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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was industry.

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

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. There are three fundamentally important criteria for assessing the merits of trade agreements.

First, does the proposed partner respect democracy, human rights, adequate labour and environmental standards, and Canadian values? If there are challenges in these regards, is the partner on a positive trajectory toward these goals?

Second, is the proposed partner's economy of significant or strategic value to Canada? Third, are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?

The proposed free trade agreement with Honduras clearly fails this test. Honduras is a country with undemocratic practices, a corrupt government, weak institutions and a record of human rights abuses. It has low standards and insignificant strategic value.

Honduras is a very poor country with a history of repressive, undemocratic politics and a seriously flawed human rights record. Leftist president Manuel Zelaya's democratically elected government was toppled by a military coup in 2009. Since then, international observers have severely criticized the government's actions and the elections because they fail to meet acceptable democratic standards.

I recently received some information from a friend on Vancouver Island as a response to an op-ed that I had written on the Canada–Honduras trade agreement. He had just conducted a development and peace workshop about Honduras, and had spent six weeks in northern Honduras last fall on a personal accompaniment project with Father Melo Moreno, S.J., the director of an independent radio station and a human rights centre called ERIC.

This is what he wrote me when referring to Father Melo:

Either job puts him at the front of the firing squad and he lives with death threats and intimidation. As well some of his workers have received death threats. Twice I accompanied Melo to a prison near La Ceiba to visit a political prisoner—a peasant farmer who has been in jail for almost 6 years but a leader of a campesino community.

....Canada is very much present in Honduras through mining companies and through the sweatshops...which are there because labour laws and environmental protection laws are weak or non-existent thanks to the Free trade agreement conditions that Canada imposed.

I would like to read again from a paper entitled “Faith in Action: Padra Melo”, written by a woman by the name of Molly Holden. It says:

On October 9, Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J. popularly known as “Padre Melo” spoke to a group of Boston College students and faculty on the violence and ongoing human rights violations in Honduras, currently the 'murder Capital of the world'. His presentation, the Price of Truth: Human rights in Honduras since the Coup, addressed the struggles and successes of building a fair and inclusive society. In his testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Committee of the US Congress in 2012, Padre Melo asked members of the Committee how freedom of expression could 'be defended in a country like Honduras where the biggest violators of the this fundamental freedom are the friends and partners of a “democracy” backed by the policies and agencies of the U.S. government?' Padre Melo stated that around 80% of cocaine imported to the United States comes through Honduras by way of Colombia. However, U.S. attempts to combat drug trafficking in Honduras (and elsewhere in Latin America) place power and money in the hands of the Honduran military officials and politicians who are deeply tied to the drug lords. In other words, drug traffickers, weakening the rule of law and increasing violence, control the Honduran government at all levels.

I would like to finish by sharing an article entitled “Canada profiting off the backs of Honduras' poor”, by the Troy Media publication columnist, Mark Taliano, who was part of a Canadian delegation that went to Honduras to observe elections. The article states:

In March of 2007, Gildan Activewear Inc., a Montreal-based textile manufacturer, decided to leave Canada for sunnier climes.

The company laid off hundreds of Canadian workers, and resettled where business was good: Honduras. The end result? Canada lost jobs and Honduras' asymmetrical, toxic economy, was further entrenched.

Honduran sweatshop workers are basically commodities and their status will likely remain unchanged, or get worse. The 2009 coup that removed the democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya was condemned internationally (even U.S. resident Obama declared it illegal), and the new regime dismantled or corrupted institutions that might be of benefit to humans (including constitutional judges), and created a heavily militarized and murderous environment. “Since 2010,”reported Raul Burbano, delegation leader of election observers from Canada, “there have been more than 200 politically motivated killings.”

In the meantime, Canada's Gildan profits from the misery. Gildan pays no taxes in Honduras, and the workforce (primarily women) is easily exploited. Unions and collective bargaining are not allowed and human rights are not a concern.

This is who we are dealing with in the free trade agreement.

