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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

Situation in Ukraine January 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for once again initiating this debate and for his hard work on behalf of Ukrainians throughout the world.

My family, like those of many Canadians, has suffered under the brutal Soviet regime. I heard stories when I first went there in 1971, and subsequently, of the brutality of the Soviet regime to the Ukrainian people. It confiscated grain and other goods and actually sent them to support the German empire. However, that is another story.

When we are dealing with someone like Yanukovych, I think he needs to be dealt with in a democratic fashion, but firmly.

The people of the Ukraine have spoken. We need to support them by saying we are going to freeze his assets. We are going to ensure he does not have a chance to escape the country. We are not going to give him immunity like Yushchenko. I did not understand this, but apparently Yushchenko, the former president, was given immunity. He was not thrown into jail. A deal was struck and he was given all sorts of immunity; whereas Tymoshenko was put in jail.

Yanukovych needs to be treated in a democratic fashion, but he needs to be treated firmly. That country has to come back on a democratic path.

Situation in Ukraine January 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will not take too much time because there are other questions that I am sure people want to ask.

However, in this appeal, Ukrainians are demanding that the president, the cabinet and the ministers of the Ukraine immediately stop the violence that has been carried out by the ministry of internal affairs' security forces and hired criminal thugs.

They are asking us to come to the Ukraine to assess the situation from the inside and mediate negotiations between government authorities and citizens of the Ukraine in order to resolve the crisis, to send missions with observers to prevent the reification of the dictatorship, to protect fundamental human rights, to safeguard European democratic values in the Ukraine and to also impose personal sanctions on anyone who has been involved in violations of human rights in the Ukraine, ban their entrance into democratic countries, freeze their financial accounts, and to start investigations on money laundering.

That is the plea from the people of the Ukraine to us.

Situation in Ukraine January 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

First off, I would to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake and the member for Etobicoke-Centre for having requested tonight's emergency debate.

It is of the utmost importance that we have such a debate tonight, because tomorrow morning, the Ukrainian Parliament will be in session. Everyone is wondering if it will enact martial law, which may include a blackout.

It is important that we are doing this tonight.

I would like to start by thanking my relative, Vitaliy Milentyev, who is the current president of the Alberta chapter of the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce. I have been receiving updates on the tragic situation in the Ukraine from him. In fact, last week my brother George and I were able to watch news clips from Ukraine when we spent some time with Vitaliy. What we saw was very disturbing.

I would like to share some background information that he sent to me today. However, first I would like to thank the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for its excellent briefing notes, which will be reflected in the debate tonight.

Also, I would like to emphasize that the outrage we are seeing in Ukraine is not confined to Kiev. It has been several days since anti-government protests have swept across central and western Ukraine, taking over regional administrative buildings. On January 25 and 26, two key industrial eastern cities, Zaporozhye and Dnepropetrovsk, which are traditionally seen as largely supporting the ruling party, have seen thousands of people rally on their main squares. In Zaporozhye, protestors are chanting slogans like “get out”, “Zaporozhye, wake up”, and they are singing the national anthem of Ukraine. There were also repeated calls for the governor of Zaporozhye region, Oleksandr Peklushenko, to resign. What we are seeing is not something that is confined to one part of Ukraine.

Here is some background information that I received today on what has happened since Yanukovych resumed power in 2010. Being backed by a majority of faithful MPs, he immediately appointed his close allies to the key positions in the country: chief justice of the constitutional court, head of a national bank, head of the ministry of finance, and head of customs and revenue service. Essentially all ministries and government departments are now headed by his subordinates.

The following transgressions of Yanukovych were also observed by the people of Ukraine, covered in media, and yet they have received no attention from the government.

There was the imprisonment for questionable charges of Yulia Tymoshenko and other leaders of the opposition, and key political figures. He first squeezed out the owners of large businesses, then smaller and smaller businesses. Any semi-successful business in Ukraine that shows any profit is now a target for Yanukovych's raider attacks.

Yanukovych's family, in four years, has become one of the richest and most powerful families in Ukraine by far. His son and son's friends are managing the empire. He has used taxpayers' money to build lavish residences for himself in national parks and heritage sites. There have been billions of dollars spent in open sight with absolutely no regard to public questioning of such expenses.

These are examples of what has become of a country ruled by one family.

I also have here a plea for help that I and my cousin Vitaliy received today from a friend of his who represents an intellectual elite of the Ukrainian legal system. He is one of the few judges with consciousness and dignity. Here is what he said:

Dozens of thousands of Ukrainians have been protesting in sub-zero temperatures for over 2 months now. (it's -15C in Kyiv now).

