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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was public.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as NDP MP for Dartmouth (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2000, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Contraventions Act October 10th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak briefly to Bill C-38, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

I have found the debate very interesting today. There are many concerns with the bill that the NDP shares with many other members of the House. It is a contradictory and confusing piece of legislation at the present time. It has widespread criticism from all sides of the political spectrum.

A case in point, the bill was introduced by the government on May 27, 2003, just one day after it launched an appeal against an Ontario court ruling declaring that people with medical exemptions have legal supplies of the drug. It was a very obvious contradiction right at the outset.

The bill seeks to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana but toughen penalties on large marijuana grow operations. At present, being arrested for possession or carrying marijuana is an up to seven year jail sentence.

We would like to look at what implications the bill may have on possibly unexpected persons. The provisions of the bill are quite simple. Cannabis possession and production will remain illegal in Canada. The current criminal court process and resulting criminal penalties would be replaced with fines for possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana and one gram or less of cannabis resin.

The bill would give law enforcement officers the discretion to give a ticket or issue a summons to appear in a criminal court for possessing 15 to 30 grams of cannabis.

We have a new four tier method of punishing people. An individual found growing one to three plants would face a summary conviction offence with a fine of up to $5,000 or 12 months in jail. For 4 to 25 plants, it would constitute an offence punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 or 18 months in jail. Growing 26 to 50 plants would result in a sentence of up to 10 years and the sentence for growing more than 50 plants would be up to 14 years, which is double the current maximum penalty.

It is rather an odd way of going about things. It is saying that a little bit is all right and a bit more is less all right. It seems to miss the point in terms of sending messages to people in terms of the use of marijuana.

The bill misleads Canadians and it perpetuates the myth that the criminal law can resolve the problems relating to drugs. The NDP would say that there may be a fear that increased penalties on cultivation could in fact push the price of marijuana up making it more difficult for people who use marijuana for medical purposes.

We would say that a stiffer regime of penalities may ironically reinforce organized crime and force out the small operations, and that there is still an emphasis on enforcement. We have a concern that ticketing will actually increase the demand of police resources at the local level.

There are no provisions in the bill for amnesty for Canadians who currently have a criminal record from cannabis convictions. There are approximately 600,000 Canadians who have criminal records for simple marijuana possession. There may in fact be people in the House who have criminal records for marijuana. I have not done any checks but that is a possibility and certainly there are members of our family who may have it.

As we move ahead and begin to understand marijuana in a different way then obviously we must have some kind of mechanism in place to clear the record on some of these supposed criminal offences.

Bill C-38 presents a contradictory and confused approach. That is the fundamental message that we want to send. On the one hand it purports to offer a measure of decriminalization, but the political rhetoric and system of penalties outlined actually points to a tougher and wider enforcement stance.

Another objection is that we fear that increasing penalties on growing marijuana will push up the price. For medical purposes this could cause even more problems for people who are in need of it for pain management.

There is too much emphasis on enforcement in our estimation. It is feared that ticketing would increase the demand for police resources at the local level.

Approximately 100,000 Canadians use marijuana. There is no evidence that the ticketing scheme or tougher sentences would reduce that number.

I wish to conclude by speaking a little about the medical use of marijuana. The Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs did not deal with marijuana for medical purposes. The NDP wishes to draw attention to the serious problems and flaws in the federal government's medical marijuana program. The current regulations of the program are very restrictive, overly bureaucratic, and severely limit the access for Canadians who have a legitimate need for therapeutic purposes. The NDP believes that these unnecessary restrictions should be lifted.

The recommendations of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs in this regard make very good sense and we would like to see them adopted.

The bill still needs work. The NDP has been very supportive of the work done by the committee on drug use and has worked hard on a consensus basis to bring about more progressive laws on this front. We will continue to work to make this a better bill in committee.

Government Assistance October 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, after 10 years of deep cuts to vital services, Nova Scotians are worried about drowning under a rising tide of broken Liberal promises.

We are now told we owe hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal government because too many Nova Scotians have gone down the road to Toronto for jobs. That is roughly equal to the estimated damage from hurricane Juan.

Will the minister guarantee that Nova Scotia will not be forced to cough up these funds in order that it can pay for vital services like health, education and disaster relief?

