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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was food.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for British Columbia Southern Interior (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from British Columbia for her question and thank her for her hard work on this file.

The way I look at it is this. We have seen here that the training mission has gone into a combat mission. We do not believe, and I do not believe, that our people should be in a combat mission in Iraq or in Syria. The other thing is that we have seen the results. We have had one unfortunate death.

The Kurdish have been fighting for years. They have combat experience. I often question why we would be there telling them how to engage in combat experience. I have not really understood that from the point of trying to help them in training, which we have seen has turned into a combat mission.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question and clarification. I will try to be quick, in following your wishes.

I believe it is mainly up to the countries in the region and I am happy to see that other countries, other than the ones I mentioned, are in there on the ground. They are the ones that are faced with this threat in their region and obviously there should be more countries working together with the Iraqi government and all the different factions to work this out.

We are told this is a direct threat to us here. I do not buy that, as I said in my speech; it is not.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the wise words you just said, encouraging us to have a full debate and giving us time to answer questions.

I wish I could say that it gives me pleasure to speak to this motion. Unfortunately, I cannot. It is not with pleasure that I rise here. It is with a sense of duty that, with the expansion of our mission in Iraq and now into Syria, I see there is no question that we are being drawn into what will turn out to be a long and costly prolonged conflict.

The Prime Minister tells us that our country is under threat. His Minister of National Defence states that if we do not do anything, and allow this organization to metastasize into an actual state with its resources and army, ISIL will recruit and radicalize people from all over the world. The implication is that somehow they will all head to Canada to attack us. Therefore, by bombing ISIL in Iraq and Syria, this will be prevented.

There has been a horrendous number of atrocities right across the world. We just need to bring into question central Africa, which our leader and foreign affairs critic talked about. Millions of people lost their lives. We did not have this debate about going into central Africa. We did not have this debate about going into other areas where people were being liquidated and where atrocities were being committed.

The question is why we have chosen this. I just mentioned the train of thought. I believe that its logic was supposed to send us into combat, and that merits some careful analysis.

It is my understanding that all of the threats to Canada have come over the Internet. There have been messages encouraging fanatics to take up the cause. If that is the case, do we realistically believe that these messages will stop as we continue to bomb the hell out of this region? I submit that they will increase, and ISIL will recruit more deranged individuals to its cause.

From what I have been able to ascertain, Canada is one of roughly ten nations carrying out air strikes. Only one of the other nations, Jordan, is from the immediate region. Another, Morocco, is from northern Africa. The first question that comes to mind is this. If this campaign is so vital to the security of this region and to the world, where are the other countries? We could legitimately state, whether we agree or disagree on this mission, that we have done more than our share. Our resources are limited. In my opinion, they could be better spent reinforcing our protection right here on the ground in Canada under the existing legislation, not what the government is trying to ram through here.

Most of all, we could ensure that no more veterans have to come to Ottawa to demand the assistance that they so rightly deserve. I spent time in the Royal Canadian Navy, and as a former naval officer, I would say that our navy is in a state of disarray. Instead of bombing in other countries, we could spend a lot of this money to beef up our protection and ensure that we have good vessels to protect our coastlines, as an example.

I would also like to submit that we send troops into war as a last resort. This is not a last resort. We need to take a moment to reflect on Afghanistan. In 2005, the previous government was pressured by the then-chief of the defence staff, General Hillier, to send our troops into combat. Other nations and other allies stayed on the sidelines. This tragic conflict cost us 160 lives, 170 deaths by suicide, and hundreds of veterans with permanent physical and mental disabilities. The tragedy in all of this is that we cannot safely say that Afghanistan is a secure country based on all of the democratic principles for which our country stands.

The United States and its coalition of the willing invaded Iraq in 2003. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died. Iraq's army was dismantled. The country turned into chaos. What we are seeing today with ISIL is a direct result of the destabilization of Iraq by the George Bush regime.

The question arises, therefore, of what will happen if Canada withdraws from this conflict. The answer is probably not a lot. It seems to me that the countries who were initially responsible for this mess, in addition to those in the immediate area, should be the ones that take up the charge against the threat of ISIL.