He continued:

Ukraine has clearly been mismanaged. The last “drop in the bucket” was a package of laws passed by the parliamentary majority almost two weeks ago that clearly violate basic constitutional and human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The tension is escalating. The area of “Independence Square” growing every night. More and more administrative and ministerial buildings are being occupied by protestors. Clashes with riot police have turned deadly last week. Police have started grabbing people (often non-protesting bypassers) and throwing them behind bars. The count of jailed people is in the thousands now.

I fear for members of my family who are also there and involved in this protest.

He continues to say that the “Government of Canada, (along with the Governments of other countries) should immediately interfere and call to seek for compromise as the most realistic approach to resolving the crisis and to prevent any further bloodshed”. It is much easier, according to the judge, “to prevent a civil war than to deal with its consequences (take Syria as the most recent example).”

He also reminds us that we need to remind Yanukovych and his affiliates of the sanctions that can be introduced in the case of escalation of violence and offer political asylum to those clearly persecuted by the government. Dozens of prominent Ukrainian figures who oppose Yanukovych's regime are now under constant pressure by threats from law enforcement, and some of them have unfortunately disappeared. The worst is feared. Some had to flee the country with their families in fear for their lives.

I would like to take a moment to offer a quotation from my newly elected colleague, the MP for Toronto Centre. It is important. She has a good summary of what is going on in the country:

Ukraine today is poised between the establishment of a deeply rooted, hard-earned democracy and a return to bare-knuckle authoritarianism. The outcome is critical for Ukraine, of course, and the Ukrainian diaspora around the world, but it will also have a powerful demonstration effect in Russia, other former Soviet republics, and everywhere in the world where civil society is struggling against dictatorship. What happens in Ukraine matters to the prospects for democracy around the world. The good news is that we can make a difference. In Ukraine we are seeing the struggle for human dignity, for the rule of law, for freedom of expression and association in its clearest form.

I would like to thank my colleague for that. I did not have time to read her whole article.

I would like to run out my time by reading from an appeal of the people of Ukraine to the international community, entitled “...Please Act Now”. It is dated January 24, 2014 at 2:14 p.m.:

This is our last plea for help. Tomorrow they might disconnect our phones and Internet, announce a state of emergency and kill us while the international community remains silent, upholding European values on paper only. People are dying for them in Ukraine, and will continue to die. Citizens of Ukraine, representatives of civil organizations, active participants in the peaceful protest on the Kyiv and across the whole country appeal to the international community, national governments and international organizations to decisively intervene in the current situation in Ukraine in order to help Ukrainians secure peace and civil rights in this part of Europe. We need your help to stop this bloody, brutal and evil war, which criminal government authorities wage against their own people. The response to the protesters' actions by the Ministry of Internal Affairs...Security Forces is outrageous. Police strongly violate human rights, secured by international conventions and Ukrainian legislation, particularly by using live ammunition and water cannons. At least five people have already been killed by sniper's bullets and torture by criminal thugs hired by the authorities to fight activists, and the fate of many others has not been determined. Hundreds of protesters were severely injured, among them dozens of medical workers and journalists, who have been intentionally shot by snipers from “Berkut”(riot police), mainly targeting their eyes. MIA Security Forces have kidnapped the severely wounded right from the hospitals, handcuffed, tortured and humiliated them. We ask you to note that despite the terror against protesters arranged by authorities all over country, and specifically in Kyiv, people's resistance, with only one exception, remains peaceful.

I have learned also that the government has been using what we call les agents provocateurs. In other words, they are hiring young thugs, who are poor or young people who do not have any money, dressing them up and getting them to take part on the side of the demonstrators to make it look as if demonstrators are committing the violence. That certainly has to stop.

I will continue with the appeal:

It has been two long months during which the government authorities of Ukraine have violently reacted to the peaceful protest of millions of Ukrainians. Partial radicalization of public attitudes in Kyiv is the outcome of brutal actions by police during crackdowns on the peaceful demonstrators on the 30th of November and 1st of December, absence of a response by the authorities to the EuroMaidan's demands, systemic repressions towards participants of the protests across the country, and adoption of illegitimate laws, that literally reify dictatorship in Ukraine. Violent resistance started when police blocked a peaceful protest against the abolishment of the rights of Ukrainians for non-violent protest, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and fair trial.

As I am out of time, I should add, Slava Ukraini.

Situation in Ukraine January 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as a Canadian of Russian Ukrainian descent, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and for his support for the Ukrainian people. I would also like to thank all the members of this House.

Over the past few days, anti-government demonstrations have been taking place across central and western Ukraine. On January 25 and 26, thousands of people were also seen protesting in Zaporozhye and Dnipropetrovsk, two cities in eastern Ukraine. What matters is that demonstrations are taking place all over the country. Could my colleague comment on my remarks?

Situation in Ukraine January 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague on her recent election and thank her for her speech.