It continues:

The Collective Of Honduran Women...a brave voice for freedom in Honduras, comprehensively documents the exploitation of workers. Spokespeople told us:

1) Workers produce T-shirts from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. four days a week, at jobs that are physically repetitive. Repetitive strain injuries are common, proper care is elusive, and injured workers are easily discarded.

Further, it states:

At Gildan, inspectors aren't allowed in to the plant, and workers are fired (or worse) if they try to organize unions.

2) One former worker explained that she would be given a cortisone shot to treat her calcified tendinitis, and then sent immediately back to work.

Later, it states:

It's no surprise then, that by age 25, chronic work injuries, coupled with poor medical treatment, often prevent workers from performing their fast-paced tasks.

Worse still, once a worker leaves Gildan, she is likely to have irreversible health problems which preclude her from finding alternate employment. Some women need crutches to walk; others can't hold their babies or do housework. Savage poverty imposes itself on their already precarious existences, and decimated social institutions perpetuate the misery.

Healthcare, schooling, and other social/public institutions are abysmal, and only those (few) with money get adequate service.

What are the drivers behind such misery?

Those who control the levels of power in Honduras are governed by interests that do not include the common good, consequently, society and the economy have been spirally downward since the coup.

Prior to the 2009 military coup, freedom and democracy were making inroads into the malaise, but now the power structure looks something like this:

At the top of this asymmetrical and entirely dysfunctional political economy are transnational corporations, including banks. They are seamlessly aligned with governments in Canada and the U.S. They tacitly, if not overtly, drive foreign policy decisions.

On the ground in Honduras looms the invisible hand of the U.S. military, viewed by locals as an “occupying force”, that arguably enables destabilization—drug trafficking has increased since the coup—and is allied with the corrupt dictator Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Locally, the nexus of powerful polities includes narco gangs, the police, the military, the para-police...and rich oligarch....

Corruption throughout society is so pervasive that people trying to make a living often have to pay extortion money not only too gangs, but also to the police.

Now, with a growing number of U.S. military bases and the murderous dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernandez solidified, profits are basically guaranteed for transnational corporations.

As Canadians, we need to continue asking important questions. For example,

“Why are these “Free Trade” Agreements, such as the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement, so secret?” and “Why have we chosen to profit from the misery of others?”

Once we get some answers, we might choose to pay a couple dollars more for our next T-shirt.—

This is who we are dealing with. This is the country we are trying to do a free trade agreement with.

By the way, in these agreements, we have provisions allowing companies to sue governments, similar to chapter 11 in NAFTA, if they are not treated to their liking. Theoretically, a Canadian company perpetuating injustices in Honduras could actually sue the Honduran government if it were not happy with the policies of that government.

Why are we signing an agreement with a country with this record of human rights abuse and that even allows our companies to continue this abuse in their country?

I think that is the question we have to answer here today before we talk about free trade with a country like Honduras.

Meat Inspection Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the beef industry is regulated.

Some antibiotics are used but these antibiotics are allowed in the food chain. In the horse slaughter industry, there is a long list of prohibited medications, but as we have already said, those medications are given to horses. There is no control.

Even though the beef industry is regulated, there have still been problems. Without regulations, the meat on our plates is not safe to eat.

Meat Inspection Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not have that faith.

The former head of one of the slaughterhouses in Saskatchewan that was shut down, said in an interview that he could not see how these horses were being sent to the slaughter. He said there was no control or way of verifying what had been administered to them. For example, in the case of Backstreet Bully, the kill buyer verified that the horse had not had any medication in the last six months, and in fact he only had it for 24 hours. The system of verification is not present.

In Europe, a horse needs to have an equine passport at the age of six months and the list of all the medications has to follow that horse throughout its lifetime. We do not have that kind of control. We need to have a precautionary principle on food safety that is based on the European system.

