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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was important.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as NDP MP for Halifax West (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply May 18th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I will ask the hon. member a question which I had hoped to ask the health minister. I am sure he can answer it. Does the government have in its possession a legal opinion concerning Alberta's bill 11 and the Canada Health Act? If so, will it table that document for the benefit of the House?

The Unknown Soldier May 18th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada in response to the minister's announcement of the significant events that will take place in France and Canada next week.

Indeed, the repatriation and interment of the remains of an unidentified Canadian solider from World War I is important to all Canadians. This unknown young man will receive posthumously the honour, respect and recognition that was so devoutly earned as he, like so many others, gave his life in service to his country and fellow man.

The ceremonies that will take place will express the appreciation of all Canadians and their allies for the ultimate sacrifice that was made by this young man and so many other men and women who fought for the peace and good order that we enjoy today.

At the same time, these ceremonies will be a stark reminder of the horrors of war, of man's inhumanity to man and the real and tragic cost involved when nations rise against nations, when greed, hatred and lust for power and domination take precedence over love, respect, sharing, kindness and a sense of fair play, equality and social justice.

As we pay our respects to this young Canadian while he lies in state in the Hall of Honour, may each of us search our hearts for what we can do individually and collectively to advance the cause for which this young man died: peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Yes, at long last we are bringing him home, but perhaps he never really left. While his body may have left home and died, I believe his spirit, like the spirits of many others who have gone on before, remains with us seeking peace and justice for all.

Criminal Code May 17th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity speak to private member's Bill C-334, and act to amend the criminal code with respect to the wearing of war decorations.

As a member of the federal New Democratic Party I stand in support of this move to allow families of deceased veterans to wear their veterans' war decorations on Remembrance Day. Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand have already enacted such laws and I believe it is high time that the Canadian government followed suit.

I recognize that not all veterans feel the same about this issue. It is with the deepest respect for veterans on both sides of this debate that I offer my thoughts.

Veterans feel passionate about this issue because the medals and other recognitions of effort were earned the hard way and speak of great sacrifice, effort and love for this country.

However, such a law would, in effect, keep these efforts, this bravery, valour and commitment to Canada alive through the families of the veterans. Surely family members would wear these badges of honour with the dignity which they deserve.

The section of the criminal code which this bill would amend was legislated at a time when there was serious cause for concern about people who had not served sporting medals they had not earned. However, I believe that allowing family members to wear their deceased loved one's medals on Remembrance Day is a way to maintain the honour and respect that the medals reflect. Otherwise, years down the road when there are no more veterans of the two world wars and the Korean war, the medals earned through valour and effort will be gone from the landscape of Remembrance Day and the very essence of Remembrance Day, which is to remember. That very essence would be lost a bit.

That is why I have decided to support the bill. I certainly had hoped that the federal government would support this effort, but from the speech I heard earlier I see that the government does not want to support it. That does not surprise me too much because far too often we see situations where the government does not support our military and our veterans the way it should.

I had a rather sad occasion a few months back when a veteran came to my office with his war medals. He wanted to turn the medals over to me because he was so disappointed and so discouraged with the way he saw the government treating veterans. He had been a member of the merchant navy and also a member of the regular service, but he cited a number of examples as to why he was concerned and why he felt discouraged about the way the government was treating people who came back home from missions who were ill, people who had served in the merchant marine and so forth.

It was quite a sad state of affairs to listen to this individual, who had obviously, through bravery, through valour, through commitment to his country, devoted a good portion of his life, and he had earned these medals.

I talked with him quite a bit and suggested that perhaps his family may have some reason to want to have these medals as a legacy, as a part of their heritage to reflect what he had done. I also suggested that, regardless of what may have happened to make him disappointed with the government, regardless of what had taken place, when he earned his medals he earned them for a reason and the value should not be diminished by the poor treatment he has received since then.

Nonetheless, he was very much concerned about returning these medals, and I think even today he still wants to do that. It is very sad. I am really appalled that our government would relate to our people in a way that citizens would feel this way about the service they have performed.

