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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forward.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Westlock—St. Paul (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 78% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Human Rights Act May 30th, 2012

moved that Bill C-304, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I am happy to be back in the House of Commons once again to debate my private member's bill, C-304, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom).

I would like to thank justice committee for its support, as well as the many witnesses who took time out of their busy schedules to discuss Bill C-304 and freedom of speech within committee. It is these honest and open dialogues which have moulded our great nation and will continue to advance our society into the future.

Moving a private member's bill through the House of Commons has been a tremendous experience, one that has led to many obvious ups and downs. However, it has been one that has garnered me the opportunity to work more closely with my fellow colleagues in both chambers. I would like to take this time to thank my colleagues for both their support and their constructive criticism.

It has also given me the opportunity to travel our great country from coast to coast to discuss this issue with Canadians. It is from them that I have really received the passion for freedom of speech within our country. I would like to thank Canadians for their support on this.

At a practical level, I would like to thank my staff member Amee Pundick for tremendous work on this bill. Most important, the pressures that moving a private member's bill through the House can create on one's schedule means that there is more pressure on the family. I would like to thank my parents, my son Eastin and my daughter Ayden for their patience and most important my wife Amel for her tremendous support. She truly is the rock of our family.

Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of our great democracy, a cornerstone which is eroding away due to unnecessary censorship by an overzealous bureaucracy. Regulating speech is a dangerous idea and not compatible with the principles of a free society. As Thomas Jefferson said, “the only security of all is a free press”.

My private member's bill C-304 would help protect and enhance this fundamental freedom, because without freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly hold no value. Freedom of speech truly is the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are based.

Bill C-304 calls for the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act in order to ensure that freedom of speech is preserved and promoted through an open, transparent and democratic process, which is the Criminal Code of Canada.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been a contentious topic for a number of years. It has been widely acknowledged that it impedes section 2(b) of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that every individual has the fundamental freedoms that are “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.

This conflict between section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and section 2(b) of the charter was reaffirmed in 2008 by Professor Richard Moon, who was hand-picked by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to review this act. Professor Moon clearly stated, on page 31 of his report, “The principal recommendation of this report is that section 13 be repealed so that the censorship of Internet hate speech is dealt with exclusively by the criminal law.”

Professor Moon goes on to highlight a quote from the Cohen Committee, which states that “No civil statute can create a moral standard equivalent to that of criminal law”. This quote perfectly summarizes the unparalleled ability of the Criminal Code to properly address sensitive issues while maintaining a balanced approach.

It is also important to note that the conflict between section 13 and the charter was reaffirmed in 2009 by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal itself, which found section 13 to be unconstitutional.

Since Bill C-304 was first introduced in the House of Commons I have had opportunities to attend a number of conferences and annual meetings across Canada to discuss the content of the bill, the repealing of section 13 and the implications that it would have on our country.

Most people were astounded when they heard for the first time that our fundamental freedoms can be overruled by a quasi-judicial body that feels that something someone said was likely to have exposed another individual or group to hatred or contempt. That is right, the individual simply had to feel that it was likely to do this.

Canadians find it difficult to believe that such a loosely written and vague law has the power to undermine the fundamental rights that Canada so proudly bases its democracy upon, which men and women have given their lives defending.

While section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act may have been implemented with well-meaning intentions in an effort to combat discrimination and hate speech, the actual implications reach much further, chilling free speech and stifling the growth and development of our society. It is in this zone of ambiguity and the ripple effect that section 13 creates that we should all be concerned. Subsection 13(1) states:

It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

There is it right there: “any matter that is likely to expose a person”.

Subsection 13(2) goes on to extend this law to matters that are communicated by means of computer and the Internet. What this really means is that the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Canadian Human Rights Tribunal only have to feel that one is “likely” to have offended someone. This is not a narrowly defined legal definition, which would be far more appropriate.

Under section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, truth is not a defence and intent is not a defence. One no longer has the right to due process, the right to a speedy trial or the right to an attorney. It is alarming that until recently the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had a 100% conviction rate. This is not a sign of vindication; rather, it neglects to acknowledge that 90% of defendants fail to obtain legal advice because they simply cannot afford it, while at the same time the legal costs of the plaintiffs are fully covered. This is simply un-Canadian.

