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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was particular.

Last in Parliament September 2017, as Liberal MP for Scarborough—Agincourt (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 52% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and join the debate on Bill C-22. I want to use my time to focus not so much on why I am supporting Bill C-22, because I think the arguments have already been advanced quite significantly by the members of the government. I want to use my time instead to address some of the substantive concerns coming from the opposition parties, which is what I will do in the time that has been allotted to me today.

There are some broad themes that have clearly emerged from the opposition that I want to address and put to rest to try to allay their concerns.

The first, which has been advanced by the official opposition members, is the concept that the architecture of Bill C-22 undermines the independence of parliamentarians because of the apparent supremacy of the executive branch over the legislative branch. They have cited the various provisions in the act that deal with the Prime Minister's capacity to appoint the members of the committee under section 5, and the ability of ministers of the crown to withhold information in certain situations under section 16. They have highlighted issues with respect to the ability of the Prime Minister, in consultation with the chair of the committee, to redact certain portions of the proposed report coming from the committee that might be injurious to national security or might disclose information that might be subject to solicitor-client privilege or might be injurious to or impact international relations.

I appreciate this particular point because we do live in a Westminster model, wherein our branches of government, both our executive branch and our legislative branch, are fused into the same body. The supremacy of the executive branch is particularly exacerbated in this type of model, unlike, for example, in the United States, under a congressional model, where there are very clear and separate branches of government, and the executive branch is specifically divorced from the legislative branch.

I would remind my colleagues of a point that was specifically highlighted by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in his address to the House on the bill. The mandate of this committee is very broad. If we look carefully at the language of the legislation under section 8, it says that the committee's mandate is to review:

(a) the legislative, regulatory, policy, administrative and financial framework for national security and intelligence;

(b) any activity carried out by a department that relates to national security or intelligence, unless the appropriate Minister determines that the review would be injurious to national security; and

(c) any matter relating to national security or intelligence that a minister of the Crown refers to the Committee.

Therefore, the oversight role, the review role, is very broad as set out specifically in the act. However, I would point out that the purpose of this piece of legislation is to do exactly that, to review the broad mandates of our national security and intelligence agencies. It is not to go and delve into the specific operational endeavours of the military or our police services to examine specific matters that are of a specific ongoing operational nature. I would submit that falls within the purview of the government's executive branch, to execute, in real time, responses to potential national security threats and to deal with those instances. The role of the committee is to look at these particularly broad mandates.

Some of the committee's other mandates are to review that our security and intelligence services have the right legislative tools, that the resources appropriated to our national security agencies are appropriate, that we have the appropriate interagency co-operation, and that the legislative framework allows for that appropriate exchange of information. I would also argue that it has to deal with some of the concerns that the third party has advanced, which is to ensure that the appropriate procedural and substantive protections are afforded to individuals who may be impacted by the actions of our security agencies.

I believe those are the appropriate measures of review, not the actual review of specific ongoing operational issues. The way I would frame it is that the role of the committee is not to play M in MI6 in a James Bond movie. Its role is to provide oversight and a check on the exercise of executive authority.

The second theme I wanted to address that I think has been overplayed by the opposition is with respect to the ability in terms of both access to information and the ability to redact information. Again, I would invite my colleagues on the opposite side to carefully review the actual language in the bill as it relates to those specific limitations.

Let me take, for example, the provisions that are dealt with under the access to information provisions in clauses 13 and 14, particularly as they relate to the exceptions under section 14. My colleagues on the other side have noted that there are seven exceptions, and they refer to them as being problematic. However, if we examine them carefully, they are very narrowly construed. Basically, they are construed with respect to other rights and immunities and privileges of other classes of persons other than parliamentarians.

Again, I think it is a bit of a mis-characterization that the supremacy of Parliament and the role of parliamentarians somehow supersedes the rights, privileges, and immunities of other classes of persons. I do not think that is a fair characterization. I think we have to always constantly engage and make sure that there is a balance.

