House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was children.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Hamilton Mountain (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2004, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Priscilla De Villiers March 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, many women were honoured during International Women's Week and many more will be celebrated during this the International Year of the Family.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the contribution of one woman who has brought national attention to a very important issue in Canada. Priscilla de Villiers, a woman of vision and courage in the aftermath of losing her daughter in the most painful and unbearable circumstances, found the inner strength to launch a movement aimed at preventing the same pain being experienced by other Canadian families.

She has clearly demonstrated how one person can make a difference. To bring about changes in the justice system she began a petition that has been signed by two and a half million Canadians and founded CAVEAT which promotes the creation of a just, peaceful and safe society.

By turning tragedy into a positive force for change, Priscilla de Villiers can claim to have achieved a unique success which has touched us all. I am pleased to add the name of Priscilla de Villiers to the list of women we honour and whose contribution continues to affect the lives of so many.

Business Of Supply March 17th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for York South-Weston. I will try to cut mine down so that we both get time to do our share.

I am pleased to speak on this motion by the third party that indicates a concern that this government is not acting to reform the criminal justice system. I do not want to be too critical of the Reform Party. However I want to set the record straight about this government's action to bring reform to the criminal justice system.

Of course we are concerned about the rights of victims and those who are closely associated with victims of crime. These Canadians want us to take not just short term, but long term actions and to include the public in decision making, including the victims. The Liberal approach is an integrated approach. We want to get tough on criminals. We are looking to clean up the justice system.

As the minister stated on January 27: "Crime prevention must take account of the deep causes of crime: poverty, sexual exploitation of children, family dysfunctions, racial inequality and inefficient or underfunded social services".

He further stated: "Our government is determined to develop an integrated crime prevention strategy. Together with the other levels of government, the police, victims' groups and the community organizations, we will make a priority of looking at the deep causes of criminal behaviour and eliminating them".

I personally find it astounding that the Reform Party seeks to condemn the government for its inaction when they know the Minister of Justice the moment he was sworn in began to listen and act. In fact the motion before us seems to condemn the minister and this government for listening, something I thought was high on the priority list of the Reform Party. They should praise the Minister of Justice.

Finally we have a Minister of Justice who is taking action based on what Canadians want. Certain actions have already been initiated. A national crime prevention council is being actively planned and will be functioning within four to six weeks. Amendments to the Young Offenders Act will be tabled early in May. The re-establishment of the law reform commission is well under way. The court challenges program will be reinstated in about six months. Appointments to the National Parole Board are now made on the basis of merit and expertise.

Yes, we have to take further steps. The minister has promised that from the beginning. In his speech on January 27 among other things he promised to address concerns about the release of high risk offenders into society at the end of their custodial terms and to address the serious problem of violence against women and children. He has promised to tackle the problem of illegal arms smuggling. He will be looking into the broad category of equality before the law.

The minister will search for better ways of ensuring that justice needs of aboriginal people are recognized and acted upon. He will introduce legislation to deal with the sentencing aspect of criminal law.

I have worked for two and a half years with Priscilla de Villiers whose daughter Nina was murdered August 1991. Priscilla de Villiers began a petition telling the government that there are serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system of Canada. The petition asked that Parliament recognize that crimes of violence against the person are serious and abhorrent in our society.

We learned that Nina's experience was not unique. The petition brought to light similar cases where the justice system had failed. In fact 2.5 million Canadians have demonstrated their concern by signing the petition. The hon. justice minister accepted those petitions at a press conference on February 7 and stated his objective to provide and maintain the fairest and most effective system of justice for Canada and Canadians.

Mrs. de Villiers realizes that violent crime cannot be addressed through the justice system alone. We all have to make a long term commitment to a safer society that rejects violence and instils non-violent values in our children.

Through an organization called CAVEAT which Mrs. de Villiers formed, many deeply concerned Canadians will continue to promote public awareness and crime prevention in its broadest sense.

Many groups across Canada are participating in dialogue regarding the changes that are needed in the justice system. The Canadian Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association are both putting forward a suggested bill of rights for victims. Local police in many areas including Hamilton are moving directly into the community to better understand the needs of our citizens.

I have been listening and have become more and more convinced that we need this national, rational debate that is going on across the country. We all need to share our experiences. I find it strange that the Reform Party wants us to take action without taking the time to consult with all Canadians, including the victims of crime.