As a boy born and raised in northern Alberta, I have grown up obsessed with hockey. My son has followed in my footsteps. His favourite hockey player is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I often compare this scenario to a hockey game. Placing well-paid human rights lawyers up against defendants who generally have little to no background in the legal field is like placing a recreational hockey team up against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins and being surprised when the professional team wins again and again and again. This approach simply makes no sense, as the tables are obviously tipped in favour of the professional team or, in this case, the human rights lawyers.

These are not the characteristics of an open and democratic society that promotes equality and fairness. These basic provisions of law are considered to be natural rights by Canadians and are provided to any other individual in any other court in Canada under the Criminal Code. This is a clear depiction of what happens when censorship and bureaucracy are allowed to run amok. This is one of the reasons I have introduced Bill C-304, protecting freedom, in an effort to reconstruct freedom of expression as a cornerstone of our great country.

To achieve this, complaints must be directed to a fair, open and transparent judicial system, not a broken system that prides itself in operating behind closed doors.

By repealing section 13 from the Canadian Human Rights Act, we would give back to Canadians the right to be offended, and individuals will have the recourse to hate speech through the Criminal Code of Canada. The continued use of the Criminal Code to address hate messaging would ensure that all individuals are protected from threatening, discriminatory acts while preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression. It would give back the right to fair, open and transparent trial and the right for people to face their accusers. It would make defences such as truth or intent allowable. It would even give back the right to recover costs should the claim be dismissed.

True hate speech is a serious crime and one that needs to be reviewed by a real court and investigated by real police officers. The Criminal Code has been tried and tested. It is ingrained with a system of checks and balances, a system to which society has entrusted its fundamental freedoms, a system society has seen as fit to enforce the rule of law in our great country. Justice is not served when it is hidden in the dark alleys of quasi-judicial bodies.

The solution here is not to take a band-aid approach and address the superficial inadequacies of section 13, as some have suggested. The fundamental deficiencies and broken structure would still be there if we did that. These issues cannot simply be fixed through amendments, as section 13 would still be imposed under the discretion of a subjective, quasi-judicial system, and the fundamental principles that guide the implementation of section 13 would continue to create a two-tiered system of hate speech in which one form of hate speech would be deemed worse than another. This is simply not appropriate.

Hate speech is a very serious issue and must be dealt with appropriately, with police investigations and appropriate penalties. True hate speech, speech intended to incite hatred and subject persons of an identifiable group to harm, deserves more than a slap on the wrist and should be carefully examined under the Criminal Code, which already contains hate speech provisions and which is a far more appropriate fit.

Opponents of my private member's bill have voiced their concerns on multiple occasions regarding the burden of proof associated with the Criminal Code being too great and too cumbersome. I would like to take this opportunity to address this argument one more time.

The burden of proof under the Criminal Code is indeed more comprehensive; however, I would argue that due to the seriousness of these allegations, it is in fact far more appropriate to apply the standard of proof beyond any reasonable doubt than the standard of a balance of probabilities. What my opponents fail to recognize is that in the highly subjective system currently employed by section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the standard of proof only becomes a significant issue when facts are actually disputed. My question in return is this: should facts not need to be concrete prior to overruling a fundamental right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protected by our forefathers?

I believe the solution is to use the laws we already have and to provide authorities with the tools and support necessary. This step would ensure a successful transition in which true democracy and freedom of speech can thrive so that society can continue to grow and adapt peacefully in our country. It is through freedom of speech and expression that we change governments, not through riots and revolts. It is how we test societal norms and successfully develop our nation. It is through freedom of expression that we have shaped, and will continue to shape, our great country.

As I have stated before, this is an issue for all Canadians. Freedom of speech is equally important whether one is in the opposition or the government. This is not an issue of blue versus orange or red. This is not an issue of right versus left. This is an issue of freedom, transparency and balance for all Canadians.

With that, I would like to challenge all members to look beyond the intent of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and truly examine its structure and implications and consider what we, as a free and democratic country, are willing to give up. It is time to take a stand to protect our fundamental freedoms and ensure that our children and future Canadians are not denied these basic rights through unnecessary censorship and bureaucracy.

Copyright Modernization Act May 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I believe the question goes beyond just the copyright legislation and talks about the need for promoting culture and heritage throughout the regions of our country. I live in a rural region in Alberta that has strong Ukrainian and francophone communities. It is important that we address the cultural differences and promote culture in our country. That is why I am proud to stand behind the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages who does so much work on this file and continues to try to balance the needs of, in this case, the consumers and those creating the products.

