House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was liberals.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Conservative MP for Newton—North Delta (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

South Asia Earthquake October 19th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, last week residents of B.C.'s South Asian community emptied their wallets and piggy banks to assist earthquake victims in Pakistan and Kashmir.

Radio stations Sher-E-Punjab and Radio India generously dedicated their airwaves to the cause raising approximately $500,000 and $1 million respectively. Over the two days, I and other volunteers at both stations appealed to listeners, and people from all walks of life responded in a wonderful example of community helping community.

The generosity of the community and the radio stations in their response to this disaster makes me proud. I particularly wish to single out Mr. Maninder Gill, the managing director of Radio India in the constituency of Newton—North Delta. Mr. Gill has raised over $3 million for Asian tsunami victims, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Surrey, Delta and Vancouver hospitals.

Please join me in applauding everyone who helped out the victims.

Criminal Code October 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my constituency is next to the riding of Surrey North. Many constituents of Surrey North, who were honourably represented by Chuck Cadman who sponsored the private member's bill, have come to my office for casework as well as to discuss the two government bills. I should have spoken to this bill a long time ago but I did not get an opportunity. I am speaking to this bill now but we are approaching the time when we will close off debate.

Lots of people are frustrated in the Surrey area particularly because the government has watered down the two bills. When Mr. Cadman was a member of the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party, his bill was vigorously opposed by the Liberals, but after the confidence vote the Liberals suddenly decided to make it his legacy.

The government has neutered the bill by taking out all the important contents. Could the hon. member explain what the motive of the Liberal Party is at this moment to bring forward this bill? Why will this bill not fulfill the intended purpose of Mr. Cadman?

Criminal Code October 17th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for at least remembering I have a bill in the House which would solve the problems that the Liberals created with visitors' visas. My bill has tremendous support across the country, in all provinces and in all segments of the population. In fact all parties in the House have members who support my bill. That is why the bill has passed from this House and has gone to the committee. It is a good bill.

The problem and the tragedy are that the Liberals sometimes have difficulty understanding that their minds are working on only the wrong side of the equation. Let me put it this way. If we looked seriously and carefully at the bill, we would see that it would curtail human trafficking. Why? Because legitimate people who are not allowed to come to Canada based on arbitrary excuses would at least have the front door opened for them to come to Canada. We would monitor that front door and they would enter into Canada legitimately and then leave.

On the other hand, the political involvement in the visitor's visa process has further muddied this issue. We have asked many times, and I again ask the Liberal members, if they can table in the House how many minister's permits have been issued to members of Parliament from all parties. We will find out that it is the Liberal members who have been given the most minister's permits on a per member basis, not the opposition members. They are abusing the system by politicizing it. If the system is fair, there should be a homogeneous distribution of minister's permits in the House, and I challenge that this is not the case.

I came up with a positive solution to put a deterrent in place so that wrongful people would not abuse the system, but rightful people, such as close family members who wanted to attend a marriage ceremony or a funeral, could come to Canada.

Criminal Code October 17th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I knocked on a lot of doors during the summer break and I heard the question consistently. People do not trust this government any more. They think the government is adrift and going in the wrong direction.

The criminal justice system protects the criminals but not the victims. It fails to protect our children to the extent that when a motion and a bill was presented in the House recently, all Liberals shamelessly stood to oppose the bill for the age of consent to be raised from 14 to at least 16. They did not do it, so what do I conclude? The government lacks the political will. It is out of focus, tired and has become arrogant. It does not have the steam any more to address some of these issues.

Naturally when Canadians look at these things, they find the government is not credible on this issue. An example is Bill C-49. After 12 years, the government came up with this bill.

We will remember a few years ago when a lot of illegal Chinese immigrants or entrants into the country landed on our shores. What did the government do? It did absolutely nothing. The victims who landed on our shores paid huge amounts of money to snakeheads in two provinces in China. The parliamentary secretary at that time went to China and visited those two provinces. The government wanted to solve the problem over there, but did absolutely nothing within its own power to make effective laws in Canada and provide enough resources to law enforcement agencies.

This is the knee-jerk approach of the government. It is too little too late. It came up with Bill C-49 when it noticed that our allies in other countries, the United States and Great Britain, had came up with legislation. It has done this to catch up with the other countries, but it has not made effective laws in our country to protect Canadians.

Criminal Code October 17th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I wanted to participate in the questions and comments but I was not recognized even though I stood five or six times to ask a question of the Liberals. However, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-49, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect to trafficking in persons.

