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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Green MP for Thunder Bay—Superior North (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 8% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Pipeline Safety Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my dad was an investment banker and taught me from the time I was two that the first rule of business is “Buy low, sell high.” Here in Canada, we buy the world's most expensive oil in the east. We have an 80% dependency on oil from places like Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela, oil that has a large carbon footprint and is very expensive, and we sell at a huge discount in the west.

Yes, we want safer pipelines. This act is not going to do it without some major changes, but the real question for the member is this: does he understand that we have to reduce our use and export of oil, that we need to transport it more safely, and that this bill is not going to do what we really need to do, which is to stop putting all of our eggs in the oil basket?

Seniors December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our seniors, including our military veterans, need some real action. We cannot wait around for the Conservatives to decide it is the right time for reform. Seniors need in-home care. They are asking for it, but what is the government doing to support their choice for independence? I have not seen a thing yet. Our seniors are asking for help, and the system is failing them.

CPP and seniors poverty have been ignored for far too long. Benefits simply need to be increased. The Conservatives are putting seniors at risk. We need a national strategy to combat seniors' poverty—as well as children's poverty, for another evening—immediately.

Seniors need to be respected and supported in the workforce. The Conservatives need to ensure that employers are supportive of older workers, and they need to support these businesses with the right incentives.

Will the Conservatives please step up and invest in proper pensions and quality health care for our seniors?

Seniors December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canadians across the country have written to me repeatedly expressing their anxiety over the lack of quality services for seniors especially, including the slashing of services to veterans. In Thunder Bay—Superior North, my constituents are extremely concerned about how the Conservatives plan to deal with their growing problems. Health care is a priority for Canadians and the Conservatives have not adequately addressed the needs of seniors.

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on our universal health care that seems to shield us from inequalities sometimes seen by our neighbours in the U.S. We hear stories of how radiation therapy has bankrupted American families, how Americans hesitate to visit the emergency room because they do not know if they can afford it. We listen to these stories and have thought we were protected from this, but our confidence is declining.

Not only is the cost of pharmacare too high for most Canadians, but the growing demand for long-term care facilities and in-home workers for seniors has not been met with planning, or funding or action.

The Conservatives should realize by now that our growing senior population will require more long-term care facilities and that there is a huge demand for residential care as well, as many seniors wish to remain in their homes and with their loved ones as long as possible. Unfortunately, the supply of in-home care is simply insufficient. We are not doing enough to support in-home care for seniors. As a result, many seniors are forced into expensive acute care beds in hospitals that are better used for other patients. This is hugely inefficient and winds up costing seniors more than they can bear, and our health care system even more.

In-home caregivers and services have been praised by those in the health care system as being a more dignified and cost-efficient way for seniors to receive the care they need at home. Seniors can maintain their independence much longer and thus have the freedom to manage their lives as they see fit.

A part of managing their lives is learning to manage their finances. Seniors need some education on how to organize the financial aspects of their lives in this complex world. Without this, seniors are prone to poverty and a reduced standard of living. Education is one key to keeping seniors financially stable despite the changing economic climate.

It is hard to see what the Conservatives have done to improved health care for seniors while they have been in power. One thing they have entirely neglected is the vulnerable state of seniors' retirement savings. We need to increase CPP. We know that most Canadians depend on CPP, but with their current benefits, many seniors are falling into poverty. We need to strengthen CPP and protect seniors from the trappings of poverty.

The Conservatives have avoided this issue every time it has been brought up. They have done nothing to implement much-needed pension reform and thus leave Canadian seniors worried for their financial stability. Canadians need a national strategy to fight seniors poverty. The federal government needs to match sentiment of Canadians and make this a priority.

Victims Bill of Rights Act December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, the Prime Minister effectively made a political statement promising that the bill would really help in terms of victims' rights. However, as I have commented repeatedly in my speech, it does not really do that as strongly as it might.

The hon. member for Charlottetown talked about the purpose and intent of the bill and if we would have the resources there for that. The bill is visionary. It does point us in a strengthened direction with good ways in how to strengthen victims' rights. However, we come to Hyer's law, and Hyer's law of vision is that vision without funding is hallucination.

