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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was forces.

Last in Parliament December 2009, as NDP MP for New Westminster—Coquitlam (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2008, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Resignation of Member April 2nd, 2009

I may ask for unanimous consent.

The highlight for me of the 39th Parliament was an opportunity to travel to Afghanistan with the defence committee to meet with the men and women who were serving in the Canadian Forces there. I was very impressed by their determination, skill, high level of training and their commitment to Canada and the job they were being asked to do.

The defence committee wrote a report on the war in Afghanistan. I, it will not be a surprise to most members, presented a dissenting opinion on that report. I believe that dissenting report is as valid today as it was two years ago when I wrote it.

I mention these achievements because too often Canadians think there is no effective role for an opposition member of Parliament. Some think members in opposition cannot achieve anything. It is very important for Canadians to know that all of us in this place can and do achieve real results for ordinary Canadians.

Canadians only see question period reflected in the news cycle, so they can be forgiven for thinking that Parliament is a nasty kind of sandlot filled with testosterone-driven egos. The truth is that all of us on both sides of the House have more in common than what divides us. We disagree on some fundamental policy issues, and that is an important part of our democratic system.

I hold my values as a social democrat very strongly, just as others in this place hold different views. I only wish that we could debate these differences with a bit more civility.

I urge all my colleagues to tone down the insults and abuse. What has been hurled back and forth across the floor has often lacked wit and wisdom. This place has become less civil over the past few years and I believe that this is evident in the increasing cynicism all of us hear from voters when we go door to door. It is, ultimately, dangerous for our democratic system.

There is one other issue I must draw attention to, and that is the glacial rate of progress toward gender equality in this place. The first woman MP, Agnes Macphail, was elected in 1921. This was a breakthrough for my grandmother's generation, my mother was not even born then.

Now in 2009, women represent just over 22% of the House of Commons. We have hovered around 20% for the last 15 years. At this rate of progress, and I have used the most up-to-date scientific calculations to determine this, it will take until December 4, 2100 to reach parity. That is darn near 100 years from now, and it is simply not good enough.

I urge all political parties in the House to get with it and nominate more women. After all, we are more than 50% of the population of our country. It is well past time. Our Parliament must more accurately reflect the Canadian population in every way.

I want to conclude with a few words of thanks. I am trying not to get emotional. I want to thank the Clerk, Audrey O'Brien, for all the assistance she has given me. It is a huge privilege for me to serve in a Parliament with the first woman to ever hold this prestigious and very important position.

I want to thank my staff in the constituency office, and all members know about this, because they are the front line people. They are the ones who face the sometimes angry constituents, the people who have issues around some of the government policies. They work so hard and I want thank them for all the work they have done for me over the years.

I want to thank to my staff on Parliament Hill, without whom I know I would not have been nearly as successful as I have been over the last few years.

I also want to thank some of the support people on the Hill: the drivers, the food services people, the postal workers, the messengers, the clerks, the interpreters, the security guards and the pages. All of these wonderful people make it possible for all of us to do our jobs. I know I could not have been nearly as effective without their help.

I want to thank my husband, Peter, who has sometimes taken abuse because of the road I have travelled and my choice to run for political office. I know at one point, while canvassing for me on the doorstep, one angry man said to him “What kind of man are you? How do you allow your wife to do such a thing?” I know that has been tough, and it has been hard to have me away. I appreciate his support all these years.

I want to thank my sons, Matthew, David and Stuart, their terrific partners and my seven very brilliant grandchildren.

There are some things I will not miss. I will not miss the weekly flights from B.C. I will not miss the jet lag. However, there is much I will miss here. I will miss my colleagues on both sides of the House. I will miss the work, especially at committee where great things are sometimes accomplished.

I wish all of my hon. colleagues in this place great wisdom and great compassion as they face the crisis that is affecting Canadians today. Finally, I want to thank the voters of New Westminster—Coquitlam for putting their faith and confidence in me.

Resignation of Member April 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, this might be my last opportunity to stand and speak as a member of Parliament since the House will adjourn tomorrow. I want to announce that I will be resigning my seat on April 13.

You and I were first elected, Mr. Speaker, in the 1988 election, although I must say I am rather envious of your win-loss record. I have had a couple of losses along the way and you have maintained your seat since 1988.

It has been an enormous pleasure and honour to serve the people of New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody.

When I was first elected, Ed Broadbent was the leader of my party, and he remains a very close friend and confidante.

I was a member when my party elected the first woman to lead a national party in our country and was and still am so proud to have served with Audrey McLaughlin. She is a women of tremendous courage and determination. She has also continued to provide me with encouragement and support over the years.

I have been very honoured to be part of an NDP caucus, led by the member for Toronto—Danforth. His boundless energy, ability to think outside the box and to take the road less travelled has been an inspiration not only to me but also many Canadians.