The opposition has to get a grip on reality. It needs to see the link between crime and the social structures of our society. It needs to see the need to consult with the citizens of Canada, with victims themselves, to make changes in the justice system truly meaningful.

In truth, we need to compliment our Minister of Justice. He has been listening not just in the House but across Canada. Priscilla de Villiers mentioned to me only this morning that she feels that the minister is moving in the right direction with his consultative process and the suggestions for change that he has been proposing.

The member who moved this motion may be interested that the minister while in Vancouver last weekend met with a group of victims and personally heard their concerns. The members of the opposition need to listen to their constituents and need to bring their concerns to the consultative process here in the House.

This would be a more effective use of our time and would better serve our common goal to bring meaningful change to the justice system. I look forward to working with members on both sides of the House while we work together toward our common goal.

Petitions February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have petitions with over 5,000 signatures from people from every part of Canada to add to the over two and a half million signatures which have already been presented to Parliament. They are from citizens who feel that there are serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system.

These petitioners are calling on Parliament to recognize that crimes of violence against a person are serious and abhorrent to society. They ask that the Criminal Code of Canada, the Bail Reform Act, 1992, and the Parole Act be amended accordingly.

These petitioners hope that with a new government we will quickly see major changes in Canada's justice system.

Crimes Of Violence February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I had the pleasure of participating in a special presentation when members of CAVEAT, Citizens Against Violence Everywhere Advocating its Termination, presented petitions containing over 2.5 million signatures to the Minister of Justice.

These petitions ask that Parliament recognize that crimes of violence against the person are serious and abhorrent to society.

Mrs. Priscilla de Villiers suffered a tragedy in her family with the abduction and murder of her daughter, Nina, in 1991. Mrs. de Villiers was determined to turn tragedy into positive action. She formed CAVEAT and brought to national attention the deficiencies in the criminal justice system through media appearances and a petition which has elicited an overwhelming response from over 2.5 million Canadians.

We are honoured to have Mrs. de Villiers and some of the members of CAVEAT with us today. I am sure all my colleagues join me in saluting her efforts to bring about changes to the criminal justice system.

Social Security System February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is perfectly right.

The apprenticeship programs are very important. We have seen in other countries how much this can contribute to the future of individual youth and also to the country.

One of the problems in the past is that all the people involved in the apprenticeship programs were not consulted, in particular on the needs in a community. Before people were registered in an apprenticeship program or by the time they got through a year and a half of it they realized that they were never going to get a job when they finished the program. They quit and the drop-out rate was about half.

What we are planning to do now is to make sure that those groups, including labour, are consulted and that the courses we offer for apprenticeship programs will mean that youth afterwards can get a job.

Social Security System February 3rd, 1994

I am surprised that perhaps the hon. member has not read the red book. I thought everybody had read the red book by now. All the way through that red book it explains that we were going to keep the social net; that there would be nobody falling through it; that we would make sure all the protection that has been there in the past will be there in the future, but that there will be changes. There would be consultation. We would bring Canadians in to allow them to express what they felt about the programs and the state that they are in.

I agree with you that the response by the former Prime Minister-and we can appreciate why she is not the Prime Minister now-felt that there was not enough time during the campaign to talk about what she had to say about the social programs. Probably that was more because she did not have anything to say about the social programs rather than because there was not enough time.

Social Security System February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are proud of the social programs we have built together. We are proud of our sense of fairness and justice. We care when people are unemployed. We care when people are poor. Together we have built social programs which are the envy of the world, from medicare to the old age pension.

We Canadians are also proud of our common sense. Today common sense tells us that we must rebuild and improve our social programs to meet the new needs and challenges of the 1990s.

We need to reform and strengthen our social system so that we can provide all Canadians with a fair chance to seize the opportunities of the 21st century.

The Liberal Party was the architect of major social reforms in this country. With the assistance and the proposals of all Canadians, the new Liberal government intends to pursue its social work.

We cannot allow nor do we want to allow past successes to prevent us from seeing the need for change. Our goal is to change our income support programs without threatening our values of fairness and compassion.

In the past we have created programs which have substantially reduced poverty among senior citizens. Now we must forge creative programs to reduce the poverty among children. There is really something wrong when in a country as wealthy as Canada over one million Canadian children use food banks every year.

