positive all the time, is Kyoto, from 10, from great, from hero to zero. Abandoning the Kelowna accord is inexcusable. The level of child poverty in our country is inexcusable.

I want to touch on some issues like the democratic deficit, which I fought to help eliminate or make better in the previous government. It is back in spades. Members of the Reform Party used to stand and say that they were here to speak for their constituents, and I was sold on that. I stand and speak for my constituents. Now they stand and speak for the government. That is not the role of a member of Parliament. That really has to change.

The promises of the government to bring in a new citizenship act have been abandoned. The promise of the government to never take away citizenship behind closed doors has been abandoned. They are broken promises.

I want to touch on another issue. The Prime Minister says that he wants a mandate from Parliament to do his programs, that he wants to govern as if he had a majority. I have news for the Prime Minister. A mandate for a majority comes from the citizens of our country through an election. It does not come from politicians.

I want to talk about broken promises. The Prime Minister, when he was opposition leader, came up with some good suggestions as to how to democratize Parliament, such as electing committee chairs. The first thing he did when he came into office was appoint the committee chairs.

I will touch on this issue about the neo-conservative crime fighting agenda. The government has said that it will bring crime rate down. The chiefs of police have said that to reduce crime, it will not be done with more prison guards or more police. It will be done through social development. The government is trying to make Canada as safe as the United States of America, the best laboratory to show that the neo-conservative approach does not work.

I said I would end on a positive note, and I will point to my community in the Waterloo region. The city of Waterloo is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The University of Waterloo is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Canada's Technology Triangle is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Communitech is celebrating its 10th anniversary. My community has something from which the government could take a great lesson.

Our prosperity in the new economy is based on investing in education. It is based on investing in research and development. I am proud to represent the riding that brought to this country the BlackBerry, a company that 14 years ago had 13 employees. Now it has over 5,000 employees and growing.

I will close with the spirit of the University of Waterloo. Waterloo does things differently. Innovation has always been encouraged and rewarded, not just in the research centres across campus, but in the classrooms and the studios, on stage and on the playing fields. Waterloo is not a traditional university. It does not ask why, it asks why not? Why not eliminate child poverty? Why not have a plan that includes Kyoto?

Immigration June 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, immigration is, has been and will continue to be the lifeblood of Canada. We have built one of the most diverse and inclusive countries in the world.

After the 1956 revolution 200,000 Hungarians fled a brutal Soviet communist dictatorship, with 90% finding initial refuge in Austria.

Canada did more than any other country in accepting 38,000 Hungarian refugees. Never before has Canada been as hospitable.

Fifty years ago today, my parents Nora and Sándor, my siblings Paul and Margaret, and I landed in Vancouver.

On behalf of my family and all refugees, I thank the Canadian people, with special thanks to family friends, the Hays, the Campbells and the Tanacks, for their immediate hospitality.

My passion for civil liberties, human rights, the charter and citizenship rights is grounded in my personal experiences.

The fact that a refugee could become a member of Parliament in this country speaks volumes about the kind of country we live in.

Canada Transportation Act June 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the member of the NDP talk about what our party stood for, on questions and comments, it occurred to me that one of the things we stood for, and stand for, is early childhood education. The other things are Kyoto and Kelowna. That is what we stand for.

I think that is pretty important to say, when somebody from the New Democratic Party asks, “What do we stand for?”. We stood for all those things and that party helped to kill all those things. I wonder if my friend would want to comment.

Petitions June 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition that relates to the fact that Canada has been a land of hope for newcomers and particularly for refugees. Canadians are proud of our multicultural society.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to welcome the stranger in need, to significantly increase the number of refugees that Canada accepts annually, to lift barriers that prevent refugees from reaching Canada, and to provide international leadership to address the causes that force people from their homes and prevent them from returning.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007 June 12th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am a little distressed to hear the members running against the premiers of their provinces. I cannot understand it. It seems like the neo-Conservative government is set to pick a fight with the provinces. That is not the way to run the federation.

My question for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is this. He very well knows that hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers are in Canada. If we add up the totality of their numbers, it is anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000.

The House has very clearly expressed its wish to have a moratorium on deportation of undocumented workers who are assisting in our economy. I notice the government has increased the funding for removals by $120 million.

When we consider that its actions of having created a crisis in the Immigration and Refugee Board, we have a huge shortage of adjudicators in the immigration appeal division. This means we have thousands of criminals who have status in our country. The government is trying to deport them, but that deportation cannot happen.

Why go after in increased funding for getting rid of undocumented workers who assist in the economy and not do what the citizenship and immigration committee said, which is putting a moratorium on undocumented worker deportations and at the same time focus on getting rid of the criminals, which the government should be doing?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007 June 11th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague has a great deal of interest in the issue of undocumented workers. I note that the money for the removal of undocumented workers has been increased to $420 million. I wonder what my colleague would have to say about that because undocumented workers are actually assisting in growing the Canadian economy and without them we could be in a great deal of trouble.