We can take a look at the seven specific provisions in section 14. The first one is “a confidence of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, as defined in subsection 39(2) of the Canada Evidence Act”. In plain English, that means cabinet confidences. The question is whether parliamentarians should be subject and be able to access information as it relates to the deliberations of cabinet. Again, I think not.

The second one refers to “information respecting ongoing defence intelligence activities supporting military operations”. My point is that those are operational decisions. Again, I do not think that it is within the purview of the committee to be reviewing ongoing military action.

The third is “information the disclosure of which is described in subsection 11(1) of the Witness Protection Program Act”. If somebody goes into the witness protection program, I do not think we need to know the identity of who that particular individual is.

The fourth is “the identity of a person who...has been approached to be...a confidential source of information, intelligence or assistance to the Government of Canada”. Therefore, if somebody is prepared to spy on behalf of Canada, again, I do not think we need to have that specific type of information.

The fifth one is “information relating directly to an ongoing investigation”. Again, that is an operational matter. We can certainly look at it retrospectively and review if there was a problem, but I do not think that this committee should be in a position to compromise an ongoing active investigation.

The sixth is information related to the Investment Canada Act, and seventh is information relating to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Again, if we look at these particular sections, they are very narrowly construed.

Therefore, the exceptions that are articulated in the bill are very narrow. Again, I would argue that these are very narrow areas that are carved out, and that the mandate of the committee is in fact very broad.

The other point that has been raised is with respect to subclause 21(5), the writing of reports and the Prime Minister's capacity to edit the reports.

Again, I invite my colleagues to read subclause 21(5) carefully with respect to what it means. It does not mean that the Prime Minister rewrites the report. It means that a report that has been received by the Prime Minister is reviewed to make sure there is no sensitive confidential information that is then subsequently disclosed to the public. It is this information alone that would be redacted. Through consultation with the chair that information would be subject to review and allowed to be redacted on the basis of national security, on the basis that it might be injurious to international relations, or that the information is confidential because of solicitor-client privilege.

Again, it is very narrowly construed. I simply submit that to my colleagues—

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I want to give my friend an opportunity to clarify something. I have been listening very carefully to the opposition in its challenge on the whole notion that this is somehow a parliamentary committee. This is a mischaracterization by many of the members. In my reading of the bill, this is a non-parliamentary committee that is to be formed pursuant to statute, as opposed to under the Standing Orders. All the particular characterizations that my friends on the opposite side have been advancing are based upon the presumption that this is one of the committees formed under the Standing Orders.

Does my friend have a particular comment with respect to that point?

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for what I thought was a very thoughtful and engaging presentation to the House of his thoughts on Bill C-22. I have listened carefully to the comments from the official opposition over the course of the debate so far, and I do want to say that I am heartened here on the government side that there seems to have been a change of heart now that the official opposition sits on the opposition benches. Not too long ago it was the government and was at that time not as receptive to the basic content of what now is being proposed with Bill C-22.

My friend laid out, I think, four broad criticisms, and to me they seem primarily related to issues of process. I am only going to dig into one of them.

That, namely, is with respect to membership in the committee. The member indicated that it was his view that the members of this particular parliamentary review committee should have a background in security. However, I would argue, perhaps, that what is most important is that the members be independent and have an open mind with respect to challenging the positions that are advanced by the government, and not necessarily be captured by particular perspectives; for example, if they had previously served in a security agency or with the police, they would have particular perspectives.

Does my friend have a particular thought, or would he be willing to consider who ought to sit on that particular committee?

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important piece of legislation that deals with concerns the Liberal Party had in the last Parliament with respect to the passage of then Bill C-51, now known as the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015.

One of the concerns we raised at the time was how important it was to introduce a committee of parliamentarians to oversee our security services, to make sure there is independent review by an independent body of elected officials. However, one of my particular concerns that I will address as my question to the government House leader is why the reports that would ultimately be prepared by this parliamentary committee would be subject to review by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Office before they can be tabled in Parliament.

Armenia September 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, today we join the Armenian community, in Canada, in Armenia, and around the world, in celebrating the country's 25th independence day.

As chair of the Canada-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group and as an MP for my riding in Scarborough—Agincourt, which represents a vibrant Armenian community, I am honoured to join my colleagues today in celebrating this significant milestone.

