House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was constitutional.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Organization Of American States May 9th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the 30th General Assembly of the Organization of American States will take place in Windsor, Ontario, from June 4 to June 6. The OAS is the premier political forum for multilateral dialogue and decision making in the Americas. Foreign ministers from 34 states will take part in the session.

Canada will be hosting the general assembly for the first time. This reflects the new pluralism in our foreign policy and our recognition of common policy interests with our Central and South American neighbours in such diverse areas as corporate social responsibility and control of the illicit drug trade.

Petitions May 3rd, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure also to present a petition signed by some 2,400 people from across Canada concerning the payment of assessed annual dues to the United Nations organization.

The petitioners express concern about the financial health of the United Nations. As of March 31, 2000 nearly $3 billion U.S. were owed to the UN by member states.

The petitioners call on the Canadian government to urge states to pay their dues in full and on time. They also ask that the Canadian government give consideration to proposals that would establish alternative revenue sources for the United Nations.

Petitions May 3rd, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by 45 residents of British Columbia and Alberta and duly certified by the clerk of petitions on the subject of marriage.

The petitioners ask parliament to affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and to ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution.

International Circumpolar Community April 11th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the member for Churchill River has introduced an interesting concept into the House debates. It is worth reminding ourselves that the concept of territorial frontiers is a relatively modern conception, and it is of course a European conception.

We were reminded by the brilliant Algerian jurist, Mohammed Bedjaoui, who later became president of the world court, in the western Sahara case, that it really did not have much meaning for non-European people until the Europeans arrived without invitation on non-European shores.

I looked very carefully at this and I sympathize with the motivation behind it. One point to bear in mind, however, is that a unilateral declaration by the Canadian parliament on recognition of membership status in any organization is not something that one can impose on others. It may be a King Canute type declaration that nobody else accepts.

Every recognized official international organization has its own credential committees, its own criteria for membership and the status of membership. This is a rather distinct group of organizations that we are dealing with here. I note the comments of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He highlighted the many and interesting new partnerships that are on the horizon, particularly with Russia and the Baltic States. He cited existing partnerships such as the Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council of the European Union and the Council of Baltic Sea States. The Euro-Arctic Council created committees to serve as forums for co-operation. I am talking of a collection of international organizations without legal status or decision making powers.

We are dealing with voluntary organizations like the Commonwealth and, to some extent, La Francophonie that are created but do not have decision making powers. Therefore, the strict rules that we apply to the United Nations, or it applies to itself and its subsidiary organizations do not apply.

The valuable aspect of this suggestion is to take note of the formula that Paul Martin, Sr., the minister of external affairs in 1965, and the then premier of Quebec developed for federal-provincial co-operation and for the federal government, without sacrificing its autonomy as a federal government, voluntarily to include representatives of the provinces in Canadian delegations to international conferences, including those within official United Nations organizations.

If the motion by the member for Churchill River could be interpreted as being an invitation to the Canadian government to recognize the artificiality of the distinction between the 60th and 55th parallels and the many elements of the Canadian community, then I would endorse it. The Metis are a perfect example, as are the Indian communities much further south in Canada. If it is an invitation to the Canadian government to consider naming these people as part of the Canadian delegations, then I think it is a recommendation that I would endorse and favourably recommend to the government. I think the government could accept it.

It is certainly within the spirit of these larger northern organizations that we recognize a common ethnic link between the peoples of Russian Siberia, northern Finland, northern Sweden, northern Norway, Iceland and our Indian peoples, aboriginal peoples and the Metis people. Why not take advantage of that? One of the powerful instruments of Canadian foreign policy is to profit from the plurality of our peoples and our cultures.

In that light, I would suggest that the government can and should take notice of this suggestion. The hon. member for Mercier is a very thoughtful member.

The member for Mercier has moved an amendment about the distinction between boundaries and borders. English legal language does not, in my opinion, afford any legal significance to this distinction, but, in French, I certainly accept her suggestion. It seems to me the best English translation would be to substitute a concept such as “the southern limit”, or something like it.

In that spirit, I can certainly accept the suggestion, which seems quite valuable. It also indicates the plurality of our thought on this issue, and it is in this spirit that I willingly accept the proposal by the member for Churchill River.

He has reminded us that this is a plural country. He has reminded us that Canada is more than just the European descended peoples and the concept of territorial limit based on the 55th parallel has an artificiality that is certainly Eurocentric in its origins. Therefore, in the future, Canadian delegations will take advantage of our peoples who are linked by ties of consanguinity to the northernmost people above the 60th boundaries and will be an extra richness for our delegations.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations Act April 10th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, this debate is in some respects a strange debate. One has the impression of two different communities, two solitudes, and perhaps a good deal of the confusion stems from the fact that people have not read the bill. I would not discourage them from reading the bill. It is not a piece of poetry. It is a rather prosaic bill. It is a legislative response, as is the obligation of parliament under our system of government. With our modified, quasi separation of powers, we have a response by parliament to a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in M. v H. It is a response to that decision, no more and no less.

If we read the bill looking for excitement, it will not be found. It puts together 68 existing federal statutes that are affected by the court decision. It corrects—and that is a legal word—those pieces of law by appropriate amendments in response to the supreme court decision, no more and no less. It is a compendium of 68 laws. It is not a bill on marriage. Anybody who read the bill would find that out.

The title gives it away immediately, the modernization of benefits and obligations act. It is not a bill on marriage. It is not an amendment to section 15 of the charter of rights on which the original decision in M. v H. in the Supreme Court of Canada was based. Obviously, to amend section 15 we would have to have the concurrence of the federal parliament and all 10 provincial legislatures. It is essentially a carpentering job. Someone very carefully put together what is a very dull bill with limited objectives.