A leading Iraqi researcher, Munqith al-Dagher, stated that as long as the political and social grievances of Iraq's Sunni community go unaddressed, Canadian air strikes against the Islamic State will not defeat the group. Without giving Sunnis hope for the future, the international coalition fighting the extremist groups will not be successful. That is an interesting point. He goes on to say:

ISIL is not the disease; (it) is just the symptom. If we want to (push Islamic State) out of Iraq and the region, we should deal with the real reasons behind this disease....

(Canada’s) prime minister, like U.S. politicians and other politicians in the world...all they think about is sending troops and aircrafts. This is not the way to have a victory over ISIL....

No matter how strong the army is...there will not be any victory without a full cooperation from the people who are living there.

The question, then, is why we are there without having made an effort to seek co-operation, to make sure that the current government of Iraq is in place and works on a solution. The solution to this problem needs to rest with the Iraqis themselves as well as the Americans and others who were responsible for the 2003 invasion. This is not Canada's role. I submit this tragic conflict is not worth any more Canadian lives.

As I mentioned earlier on, in a speech a few months ago, Bernard E. Trainor, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general states the following in an article that was published in the Washington Post and appeared in the September 26th edition of the National Post:

The Islamic State presents a problem to be managed, not a war to be won....

The U.S. role should be limited to helping Kurdish forces and the new Baghdad government better organize to keep the pressure on, with U.S. air strikes contingent on their progress....

The idea of destroying the Islamic nonsense....

The situation in Mesopotamia is a violent game of mistrust and self-interest. The Saudis despise the Iranians but will cut deals with them if doing so is in their interest. Iran will play any card necessary to achieve regional hegemony, while Turkey is coy about its own quest for preeminence. The Gulf States talk out of both sides of their mouths. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad uses the Islamic State to create problems for other rebels. Iraq plays at democracy as long as it can subjugate the Sunnis. Shiites and Sunnis fight each other while carrying on intramural warfare with their kinsmen. The double-dealing is almost endless. It doesn’t make sense to us, but it does to the players. After more than a decade of frustration and humiliation, the United States should have learned that the Middle East is no place for Wilsonianism on steroids.

This is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general. As our leader stated in his eloquent speech on this issue a few days ago, what happens when we go into Syria without the permission of the Syrian government? Do we become allies of this despotic regime? What is the end game? Who are we going to support? Are we supporting the regime, or are we supporting other factions fighting against ISIL? What do we make out of all this confusion?

None of this makes any sense.

We went from an advise and assist mission to a six-month bombing mission, to a front-line combat mission. We are now getting involved in an 18-month conflict where Canadian troops will exchange fire with members of the Islamic State.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I have been here for nine years, and I have watched the debate unfold on Afghanistan. I have watched the spin coming from the government, as we have watched our people dying on the field and suffering.

We do not need any more of this. We need to look at this, step back, and ensure that war is a last resort.

Electricity Meters March 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there is growing evidence that wireless technology may be detrimental to our health and that the current Safety Code 6 is outdated. In this regard, I would like to thank my colleague from Oakville for introducing Bill C-648, which would require health warning labels on wireless devices. This is a logical first step.

I am also pleased to see that the health committee is taking the time to study this issue. Unfortunately, instead of applying the precautionary principle, various jurisdictions across North America have been ramming wireless smart meters down our throats. A number of people are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation or have other health concerns and have refused this technology.

BC Hydro charges a punitive opt-out fee of $32.40 per month. Several Slocan Valley residents who rejected this technology have gone through the winter with their electricity disconnected. This is completely unacceptable. The very least that the B.C. government could do would be to adopt the more reasonable Quebec model of a $15 opt-out fee and a monthly charge of $5.

B.C. residents deserve better.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act March 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The answer is no. As I said in my speech, we have seen the same thing with a number of bills. The government wants to change the policy but does not allocate the necessary resources. It wants to send our soldiers to war, but there are no resources to give them the help they need when they return. It wants to help women, but it does not even want to create a commission of inquiry concerning aboriginal women we have spoken about in the House.

In my opinion, the best way to help these people is to look at what already exists and what resources are already out there. If there are not enough, we can add some. That would be a logical response to existing problems.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act March 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I agree with intent of the question. The fact is that we have existing laws and if we add a third or fourth law, it does not mean the problem will go away.