Victims Bill of Rights Act December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the bill has good intent and it has some good parts, but we are asking for deletions because there are some parts of the bill that are flawed, particularly in terms of sentencing.

I would like to read the portion of the Criminal Code, section 718, which is redundant in the bill and muddies the waters a bit by reiterating some of the objectives. It reads:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives: (a) to denounce unlawful conduct; (b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences; (c) to separate offenders from society, where necessary; (d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders; (e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community; and (f) to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, and acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community.

Victims Bill of Rights Act December 10th, 2014

(seconded by the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour) moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-32 be amended by deleting Clause 17.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-32 be amended by deleting Clause 23.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-32 be amended by deleting Clause 30.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to present deletions to Bill C-32, the Canadian victims bill of rights.

I and the Green Party support, in general, this important piece of legislation, but with some hesitations about its weaker parts.

Given the damage that the current government has done to the criminal justice system, I am surprised to be saying that. I believe that the victims bill of rights could be a positive step toward alleviating some of the frustrations and emotional pain that victims face participating in the justice process today.

However, the bill is still an imperfect document. I hope that we will improve it in years to come. We were disappointed that, in committee, our worthy amendments were dismissed.

Recent research points to a worrying trend. Canadians, especially victims of crime, have lost confidence in our justice system. A recent report by our own Department of Justice on survivors of sexual violence found that:

While 53% of participants stated that they were not confident in the police, two-thirds stated that they were not confident in the court process and in the criminal justice system in general.

It is no surprise that victims often do not report crimes. As so many victims groups have shared with us, going through the justice process can be confusing, emotionally draining, frightening and demoralizing.

The bill seeks to address some of the concerns of victims, those being greater rights to information, restitution, and protection. However, in the bill, these are more accurately called promises than rights.

I do not believe the bill would deliver what the Prime Minister said it would, that now “Victims will have enforceable rights in Canada’s criminal justice system”.

As many witnesses pointed out to the justice committee, the bill would not really set out rights because there are no substantial redress for violations. Victims are entitled to file a complaint if they feel their rights have been violated and a complaint is better than nothing, but it is not redress.

If this promise is followed by good faith and funding, we will have succeeded in improving the experience of victims in the justice system; if not, we will have made matters worse by promising but not delivering.

Though I support the bill on balance, I have concerns about some of the provisions. As Ms. Sullivan wrote, it is not necessary that we all agree on every aspect of the bill, and:

...what is important is the marking of a cultural shift to more fully consider and integrate victims’ in Canada’s criminal justice system and, jointly, the opportunity for important discourse about victims’ needs and how to better address them.

Since many of the concerns of victims were not addressed in the bill, I hope that Bill C-32 is only the start of the conversation on this important issue.

Three sections, in particular, worry me. I am most concerned about, first, restitution; second, redefining the purpose of sentencing; and third, non-disclosure of witness identities.

I have some concerns with clause 30 that would require that the court consider making a restitution order against the offender, regardless of the offender's ability to pay. This could cause issues both for the victims and the offenders. Restitution, as we have heard from many victims groups, can be an extremely important part of the healing process. It can also be an important step for offenders taking responsibility for their actions.

However, I am concerned, and witnesses were concerned, by the way these provisions are worded. As Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society, has warned, these orders for restitution could have a disproportionate effect on those offenders who, far too often, are:

...poor, marginalized, battling mental health and addictions and without the lawful means to provide financial compensation to others.

These orders could also open up the issue of fairness in the justice system.

At the same time, legal experts argue that the wording of 739.2, that requires the judge to specify a day by which the full amount is to be paid, would undermine the good that this system does for victims.

According to the Canadian Bar Association, “Including a deadline for payment could create adverse consequences for victims”.

The victim would not be able to go to court to enforce their order until the final date has lapsed, which could be many years away. According to the Bar Association, “[It] may have the adverse effect of providing victims with false hope of financial recovery”.

The worst thing that could happen is that victims be given the expectation of funds that they will never receive, and at the same time, burdening impoverished offenders with long-term debts that will prevent their rehabilitation.