In my earlier address to the House on this bill I explained that it is limited to its special mandate, a legislative response as is our constitutional obligation as parliament to the judicial ruling, that it does not alter the legal definition of marriage in any way, one way or another.

In that sense I regard the government amendment—in a legal sense—as being unnecessary. It is inserted, though, as lawyers often do, in the phrase ex abundante cautela—for greater certainty. But it does not change the definition of marriage. It does not add to the fact. The bill itself does not do that.

Any steps in the redefinition of marriage, if one were to attempt that, would require a comprehensive piece of legislation which would spell out concrete rights and obligations, conditions of a status and how one enters into it. It would be another law on another occasion. It would be something reached after a prior, necessary community consensus had been built, with some degree of interparty discussion. That is for the future if someone wishes to proceed that way.

What is interesting in terms of this debate, and the constructive and useful thing which has emerged from it, is the opportunity to ask parliament to take note of the changes in society, the general recognition that relationships can exist on bases where both parties recognize them but which have no necessary connection with a sexual relationship.

We speak of bona fide dependency relationships. This is an idea whose time, historically, has come. I am encouraged in that by the large amount of correspondence, messages, communications and personal meetings I have had in response to remarks which I and others have made on this particular situation.

What are dependency relationships? They are relationships of children and parents. We find many situations in our society where children support an aged parent, or siblings, brothers and sisters, or two sisters and two brothers support each other.

We find many situations of persons not in a familial relationship who share a life together without any sexual relationship. If it is a demonstrated, bona fide relationship, should the law not be prepared to recognize that in our society?

It does require a bit of work, and the minister promised to study this. I said “With all deliberate speed”, in the phrase of the United States supreme court, “can we not get some reasonably quick action?” I understand that will be done.

There will be tradeoffs involved which have to be understood and represented in a legal form, that is to say, a bona fide relationship with legal consequences cannot be unilaterally terminated except for cause. There would be a limitation on the power unilaterally to renege, amend or terminate; proof of registration or something else to establish the beginning of a relationship and the irrevocability of its termination.

It is not exactly tabula rasa. My colleague, the excellent member for Parkdale—High Park, who has given a good deal of thought to these problems, reminded me of the law school cases which I learned in my second month in law school, Murray and Alderson. In the 19th century, courts were being asked to recognize such relationships and give financial consequences to them, where dependency was proven and where in fact both parties recognized them adequately. This could be put in the legal form of a statute. It exists in a more rudimentary form through the common law.

When I speak of non-revocability, it would seem to me that parties could not terminate unilaterally, although there may be special circumstances. For example, a child supporting an aged parent might choose to get married. It does not terminate the obligation to the parent. One may look to some sort of comparative adjustment of the obligations.

I cite this simply to say that there are problems, but they are not difficult problems. There are no essential legal barriers that wise legislation could not take care of.

There will be claims of the survivors' in dependency relationships to estates, to immovables, but once again these are issues that can be addressed. The legal remedies for them, the legal formula to take care of them, can be established without an undue amount of work required. There are sufficient precedents in the common law to provide just that sort of base for legislative action.

The constructive thing that has come out of this debate has been a heightened community awareness that the time perhaps has come to give legal recognition and apply legal consequences to dependency relationships voluntarily entered into and established on a bona fide basis. That is the interesting challenge.

This is a modest bill, a prosaic bill that simply changes 68 federal laws in response to a supreme court decision. It is our constitutional obligation, as a co-ordinate organ of government, to respond in that fashion. It does not venture into the definition of a new code of marriage. That, if it is to be attempted, would be a subject for another time, another debate and another law if and when the sufficient consensus is built in support of it.

World Curling Championships April 10th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, two rinks from British Columbia have taken gold in both the men's and women's World Curling Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

The men's squad from New Westminster's Royal City Curling Club, made up of Jody Sveistrup, Bryan Miki, Brent Pierce and skip Greg McAulay, needed just nine ends to defeat Team Sweden 9-4. The women's squad from the Richmond Winter Club, made up of Julie Skinner, Georgina Wheatcroft, Diane Nelson and skip Kelley Law, won gold in a nail-biter against the Swiss team, 7-6.

And that is not all. Thanks to an overtime goal by Nancy Drolet, Canada won the world women's hockey championship beating out the American team.

Congratulations to three remarkable teams.

United Nations Security Council April 3rd, 2000

Mr. Speaker, this month under the rotation rules Canada assumes the presidency of the United Nations Security Council. The council is the key constitutional organ of the United Nations, but its political authority has been diminished by alleged abuse of the legal veto power accorded to five permanent members whose own composition mirrors the political realities at the end of World War II.

We have proposed modernizing the security council by opening up permanent member status on a regional basis and by limiting the veto to particular issues or even taking it away altogether where there is only a single negative vote cast.

Points Of Order March 31st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I would take the point that this House has plenary powers, through the Speaker, to determine the name of parties within the House. The electoral commissioner and other officials have no bearing on our decision.

Nuclear Disarmament March 31st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Will the minister tell the House what are the implications of the U.S. proposal for a national missile defence system on the international law of nuclear disarmament, in particular the anti-ballistic missiles treaty and interim agreement on protocol of 1972, but also the non-proliferation treaty negotiations that resume in late April?

Taiwan March 22nd, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the presidential elections in Taiwan offer concrete proof of the success of the constitutional amendments adopted in Taiwan in 1994, introducing direct presidential election.

After half a century in power, the original founding political party will be replaced in the presidency by the main opposition party. The verdict of the popular vote has been accepted. There will be a full constitutional succession in an atmosphere of political peace and goodwill.

The constitutional rules of the game, whose observance is vital for a free democratic society, will be respected in their full spirit as well as their letter.