The proposed amendments would create a few new indictable offences to specifically address human trafficking.

The first offence, trafficking in persons, prohibits a person from engaging in specified acts for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of another person. This offence would carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment where it involved kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault, or even death.

The second offence would prohibit anyone from receiving financial or other material benefits resulting from the commission of a trafficking offence. It would be punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

The third offence would prohibit the holding or destroying of documents, such as identification or travel documents, for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a trafficking offence. It would carry a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Human trafficking is a growing problem that demands urgent and substantial action from the government, which we have not seen for the last 12 years.

According to the United Nations, over 2.4 million people, the vast majority of them women and children, are victimized each year. Human trafficking is now the third largest illegal trade in the world behind weapons and drugs. The penalties have been minimal so this trade has been growing. With annual profits of close to $12 billion on average, organized crime has moved into the trade and has become a dominant force.

Canada is not immune to human trafficking and in fact has been identified as a major transit point and destination for human trafficking. Last year the RCMP estimated that at least 800 people are trafficked into Canada annually, and that an additional 1,500 to 2,200 people are trafficked through Canada into the United States. Some experts believe that the actual numbers are much higher, but the nature of the crime makes it impossible to say definitively how many people are involved. We can say, however, that it is a serious problem.

One of the major root causes has been ignored in the debate that I have listened to today, and that is that the immigration system in this country is in a mess. There are long delays. There is a long queue of people waiting. Some of these people have been waiting for up to eight years to be interviewed and have their cases processed.

For example, in the independent category, in some countries the waiting period is 66 months before someone can be first interviewed. Married couples are separated for a long time before they are reunited. Similarly, parents and other family members have to wait a long time. Visitor visa cases are not being dealt with properly.

The system is being abused. I am not saying the system encourages human trafficking, but why are we letting this happen? It is occurring because the system itself is flawed and is not working the way it should. As a result, the system is vulnerable to abuse because the front door of our immigration policy is not open and therefore people are coming in through the back door. The Liberal government has made promises to address the problem, but for the last 12 years it has not been able to keep any of them.

I would say that these legitimate people, who the system was meant for, are given the run around, are not allowed to come through the proper channels and are being abused by those people.

My province of British Columbia is particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. The United States state department identifies British Columbia as an attractive centre for East Asian traffickers who smuggle South Korean woman through Canada to the United States. Organized crime groups have targeted Vancouver because of our immigration laws, benefits available to immigrants and the proximity to the United States border.

According to the state department, at least 15,000 Chinese entered Canada illegally over the last decade, many of them paying thousands of dollars to smugglers only to end up working as indentured servants or even as prostitutes. Asian women and girls who are smuggled into the country are forced into prostitution regularly. Traffickers use intimidation and violence, as well as the illegal immigrant's inability to speak English, to keep victims from running away or informing the police.

Bill C-49 is not entering into a legislative vacuum. In June 2002, a specific offence against human trafficking came into force under section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The current law provides for fines of up to $1 million and life imprisonment. Section 118, however, deals with human trafficking across our international border from a border integrity angle.

In contrast, Bill C-49 would deal with trafficking both within Canada and across Canadian borders. Although anti-trafficking legislation has been in place for three years, the first ever charge under the law did not occur until this past April. A Vancouver businessman faces human trafficking charges after police answered a call about a violent incident at the businessman's massage parlour. One charge in three years is a rather meagre result.

Detective Constable Jim Fisher, with the Vancouver police intelligence section, confesses that Canada has not come to grips with what it takes to properly police this human trafficking that has been happening for so long. We can have the best laws in the world but if we do not place enough resources into enforcement the laws will mean nothing. That is the case with human trafficking. Our enforcement of the current law is weak, as demonstrated by this one charge.

Canada is struggling to identify its trafficking victims inside secret migrant smuggling operations.

We will remember that the Auditor General's report seriously criticized this particular instance: 36,000 illegal entrants into this country are missing in action and cannot be traced; and 60% of the people who come to our ports and apply for refugee status go before our refugee officers without any documents and no identification but we all know that when they boarded their plane for Canada they had some sort of document. However once they land in Canada and appear in the lineup applying for refugee status they have no documents.

We must use anti-trafficking laws to vigorously increase investigations, arrests, prosecutions and convictions of traffickers. However that will not happen with the government which insists on starving our law enforcement agencies of the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

As a member of the Subcommittee on Organized Crime, as well as a member of the citizenship and immigration committee in the past, I became familiar with many of the problems facing our country. It has become clear to me that the Liberal policies are undermining the credibility of the criminal justice system. The government has given us a system in which even soft sentences are only partly served and that fails to protect citizens from crime.