We know that when children live in poverty they get sick more frequently, they do worse in school, they have fewer chances to succeed. We owe it to our children to ensure that all of them have a chance to succeed in life. That is why I welcomed the announcement by the Minister of Human Resources Development that Parliament will hold immediate, wide ranging and open public hearings on reforming Canada's social system. The task before us is mammoth but we owe it to Canada's children to succeed. We need the wisdom and the input of as many Canadians as possible and that is why these public hearings are so vital.

Just as we must act to confront the problems of children living in poverty, so we must act to confront the problems of teenagers who drop out of high school. In the last three years alone the number of jobs held by high school dropouts has decreased by 17.2 per cent. We cannot leave these young people permanently stuck on a dead end street. We need to rethink our apprenticeship programs. We need to rethink our training programs. We need to give young Canadians a chance.

The government's plan to introduce the youth service corps is an excellent start, but we acknowledge that it is only a start. We need to find new ways of guaranteeing that young Canadians

have both basic reading and math skills and also the skills they will need in the knowledge-based industries of the future.

The bottom line is that we have to provide young Canadians with the skills to get off and stay off social assistance. That is the right thing to do both ethically and economically.

As we consider the realities of the 1990s we must remember the plight of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have lost their jobs during the recent recession. There are so many decent, hard-working people who have lost their jobs as a result of massive layoffs. These are Canadians who have been robbed of their dignity through no fault of their own.

We must consider during our public hearings what new hope, what new help, what new training we can provide for older workers who have lost their jobs. How can we help these older workers regain their dignity?

I am not talking about doing favours for people. I am talking about making sure that we tap the talents of all Canadians and allow all Canadians to play a role in building a vibrant and prosperous society.

As we think together about how to improve Canada's social programs during changing times, we must focus on the reality that Canada's population is aging. How do we cope with this new reality? More important, how do we enable senior citizens to remain active and independent members of society? How do we start tapping the invaluable resources that senior citizens provide?

One answer to all these problems is to say that it is just too bad. It is too bad that some kids are poor. It is too bad that a lot of teenagers have dropped out. It is too bad that older workers have no prospects. It is too bad that senior citizens are kept from making a contribution. That is one response, but it is not the Liberal answer and I do not think it is the Canadian answer.

Canadians will solve these problems. We are really concerned with social programs and Canadians will be very happy to have the opportunity to express themselves during these public consultations.

Canadians who are in dire financial straits need help to survive. They also need help to get off and stay off social assistance. Part of the solution lies in greater job creation and the government has already indicated its commitment to this end.

Another part of the solution lies in redesigning our social programs so that Canadians are equipped to fill those new jobs.

In the months and years ahead all of us must work together to reform our social programs so that we can end poverty in this country.

The lessons of the great depression led a Liberal government to introduce unemployment insurance. The need to fuel a post-war economy led a Liberal government to introduce family allowance. The need to offer more people a chance at higher education led a Liberal government to introduce Canada's student loans.

The Liberal government of today is prepared to meet the social needs of the present from child poverty to opportunities for our youth, to laid off workers, to an aging population. We want to strengthen our social system and we want to include the Canadian public in the process.

We believe that the healthiest changes, the best changes, are made when Canadians agree to the changes together.

I look forward to the public hearings on these vital issues in my own riding of Hamilton Mountain and I look forward to hearing the views of Canadians right across our land.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

I thank the hon. member for his kind words. I do not think we are going to have to wait very long for very many decisions. The decisions and the problems that the government is looking at right now are going to be handled with the help of all Canadians.

Most of the ministers have spoken already in the House and talked of the process where they are going to be opening up the decision making. The changes that the Canadian people have asked for are going to come about by their input and by all the people in the House of Commons participating.

I am interested that he has a steel industry in his community and I hope that he will participate even further in what is going on in the House of Commons by joining the steel caucus.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your new position in the House. I would like to let you know that the Speaker and his deputy speakers can count on my support as I have counted on your friendship over the past few years. As you preside over lively debates in the years ahead, I hope we all remember how lucky we are to live in a democracy in which lively debates are not only allowed but encouraged.

I also welcome the 205 new members of Parliament.

As the Prime Minister was saying last week, the unprecedented number of new members brings to the House of Commons a tremendous energy for renewal.

Most of all I thank the voters of Hamilton Mountain for giving me the honour of representing them again in Parliament. I shall do my very best to fulfil their trust.