I am appalled that the government has not brought justice to those veterans who were wrongly put in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Those Canadian troops who suffered the horrors of living in Buchenwald deserve appropriate compensation and it is up to this Liberal government to ensure that such compensation is delivered. It is appalling that this government tried to buy the silence of these veterans for about $1,000 each.

One of these veterans, a constituent of mine who I have spoken about before, Mr. William Gibson, made it clear that this so-called compensation was offensive. This constituent, who survived the horrors of Buchenwald concentration camp, sent the cheque that he had been given back to the Liberal government with the word refused written across this payoff, which he felt was insulting to him.

Those veterans, who were interred in the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp instead of a prisoner of war camp where they should have been, feel very let down by their government. Other governments have had the ability to convince the German government to provide appropriate reparation. Our government has failed itself and failed these brave Canadians miserably. I do not understand the inability of the government to secure a just settlement for these Canadians. It is something that we will continue to work on and continue to push because we feel it is necessary that justice be brought about in that situation.

Perhaps even more insulting than the cheque to these Canadians, were the words that the Minister of Veterans Affairs, in his accompanying letter, said when he presented his cheque to them. He said “I am delighted to be able to close the chapter on this longstanding issue”.

Indeed, we should be concerned because the issue is not closed and there should be more action to try to resolve this outstanding issue. The issue was raised in committee in 1994, in letters to the veterans affairs, defence and foreign ministers in 1997. It has been raised many times but the government has not succeeded in bringing about justice in that situation.

I will close with a comment my constituent made when addressing the Nova Scotia government committee on veterans affairs in February 2000 concerning this issue. He said “We have been fighting for German compensation since 1945, but we haven't got it yet and I don't know if we ever will get it because I don't think there is anybody in Ottawa who has the intestinal fortitude to go after it”.

I would ask the government to respond positively to this issue. Such a positive response would encourage our veterans to be proud of what was accomplished through their devotion and dedication to their country.

The bill we are looking at today is a step where the government could respond positively, could again inspire our veterans and their families with the kind of hope and inspiration that makes them proud to have served their country. This could be done by recognizing that certainly the loved ones of these veterans would only want to wear these medals because of their pride in what their loved one has done and has sacrificed for this country.

Positive action on this bill by our government would give the families of the deceased veterans cause to be proud to wear these medals knowing that while they did not earn the medals, the medals reflect the accomplishments of their loved ones who fought and died for freedom and for the love of this country and their fellow human beings. That is a very noble thing for the government and parliament to consider.

We are not talking about enabling people to make false representations. Nobody has that in mind with this bill. It is important that we look at this in a positive way rather than trying to find a way to prevent this from taking place. Let us remember them. We must remember them and we will remember them.

Organ Donation May 17th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, there are far too many Canadians in desperate need of organ transplants and far too few organs being made available to meet that need. Due to the unavailability of organs for transplant, the wait for a needed transplant is excessively long and results in long periods of suffering and a compromised recovery for transplant recipients.

There is a limited time window for the taking of organs for transplant and many grieving families are unable to cope with the decision of organ donation at the time of the death of their loved one.

An increased availability of organs for transplant would result in a decreased burden on the health care system by decreasing a need for dialysis or specialized medication and shortening the length of hospitalization both pre and post transplant.

The critical shortage of organ donations in Canada as well as the safety system for organ transplantation demand immediate action and decisive leadership.

The government needs to set forth a plan for establishing a national donor registry along with the financial commitment to support hospital based donor teams and strong measures to ensure the safety of organs and tissues.

Let us take charge of our future and make Canada a world leader in organ donation and transplantation.

Natural Gas May 12th, 2000

I cannot say what it costs, but certainly lobster is now considered a priority over and above peanut butter sandwiches for many people. This is how our resources change. We have to keep abreast of this vision and look at how we can make sure that each part of the country benefits from the wealth that exists in Canada.

Quite often we look at the idea of oil and gas companies competing. This is another factor. The whole issue of competition becomes an issue that sometimes prevents us from getting the best use of our resources. I can recall that when the Sable project was being discussed many oil companies came to me and lobbied me by trying to point that they were very concerned about the oil industry, that their prices remain competitive, remain as cheap as or perhaps even cheaper than natural gas.