Copyright Modernization Act May 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I am glad that the hon. member recognizes how seriously our government takes copyright legislation and the modernization of it. She is a very thoughtful person, who puts forward very real amendments, unlike some of my colleagues opposite.

I am of the understanding through my reading of the legislation that this does differentiate people who are recording something at home, people who do not necessarily intend to break a digital lock. The minister has done an excellent job in balancing the needs of consumers while modernizing our copyright legislation so that artists, creators and photographers can have more modern standards in keeping with those of other countries.

Copyright Modernization Act May 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, it is true that this is important legislation for artists, creators and consumers in our country.

This is not the first time this legislation has been brought before this great place. It is not even the second time. This is the third time that the bill has been brought before this place, two of those times in minority Parliaments in which the opposition had more than ample opportunity to stand up and make some of the changes that it looked to make. The opposition actually had a majority on committee.

When I was in Edmonton a month ago artists told me that it is time that we do this, that it needs to be done now. The longer we wait the more we put their work and their creations in jeopardy.

We have looked at this not once, not twice but three times in this country. We have done a great job, taking in the committee's proposals. The committee received over 150 submissions and heard from 70 witnesses. It is time to move forward and get some work done on behalf of Canadians and Canadian artists.

Copyright Modernization Act May 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-11.

To start, I would like to note my support for the bill. I encourage others to support it as well.

The bill is a result of consulting, listening, and listening until we got it right. In fact, this legislation has come to this point through one of the largest consultations in Canadian history. By now, there should be no mistaking the message that we have received. Canada needs to pass legislation to update its Copyright Act and we should do so quickly.

As we have heard during various speeches delivered during the course of the proceedings on Bill C-11 and former Bill C-32, this legislation purposely balances both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers. It does so in a way that allows artists and creators to position themselves as they wish, but principally protects and enhances their ability to succeed as entrepreneurs.

By strengthening the protection of their intellectual property rights, we know that if we give our artists and creators, digital or otherwise, the proper legal and economic framework in which to produce work, a large number of them will succeed, prosper and grow.

Canada is home to a great number of global success stories in the visual and performing arts, as well as artists and creators who use new media to tell their stories and create their work.

Every year, new artistic innovators emerge and build upon the successes of those before them. It is important that the laws which oversee the protection of their work are up to date and flexible, so that as art forms evolve and change, the law still applies in a way that makes sense, common sense.

On the other hand, without solid intellectual property protection, the kind of artistic activity that we celebrate every year at events like the Junos is discouraged, and success is more difficult to achieve.

For instance, we should look at Canada's very successful video game sector. We all know that Canada is home to world leaders like EA Sports, a great company that makes games like Madden football and NHL, but there are a host of other companies that thrive here in Canada as well.

For example, when the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Industry visited BitHeads here in Ottawa, the owner of that company told the Toronto Star afterwards that he loses 90% of his company's revenues to piracy activities. That is why he supports this new legislation. We need to ensure that this kind of piracy stops.

I can also speak about the positive effect the bill would have on photography in Canada. The bill ensures that photographers are the first owners of copyright on their photographs, and that copyright will be protected for 50 years after the photographer's death. Taken together, what the bill aims to do is protect the incentive to create.

Provisions in the bill strengthen the ability of copyright owners to control the uses of their online work, therefore preventing piracy and infringement and promoting new and legitimate online business models.

For example, there are provisions creating a new category of civil liability which directly targets the enablers of online piracy. In the same light, the bill ensures the protection of technological protection measures, such as digital locks, to prevent unauthorized access to copyrighted material.

Artists and rights holders will not only benefit from these protections against circumvention, but they will also benefit from the creation of rules that prevent the manufacture, importation and sale of devices that can break digital locks.

The opposition has been critical of digital locks. The important point here is that digital locks are a tool in the box for creators who wish to protect their hard work. Rights holders are free to market their work with or without a digital lock. Fundamentally, they will respond to the market in which they are active in the way that best suits their interests and values. That is how it should be in a free market.

