House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was ensure.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Independent MP for Whitby (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment Equity Act June 20th, 2019

, seconded by the member for Vancouver Granville, moved for leave to introduce Bill C-468, An Act to amend the Employment Equity Act.

She said: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour to present this bill in what will be my last act as a member of Parliament.

I would first like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Mark Warawa, and the community of Langley—Aldergrove. His last speech in this place will be remembered as one of my favourites.

I want to thank the member for Vancouver Granville, a woman I am very proud of and will always continue to stand with.

I want to thank the members of the Liberal government and the NDP for supporting this bill from the outset, and particularly the members for Portage—Lisgar and Oshawa who helped and guided me through this process to get this bill here today. I want to thank Jacqueline Yost, legislative counsel; and the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel for all of their help in getting me here.

I came to this place to be a voice for all the people I represent, to raise awareness on issues, to move the status quo and to remove barriers.

This bill represents the voices of those both past and present in the federal system. It is my hope that it will examine and help remove the barriers that prevent them, especially those from the black community, from achieving success and promotion within the system. Their voices are reflected in this bill, and it is my honour to bring their voices to this place.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Main Estimates, 2019-20 June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I agree to apply and will vote yes.

Main Estimates, 2019-20 June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I agree to apply and will be voting yes.

Main Estimates, 2019-20 June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I agree to apply and will be voting yes.

Business of the House June 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, which might be my final act here as a member of Parliament. There have been discussions among the parties, and I want to thank them for those discussions, and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: Whereas black communities in Canada have been established for over 400 years; whereas Canada is a signatory to the UN initiatives for the International Decade for People of African Descent; whereas the UN working group of experts on people of African descent has noted the disproportionately high unemployment rates among black Canadians, many of whom are forced to take low-paying jobs with little security and poor prospects, and has, accordingly, recommended that Canada should systematically address employment disparity for African Canadians through enactment of employment equity legislation; whereas in 20 years, the black population has doubled in size, going from 573,860 persons in 1996 to 1,198,540 persons in 2016; whereas the very first employment equity program in the federal government for black employees was in Halifax in 1973, and in 150 years of the establishment of Canada, a black person has never been appointed to or promoted to deputy minister in the federal government; whereas employment equity cannot explain the thinning out of visible minorities, particularly black employees, that happens at the assistant deputy minister and deputy minister levels; whereas employment equity cannot explain the virtual absence of black women within the executive cadre, considering over the past 30 years, women in general have come to represent approximately 50% of the population of executives in the federal public service; whereas we need to disaggregate employment equity data to understand the lived experience of black employees; and whereas there have been more than enough qualified, meritorious candidates from the black community in Canada to fill these roles; therefore this House: (1) will examine the systemic barriers which prevent members from black communities from being promoted within the federal system; (2) will review the definition of visible minority with a view to updating this language and concept in ways that are consistent with best and promising practices for effectively addressing racial inequality in Canada's federal labour market; (3) will engage in a process to understand the work lived experience of federal black public servants; (4) will consider using disaggregated data for the next iteration of the employment equity report; (5) will consider the establishment of a commissioner of employment equity; and, lastly, (6) will consider the use of equity and anti-racism training within an anti-oppression framework for all federal employees.

Infrastructure June 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, Peter LeBel, the commissioner of marketing and community services for the Town of Whitby, passed away on May 27 after a 27-year career.

When the member for Louis-Hébert, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, visited Whitby last year, Peter's one ask was for the government to dedicate specific funds toward municipalities for community development and growth needs.

I am sure that Mr. LeBel's request had some impact as we saw the municipal infrastructure top-up fund announced in budget 2019. Would the minister give the House an update on the implementation of this fund?

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the question from the hon. government House leader, whom I have had the tremendous opportunity to work with over the last three and a half years. She is a brilliant individual and, if I could be permitted to say so, I do love her.

She is absolutely right. My Canada is an inclusive Canada because this is what we are defined by. This is why this piece of legislation is a leadership moment for Canadians. This is why this legislation is not just a leadership moment for our 42nd Parliament; this is a leadership moment for all Canadians, for all businesses, all communities and all jurisdictions to look at what our federal government is doing and say, “Hey, I want to do a bit of that. I want to make my business more inclusive. How can I do that?” It is to ask the tough questions of how they can be a bit more.