Meat Inspection Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the point is that if once in its lifetime an animal has any of these prohibited substances administered to it, then that meat is no longer fit for human consumption, whether or not it is detectable according to the tests we use. The consensus is that roughly 85% or higher of horses in North America, in both countries, have at some point in their life been administered with these drugs. Once an animal is administered with these drugs, then at no point should that animal go into the food chain.

Meat Inspection Act March 31st, 2014

moved that Bill C-571, An Act to amend the Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act (slaughter of equines for human consumption), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to my Bill C-571 today. I will begin by recognizing and thanking all those Canadians who have written letters, signed petitions, and shared information about the horse slaughter industry with me.

Bill C-571 seeks to recognize that horses are ordinarily kept as domestic animals for recreational and sporting purposes, not to produce meat for human consumption, and may contain substances that are prohibited in food animals.

The bill would prohibit horses from being conveyed to slaughter and horsemeat from being sold for human consumption. The only exception to the prohibition would be for horses that are raised primarily for the food chain and are accompanied by a complete lifetime record, in chronological order, of all medical treatments ever administered.

To understand why such a distinction needs to be made, it is necessary to examine the nature of the equine industry, the medications that are administered to horses, the purposes for which these medications are commonly used, the implications that are posed to human health from ingesting equine drugs that may be present in horsemeat, and the adequacy of the regulations that currently govern the Canadian horse slaughter industry.

The question that needs to be answered is: Without the enactment of Bill C-571, is it possible to guarantee a safe horsemeat product if it is produced from horses that were not raised or regulated within an agricultural industry and were never intended to enter the human food chain until the day of being purchased by a kill buyer under contract to a Canadian horse processor.

Last year, 71,961 horses were slaughtered in Canada. Some 85% of the meat derived from these horses was exported to the EU and the remaining 15% sold domestically. Over half of these horses were imported from the U.S., a country, I will note, that is not permitted to export horsemeat to the EU, and where a 2007 ban on horse slaughter remains in place today. It bears keeping in mind that out of a population of some ten million Canadian and U.S. horses, little more than 1% is slaughtered to produce meat, meaning nearly 99% are not.

Whether bred for show, racing, jumping, breeding, pleasure, rodeo, dressage, companionship as pets, or for work, horses enter the slaughter supply chain to Canada for processing from a multitude of owners and a myriad of directions.

Throughout their lives, a wide variety of medications are administered to keep horses healthy and able to perform in their racing or sporting career and any other capacity required by their owners.

“WARNING: Do not use in horses intended for human consumption”, reads the label found on an extensive array of common horse drugs and includes, among others, wormers, vaccines, painkillers, tranquilizers, bronchodilators, anabolic steroids, ulcer mediations, diuretics, antibiotics, and fertility drugs. Most of these drugs are listed in Chapter 17, Annex E.5 of Canada's Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures, under the heading List of Veterinary Drugs Not Permitted for Use in Equine Slaughtered for Food. When something is not permitted, any administration of these drugs renders their meat unfit and unapproved whether or not it can be detected in tests.

In his detailed letter of notice to European Commissioner Tony Borg, Bruce Wagman of the legal firm Schiff Hardin, representing Front Range Equine Rescue and the U.S. Humane Society, includes as Exhibit 1, a list of 115 banned and dangerous substances commonly administered to U.S. horses that are slaughtered for horsemeat exports to the EU, in contravention of numerous food safety and transparency laws.

Also included in Mr. Wagman's letter are 13 signed declarations representing the sworn testimonies of a broad spectrum of American veterinarians, breeders, trainers, and owners attesting to the administration of these drugs to horses they have raised or cared for. In one example, Dr. Holly Colella, a veterinarian who attends to more than 1,200 horses annually in her practice, testifies that a majority of the substances on Exhibit 1 is regularly and routinely administered to the horses she works with.

In her article for Newsweek entitled “What's In Your Horse Burger? Chemicals That Pose Serious Health Risks”, Vickery Eckoff writes, “Horses—and particularly racehorses—are walking pharmacies”.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, one of the authors of the study entitled, “Association of Phenylbutazone Usage with Horses Bought for Slaughter: A Public-Health Risk” that was published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, has stated in interviews that “Eating them [that is horses] is about as healthful as eating food contaminated with DDT”.