I would like to share with the member an experience I had last week. I was driving in my riding and saw a hitchhiker with a big knapsack on his back, rings in his nose and tattoos, and decided to give this guy a ride. I told him I was stopping to have some lunch and asked if he would like to have lunch. He said sure. I asked him where he was going and he said to Summerland, which I thought was interesting. He did not talk much, but as we were having lunch, he opened up. He said that he had been on the road for 10 years and was a homeless person. He said that there were hundreds of homeless people around the country who were angry at what was going on with the system, a system they could not access. He said that there were people in power who had no idea what is going on. To me, that illustrates in a small way what is happening in our country today.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act March 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in preparing for this brief speech I was not exactly sure how I wanted to begin. However, after reading my background notes I am left to wonder why this piece of legislation has even been introduced. It is becoming evident to me that the current Conservative government really is not interested in making Canada a better place in which to live. In fact, sometimes I think it is the opposite.

We have seen a number of pieces of legislation introduced with sensational titles such as this one, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, that play to the emotions but often lack substance. We have seen this with various so-called tough-on-crime bills introduced in the past years in spite of the fact that our crime rate is falling. In the U.S., which has an alarmingly high rate of incarceration, there are discussions to reject this punitive and primitive approach that is not working and determine which other measures are needed to ensure that those found guilty can return safely and become productive members of society. In other words, that is the approach we have always had in this country, at least until very recently.

A lot of what is presented by the government I would say is meant to increase fear amongst Canadians with respect to problems that may not even really exist. Let us look at Bill C-51, which gives sweeping powers to the government to infringe upon our rights and freedoms. Thousands of Canadians took to the streets last Saturday to protest against the draconian measures of this bill. The sad truth is that we already have adequate measures to protect us from terrorist threats under existing legislation.

I believe and will venture to say that a lot of these bills are just a simple waste of time. Rather than concentrating on crime and fear, perhaps we could realistically tackle issues that are facing us, such as climate change, poverty, the lack of affordable housing, the erosion of our health care system, and the thousands of working poor we have in this country.

Experts who appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights explained that criminalization will not solve the problem and instead will exacerbate it. In fact, several Criminal Code provisions already provide legal recourse with regard to the offences targeted by the bill. Instead of politicizing the issue of gender-based violence, the government could strengthen the legislative measures already in place. It must also commit to implementing a national action plan to combat violence against women and invest more in the organizations that provide services to women in forced or underage marriages.

Naturally, we agree that no woman should be subject to gender-based violence, including the practices of forced marriage and underage marriage. The bill could have serious unintended consequences, including the criminalization of the victims of polygamy, criminalization and deportation of children, and separation of families.

As an aside, I sometimes get the impression that a lot of the bills that are presented here are not really thought out. A bill is presented and then we get an opinion back from the legal profession saying that it may not stand up to court challenges or that it is not well written and thought out. I think this bill falls into that category.

Instead of a sensationalized bill that does not get at the root of the problem, the minister should commit to widespread and meaningful consultations with community groups and experts so that the real issue of gender-based violence is addressed in an effective manner.

The government should also increase investments in organizations that provide services such as safe and affordable housing, counselling and help for families that are often traumatized by the fact that they must navigate complicated legal and immigration systems.

The thing is that what is happening with this bill, what I have learned in going through some background information, is that the information here often duplicates our existing laws. For example, the bill would change the Civil Marriage Act to make free and enlightened consent legal requirements for marriage, but these requirements are already part of the civil code of Quebec and common law in other provinces. The bill would limit the defence of provocation, ostensibly to exclude honour killings, but courts have already ruled that the concept of honour and the culturally driven sense of what is an appropriate response do not count as provocation under the Criminal Code.

Canadian criminal law already provides recourse relevant in most cases involving forced marriage, prior to and after the marriage, as well as in cases of travelling with a minor with the intent to force her or him to marry.

I am just going to list what it includes because it is important for my colleagues here to understand that we have adequate measures in our current legislation for a lot of this information that we are discussing and we are voting on.

For example, it includes uttering threats, section 264.1 of the Criminal Code. It includes assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement, abduction of a young person, procuring feigned marriage, removal of a child from Canada, extortion, sexual offences against children and youth, failure to provide necessities of life and abandoning children, abduction of a young person and, moreover, spousal abuse, abuse of a child and abuse of a position of trust and so on.

