House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was know.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Surrey North (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Health September 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it looks as though the Conservatives have been practising their sleight of hand again.

It seems with all the focus on cutting women's programs, programs for the disabled, literacy programs, they have overlooked something. They have overlooked their promise to everyday families to a patient wait time guarantee.

Ordinary Canadians are suffering because of this so-called fifth commitment, and the minister who has promised it has vanished altogether.

When will the Minister of Health do what he promised to do and reduce wait times from their unacceptable level for patients in this country?

Prostate Cancer September 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, September 18 to 23 is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week.

There are almost 400 men in Canada diagnosed with prostate cancer every week. There are almost no noticeable symptoms of prostate cancer in its early stages, and this makes screening vitally important, if not life saving, and it only takes 10 minutes.

Before early detection tests were available, only one in four men were diagnosed in the early stages. Now, with early screening, nine out of ten cases are found early, giving men the chance to start treatment early.

Prostate cancer is very treatable when caught early, and in some studies, 100% of men diagnosed at an early stage were surviving five years later. Every man should discuss this with his family physician and decide when to begin annual testing.

I want to congratulate the men who are speaking out about this, forming support groups and helping to educate the public. My congratulations to them.

Emergency Management Act September 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I do apologize. It was my anxiousness to acknowledge the minister's previous experience.

The minister knows very well that viruses and new diseases do not recognize borders. So the concept of when a federal government decides it is in the best interests of Canadians to enter into a provincial emergency is going to continue to be a difficult one for everybody.

On the other hand, as we saw with SARS and some other viruses, they moved quickly across the country. We were not able to keep up with them, to get ahead of them, or even to recognize any trend of what is happening.

For me it raises one of the other issues around trends particularly in health emergency situations. Because there is no mandatory reporting on the part of the provinces to the federal government or to the health ministry if they see something happening, if they see a virus, it makes it even more difficult for us to see trends occurring across the country. That causes me some concern. The federal government might not even be able to see whether or not it is in its interest because a provincial government is not mandated to report if something is occurring in that province. That causes me some concern in terms of the federal government's ability to make an informed decision.

Some education is needed in this country regarding emergency preparedness. I do not think most people know who is responsible for emergency preparedness, whom they could count on and for what.

When my children first started school, they came home one day and told me that they had a drill. I asked them if all the children had managed to get out on time. They said that they did not leave the school that they went under their desks. In British Columbia not only do we have fire drills but we also have earthquake drills. Many of us have earthquake preparation kits in our homes and in our cars. This is very different from many other parts of the country, except for Quebec and Yukon where there are earthquake risks.

What is becoming of more concern to people is who does what, when, with whom, and under what circumstances. If this bill passes, there is a responsibility on the part of the federal government, and provincial and municipal governments as well because they have their own regulations, to ensure that citizens have this information so they can feel safe. It is frightening enough to be faced with any kind of emergency, be it a climatic one or an armed conflict. It is frightening not to have any idea whatsoever as to who takes responsibility and for what. I hope committee members will take into consideration the publication of this kind of information.

In the first few hours of an incident it is important that one person be seen as taking a leadership role. It is important that one person be responsible for ensuring that all the things that are supposed to happen do happen. Responsibility should not be spread out among a variety of people. There must be one place of accountability.

The bill states, “The minister is responsible for exercising leadership relating to emergency management in Canada by coordinating, among government institutions and in cooperation with the provinces and other entities, emergency management activities”. When the committee considers the bill, I would ask it to consider two things: one, to write shorter sentences so we do not have to take a breath in the middle; and second, to make clear that the responsibility for acting would be in the hands of one minister and one minister only.

The concern about access to information has already been raised by some members. Some people feel that this concern has been answered. This bill would amend the Access to Information Act ostensibly to provide for protection of information provided by third parties which, if disclosed, might pose a security threat. I hope the committee will examine this in greater detail to see if there are any issues which may adversely affect the privacy rights of Canadians. I understand in an emergency many things have to be done, but the committee has to look a little more closely at whether this would adversely affect the privacy rights of Canadians out of proportion to what might be necessary in a particular emergency.

Several people have asked for clarity as it pertains to foreign affairs, armed conflict and so on. I think my colleague here has asked that question on two occasions. I do know that the summary states:

This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.