It is almost like one company is afraid that if business goes from one place it will lose out. It is unfortunate that we cannot learn to work together and to realize that because one thing is taking place which may enhance the lives of individuals does not necessarily rule out the other industry continuing to have a meaningful place in society.

Often we see it as one against the other and we always compete. This is the problem we see particularly in the province of Nova Scotia. For far too long the island of Cape Breton has suffered because governments have felt that everything had to be focused in the Halifax area. We did not spread things out across our province. We quite often got the feeling that if something went to one area it took away from another area instead of seeing the idea that if we could facilitate another place growing as one place grows then everyone benefits from it.

This is what we need to talk about when we look at natural gas servicing Canada as a whole and providing opportunities for those unserviced regions. We need a real vision in this regard.

The NDP proposes a national vision not a chequebook reference. The Liberals talk about megaprojects as if it is going to cost all kinds of money. I submit that it costs more money not to have a vision, not to set initiatives and not to try to challenge these resources in the most useful way for everybody. That is what costs money. When people start looking at it from a political perspective saying they will do only what is best for their region, that costs money.

The NDP proposes a national vision. We are not proposing to sponsor every pipeline or every branch line so every home is linked to a cleaner energy source. We are asking the House to recognize that there are unserviced regions in the country. There are pockets of inefficiency and high energy costs. We are asking the House to recognize these disparities and to correct them so the situation across Canada is not one of have and have not regions. Let us increase the potential for all parts of the country to share in the resources and to take advantage of them.

We also have to think in terms of community input. Far too often we forget about getting input from the communities that are most affected. Quite often we forget about the people who have been the natural stewards of these resources for years and years. I am talking about our aboriginal communities.

Many times resources have been developed in these communities but the benefits of the development bypass the very communities in which the resource is located. This is quite often the case in the north and various remote areas. We must have a vision that is going to take into account the realities of this great country and try to bring about equal opportunity for all to share in the benefits that we have in Canada.

I would like to speak for a moment on the issue of emissions. The Progressive Conservative member for South Shore spoke in support of the motion. The member cited Canada's faltering commitment to the Kyoto protocol to address climate change and greenhouse gases.

The emissions continue to rise while the Liberal government hides from its responsibilities to provide leadership and direction and to ensure a cleaner environment and reduced energy costs for future generations. It is important that we think in terms of what we are doing for the future generation, for our young people. We must ensure the kind of environment for them that will enhance their future rather than create more difficulties for them.

We in the NDP agree that not enough is being done by the Liberal government to meet our international obligations to reverse the damage to our atmosphere which all nations and people share. The recent budget announcement will provide further studies and some immediate action but falls short of the current opportunities we could be implementing.

The NDP thinks this is a very important motion which is worthy of consideration and support by all members of the House. Ultimately by providing these kinds of opportunities right across Canada, we will be enhancing not only the future of our young people, but we will be providing economic growth and incentives for the current generation. We will be doing what is right in the eyes of Canadians.

Natural Gas May 12th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, like the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre I am pleased to rise today to support the member for Churchill River, Saskatchewan, and his Motion No. 298. I will quote this very important motion which bears repeating:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should provide initiatives to deliver natural gas to unserviced regions and address environmental concerns and high energy costs.

We live in a very wonderful country. Canada is truly fortunate to have an abundant energy resource that heats our homes and fuels our economy. Natural gas is the cleanest burning and most acceptable carbon energy source.

Canadian natural gas is distributed to more than four million customers in six provinces, providing 26% of Canada's energy needs. This number is increasing each year. Canada's natural gas exports are experiencing exponential growth. Canada as a whole is experiencing this tremendous growth in the natural gas area.

At the same there are entire regions of our country that do not have access to natural gas. This places many communities at an economic disadvantage. We can look at many of the communities in the northern part of our country and many places in our rural settings that are at a disadvantage. Natural gas presents an opportunity for economic development in unserviced regions where expensive fuel costs are a prohibitive factor in establishing and maintaining or expanding an enterprise.