One thing I have been thinking about during this whole debate and the tragedy that is happening is that Ukrainians are under the shadow of a very powerful Russia, which is attempting to dictate policy. We have a similar but not analogous situation. We live in the shadow of the United States and have been able to navigate Big Brother somehow and chart our independence. What can we offer our brothers and sisters in Ukraine to help them somehow live with the shadow of Russia but maintain their independent path?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 27th, 2014

With regard to the horse slaughter industry in Canada: (a) what is the government’s policy on requiring medical history on equine identity documents (EID) only for the last six months of a horse’s life, and not for an entire lifespan; (b) does the government have information on what happened to the meat from the racehorse Backstreet Bully, who had been administered several courses of a variety of banned medications throughout its lifetime, prior to being sold into the slaughter pipeline, and what are the details of Backstreet Bully’s EID and all other traceability documents and records; (c) does the government have information on what happened to the meat from the racehorse Silky Shark, who had been administered the drug phenylbutazone prior to being sold into the slaughter pipeline, and what are the details of Silky Shark’s EID and all other traceability documents and records; (d) what system is in place for owners to report the history of banned drugs they have administered to a horse that they previously owned, when they discover that a subsequent owner has sold that horse into the slaughter pipeline; (e) when such instances as mentioned in (d) are reported, and it is found that the meat was sold as human food, what system is in place to recall that meat from domestic and international retailers, (i) how many such instances have been reported, (ii) what were the results of the government’s investigations into these reports; (f) how does the government keep count of the number of horses being imported from the United States (U.S.) for slaughter; (g) how does the government explain the discrepancy between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)/Agriculture Canada and U.S. Department of Agriculture figures; (h) what were the findings of the government’s investigation into the large numbers of emaciated horses arriving from the U.S. in 2011 destined for Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation slaughter plant, and what system has the government put in place to quell these importations; (i) what system has the government put in place to quell the loading and importation of near-term pregnant mares arriving into Canada from the U.S.; (j) what actions or procedures were taken by the government to address the potential biohazard noted in the June 2011 Verification Report by the plant inspector at Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation slaughter plant, namely, that not only was blood visible to the naked eye but that there were improperly cleaned saw blades upon the resumption of horse slaughter following the slaughter of cattle; (k) how many racehorses (thoroughbreds and standardbreds) were processed at Canadian abattoirs in each of the years between 2007 to 2013, and how many of these horses were pregnant; (l) what number or percentage of horses currently being slaughtered have been raised expressly for human consumption, broken down by (i) Canadian horses, (ii) U.S. horses; (m) what is the overall value to the Canadian economy in terms of job numbers and contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by (i) the horse slaughter industry, (ii) the equine industry; (n) is there any regulatory requirement for veterinarians, prior to administering medications to horses, to question owners about the likelihood of them being sold into the slaughter pipeline for human consumption; (o) has the government engaged in discussions with U.S. officials with a view to implementing an equine passport or other system to record the medical history of all U.S horses beginning at birth and, if so, (i) what was the outcome of these discussions, (ii) on what dates did these discussions occur; (p) how many equine fatalities and injuries have occurred during the live shipment of horses from Canada to Japan while loading the animals onto aircraft or in flight, and what were the circumstances surrounding these fatalities and injuries, for the period January 1, 2008 to August 30, 2013; and (q) is it the government’s policy to make publicly available the names of all meat-processing companies that are licensed to export horsemeat, as well as the countries they are licensed to export to?

Respect for Communities Act November 28th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, what is wrong with that? What is wrong when we have one level of government co-operating with other levels of government? That is our country. The federal government co-operates with the provinces, which co-operate with the cities, and we get something that works. InSite is an example of that.

What we have here is a government that goes against other levels of government. Instead of co-operating, it goes against them. It does not co-operate. It introduces policies that are contrary to what most Canadians believe. I find that a shame.

Respect for Communities Act November 28th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the thing is that the bill would set criteria for the opening of new sites and would make them so stringent that, as department officials have indicated to us, if an applicant should accidentally forget to include something, the request would automatically be denied. Therefore, are these consultations another kind of sham or a pretext to ram through this legislation?

I would think that if they are done properly, if it makes it easier for communities and cities to have similar programs, if it makes it possible for InSite to continue, then I would welcome them. However, I would submit that is not the case. That is not what the government is proposing.

Respect for Communities Act November 28th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, and I will comment on what he said at the beginning of his statement.

Personally, I think the government is saying, “If it works, we will fix it according to our ideological criteria.”

We have noticed this attitude in the areas of the environment, science and foreign affairs. In fact, we have seen it in everything that was working in my country. In my country, everything that works is being systematically changed. That is unacceptable. A program that works and can benefit Canadians can no longer work because of the Conservatives' false ideology.