Indeed the issue of trust is central in the throne speech. I remember well when the Prime Minister came to Hamilton during the election and held up his now famous red book entitled "Creating Opportunity: The Liberal Plan for Canada". The Prime Minister promised that if elected he would make the red book the basis for a Liberal government. With this throne speech the Prime Minister has kept his word. He has honoured the trust of the voters.

Frankly I am surprised to hear opposition members complain that the throne speech is merely a restatement of our election promises. They should be applauding the fact that the Prime Minister is going to do what he promised to do. They should applaud the fact that the Prime Minister is keeping faith with Canadians.

From the day he was sworn in, the Prime Minister has kept his word. We can look at his record in the first two months. The Prime Minister said that he would cancel the $5.8 billion helicopter deal, and he did. He said that he would have the smallest cabinet ever, and he has. He promised to cut $10 million from the offices of the cabinet ministers, and he made those cuts. The Prime Minister said he would reduce the expenses of Parliament, and he has already reduced those expenses by $5 million. The Prime Minister stopped the costly privatization of Pearson airport. He is stopping excessive spending overseas by integrating our embassies with those of Australia. He appointed a new Governor of the Bank of Canada. He is reviewing the pensions of members of Parliament. He is selling the prime ministerial airbus.

In the House we have seen major changes in the first three weeks of the first session of the 35th Parliament. We have had debate in which we could all participate before a bill is presented by the government. We have debated peacekeeping and nuclear arms. Next week we will be debating social policy. Also for the first time we will all be able to participate in a pre-budget debate.

Those are all major accomplishments but, even more important, the government has already made major changes to our country's policies for economic growth. The new economic approach will make a real difference for my constituency and my city of Hamilton.

The government is implementing the national infrastructure program. We will sign agreements with every province and projects to put Canadians back to work will start in a matter of weeks.

In the very first Question Period of this new Parliament the Prime Minister pointed out the support he had received for the infrastructure program from the mayor of Hamilton. New municipal projects mean new construction jobs. New construction jobs mean new steel jobs. That is what Canadians want, and that is what the government is delivering. That is what Hamiltonians want, and that is what the government is delivering to Hamilton.

Canadians do not expect miracles from the government but they do expect realistic hope and realistic job policies. That is why the infrastructure program is so important. It provides a kickstart for our economy at a time when the economy most needs that kickstart.

This same sound approach is at the heart of the government's policy with respect to trade. The Prime Minister said that he would only agree to implement NAFTA if he obtained an agreement from the United States and Mexico to negotiate on the issue of subsidies, dumping and countervail. This new government obtained those agreements.

The new NAFTA working groups on dumping and subsidies are a major step forward in stopping American harassment of Canadian exports. The road ahead is not going to be easy, but it is very important to note that this government has managed to get the United States to agree to a two-year timeframe to deal with the critical issues.

The new working groups are particularly important to the city of Hamilton since there have been more American trade actions against steel than against any other Canadian export during the last several years. The added benefits is that Mexico will also be party to these negotiations, a significant advance when we consider that Canadian steel is currently facing four separate trade actions by Mexico.

I do not pretend that the government has solved all of Canada's problems in our first two months in office, but I do believe that the government has taken major steps and we have acted quickly to make good on our election promises. Job creation and integrity in government were the Prime Minister's electoral commitments and he is carrying through on those commitments. Of course there remains much to do.

We need better access for small businesses to capital funding. We need to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers. We need to create the Canada investment fund to support leading edge technology firms. We need to reduce the regulatory burden on business. We need to reduce the deficit through more measures for long-term job creation. We need to protect and strengthen our health care system. We need to make our communities and our streets safer. We need to bring in a youth service corps. We certainly need to replace the GST.

We cannot do everything at once but we can and we must take those actions necessary to give every Canadian the opportunity to be the best that he or she can be. We can and we must treat every Canadian with dignity, fairness and compassion. We can and we must ensure that Canada is competitive, tolerant, independent and proud.

There is much to do in Parliament. During the last two months and in the speech from the throne, the Prime Minister has demonstrated his leadership qualities.

As I said at the outset I think we are extraordinarily fortunate to live in a democracy where we can have lively debates. I hope that we remember as we have those debates that we are here to represent Canadians who expect us to put job creation and integrity first. I look forward to working with all members of Parliament as we pursue those goals.