The human trafficking aspect is a lose-lose situation for everyone except the human traffickers who are making a profit. It is bad for our country, bad for our society, bad for our communities and bad for newcomers who could have used the front door rather than using the back door and paying huge amounts to the snakeheads or to the human smugglers.

Who is responsible? The weak laws that are not being enforced by the government.

The recommendations of my colleagues and myself on the committee were essential for tackling organized crime but were ignored by the government and are gathering dust somewhere on a bureaucrat's desk.

The Liberal government has had 12 years to deal with this issue and it has failed. It is the Liberal record of all talk but no action that has put us in this abysmal situation. It is essential that we have tough laws. We need to give the police and law enforcement agencies what they need to carry out their jobs.

The amendments contained in Bill C-49 are comparable to laws passed recently in other jurisdictions.

In July 2004, the United Kingdom passed a new law clamping down on traffickers by introducing a new offence of human trafficking for non-sexual exploitation with a maximum penalty of 14 years and making the offence of knowingly employing an illegal worker a “triable either way” offence subject to unlimited fines.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the trafficking victims protection act which, among other things, created new laws that criminalized trafficking with respect to slavery, involuntary servitude, peonage or forced labour, and increased prison terms for all slavery violations from 10 to 20 years and added life imprisonment where the violation involves the death, kidnapping or sexual abuse of the victim.

In this situation, the victims need protection from the government. Our laws should be such that they should prevent these things from happening, there should be enough deterrents in place and there should be enough resources for the law enforcement agencies to carry on with their jobs but, at the same time, the victims must be protected so that we are fair to all aspects of the law.

Surveying the international scene, it is clear that the time is ripe for tough new human trafficking legislation.

Trafficking in persons has been described as a modern form of slavery. It is a serious human rights violation and is the fastest growing form of transnational organized crime. The profits are huge and the penalities are minimum. It is imperative that Canada acts to stem the growth of this serious crime.

I therefore welcome Bill C-49. It is a small step in the right direction. The bill would bring Canada into line with the international commitments. The bill would address a serious global issue. However the government must not sit on its laurels. Without serious penalties for these serious crimes, the exploitation and abuse will continue.

Bill C-49 speaks of tough maximum sentences. The serious problem with the government is that it talks about tougher maximum penalties but it means nothing because the judicial system, the lawyers, will never hand out those penalties.

Bill C-49 says nothing about mandatory minimum sentences. We need mandatory minimum prison sentences so that those who violate the Criminal Code should be behind bars, should suffer, or at least serve some time and minimum penalties should be imposed.

As we have seen with this existing law, the resources must be available to enforce the law. Only then will Canada be able to start to effectively stamp out human trafficking in this country.

As a nation, it is our responsibility to seek a solution to this problem in order to protect the human rights of all people, from all backgrounds, no matter what their nationality might be.

As lawmakers in this country, it is our responsibility to clean up the system which the government has failed to do for the last 12 years. Our immigration system should be our economic backbone, as well as supporting growth in this country. The immigration system is supporting the manpower needs and the skilled labour that we need. The system is so polluted that it is working only for the human traffickers and not for the legitimate immigrants who want to come to this country and make significant contributions in many ways.

The question of the recognition of foreign credentials did not come to the floor of this House until I brought forward a motion many years ago which the Liberals failed to support. We have qualified people coming to this country to serve, contribute and make positive economic contributions in socio-cultural ways but instead are being employed in menial jobs. Would we expect someone with a Ph.D. or another degree to work at a gas station or drive a taxi? We allow loopholes in the system that have not been taken care of in the past.

On the weekend I attended a wedding reception. Many of the guests who were supposed to join the family on that auspicious occasion could not get their visitor visas. When we inquired about the situation we found out that there were bogus reasons. No legitimate reasons were given and even the income of the sponsors was not properly entered into the system. Some zeros were missing in the income figures. Naturally, the arbitrary criteria did not allow the respectable family members to join the celebration.

We hear similar stories from members of Parliament from all parties. They hear these stories when it comes to funerals.

What do those people do when they are barred from attending family events? They naturally will find some other means to come to this country, such as abuse their ministerial permit or use political influence.

Bill C-49 is a step in the right direction. All the law enforcement agencies must be given enough resources. The laws should be tougher so that we can curtail the violations to the system and the abuse of the system, but on the other hand open the front door to immigration so that legitimate people can come through the front door.