We have to ask ourselves this. If in fact we have provisions in our current legislation to address these issues, why are we taking time to do another bill? I would like to submit that perhaps we are doing this because the Conservatives want to sensationalize certain aspects of our society and play to the base, to the fear factor that I talked about before.

Witnesses at the Senate committee hearings pointed out that immigrant women often have significantly less information about the Canadian immigration and legal systems than their sponsoring partners, which allows their sponsors to threaten and manipulate them. However, this bill would make no provision for providing women with basic information about immigration rules or with adequate integration services.

Families who have suffered from violence and harmful practices need adequate supports and programs, especially since the challenges faced by survivors of forced marriages are unique. However, this bill makes no reference to support services. That is an interesting point. We have seen, for example, the sensationalism about Bill C-51, this anti-terrorism bill, and all the provisions that are going into the bill. However, there is really very little about resources to people in the field, to our police and to others who keep our society safe or, in this case, resources that are provided for the safety of women.

It is no secret that under the current government, women's centres have lost funding, that the organizations that support and work with women who are undergoing violence and spousal abuse do not have the resources that they had a decade ago. At the same time, we see a bill that supposedly would address the situation, but there is nothing on the ground to help those people when they approach a centre, if in fact the centre is still allowed to exist.

According to UNICEF, if Canada wants to ensure the protection of children from human trafficking, it must recognize that Canadian children who become victims of trafficking largely end up that way as a result of a series of failures in the protective system.

Many children live in low-income families without adequate access to community support services that could prevent the risk of exploitation. Many need educational support and mental health services, but do not receive them.

In 2008, Denmark's parliament unanimously passed a law making it a criminal offence to force anyone to marry. However, six years after the law was enacted, the police have not yet charged a single person and the courts have not convicted anyone under the act. Why? Susanne Fabricius of the national organisation of women's shelters in Denmark said that she did not think this had any impact on protecting women and, in fact, might have backfired and driven the problem underground. I rest my case with that.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her comments. It is good that she had a chance to make them.

I agree. I have been going through all sorts of papers over the last few weeks. One of the common themes is that there is not this oversight. One of the common themes is that the bill would grant power without having careful control. This is why the bill needs to be studied carefully, not in the span of two days or one and a half days. It needs to be looked at, and it needs to be amended. I certainly hope that even if the bill goes further, the government will look at the amendments we have proposed.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, one would think that when we had a new perceived or real threat, we would do our homework. One would think we would look at the existing legislation to see what was working and what was not. One would think we would look at the resources that should be there, and if they were not there, one would think a responsible government would add additional resources, using the current system we have. One would also think there would be good parliamentary oversight of a new piece of legislation we were trying to put in. None of this has happened.

The bill is being rammed through without any kind of oversight. It is being rammed through as a fear tactic. It is meant to kind of wield all this hype and fear of so-called jihadists and Muslims, all lumped into one, as a fear tactic, and, I am afraid, as an election platform for the next election.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying how proud I am of our leader and our party for taking a principled stand against this flawed piece of legislation.

As I move closer to retirement, I have been reflecting on my past nine years here in Ottawa. I often think about all those individuals, not only in my riding but right across this country, who are deeply committed to the cause of social justice. As a member of Parliament, it has been an honour for me to work with them in our common struggle for a better world. The issues have been many: world peace, food sovereignty, climate change, the environment, poverty, violence against women, and many others.

As a party, we have taken principled stands against the ideologically driven policies of the current Conservative government, such as its so-called tough-on-crime agenda, the abandonment of environmental protection, and anti-labour legislation. Today our position on Bill C-51 is consistent with this proud NDP tradition.

I should say that with all this anti-terrorism and anti-Muslim hype generated by the Conservatives, it would have been easy to come out in support of this draconian piece of legislation. After all, it appears, as the polls are saying, that Canadians are afraid, and they want tougher laws to protect them against terrorists. However, as the official opposition, that would not be in the best interests of Canadians.

I believe that my party has taken the responsible approach, and I am very proud of it. After carefully listening to experts and studying Bill C-51 in detail, we have determined that the bill would be a direct threat to the rights and freedoms we currently enjoy in this country. Here I would like to offer my sincere thanks to my colleagues from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and Alfred-Pellan and the research team for their due diligence on Bill C-51.

The following points summarize our concerns.