I am proud of my record. I introduced a private member's bill, which was adopted by the House, to declare December 6 a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

I was part of a committee that I suggested do a groundbreaking study on all of the issues around breast cancer, which led to real changes in the treatment of women with that disease and their families.

I brought forward a private member's bill on anti-stalking legislation, which the government of the day passed into law. That is now part of the Criminal Code of Canada.

I have a couple of other private members' bills on the books right now on body armour and non-returnable warrants. I invite the government side to take them over and present them as its own legislation.

Afghanistan April 1st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, for years now, the government has ridiculed anyone in the House who dared to question what was going on in Afghanistan. The government said over and over again that the underpinning of this mission was to defend women's rights and to provide education for girls.

After all the sacrifices, after all Canadian families have put on the line, could this really end up being what we are fighting for in Afghanistan? Will the minister stand immediately in the House today and tell us he will take decisive action to force Hamid Karzai—

Afghanistan March 31st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it is true, these laws explicitly give men all the rights in child custody, in divorce, in inheritance, but most horrifyingly is the fact that these new laws legalize rape within marriage. At a time when the world is coming together to hammer out a new international consensus on Afghanistan, women's rights in that country are being dealt a death blow.

How can we say that our soldiers are there to protect women's rights when the western-backed leader of this nation pushes through laws like this? Allowing women to be treated like a piece of property, is this what we are fighting for? Is this what our people are dying for?

Afghanistan March 31st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, there is disturbing news from Afghanistan today that laws passed by the Karzai government will make women even more vulnerable. Afghan women's groups and the UN say these new laws restrict a woman's right to leave her home, permit child marriage and, most disturbingly, legalize rape.

The government claims that protecting Afghan women is at the heart of our combat mission, yet with these laws women have never had it so bad.

Will the government, in no uncertain terms, let President Karzai know that this is totally unacceptable?

Pesticides March 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the New Westminster Pesticide Awareness Coalition has been working tirelessly to bring the harmful effects of pesticides to the attention of our community and to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides.

Medical and scientific research on the negative health effects of pesticides has shown that they have been explicitly linked to a number of types of cancer, along with birth defects and various neurological illnesses. These toxins are highly dangerous for our children and pose considerable harm to the environment. In fact, my son Stuart was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after working on golf courses as a summer job.

It is critical that we reassess our continued use of these harmful chemicals. There are viable, less harmful alternatives. It is time for the government to follow the example of municipal governments across the country and support legislative measures to restrict the use of cosmetic pesticides for the safety of all Canadians and all Canadian children.

Criminal Code March 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.

New Democrats are supporting this bill but we are asking the government to do more to provide a comprehensive federal anti-gang strategy. Although we are supporting this bill, we are saying very clearly that this bill alone is not a strategy and it is not enough to combat gangs.

A comprehensive strategy must include, not only tougher sentences, but more police officers on the street, improved witness protection, tougher laws to tackle the proceeds of crime, modernizing our laws that cover surveillance and evidence-gathering and a comprehensive plan for prevention to ensure that our kids are not attracted to the gang culture and that they stay away from joining gangs in the first place.

In the last two months alone, there have been at least 31 shootings in the metro Vancouver region and 15 people have been killed. These are not petty thugs. These are notorious criminals, decked out in body armour and emboldened with a sense of invincibility, who are wielding guns and ready to do battle.

We need strong and effective action from all three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. Stiffer penalties for those involved in gangs are certainly appropriate but it is not a sufficient response to this problem.

The metro Vancouver region has one of the lowest police to population ratios in the country, but what have the Conservatives done as an answer to this desperate need for investment in policing services? They have torn up contracts with the RCMP, have rolled back their wages and have made worse an already difficult recruitment and retention situation.

The Conservative approach to gang violence has been to latch on to the most simplistic, headline grabbing component of the action we need, which is tougher sentences.

New Democrats have already said that we support tougher sentences for gang violence but tougher sentences will not mean much if we do not get convictions. Tougher sentences will be ineffective unless they are part of a comprehensive strategy because tough sentences alone do very little to divert kids away from gangs. They need to be coupled with diversionary programs and activities, things that give young people alternatives to the gang lifestyle.

A comprehensive anti-gang strategy requires substantial investment to bring hope to communities that are hurting. These efforts need to be well thought out, carefully implemented and monitored to see what is working and what is not. Diverting kids from gangs is far from an exact science. This is what is lacking from the Conservative government that says that it is tough on crime but is either unwilling or unable to come up with the creative kinds of ideas that are necessary to solve the problem.

One place that we can look to for an example of a program to divert youth away from gangs is in the U.S. The program is called GREAT, which stands for gang resistance education and training. This program sees police officers visit elementary and middle school classrooms, teaching life skills to help kids avoid delinquent behaviour and violence, and encouraging the building of positive relationships between law enforcement, parents, children and the whole community. It has proven to be effective. It has proven to give students a more negative view of gangs and a more positive view of law enforcement. This program operates right across the country, thanks to funding from the U.S. federal government. It sees programs like this as an investment in our children and in healthy and safe communities.