I am concerned that these provisions will receive the same fate as the victim surcharges that judges have simply been refusing to order and this will leave victims unsupported.

Bill C-32 also seeks to redefine the purposes of sentencing in the Criminal Code. To echo the concerns of the Bar Association:

The cumulative impact of these proposed amendments, with the increased use of mandatory minimum penalties and the elimination of conditional sentence orders for many non-violent offenders, risks adding to Canada’s over-reliance on incarceration.

I do not see how these changes will have positive benefits for victims and may have the negative effect of prioritizing harm done over the other purposes of sentencing. Sentencing is a delicate balance, and there is no evidence to suggest that the balance in the code is presently broken.

Perhaps the most egregious element in this bill is clause 17. That would allow a judge to “make an order directing that any information that could identify the witness not be disclosed in the course of proceedings”.

As every legal expert who testified before the committee noted, this is an unprecedented and almost certainly unconstitutional breach of the right to a fair trial. As Howard Krongold of the Criminal Lawyers' Association testified at committee:

But it's hard to imagine a more fundamental change to Canadian law, one less consistent with Canadians' visions of open, fair justice, where everybody has a chance to a fair trial, where they can make full answer and defence and confront the witnesses against them.

Eric Gottardi of CBA added:

Clause 17 contemplates at least the possibility that the accused and counsel for the accused and the crown might have to cross-examine or direct examine a witness when they have no idea who the witness is. I haven't found a single case that talks about that, and I can't imagine a scenario, short of life and death and someone essentially amounting to a confidential informer, where that kind of process would pass constitutional muster.

Under extreme circumstances, judges already can use their discretion to limit the disclosure of witness identity through the use of pseudonyms, publication bans, and other measures. These are exceptions to the open court principle and they are used sparingly by judges. I would like to repeat the concerns of so many legal experts that what this clause anticipates is a clear violation of the open court principle. This is very worrying.

Every party in this House supports Bill C-32 in principle. It seems, though, that the Conservatives just could not help themselves. They had to insert something blatantly unconstitutional into a bill that everyone supports in principle.

All in all, the bill is a reasonable step toward addressing the difficult position that victims hold in the justice system. It needs to be strengthened and improved, and it will take work. As I said earlier, the bill constitutes more of a promise than it does a bill of rights. Let's make sure we keep that promise.

Petitions December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have received over a thousand petitions regarding the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and how it is dealing with the possible storage and transport of nuclear waste in northwestern Ontario.

Of the 15 communities being considered, most of them are in northwestern Ontario. Some 60 million people depend on the water that Lake Superior sends down through the Great Lakes system. They are asking for great caution and are expressing great concern about the storage and transport of nuclear waste. They want wider consultations throughout northwestern Ontario by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the concerns of the member for Malpeque. This is extremely worrisome.

Canada's reputation internationally has suffered and declined in a variety of ways over the last six years, but doing something like this invites other states, and other want-to-be states—can members think of one?—to ignore our laws if we are going to go ahead and legally feel, without real justification, that we can interfere with and ignore their laws.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as we know, repeatedly, it is up to about 80 times now that we have had an abbreviated discussion and debate on a variety of bills in closure.

It was not quite as bad in committee as it was in the Rouge River debates. In those debates, Conservative members on committee were playing with their BlackBerrys and not even looking up when they raised their hands to oppose amendments without really listening to them. This time they did have some alleged reasons why they opposed our amendments, not terribly significant reasons, but they did verbalize some reasons.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to deletions to Bill C-44, the so-called protection of Canada from terrorist act. While we all agree that Canadians must be protected and that reforms to the way CSIS operates are certainly necessary, I question whether the bill would move us any closer to safety from terrorists.

The way the bill is being rushed through the House of Commons, it looks like the Conservatives are trying to ensure that we parliamentarians do not have the chance to finally read it. After the Conservatives imposed time allocation on the bill at second reading, the committee heard from witnesses for one meeting, two hours, and not a single opposition amendment was accepted.

The Privacy Commissioner had serious concerns. He wrote to the committee that he would, “welcome the opportunity to speak” to the committee. He was not invited. Again, we see the Conservatives' contempt for expert advice, even from their Privacy Commissioner.