This bill threatens our way of life by asking Canadians to choose between their security and their freedoms. The bill was not developed in consultation with the other parties, all of whom recognize the real threat of terrorism and support effective, concrete measures to keep Canadians safe.

What is more, the bill irresponsibly provides CSIS with a sweeping new mandate without equally increasing oversight. It contains definitions that are broad, vague and threaten to lump together legitimate dissent with terrorism. It does not include the type of concrete, effective measures that have been proven to work, such as working with communities on measures to counter radicalization of youth.

We agree that terrorism is a real threat and everyone agrees that public safety should be a top priority for any government, but Canadians should not have to choose between their security and their rights. The Prime Minister is offering them a false choice.

We need concrete measures that protect Canadians without eroding our freedoms and undermining our way of life. However, time and time again, the Prime Minister goes too far and puts politics before principles.

As I endeavoured to study this bill, I read through various articles that appeared in our mainstream media. A number of them, such as the National Post editorial of February 19, dealt with the efforts of university professors and national security specialists Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who have produced three exhaustive analyses of Bill C-51. They are concerned about the new powers granted to CSIS to engage in disruptive activities.

We have also recently learned from an internal RCMP document that the environmental movement is already being targeted as a national security threat. According to the National Post, “that does not require a particularly paranoid mind to be interpreted as evidence that the environmental movement is already being targeted as a national security threat”.

Prior to CSIS being created in 1984, the RCMP had engaged in disruptive activities that were illegal. That is why the McDonald Commission was created and why CSIS was given a mandate to collect and analyze information and produce intelligence about potential national security threats to Canada. Now, under Bill C-51, they would be able to do legally what the RCMP was doing illegally in the 1960s and 1970s. This is a direct threat to the rights and freedoms we currently enjoy.

As our leader stated:

Bill C-51 would expand CSIS’s mandate to spying on ‘interference with infrastructure and interference with economic or financial stability.

The language is so broad that it would allow CSIS to investigate anyone who challenges the government’s social, economic or environmental policies. What is to stop this bill from being used to spy on the government’s political enemy?

We have also learned that former CSIS officer Francois Lavigne is alarmed by this bill. According to an article that appeared in The Windsor Star:

He believes the measures proposed in C-51 are unnecessary, a threat to the rights of Canadians and that the prime minister is using fascist techniques to push the bill.

Mr. Lavigne was part of the barn burning, off-the-leash Mounties group whose law-breaking ways led to the McDonald Commission and the eventual establishment of CSIS in 1984. He spent years tracking dangerous radicals without the powers the government wants to give CSIS. He said:

I find it a little convenient that in the past few years that these radicalized people are the biggest threat to ever hit us. There are more people dying because of drunk drivers or because of gang violence.

It would also appear that the Conservative government is using terror to deflect us from real problems facing Canadians, such as the loss of jobs, the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, and climate change, to name a few. History is full of examples of irresponsible leaders rallying their citizens by exaggerating threats to their security. As Mr. Lavigne goes on to say:

Some of these tactics are taken right out of the fascist playbook. Create an enemy that is hard to identify. Make it an enemy that is nebulous and seems to be able to do things that nobody else can. Don't define the enemy. Just identify. Generate fear around that enemy. Then send out the message that the only people who can deal with this enemy are us.

This is totally irresponsible and, I would say, immoral on the part of the Conservative government.

As our leader said, the NDP believes that current laws, at this time, allow the police and intelligence officers to do a good job. Providing new legislative tools is not the only solution. We must first ensure that our officers have the financial resources they need to better enforce laws.

In the end, any legislative measure to fight security threats must satisfy the following principle: the legislative measure must protect both Canadians and their civil liberties. The protection of civil liberties and public safety are both fundamental Canadian values. What is needed is a more rigorous legislative approach to fight terrorism based on evidence and facts, an approach that provides for strict monitoring of security agencies.

There is a lot of concern that this bill has been rammed through with the typical time allocation, not giving enough time for experts and the public to consult with the government, as happened in 2001 after what happened in New York City, when it took time, and committee meetings and hearings were held. This is being rammed through under the guise of fear.

I would like to quote from a disturbing article I read this morning in The Globe and Mail by Campbell Clark, which said:

Two things are clear: First, the Conservatives think this bill will help them win an election, and second, they don't want people to understand it. That's a bad combination for a bill that will change things in secret, in ways we won't know for years.