It is because of the measures I have just mentioned and more that I am happy to see the bill move forward, beyond the delay tactics we saw at second reading and through a productive committee session in the winter, to this stage today. In many respects this debate has given parliamentarians a strong appreciation for the economic contribution of artists and creators to the Canadian economy as people who innovate, create jobs and strengthen their communities as well as the economy.

We are also more aware of the opportunities that exist for Canadian artists in our new digital economy. Because of this appreciation and the promise created by these opportunities, what we are saying to artists across the country is that we understand this piece of legislation is important for their ability to profit fully from their work.

We will bring the full force of the law against organized commercial piracy to protect the efforts of Canada's creative community. The commitment met with stakeholders' support again and again.

The Entertainment Software Association of Canada said that the government is delivering on a promise to modernize outdated law and support new and innovative business models. It considers that this legislation would provide a framework to allow creators and companies to distribute their works in the manner that best suits them. This is the association that supports video games and other entertainment software creators. It is saying clearly that this law should be passed now.

The Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network is just as clear. It said that it strongly supports the principles behind this legislation, and that piracy is a massive problem in Canada, which has an economic impact on government retailers and consumers. It said, “We are pleased the government is committed to getting tough on IP crimes.”

The Canadian Publisher's Council said that “...we all benefit from strong and precise copyright legislation that provides incentives to protect rights holders” in this highly competitive economy.

It is clear that we have support to move ahead and that we are delivering with this legislation. With the kind of protection those stakeholders are seeking, it is clear that artists do not need things like an iPod tax, which the opposition supports again and again, and does so regardless of the market consequences and what it would mean for the ability of our creators to market their products in new and innovative ways.

The opposition should take a more positive and confident view of artists and creators. In essence, it should see them as the innovative entrepreneurs that they are and support copyright modernization in Canada as a way of enhancing their ability to succeed.

This is our third attempt at introducing copyright legislation. Thanks to the efforts of our government, as well as those who took part in the Bill C-11 committee, we will finally bring Canada's copyright laws in line with international standards. This legislation would strengthen our ability to compete in the global, digital economy. It would protect and create jobs, promote innovation and attract new investment to Canada. Moreover, this legislation would encourage new ideas and protect the rights of Canadians whose research, development and artistic creativity strengthen our economy each and every day.

For these reasons I am pleased to support the bill. I encourage all members of this great place to vote in favour of it.

Veterans Affairs April 3rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is listening to Canada's veterans. We are providing them with the hassle-free service that they have asked for. We are cutting red tape and making changes so that our veterans, including the veterans in Cold Lake and all over Canada, receive the benefits and services they deserve in a more timely manner.

Could the parliamentary secretary comment on the changes that our government is making to the reimbursement process for the most popular program under the veterans independence program?

National Defence March 28th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, each and every day members of the Canadian Forces do the jobs we ask of them, whether it is protecting Canadians at home from the effects of natural disasters or promoting Canadian ideals abroad.

Can the Minister of National Defence tell us what the government is doing to ensure that Canadian Forces members are receiving the fair compensation they deserve?

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the members from the other side, whether they are in the official opposition or the third party, have never seen a tax they did not like to implement, and have never seen a bureaucracy they did not like to increase.

At the end of the day, with the amendments that have been brought forward, the viewpoint of the leader of the official opposition and other members on that side is that we actually need to change our regulatory system. We need to move more to a nationalized system. We need to start taking over some of these banks so they can have more control. I think that is a very dangerous road to go down.

Our system has proven to be successful, the best in the world. I do not know why the NDP members would want to change this. It makes as much sense as their constant attacks on the oil sands in Alberta, which provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment in our country.

All I ask is that the other side start looking at some of these things in the spirit of co-operation and what is best for Canadians, not just what is best for their—

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to many of the speeches given as well as questions and answers in the House today.

I am glad the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso stood up so that I could talk about his question. There are also some ideas he has been proposing on a 40 year mortgage, which he continues to throw out there. At the end of the day, he constantly forgets to mention the fact that it was this government that took the prudent steps to decrease the maximum mortgage period from 40 to 35 years down to 30 years, and also to lower the maximum amount lenders can provide when refinancing mortgages to 85%.

The other part the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso constantly forgets is that he voted against all these changes that were made. I hope that, in the spirit of co-operation, he will stand up and finally support the Canadian financial sector and those Canadians in my riding who depend on common sense decisions, not just partisan rhetoric.