Dodman's study had clearly shown that mechanisms to ensure the removal from the food chain of horses treated with the drug phenylbutazone, or “bute”, as it is commonly called, are inadequate at best. By matching the registered name to their racetrack drug record over a five-year period, the Dodman study revealed that 18 thoroughbred racehorses sent for slaughter had been given “bute” on race day, a drug that is banned for use in any animal intended for human consumption because it causes serious and lethal idiosyncratic adverse effects in humans.

Mindy Lovell, a Canadian, has owned horses for over 35 years. She has competed extensively and trained professionally for many years. Currently, she operates a boarding stable in conjunction with a thoroughbred aftercare program. In her experience, the one thing she notes that all horses have in common is the way in which they are cared for with respect to veterinary care and medications. As she writes in her letter to me:

One can simply walk into ANY boarding/training/schooling facility and open the medicine cabinet to clearly see the array of drugs and medications easily available and commonly used on these horses. The majority of these are clearly labelled—not to be used on horses intended for human consumption.

In testimony before a 2012 congressional committee that was struck on the heels of The New York Times exposé on the use of drugs in the racing industry and its relationship to an increased number of horse breakdowns leading to jockey deaths on American racetracks, Arthur B. Hancock III, a fourth-generation horse breeder, declares that:

Today, only 5% of all horses are bleeders and yet almost 100 percent receive Lasix on race day. There is only one reason for this. Lasix is a powerful diuretic that allows a racehorse to shed 20 to 30 pounds at race time, thus making it a performance-enhancing drug.

Further down in his testimony he states, “In addition to Lasix, nearly 100 percent of all racehorses run with Butazolidin, Ketofen, or Banamine along with other ‘therapeutic drugs’ in their systems”.

At the same Congressional hearing, Kathryn Papp, a veterinary practitioner at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pennsylvania, states:

The overuse and abuse of medication is rampant at our Thoroughbred racetracks and training centers. The abuse is not limited to just performance enhancing drugs, it encompasses all substances that our trainers think may improve their horse’s performance, from valid treatments to hokey and possibly dangerous therapies. Medications that are currently being overused at our racetracks include but are not limited to antibiotics, corticosteroids, NSAIDs, hormones and their analogues, calmative agents, hyper sensitizing agents, and respiratory aids, amongst many others. These substances are not just being used inappropriately around race time, more commonly they are employed during training and the time leading up to races. I cannot tell you how many barns I know that train every one of their horses on phenylbutazone daily whether they need it or not. And bute alone has many adverse effects to consider, ranging from GI issues to renal issues.

Also at this committee meeting, Congress heard from Glenn Thompson, a thoroughbred trainer for 30 years and author of the book, The Tradition of Cheating in the Sport of Kings, who stated:

From the time you start your first hot walking job until you take out your trainer's license you were taught, if a horse has a problem, you do whatever it takes to get them healthy to race. If there is an ankle problem, you give the horse bute…, if a horse has a bleeding problem, you give him Lasix…, if a filly is in season, you give her a drug to take her out of season.

Clearly, everyone involved in the horse slaughter industry, including Canadian, American and European regulators, know perfectly well that they simply cannot guarantee the safety of horse meat.

Lastly, given that the United States has no program in place to monitor the drugs given to horses and has no intention of creating one, the U.S. cannot export its horse meat directly to Europe. A report produced by the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office very clearly outlines the inadequacies of our regulatory regime when it comes to horse slaughter. Here are some examples from the 2010 audit.

First of all, the oversight regime in place in Canada to verify the use of drugs in horses intended for slaughter, as set out in Council Directive 96/23/EC, is inadequate because it does not provide official verification of the identification, movement and medical records of a limited number of horses destined for slaughter.