What people are raising is a provision of clarity that these regulations only apply in terms of things that happen, not just affect people living on Canadian soil but happen on Canadian soil. If I understand my colleague's question correctly, that is the kind of clarity that he would like to see.

I will wrap up my comments by saying that there are still a number of issues to look at when the bill goes to committee. I understand the intent of the bill. Every Canadian wants there to be in place an emergency piece of legislation where they know people will leap into action to do everything they can to make them safe.

Hurricane Katrina was a perfect example of what we should not do. People were left stranded everywhere with certain people being attended to first before people with fewer resources. We saw some very damaging ways of responding to an emergency during hurricane Katrina. I believe we will have learned those kinds of lessons. I would not of course believe that Canadians would respond to people in an emergency situation in any different way based on their current circumstances, economic, social or otherwise.

I look forward to hearing the results of the debate at committee.

Emergency Management Act September 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12.

Across the country there are probably communities that have no idea about the content of the bill, or the content of provincial legislation around emergency preparedness. However, over the last five or six years because of what has happened in Canada and abroad people are becoming much more aware and concerned about how the country, a province or a city would respond to an emergency.

An emergency has come to have almost no meaning now or an extremely broad meaning. At one stage in our history we all fairly well understood the word “emergency” but today emergency has a much broader concept than we have seen before. There are viruses, for example. This is a tough one and we have debated this around another piece of legislation. Part of the legislation states that the federal government would enter into an emergency plan if it was in its interest to do so. I understand the position of the Bloc.

Having been a former health minister and a nurse, I know that viruses, especially new viruses, permutate all the time and turn into viruses we have never seen before. We do not know how to treat them. Viruses do not have maps. They do not permutate and then look at a map and respect provincial borders. They move across borders very quickly.

I see the Minister of Health has just come in. I know that from his experience in Ontario he is more than aware of how viruses that we have not--

Food and Drugs Act September 18th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill C-283 passing at second reading and moving to committee, and I have five points that I would like to make about it.

First, in today's environment many people are more concerned about what they put into their bodies. In many ways it is a more educated consumer group, although not in large numbers perhaps. However, a growing consumer group is concerned about the food it eats. More important, this group is concerned about what its children and families eat. For that reason we have to move in this direction. Although there has been some progress, the public is asking for more.

My second point is about health. As a result of the uncontrolled environment in which we live, we see more illnesses, some of which are triggered by food. In this case I think it truly can be a matter of life and death. We have seen the kinds of allergies that have developed. Everybody knows about peanuts. Does everybody think to ask whether foods are cooked in peanut oil? We are seeing food allergies that we would not have seen 10 years ago because our environment is changing.

As others have said, we spend about 30% of our food dollars on meals outside of our homes. We do not know what is in that food, but we need to have that opportunity. We need to be very conscious of it, as we are with the foods we bring into our homes. The bill may raise awareness about that.

For instance, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has spoken very articulately about the effect of trans fats on health. We see a little more voluntary disclosure of trans fats on packages. However, when people eat out, they want to know if there are trans fats in the food. For health reasons, for personal reasons or for preventative reasons, they may choose not to eat that particular food.

It is the same thing with sodium. I will not repeat all the diseases that my colleague from Scarborough Southwest raised. With the increasing number of young people with high blood pressure, they need to know the amount of sodium in the products they eat both at home and outside it.

The third point is we have a right to know what food we are putting in our bodies and what we are feeding our families. It is not a privilege; it is a right. While there may be parts of the bill we need to debate and while there may be things that need to be changed, I am more than happy to move it to committee in order to help us have an exchange of ideas. Those diseases, particularly diabetes and high blood pressure of which we see more and more in younger people, reflect the need to be very conscious of what we eat when we are out. We know that children and teenagers are eating out a lot. Just the other day a physician told me that a 12-year-old had been diagnosed a type 2 diabetes. We know the effect of some of those foods.

The fourth point is education. We need more consumer education about this. We need to find clear, easy ways to do that, bearing in mind that not everybody has the same literacy rate. We need to have good consumer education.

My last point is poverty. The legislation will not affect many people because they cannot afford to make the healthy choices of fruits and grains, choices that other people can make. These people will continue to go to fast food restaurants because the food is less expensive. These foods are high in carbohydrates and other ingredients, but that is all they can afford. This will not address that in the same way.