Canada and the Republic of Armenia enjoy a dynamic and friendly relationship. As Canadians, we continue to support our Armenian friends, whether it is through our shared values of democracy, freedom, bilateral relations, or through our continued recognition of the Armenian genocide that was successfully established in the House of Commons.

Today, we reflect on the important contributions of the Armenian community in Canada, not only toward our national fabric but also through the demonstration of leadership by showing what it truly means to be Canadian during the Syrian refugee crisis.

I invite all my colleagues in joining me to offer our best wishes to the Armenian community on this important milestone as we continue to look forward to many more celebrations to come.

Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that my hon. colleague and his party will be supporting Bill C-13 at second reading to get it to committee. I want to delve a little more deeply and examine the questions he ultimately is concerned about that might be presented at committee, particularly, as he noted, with respect to protecting the safety of workers.

This legislation clearly deals, in part, with non-compliant goods and goods in transit that may not be compliant with existing Canadian regulations. The intent is simply to give the Government of Canada authority to provide exemptions to allow goods to continue in transit, keeping in mind that it would still have to protect Canadians and workers.

Could the member perhaps explain what his specific concern is and what would make him more comfortable in supporting this legislation at third reading with respect to simply giving the government the authority to look at the particular situation in question and then grant an exemption where it thinks it is appropriate?

Citizenship Act June 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver East for her contribution at committee and to this debate on Bill C-6, which I think is an incredibly important part of the commitment we made in the last election to roll back what we thought were many of the oppressive elements of Bill C-24 that had been passed in the 41st Parliament.

I would like to ask, given the contributions that my friend from Vancouver East made at the immigration committee with respect to some of those amendments—and I noted that some of her amendments were not accepted by the government—whether the member will still be supporting the overall intent of Bill C-6, including some of the amendments she had proposed that were carried at committee.

Public Safety June 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, in the previous Parliament, and during last year's election campaign, we committed to keeping Canadians safe while ensuring that our national security framework complies with the charter and reflects Canadian values. This morning the government upheld an important part of that commitment by introducing legislation to establish a committee of parliamentarians that will provide a new review and scrutiny for departments and agencies with national security responsibilities.

Can the Minister of Public Safety please tell the House what else he is doing to protect both Canada's national security and the rights and freedoms of Canadians?

Spring Festival June 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to join my colleagues from Calgary Forest Lawn and Vancouver East in congratulating my colleague and fellow neighbour to the west of my riding, my colleague from Don Valley North, for his introduction of Motion No. 38 before the House today.

I, along with my other colleagues on all sides of the aisle, join in congratulating my friend in introducing the motion and recognizing that lunar new year and the lunar festival is a significant event celebrated by Asian communities around the globe, including in Canada. I and my friend from Don Valley North, along with many others, have engaged in many activities during this festival.

I want to follow-up also on the suggestion by my friend from Vancouver East particularly as it relates to 2017. Does he have any additional suggestions that could perhaps highlight the importance of not only the contributions of Asian Canadians, but to celebrate the tremendous diversity that Asian communities have contributed to Canada's diversity and pluralism?

Criminal Code May 31st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be honest. I agree with a significant part of what the member has said today. I was one of the members on the government side who actually voted with the opposition on some of the amendments that were brought forward, including the one that related to protections to ensure there was an appropriate medical opinion when there was a question with respect to capacity in the case of someone with a previous mental health condition.

I want to get to the other issue that was advanced, and that was the one with respect to dealing with institutions. I did not support that amendment and I want to say why on the record. I felt the provision should not appropriately fall within the Criminal Code and that, in fact, there was a more appropriate type of response through our regulatory colleges at the provincial level. I think this is why the government side overwhelmingly rejected that provision.

I want to get back to the question my friend talked about with respect to reasonable foreseeability. I share some concerns that have been raised by members on the other side with respect to reasonable foreseeability. What would the member suggest would make this provision clearer, particularly as it relates to setting a clear legal standard as guidance for physicians who would have to operate under this provision?