Imported horses were accompanied by an affidavit signed by the last owner—often a horse dealer—indicating any medical treatments administered over the previous six months. Nevertheless, no official guarantee was requested from the United States authorities that affidavits were verified and could be considered as reliable.

Supervision and certification are not enough to correct the problems noted.

In addition, in such areas as the export of horse meat, standards did not fully provide adequate guarantees.

The affidavit regarding any medical treatments administered is required for all horses slaughtered, regardless of their origin. However, there are no official controls to verify the authenticity or reliability of the affidavit.

Imported animals are accompanied by an affidavit indicating all medical treatments administered. However, the USDA assumes no responsibility regarding the origin of the animals, the controls in American institutions or the authenticity of the affidavit.

One might expect that, given the damning results of the audit and the serious risk to human health posed by horse medications, the slaughter industry would have been forced to significantly curtail its activities until a reliable medication oversight system could be developed and implemented. That did not happen. On the contrary, the European Union asked Canada to come up with a new plan to address the problem of medications in horse meat. While Canadian and European authorities look for ways to amend their regulations in accordance with trade agreements, the slaughter of Canadian and American horses continues as though nothing happened.

A Star investigation has found that Canada's food inspection system has serious flaws when dealing with the steady stream of racehorses sent to slaughter every year. Throughout his life, like many competitive horses, Backstreet Bully was given powerful performance-enhancing drugs that are potentially deadly in meat eaten by humans.

Two of these, nitrofurazone and phenylbutazone, had been administered to Backstreet Bully dozens of times, but the shoddy paperwork and poor oversight allowed by Canada's food watchdog cleared him for human consumption in a market that includes Quebec, Europe and some Toronto restaurants.

“You can’t kill that horse”, Stacie Clark, who works for the Stronach farm, recalled pleading with an abattoir official. It was not just small amounts of these drugs that had once been given to the horse: 21 doses of nitrofurazone, which has been linked to cancer in humans, and at least 23 doses of bute, a drug linked to bone marrow disease.

We have an industry where the primary consideration of owners in the care and treatment of horses is to ensure that they perform their career as required, not whether they will end up on someone's dinner plate.

We see a wide variety of substances that are commonly, and in many cases routinely, administered to horses that are prohibited for use even once if intended for the human food supply. We have exceedingly lax enforcement of a highly inadequate regulatory system, and whereas governments in the EU and the U.S. have conducted various studies and considered at length the issues of horse medication and food supply, Canada's Parliament has not yet seen it fit to do the same.

I am asking my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-571 at second reading.

I will close with the following statement by Dr. Peggy Larson, a former USDA veterinarian medical officer . She said:

Based on longstanding medical and scientific principles, it is impossible to declare horse meat safe for human consumption when the horses who are slaughtered for that meat have been exposed to an unidentified (and unidentifiable) number of drugs, treatments and substances, in unknown (and unknowable) quantities, at various times during their life.

Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act March 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his very informative speech and also for all the hard work he has done on behalf of farmers over the years he has been in this House.

There has been a debate regarding the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board's single-desk status and this catastrophe we are facing today, as we have read in The Western Producer and other newspapers and heard in talking with farmers.

I would like the member's opinion. Is part of the reason for this catastrophe today the loss of the single-desk status of the Canadian Wheat Board?

I know the member has been on the ground talking to farmers, and I would like to get his opinion on this.

Petitions March 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in the second petition, petitioners from my community of Nelson are calling on the Government of Canada to work with provincial and territorial governments to increase pension benefits under the Canada and Quebec pension plans, and to implement a fully-funded plan to phase in such an increase without delay.

Petitions March 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present two petitions.

The first petition is in support of the bill I introduced in the House, Bill C-322, which would amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act to prohibit the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption and horse meat products for human consumption.

Petitions March 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the last but not least petition is in support of my Bill C-322 to prohibit the importation and exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption, as well as horse meat products for human consumption.

Petitions March 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the next petition is from the Nelson area calling for amendment of the Canada Elections Act to introduce a suitable system of proportional representation after public consultation.