I remember an interesting story. When I was a member of the immigration committee I mentioned this concept of the front door and back door. I said that the back door was closed long ago. When the former minister of immigration was speaking to Bill C-11 in the House at that time, she looked at me and said that the bill would close the back door but that it would open the front door. Neither the front door nor the back door is open now. Instead, the government has installed a revolving door.

I urge the government during the short time it will be in office to clean up the system. The government needs to do whatever can be done to make the immigration system work and stop human trafficking forever.

Petitions October 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to present a petition. The petitioners call upon Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

The petition is signed by over 1,000 people from Newton—North Delta and the neighbouring ridings.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act October 5th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the hon. member from the Bloc, and I do think that how students are treated in this country is a serious concern, particularly when we know that tuition fees have been skyrocketing.

In British Columbia, the average student tuition fee is about $5,000, but students make barely $10 an hour when they work to finance their education. On average, a student graduating with a bachelor's degree owes more than $20,000 in government debt. Private loans are not included in that amount. A government debt of $20,000 is too high. Then, when students graduate, they find that either there are not enough jobs for them or the jobs are not the type where they will be making enough money to pay back their loans. This is a serious concern.

On the amendment the hon. member is talking about, the time period for terminating the debt used to be 10 years after the students terminated their studies, but the Senate committee has recommended that it be five years. The government is saying it should be seven years. I do not think there should be any time limit like that. The member is right. There should be no arbitrary time limit. It should depend on the student's circumstances. If the student is facing undue hardship in repaying the borrowed money, the limit is supposed to be lower than five years, but again, it is not very clear.

Therefore, I suggested toward the end of my speech that we would be seeking clarification on those amendments. We will review the amendment the member is talking about once the amendment is made; this amendment has not been made in committee. We are open to the amendments. The Conservative Party does not want either students or workers to suffer. That is what I explained earlier and argued for in the bill.

I look forward to the amendment the member is suggesting, Then we will make a decision. Certainly we do not want to punish students when they try to get higher education by borrowing money for their studies.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act October 5th, 2005

Madam Speaker, yesterday when I was talking about participating in the debate on Bill C-55 I mentioned a few changes this bill was recommending, particularly regarding employees. When an employer goes bankrupt, the wages earned by employees should be paid prior to other creditors.

I also talked about the impact on small businesses, as well as financial institutions. I also talked about locked in RRSPs not being part of the payments during bankruptcy.

Then I talked about the bill's impact on students. As members know and as the report states, the Senate banking committee recommended that student debt be eligible to be erased in a bankruptcy five years after the student completed his or her studies. In the case of hardship, the recommendation was that the court be allowed to discharge student loan debt in a period of time shorter than five years.

Bill C-55 does not go as far as the Senate committee recommendation. Instead, the government proposes amending the law to allow student loans to be eligible to be written off in a bankruptcy if a student has terminated his or her studies seven or more years ago. Also, higher student loan limits and higher tuition fees ensure that the students will continue to graduate with higher debt loads. However, many graduates find few job opportunities. If they end up seeking bankruptcy, it is a decision not taken lightly.

The Liberal government is seeking to doubly punish the students. While the Liberals allow their friends and donors to get away with repaying only 2.4% of grants to loans, they expect young people to pay 100% of the student loans. Who are they trying to punish?

I am disappointed to see that Bill C-55 neglects to offer protection to firms that are suppliers to bankrupt companies. The reality is that the bankruptcy of one company can drag down many others with it, especially when suppliers are small businesses.

The current system is unfair to workers as well as to the students. It must be changed. The Conservative Party generally supports these amendments. We will allow the bill to pass, but we will continue to seek further clarifications.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act October 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-55. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.

The bill makes many changes to the law governing bankruptcy and insolvency. The changes include the creation of the wage earner protection program act to ensure employees of bankrupt companies receive their unpaid wages in a timely manner. There is the reduction from 10 years to 7 years in the period during which a student debt may not be discharged through bankruptcy. Locked in RRSPs would no longer be part of the assets which may be taken in a bankruptcy. There are changes to encourage the restructuring of viable but financially troubled companies. Also, income trusts will now be covered.

Most of the major proposed changes are ones recommended in the report of the Senate banking committee published in November 2003. Many of the committee's recommendations, however, especially regarding consumer debt, have been watered down or not included in the bill.

In Canada every week dozens of companies declare bankruptcy and close down. There is a threat of interest rate hikes in the near future. This is bad news for indebted Canadians. Excessive borrowing by many households over the past few years suggests that they have little freedom to absorb economic shocks with higher interest rates or skyrocketing home heating costs.