When my colleague from Churchill River was debating the motion earlier this year, he put forth the need for a national vision in relation to natural gas distribution. He provided for the House examples of the social and economic benefits that natural gas distribution could bring to unserviced regions.

Canada, as I have said, is blessed with tremendous natural gas resources. Canada is the world's third largest producer and this resource sector is growing tremendously. Fuelling this growth and royalty revenue is United States demand which some day may place Canada's domestic needs at risk. It is a bit disheartening to think that many natural resources in Canada are quite often placed at risk because of the needs and the demands of other countries.

I remember growing up as a young lad in Nova Scotia always wondering why I could buy an Annapolis Valley apple much cheaper in other parts of Canada than I could in Nova Scotia where those apples are grown. This is something we have to give consideration to and it is something that becomes very relevant when we look at the whole issue of natural gas production.

In Nova Scotia right now we are in the process of producing natural gas. What is happening? This gas is being shipped to the eastern states. They are getting the gas even before many residents in Nova Scotia who live right around where the gas is being produced. We have to think carefully when we talk about the issue of having a national vision for natural resources.

When my NDP colleague from Winnipeg Centre was speaking to the motion he described the fact that gas discoveries were once considered a curse while drilling for oil. This is something that is interesting too. If while they were drilling for oil they discovered a pocket of gas it was a nuisance factor.

I think with respect to the fishing industry how many years ago lobster, mussels and certain shellfish were considered to be junk food. I hear many stories from some of the older people who talk about how they were embarrassed to go to school with a lobster sandwich. They would much rather have had a peanut butter sandwich in the old days. Nowadays we know that the priorities have shifted, the resources are looked at differently and lobster is considered a delicacy. Mussels are considered a very fancy meal in restaurants.

National Defence May 12th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, a recent defence audit condemns contracting out. Instead of making decisions based on what is best for the taxpayers' dollars, Canadians, those abroad served by our forces and for the forces and civilian men and women who work so hard for Canadians, the Liberal government seems to base decisions on how many jobs it can cut and how it can whittle down the union.

Will the defence minister learn from this audit and put a moratorium on any current plans to contract out more work to prevent us from being ashamed by yet another audit a few years down the road?

National Defence Act May 12th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to a bill that is very important for the concept of justice in our nation.

As has been said by other members of the House, I am very disappointed that the bill emanates from the other place and that the government has not seen fit to bring forth this legislation and move it forward through the proper channels, which would be through the House of Commons, so that the bill on this very important topic would originate here. At the same time, I commend the hon. senators of the other place who put their time and effort into working on this very important issue.

This enactment, as has been indicated, would amend the National Defence Act to authorize military judges to issue DNA warrants in the investigation of designated offences committed by a person who is subject to the code of service discipline. It also authorizes military judges to order military offenders convicted of a designated offence to provide samples of bodily substances for the purposes of the national DNA data bank. These authorities are similar to those that may be exercised by a provincial court judge under the criminal code.

This enactment would make related amendments to the DNA Identification Act and the criminal code. The DNA Identification Act amendments would allow bodily substances and the DNA profiles derived from them, which are taken as a result of an order or authorization by a military judge, to be included in the national DNA data bank.

The criminal code amendments extend the prohibition against unauthorized use of bodily substances and the results of forensic DNA analysis to include those obtained under the National Defence Act. In this bill there are other amendments to the criminal code which clarify and strengthen the existing regime concerning the taking of bodily substances for the purposes of forensic DNA analysis.

The important thing is that the legislation brings about consistency between the justice system for those who are in the national defence regime and those who are not. I have often spoken to members of our Canadian forces. I have been saddened to hear some of them tell me that quite often in the areas of health and justice they feel that they are second class citizens.

One young man talked to me in confidence about the fact that if he had a medical problem he did not feel he got the same kind of treatment as he would if he were on civvy street so to speak. The same sentiment was echoed with respect to the justice system. Quite often they saw the justice system as a kangaroo court. Because of the rank and file structure of national defence, they felt that they were not getting fair justice and that they were in a lot of cases facing a kangaroo court. These sentiments were expressed to me by members of the Canadian forces.