National Co-op Week October 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, next week Canadians will observe National Co-op Week, and Credit Union Day will be celebrated on Thursday, October 16.

We have in Canada about 10,000 co-operatives, which employ more than 150,000 people and engage thousands of volunteers.

Co-operatives are major economic contributors to our community. They capture wealth locally, returning dividends to members, and they provide good jobs paying good salaries.

Co-operatives play a role well beyond the strictly economic. They develop leaders for civil society and they invest in a wide array of worthy community projects.

Our modern co-ops owe a lot to the Antigonish Movement led by Father Moses Coady, who encouraged people to come together in study groups to empower one another.

I would also like to applaud the work of the local credit unions in my community, the Heritage and the Atlantic Credit Unions. I wish to congratulate the work of co-operatives and credit unions in my home province and throughout Canada.

Library and Archives of Canada Act October 1st, 2003

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the amendments put forward on Bill C-36, an act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada and to amend the Copyright Act .

I listened to many of the witnesses who came before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and I heard their concerns and solutions. I have also heard today in the House a great deal of rancour about the way the legislation unfolded and was dealt with in sort of the dying days of the last session. Much of that was unfortunate. I urge members of the House to not allow the hurry and the politicking that went on at that time to get in the way of what I think is very important legislation which meets several needs at this time for some important institutions and also for writers in Canada.

I feel confident that the bill satisfies the needs of the two institutions in question, the Archives and the Library. I have gained assurances from the departments and the institutions that this merger is not a cost cutting exercise, that in fact the merger is for the very best reasons, to make this a storehouse of incredible capacity for the stories, histories and archives of Canada, and I completely support that.

I believe members of the House have to value the archival and the heritage nature of these institutions. We have to value the previous generations of Canadian writers, politicians and citizens. These institutions are all about that. We are bringing together two storehouses of information which are critical to the public good and to our heritage.

The bill will also redress some wrongs done to creators in the previous revision of the Copyright Act. I believe it does that in clauses 21 and 22. I support those clauses.

Clause 7 of the bill has created a lot of controversy, probably more controversy than the original change to unpublished copyright in 1997. The NDP supports any measure that protects the creators of works and their heirs.

Janet Lunn, who is the past chair of the Writers' Union of Canada, said it best in her testimony before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on June 3. She stated:

A writer's legacy to his or her family is the copyright in the works created during his or her lifetime. Often a writer is able to leave little else. We don't as writers have large estates and stocks and bonds usually. Our works are our legacy.

In 1997 the perpetual copyright on unpublished works was changed to match copyright on published works, 50 years after the death of the author. A change like this does not take effect right away. Therefore works from authors who have died since 1948 were automatically protected for a 50 year grace period. Works from authors who died before 1948 only received protection for a five year transition period before implementation. When a similar change was instituted in the U.K., a 50 year transition period was considered fair notice and the U.S. chose a 25 year transition period.

Janet Lunn explained the unintended consequences of such a short transition period. She stated:

--works not published by the end of 1998, even if they have been published since, will come into the public domain on January 1, 2004. This means that while an author who died on January 1, 1949, is protected until 2048, an author who died one day earlier, on December 31, 1948, is protected only until January 1, 2004

Today in question period I asked the veterans affairs minister about a piece of legislation which targeted, or excluded, 25,000 widows of veterans because their husbands happened to pass away one day before the legislation offering assistance was put in place. We realize this incredibly arbitrary date will have such horrible, unintended consequences on 25,000 very vulnerable older women.

I mention that because there is some parallel here, that we have to look at people on either side of these arbitrary dates and try to establish what the consequences would be. I would say they are astounding and would have ripple effects in different sectors of the cultural industry.

Five years may seem a sufficient length of time to publish material, even though it can take that long or longer to convince a publisher of the worth of the material. However the five year transition period would mean a publisher would only enjoy the benefits of publishing material until January 1, 2004, which is a ridiculously short period of time to recoup the publishing costs of a book. In other jurisdictions that removed perpetual copyright on unpublished works, a decade long transition was planned.

Our oversight of 1997 needs to be redressed before the end of this year. It is important that this legislation has the copyright provisions in it.