I urge the government to make a similar substantial investment in our children in programs to keep them out of gangs. Tougher sentences are meaningless when our police departments and our prosecutors do not have the resources needed to ensure that guilty gang members are brought to justice and convicted. At both the federal and provincial levels, we have seen governments that profess to be tough on crime and howl with indignation when they see criminals walk free through the gaping cracks in our criminal justice system, and yet they have systematically cut our police and our prosecutors.

Again I draw attention to the Conservative government shredding a negotiated contract with the RCMP. This is but one example. It is an absolute disgrace and particularly shameful coming from a government that claims to be tough on crime when we need to be going in exactly the opposite direction. We need greater investments in putting police officers on the ground because they are the front line in stopping gang violence.

In my own riding, the city of Coquitlam has one of the lowest police to population ratios in the entire country. The Conservative Party made promises in the 2004 and 2006 elections to ensure there would be 2,500 more police officers in municipal departments, a still unfulfilled promise.

A model for the integrated approach to policing and prosecution that is needed to tackle gang violence can be found in the city of Toronto's anti-guns and gangs task force. The task force has a dedicated staff of police officers, crown prosecutors, victim and witness support workers, probation and parole officers. The task force is headquartered in a state of the art operations centre, which allows for the highly coordinated investigations and prosecutions needed to combat gang violence.

If the government were really serious about tackling gang violence, it would provide funding to assist provincial governments in setting up similar task forces in major cities across the country.

Another area where the police need the support of the federal government is to pass legislation to modernize the laws around surveillance and wiretapping. These laws were written before the Internet age and wireless technology, which has changed society. Criminal organizations are operating and conducting business with all of this technology, cell phones, BlackBerries and online, and they know the police are unable to combat that. Criminals are taking advantage of the most cutting edge technology and we must give our justice system the same kinds of legislative tools to combat them.

I want to touch briefly on the proceeds of crime. I share the anger of citizens in my communities who have been terrorized by gang violence, only to see gang members profiteering freely from dangerous and violent activities. Police and prosecutors need to be able to go after the luxury cars and the million dollar homes that upper echelon gang members flaunt in our communities. Otherwise, how can we truly tell our children that crime does not pay?

We propose that the proceeds of crime recovered by government should be reinvested in communities that have been victimized by gang violence. I can think of nothing more appropriate than auctioning off the possessions of gangsters to fund school programs or community centres.

I know all members of the House want to see an end to this kind of violence. I join with my New Democrat colleagues in calling upon the Conservative government to move further and faster to put forward a comprehensive strategy to end gang violence. Every day that goes by that the government does not have a strategy to end gang violence is another day wasted. That is a shameful reality. Communities are looking to the government for hope and action but so far they have been sadly disappointed.

Criminal Code March 26th, 2009

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-349, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (body armour).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill to amend the Criminal Code in relation to body armour.

The bill would make it an additional offence to use body armour during the commission or attempted commission of an indictable offence. It would also ban those convicted of violent crimes from possessing body armour.

The recent spate of gang violence in the Lower Mainland of B.C., with at least 31 shootings and 15 deaths in the past two months alone, has revealed chilling examples of notorious criminals decked out in body armour, wielding guns and ready to do battle. These are not petty thugs. They are armed and dangerous gangsters who have no regard for their own lives, the lives of police or of innocent bystanders.

I have two sons who are police officers and they have told me of the disturbing situation in which beat cops are put, facing gangsters equipped with body armour that makes them almost invulnerable to patrol officers and with armour piercing weapons that can penetrate regular issue police armour.

The bill is modest in scope and only addresses one but one important small component of the problem. Our communities are crying out for a comprehensive, anti-gang strategy. The government has promised a comprehensive strategy but so far it has failed to deliver.

I call on everyone in the House to support the bill to protect the lives of police officers and the lives of innocent bystanders.

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

2010 Vancouver-Whistler Olympic Games March 25th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Olympic Games present an opportunity for us to showcase Canada to the world. We must not squander this by allowing a shocking case of gender discrimination to occur at taxpayer funded facilities.

Ski jumping is the only winter Olympic event that does not include a competition for women, but it is not too late to change this. Even though Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that prohibits gender discrimination, the female ski jumpers have been forced to turn to the courts for a chance to compete.

I urge my hon. colleagues to stand up for Canadian laws and Canadian values and to support my motion to include a ski jumping event for women in the games.

As a member of Parliament from British Columbia, I am embarrassed that such a public display of discrimination against women may take place in Vancouver next year. Let us not go down in infamy as the host of the last Olympic games in history to discriminate against women.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2009

And before.