A 1% jump in consumer borrowing rates would cost non-mortgage-holding Canadians an average of $35 per month and mortgage holders an average of $130 per month. These seemingly small sums could be catastrophic for today's highly leveraged households. As legislators we must keep all of this in mind as we consider changes to the nation's bankruptcy laws.

The wage earner protection program is the centrepiece of Bill C-55. The program is intended to help protect workers by providing a guaranteed payment of wages owed up to $3,000 should their employer declare bankruptcy. Right now workers' claims for unpaid wages rank after secured creditors' claims. As a result, many employees have to wait from one to three years to get a small portion of the wages owed to them, generally 13¢ per dollar on average. Under the proposed program affected workers could make their wage claim immediately and should receive their money about six weeks later.

The government has made changes to the ranking of who gets paid first to put wages ahead of secured creditors. As a result, employees will get up to $2,000 in back wages before the banks are paid.

Just last week there was a constituent in my office who had lost wages owed to him when his employer went bankrupt. Over the last couple of years with lumber mills closing in British Columbia as a consequence of the softwood lumber dispute and which the government has failed to do anything about, there have been many others who have visited my office with similar complaints.

Workers of bankrupt businesses are often the most vulnerable. They work in low wage jobs and live from paycheque to paycheque to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. The wage earner protection program is a good idea whose time should have come long ago.

Putting workers ahead of secured creditors, however, may reduce the amount of money banks are willing to lend to businesses. In the short term this could result in an increase in the number of small business bankruptcies. Lending institutions may have to adjust lines of credit or demand loans because they feel they are undersecured. Already it is difficult for small businesses to borrow money in Canada and we know that small businesses are the engine of our economy.

If it becomes more challenging, the small businessman will either falter or they may not get off the ground. This change to the bankruptcy law would also reduce what companies can spend to buy inventory and fill orders which, ultimately, could cost more jobs.

The government estimates that the cost of this WEPP program could reach $50 million per year. Given the government's track record on managing taxpayer dollars, such as the gun registry, the HRDC boondoggle or the sponsorship scandal, it is likely that the cost will be even higher.

In its report, the Senate banking committee recommended that student debt be eligible to be erased in a bankruptcy five years after the student has completed his or her studies. This is very important because many students in Canada depend on loans to further their education. In cases of hardship, the recommendation was that the court be allowed to discharge student loan debt in a period of time shorter than five years.

Bill C-55 does not go as far as recommended by the committee. Instead, the government proposes amending the law to allow student loans to be eligible to be written off in a bankruptcy if a student has terminated his studies seven or more years ago. In cases of undue hardship, a bankrupt may apply to court to obtain a discharge of the student loans after five years.

Most trustees in bankruptcy and insolvency lawyers believe that this proposed amendment should be changed to allow student debt to be erased in the same timeframe as the other dischargeable debt; that is, when the bankrupt is discharged.

The law as it stands and the proposed amendment are discriminatory. It is also in violation of one of the major tenets of Canadian bankruptcy that an honest but unfortunate debtor deserves a fresh financial start.

Half of the students in college and university are borrowing at record levels to finance their education hoping their investment will pay off. Loans are becoming essential for many students, as soaring tuition fees make it necessary and nearly impossible for youth to afford school through summer jobs or part-time work alone.

Last year the average tuition fee in British Columbia was nearly $5,000 but few students make more than $10 an hour. On average, students graduating with bachelor degrees owe more than $20,000 in government debt, not including private loans. This year the Liberals increased student loan limits from $165 to $210 per week. Higher student loan limits and higher tuition costs ensure that students will continue to graduate with higher debt loads.

I am disappointed to see that Bill C-55 neglects to offer protection to firms as well as to students to the extent that it should be needed.

The Conservative Party generally supports some of the amendments. We will be seeking further clarification on the impact these proposed changes will have on Bill C-55 when we review the bill in committee.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act October 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I will be very gentle and tell the rookie member to talk to the member for Winnipeg Centre and his party about the whistleblower protection.

If the Conservative Party of Canada is given the opportunity to form the government, the member will see how transparent a government can be. We would restore accountability, transparency and clean up the government and the government system that the Liberals have corrupted for the last 12 to 13 years.

As far as the legislation is concerned, we support legislation that is effective and in the best interest of the country but not legislation that is half-hearted.

We have shown with a flashlight where the darkness is and the Liberal Party has sometimes fallen down in bringing effective legislation to the House.