We all are aware that a major revision of the Copyright Act is to be undertaken shortly and I welcome the opportunity to be part of that. What this is, though, is a stopgap measure to protect people from the unexpected consequences of the changes that were made in 1997. I think anyone in this House would agree that one day should not create such a discrepancy in the lives of our writers and publishers in this country.

The unintended consequences of the bill are the following.

Our authors do not have to publish their books in Canada. Nor do the publishers have to publish them. Given the situation now facing them, many will go elsewhere. They will go offshore and they will be published other places.

Other jurisdictions have lengthier copyright protection than we do. If unpublished work is not protected here for a fair amount of time, authors or their publishers can take the work out of the country for publication.

Is that loss of heritage what we want to bring about in a bill such as this? What about the loss to the publishing industry in this country, which is in fact struggling at all times anyway?

Therefore, I repeat that this section of the bill would not make it impossible for researchers or genealogists to use information from archives or collections. This is a point that has been made and I think it is a bogus point. They were able to do that under the perpetual copyright provisions pre-1997 and we all benefited from the books, essays, plays and movies created from people looking at old letters and papers that had never been published.

As always, the concept of “fair dealing” still applies, which means people could use copyright material for research and review, but the right to publish material in its entirety remains with the copyright owner until copyright expires.

I would like to return to the bill as a whole.

Both these institutions under discussion are charged with maintaining the documentary heritage of Canada. It is an important and a costly exercise.

Under the former finance minister, both these institutions saw their budget slashed in half. It is time that we focus again on these institutions and ensure they are economically viable. We need legislation in place which will give them the tools to move forward with this important merger. We need the copyright provisions in place that will protect writers, publishers and historians. I want to work to ensure that the legislation goes through before the House possibly comes to a premature end.

I and the New Democrats will be supporting the bill in its entirety.

Veterans Affairs October 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this government has decided that only women receiving benefits under the veterans independence program in May 2003 will have them extended for life and now blames veterans organizations for the decision.

That leaves 23,000 elderly women with no help to stay in their homes, where they selflessly cared for their partners for years. Our unending gratitude stops a few years short.

Will this minister explain why some widows deserve those benefits and others do not? Will he finally do the right thing and extend those benefits to these noble Canadian women who have also served their country?

Supply September 30th, 2003

Madam Speaker, it is interesting to hear the comments from my colleagues and from the entire House.

The issue that I hear over and over is that we need to reconnect with people. Surely that is what this exercise is all about. Many people, if they express any interest whatsoever in an election but do not get any kind of payoff at election time because their candidate does not get in, find themselves wondering what it was all about. How are their views to be represented if clearly 30% or 40% of the population does not get its members or its ideas put forward? How will they feel they are being represented?

I am also concerned about the fact that only 20% of the members of the House are women. I would like to ask the member, does he think that under some kind of proportional representation plan we would be able to increase the number of women in the same way that they have in places like Scotland and other countries in Europe? I would think everyone here would agree that is a desirable result.

Supply September 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in the fact that 61% of Canadians voted and that we are at the bottom of the list in terms of citizen participation.

I would like the member to address the issue of relevancy of the House and how she feels that the nature of the system that we now have in place is dampening and depressing citizen participation.

Supply September 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I would like to compliment the Bloc Québécois on its ability to have women as a good percentage of its members. We in the New Democratic Party as well work very hard at having close to equal representation of women in the House. We are at about 40% and I believe the Bloc is as well.

I was very interested when I went to Scotland a couple of years ago to see that it has a system of PR. Women are 40% of that house of representation. It is a very exciting feeling, different from this place, which now has 20% women. My question for the member is, how does he see some kind of proportional representation system assisting in redressing the great imbalance that now exists in this House around equity between men and women?

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act September 26th, 2003

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-37 today. I would like to echo some of the comments from the previous member about the importance of providing a welcome to our returning military members when they return home after a long career in the military.

Military pension modernization is sometimes not thought of as the most exciting topic in this place, but in fact it is extremely important to many people who live in my riding of Dartmouth, which is home to many military families, recent retirees from the military and, as I mentioned yesterday, many veterans.