In review, the issues are the current environment, health, rights, education and poverty. I am happy to pass this on to the health committee. We can review the legislation from other countries and look at how it has been implemented. I agree that voluntary agreement on almost any issue does not always have a success rate as high as we might like it to be. All these concerns can be addressed by the panel.

The Environment June 22nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, given the environment minister's inability to answer any questions on climate change, perhaps we will have a bit more luck with the Minister of Health.

The failing grade the Sierra Club gave the government on climate change, and reports from the Canadian Public Health Association reaffirming the illnesses and health failures for people as a result of climate change, the government has posed a significant threat to Canadians' health and safety now and in the future. Rising temperatures will result in increased sickness and fatalities due to heat stroke, dehydration and various other illnesses--

National Aboriginal Day June 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, today we honour 10 years of celebrating National Aboriginal Day in this country and celebrating aboriginal people.

Yesterday the government announced the appointment of Wendy Grant-John, a special representative for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. That is a positive message to first nations.

Ms. Grant-John has been a strong voice for aboriginal people and particularly for women. Aboriginal women have made progress in our country, but there is a very long way to go.

The Government of Canada has a role to play. Aboriginal women are still disproportionately victims of spousal abuse. Far more than many women in other parts of the country, women of all ages in the aboriginal community live below the poverty line.

They are forced to raise their families in crowded homes and unsafe conditions, often as many as 21 people in one house. They lack even the basics, like safe drinking water.

Aboriginal people are owed the resources and capacity for women to raise families in safe, healthy environments, and to take their place at the decision making tables. Canada's New Democrats will stand beside aboriginal people in their struggle for equality.

Business of Supply June 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as we have this debate about the Kelowna accord, we all bring different kinds of experiences and stories from our own provinces and across the country.

My first and probably most serious concern about the Kelowna accord, or the support that is planned for aboriginal people, Inuit and Métis is that it be extremely focused and that it have agreed upon goals between aboriginal people, Métis and Inuit about the progress that is being made.

We have heard stories about aboriginal communities where there has been economic success, but we have also heard stories of other places where it has greatly reduced. I think of two towns in British Columbia, one about which many stories have been told in the House today and at other times, and one where violence in general has dropped, graduation rates have gone up, sexual abuse of children has gone down, and learning of their first language has gone up. Why? Because it is economically successful and that leads to those other things.

The dollars that are going to go into those communities have to be focused. I understand that we want and need to focus everywhere, but without economic success in a community, none of those other things will happen with either the speed or the efficacy that we would like to see. They also need to happen in a modally coherent way where it is done in the way the community wants it done. These are not our communities. These are communities that belong to the Métis, Inuit and aboriginal people.

When I look at census data, I see that more babies in aboriginal communities suffocate because of the use of family beds. Aboriginal people believe in the “family bed”, where babies sleep with other people. A lot of the deaths are tied to alcohol use where somebody has rolled over on the baby and the baby suffocated. Does that mean that somebody loves their baby less? Of course not. It means they do not have the supports that we are talking about here, but they have to get there.

We have to know if the supports are working. We have to have agreed upon goals and ways of measuring whether they are successful. In other instances when resources have gone into communities, it has not been modally coherent. It has not been comfortable for the aboriginal communities. We have spent a lot of money, and while it has been well intentioned, we are almost totally unable to measure the success.

As the question asked by the opposition about the money for the community--

Starred Questions June 16th, 2006

With respect to the government’s plan to compensate people who were infected with Hepatitis C tainted blood through Canada’s blood supply before 1986 and after 1990: (a) what is the timetable for compensating these victims; (b) what are the reasons why compensation for these victims was not announced between February 6 and May 8, 2006; (c) what barriers or challenges exist that might delay compensating these victims after May 8, 2006; and (d) what is the medical model intended for determining a victim’s eligibility for compensation?

Business of Supply June 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, having heard your recommendation that there is only time for a quick answer, my understanding is that there has been an agreement for an amendment to this motion, or at least some discussion about an agreed upon amendment, that this will be done in close consultation with the provinces. The member is correct. There are many places where we cross jurisdictions in the lives of almost anybody we work with, so I take the member's point. My understanding is that this has been agreed to.