Any step that can be taken to make the justice system fair for all of our citizens is a very important step to take. Certainly this legislation moves in that direction by making sure that provisions for DNA collection and sampling are similar across the justice system. This is a very important aspect of the bill.

The bill touches on many topics and I will not get into all of them. It outlines the information that is required for taking the DNA warrant. It talks about the various investigative procedures, the contents of the information and how this information must be filed with the courts, the marshal administrator, certain formalities that are involved respecting the taking of warrants, the issue of the detention of people, privacy, transmission of results to a commissioner and the transmission of bodily substances. All these topics are dealt with in the bill, as is the role of the peace officer. These are all very important items.

The bill repeats a lot of things that were mentioned in previous legislation, Bill C-3. This bill has widespread support with the law enforcement agencies and the public. The concern of many people in the public is that our justice system bring about speedy and just results. They see the collection of DNA and the taking of samples and so forth as being one means to ensure that kind of justice.

I recall speaking with some law enforcement officers not that long ago who were very concerned about this issue. They wanted the support of the members to make sure that appropriate legislation was passed to facilitate them with their most difficult job of trying to handle the crimes that come before them. The bill is certainly a step in that direction.

The NDP supports the idea of the bill, the collection of DNA via warrants. It is important that due process be built in when this kind of system takes place.

While there is a great deal of support by police officers and members of the public, a number of people also have concerns about the bill. Many civil liberties groups have some concerns about it. We recognize that these are valid concerns. They range from economic concerns, the money that could be spent on other issues, to ethical concerns of DNA testing itself and the probability that the forcible taking of DNA samples may be challenged under the charter of rights.

A number of issues need to be addressed when this legislation goes to committee. Some of these are the indefinite period of keeping DNA on file; the inclusion of young offenders in the bill; and the issue of who has access to the DNA data bank and how the information may be used. The latter is very important because when we are talking about DNA we know that it is very peculiar to an individual. It is a part of the individual's identification, a part of that person. There has to be a certain amount of privacy and respect for privacy. We have to be careful as to how this information is used.

The fact that DNA may be taken even while a case is under appeal is another issue which should be discussed in committee and dealt with. The taking of DNA is mandatory upon conviction rather than at the discretion of the judiciary or upon request of the accused. That is an issue of concern to many people.

Finally, there is the fact that a person can be detained for what is defined as a reasonable amount of time for the taking of samples as opposed to setting a clearly defined period of time. What is reasonable in one person's eyes may not necessarily be reasonable in another person's eyes. There should be some kind of consideration given to specifying the amount of time involved when we are implementing that part of the legislation.

There are also the costs, maintenance and security of the DNA bank.

While we in the NDP support this legislation, we are supporting it cautiously with the caveat that the issues we have defined and talked about are extremely important and must be dealt with. They should be dealt with in a way that is going to make sure that we are improving the justice system and creating fairness and justice for all.

DNA is an extremely valuable and reliable tool for crime fighting. We support this legislation and urge that when the bill goes before committee that the very important issues I have talked about be discussed and dealt with.

National Defence May 10th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, who runs our military? Is our military accountable to Canadians through this parliament, or is it really run by lawyers and the judge advocate general? Has the defence minister appointed a forces ombudsman purely for show, or is he willing to give him the tools to do the job?

The non-elected judge advocate general appears to be using stonewalling tactics to deny justice, treating military lawyers as untouchable and slamming the door in the face of our Canadian Forces ombudsman.

Will the Minister of National Defence instruct the judge advocate general and all military lawyers to co-operate fully with the forces ombudsman?

National Defence May 4th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, serious problems can arise from Canada's participation in this system and I would say that Canada is participating. There is evidence that Canada has already spent money on this system and is participating in the system at the moment.

Because of the concerns Canadians have around this issue, I would ask the Deputy Prime Minister, will the government ensure a full debate in parliament before there is any more work or participation by Canadians on the U.S. NMD system?