We have a proud tradition of supporting our military, from standing at the docks to see the ships coming and going to and from the latest deployments to being out in full force at Remembrance Day, the Battle of Britain day and D-Day celebrations.

People in Dartmouth recognize the incredible commitment and sacrifice of our military personnel. They know that the men and women of our modern military spent a great deal of their time away from their families in the course of their work.

In fact, the Department of National Defence backgrounder on the bill illustrates the incredible change in our military's role. From 1948 to 1989, the Canadian Forces were deployed on 25 operations. Since then they have deployed over 65 times. That does not include the many training exercises and civilian emergencies such as the recent B.C. wildfires, which called personnel away for long periods of time.

I want to give hon. members an example of the effect of the multiple roles of our military. One of my constituents is in the air force. Two days after his son was born, Swissair flight 111 crashed off Peggy's Cove. He was one of the personnel in charge of retrieval operations. For the next three or four weeks he worked 16 hours a day supervising the retrieval of the plane, its contents and the bodies of the dead. He barely saw his newborn son and he certainly could not give his wife the support he would have liked to give her. That same constituent missed every one of his family's birthdays plus Christmas and Easter when, just two years later, he left for a deployment on Operation Apollo.

This life does not appeal to many of us. Frankly, I think that aspect of it does not appeal to my constituent either. We should be grateful that any of our citizens are willing to put their families through that kind of rigour, to move around the country and leave friends behind, to travel to foreign lands and to face daily danger.

In fact, we all know that our military is understaffed. Fewer and fewer people are willing to be in our military. Fewer and fewer Canadians make that decade long commitment that was once necessary to receive a pension, this at the same time that deployments are increasing. Again, DND points out that at any one time over one-third of its deployable force is either preparing for a mission, away on a mission or just returning.

We need a flexible pension plan that rewards Canadians willing to take on a military role. Instead of only supporting personnel who join the military at a young age and stay for a defined period of service, this new legislation will allow people to join the military for shorter periods of time and still generate pensionable earnings. It also allows breaks in military service without penalty.

Our military is changing and its role is also changing. These reforms of the pension plan for military personnel, both regular and reserve personnel, will help the military attract the best candidates. I think the military has had a bad rap over the years. Where it was once seen as an obvious choice for young people, now they are more likely to attend post-secondary or jump right into the work force.

Low pay, poor living conditions on bases and a draconian pension scheme that demanded lengthy terms of service could not compete with high salaries, stock options and more flexible work arrangements. Out of necessity, our military commanders have to recruit from non-traditional areas and they need the tools to attract the best candidates.

Finally, I want to comment on how important it is to our present military personnel to revitalize and fully staff our military.

I have lost track of how many leave-takings and joyous returns to the dock in Halifax I have had the honour of attending, but I do know that the experience of the constituent I mentioned earlier is not uncommon. Our military personnel are tired from constant deployments and operations. They have to use aging, outdated equipment and spend valuable time figuring out how to keep ships afloat, aircraft in the air, and vehicles moving, all of this during some of the most dangerous deployments Canadian soldiers have faced during peacetime.

Any measure that will encourage more skilled and qualified people to join the military is welcome, and that will allow military commanders to build up personnel capacity when needed to reduce the demand on regular forces.

Pension reform, as I mentioned earlier, is not the most interesting change that can be made, but it is an important one and we will be supporting the bill.

Carol Shields September 26th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, Carol Shields, one of Canada's most loved writers, passed away this summer, leaving her husband Donald, her family, and thousands who counted themselves friends.

With her insight into human nature, Carol cut through pretension and lit up ordinary lives and brought dignity to them.

She began writing at 41 after her five children were in school and then wrote nine novels, many short stories, poetry and plays. Her books, such as The Stone Diaries , Larry's Party and Unless , won many prizes, including the Pulitzer, the Governor General's award and the Order of Canada.

Life in all of its complications was her material. When she was diagnosed with cancer it became just another part of life to understand, like child bearing, sex or choosing curtain fabric. In her last years, she brought together women from across the country in the book project called Dropped Threads .

Gay and straight, young and old, those dealing with loss, illness, joy, great love, memories, hopes and violence: in the midst of the stress in our lives today she got us talking to one another again and listening.

We thank you for that gift, Carol. We will keep the faith.