This is not my country. This is not the Canada I know.

Respect for Communities Act November 28th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see that all my friends are here to listen to my speech in great numbers.

I would like to start by saying that in analyzing the notes and looking at what is going on, I find this to be a disturbing situation. In one part of the country, we have a program that works, but then we have the government with its bill trying to make it more difficult to continue this program and more difficult for others to implement it. It seems that the tendency of the Conservative government is to ignore evidence as it constructs policy, which I would say is often based on ideology rather than the facts.

As a prelude to my speech on Bill C-2, I just had a chance to skim through the annual report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator for 2011-12. One of things highlighted is the increase in prison population even though our crime rate is decreasing. If members look at that report and the various crime bills and legislation, I would say that one could comfortably say that it is based not so much on the idea of trying to rehabilitate people to become productive members of society when they get out, but on punishment, almost vicious punishment. I think back in history to the age of enlightenment and the Dark Ages when western civilization was invaded by barbarians. I hope we are not going in that direction.

Some of the concerns in the correctional report is in regard to double-bunking, for example, which puts a strain on the system. In a sense, it is a punishment, but the effects, which I will talk about later, are far-reaching. The report says:

The increasing costs of corrections in Canada and rising inmate numbers are inseparable from a number of significant legislative measures. Since 2006, these reforms have resulted in:

Expansion of a range of mandatory minimum penalties for certain offences, particularly for serious drug offences, gun crimes and child exploitation offences

Abolition or tightening of parole review criteria

Reduction of credit for time served in pre-trial custody

Restricted use of conditional sentences.

Although we may agree with a number of these criteria, the fact remains that we have put more people into our prisons at a time when the crime rate was decreasing, and we have made it more difficult for these people to get rehabilitated and become productive members of society when they come out.

Prison crowding, for example, has negative impacts on the system's ability to provide humane, safe and secure custody. The report says, “Putting two inmates in a single cell means an inevitable loss of privacy and dignity, and increases the potential for tension and violence.”

The report talks about how this tension and violence is detrimental to the final rehabilitation of prisoners so they can come out into society.

As prisons become more crowded, the physical conditions of confinement are hardening. At the higher security levels, inmates already have extremely limited opportunities for association, movement and assembly.

Programming and vocational opportunities in maximum security prisons are extremely limited, defined by operational and security concerns driven largely by the influence of gangs, drugs and incompatibles.

I would like to transpose this to our current discussion on Bill C-2.

Overall, one would think that if we have a program that has been successful, has taken drugs off the street and was able to work in rehabilitating addicts, the tendency would be not only to keep it but to expand it around the country.

Unfortunately, what we have here is a thinly veiled attempt to shut down supervised injection sites, which runs directly counter to the Supreme Court’s decision. With these criteria, it will be much more difficult for organizations to open supervised injection sites in Canada.

The NDP feels that decisions respecting programs that may improve public health must be based on facts, not on ideological positions.

In 2011, for example, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite provided essential services and that it could stay open under the exemption provided for by section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The court held that the charter permitted users to access InSite's services and that similar services should also be allowed to operate under an exemption.

What is surprising is that more than 30 peer-reviewed studies published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal have described the benefits of InSite. That is more than 30 studies. In addition, studies on more than 70 similar supervised injection sites in Europe and Australia have reported similar outcomes. InSite in Vancouver is one of the biggest public health breakthroughs in Canada. We believe that this site and others delivering similar benefits should be able to offer their services under appropriate supervision.

It is strange. We have a program that works well. Articles and studies published in Canada and in scientific journals show that it works well and that it is helping people. However, here we have to debate a bill that will prevent that program from continuing. It makes no sense.

This is a very imperfect bill, based, as I have previously said, on an anti-drug ideology and on baseless fears about public safety.

The Conservatives say they are going to try to get drugs off the streets, but what is interesting is that this bill will make it virtually impossible to open safe injection sites. That answers my colleague from Langley's question. It will be virtually impossible to open safe injection sites, which will have the effect of promoting heroin's return to neighbourhoods. How ironic. This bill will promote heroin's return to neighbourhoods.

We believe that any new legislation on supervised injection sites should abide by the spirit of the Supreme Court's decision, which this bill does not do. We also believe that harm reduction programs, including supervised injection sites, must be subject to exemptions based on evidence of their ability to improve a community's health and preserve human life, not on ideological positions.

In conclusion, I am very disappointed that we are debating this bill, which will make life more difficult for people who are trying to combat this disease of heroin abuse.

When the bill goes to committee, which I imagine it will, there will be evidence and debate. I hope the governing party will take into account the effects and the scientific evidence when it looks at amendments to the bill, so that we can make this work for all Canadians.