It is possible to find a balance between our safety and our freedoms, our security and our rights. However, the government seems to want to weaken our privacy laws without achieving any security objectives.

Further, as our intelligence operations increasingly involve working with other countries, the bill would potentially undermine the possibility of any meaningfully safe co-operation. In the words of the Canadian Bar Association:

—Bill C-44 would undermine established practices that balance national security against fundamental rights, and potentially call into question Canada's compliance with its international law obligations.

In committee, the minister himself proudly stated, “I think this is the most constitutional bill we have introduced”. That probably speaks less favourably to the government's record than the minister quite intended. It is quite ironic.

Apart from quite serious democratic issues, my concerns also relate to the provisions in the bill amending the way the CSIS Act would treat human sources and the bizarre wording regarding activities beyond Canada's borders. The bill would redefine the privilege given to human sources, but according to legal experts, Bill C-44 would actually lessen the protection given to sources. I am also concerned the bill would seriously interfere with the proper administration of justice in Canada.

Although the stated purpose of these amendments is supposedly “is to ensure that the identity of human sources is kept confidential”, the new wording would limit this protection to only apply “in a proceeding before a court”.

According to the Canadian Bar Association:

—disclosure of information relating to confidential human sources appears to be limited to disclosure of information during the course of judicial proceedings. The proposed amendments to section 18 do not include any general prohibition against disclosure of information outside the judicial proceedings, such as found in section 18(1) [of the Act]. Accordingly, if a confidential human source provides information about a matter that does not result in a judicial hearing, the CSIS Act would no longer prohibit disclosure of either the information or the identity of the source.

Human sources risk their lives for our safety. The bill would reduce their protection unless the matter was before the courts.

The second major issue is a serious constitutional one. The place where we need to be most careful when granting confidentiality is in the justice system. The charter guarantees that every person be granted “a fair and public hearing”. The wording of the definition of “human sources” is so vague that it may become even more difficult to convict any terrorists at trial.

The definition in clause 2 does not require that the promise of confidentiality be explicit or written for a source to effectively veto proceedings. May I remind members that the Supreme Court ruled just last year that a promise of confidentiality may even be “implied”.

In the context of police informants the court wrote:

An implicit promise of informer privilege may arise even if the police did not intend to confer the status or consider the person an informer, so long as the police conduct in all the circumstances could have created reasonable expectations of confidentiality.

Expert witness Professor Kent Roach testified before committee. He said:

—I have a concern that virtually every human source CSIS talks to under the proposed legislation would then have the benefit of the privilege and a veto on any identifying information being disclosed, whether it's to defend a search warrant in a terrorist investigation or to be called as a witness in a terrorism prosecution.

He went on to say that these ambiguous promises could “hinder or even thwart subsequent prosecutions”.

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that CSIS informants are not given enough protection. This is a solution in search of a problem. It would actually open informants to new vulnerabilities and handcuff our justice system in the fight against terror.

I also want to address the wording of clause 8 and highlight some of the serious consequences that could arise.

I am a former police officer and I am not naive. I know that for the sake of protecting Canadians, we sometimes do need to investigate outside of Canada. However, it is absurd and belligerent to require that the federal court grant warrants for actions in another country, “Without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state”.

Even if we ignore the highly questionable notion that our courts have the jurisdiction to authorize activities outside of Canada, this language is highly problematic. The wording is so bold and so broad that it opens up serious questions. Does it apply to international law? What are the limits? When is a warrant even needed here? Did anybody think about how this would look, how it would affect our international co-operation and, especially, how it could invite other countries to violate and disregard our laws?

I am shocked but not totally surprised by this anti-democratic piece of legislation from a government whose party has shown itself to be repeatedly anti-democratic here at home.

Our intelligence regime certainly does need changes. CSIS could definitely use an update. We seek more effective measures to prevent terror and we desperately need to overhaul our barely existing oversight program. If we take a look at evidence and listen to the experts—what a novel thought—there is no reason why we need to give up the search for balance between a strong legal system and national security.

We can have oversight and safety, rights and protection. The amendments the Green Party proposed in committee, which were rejected out of hand, could have helped to do that.