With the Senate amendments around intersectionality, around putting timelines and around making sure we are held accountable, this is what makes this piece of legislation better. It is because there is a collaborative approach. It is because the government has accepted amendments. It is because we have listened to Canadians, to stakeholders, to Canadians who have written to us and to individuals from both sides of this chamber to make this piece of legislation better. This is what our democracy is about. It is about looking after the most vulnerable in our community. This is why I am here.

It is about understanding that the marginalized and those who feel that they are on the periphery of a political process can be involved and can actually see themselves, and not just through the cameras; through social media and through our voices, they can see themselves in here. Even though they are not here, they can see themselves through their members' voices. This is what we should be most proud of in being in this place.

I applaud the government for this piece of legislation and for accepting the amendments that the other place has brought forward.

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, there are great examples in Whitby. The Tim Hortons in Whitby employs many individuals with various levels of ability in employment. Speaking now not as a member of Parliament, but providing research as my background is in research, we know that individuals with disabilities tend to give more to corporations. They tend to be dedicated, trustworthy and able to be relied upon. I want us to stop talking about these individuals as if they are somewhat different from us. They are better and I want that to be acknowledged in this place.

Before I close, I want to thank Laura and Frank on Twitter for reminding me that services for the deaf are critically important in making sure our spaces are more inclusive.

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy sparring with my colleague, if I may so, and he has taught me so much about being in this place. I really want to thank him as it might be one of my last chances to publicly do so.

I want to apologize for drawing attention to people in the House. I wanted to say that they were here in Ottawa and not necessarily in this place.

I mentioned in my speech that this particular piece of legislation brought together the ability to show leadership by stakeholders, the committee and members in this place across the aisles and in the other place, and not just in terms of federal jurisdiction but in terms of Canada at large. As well, we need to ensure persons with disabilities have access and that we honour them in a way that is inclusive and respectful of their ideas and perspectives they bring to not just our policy but our businesses, schools and communities.

It was a collaborative approach that allowed us to see the best of ourselves in this place. It allowed us to work together, talk among each other and say that we agree to disagree but we are going to have common ground. I believe that the member—

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to speak to Bill C-81. I know that we have had a number of individuals who have spoken to this piece of legislation. Even with their criticisms of the legislation, there has been a camaraderie in the House to see it move forward.

One of the reasons I came to be a member of Parliament was to make sure that we were moving forward with legislation that would help those who are most marginalized and vulnerable in our society. I think this legislation does that.

Before I go on, I want to give thanks. We are sitting extra hours and it is almost 11 p.m. I want to thank the pages who are here, one of whom brought me some water which is most appreciated because I will be speaking for 20 minutes. I want to give a special thanks to the individuals who are giving the interpretation up in the gallery. I think that is really important and it speaks to one of the Senate amendments. I want to thank everybody here who is helping to ensure that this beautiful place, the West Block, operates in a fashion that allows us to continue this really important debate.

I want to thank a couple of people who are in the gallery, Nevin and Kyle. They have been with me this evening. They walked me over here. Speaking so late in this place, it could be a bit difficult for individuals to be here. They decided to come here with me tonight. I really want to thank them for being in Ottawa.

When talking about this specific legislation, Bill C-81, with members in this place and the other place, committee members, stakeholders, witnesses, all Canadians, it really speaks to what our democracy is about. It is about the ability for Canadians and legislators to come together to bring forward a piece of legislation that will allow everybody in Canada to feel that this country is more inclusive and that they see themselves in this piece of legislation.

It is not necessarily only individuals who have disabilities, but it is all Canadians who can be proud of this piece of legislation. It is a piece of legislation that will identify, remove and prevent accessibility barriers, level the unemployment gap and create more inclusive spaces for Canadians within the federal jurisdiction.

I want to applaud the government on this particular piece of legislation. Of course, I was a former member of the government and I appreciate this piece of legislation because it is not just about disabilities.

I have said on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed that I want Canadians, who are watching the individuals in this place from all across Canada, to pay attention to this legislation. It shows the leadership of Canada in this particular area. It shows that not only in the federal jurisdiction, but within workplaces, communities and schools, we need to make our spaces more accessible. We need to make them more inclusive. It is also a demonstration of the collaborative approach where we have hundreds of stakeholders who appear before committee and hundreds of stakeholders who have written in. Many people from my town of Whitby have written and I am going to take the time to name those individuals.

Often we see form letters or campaign approaches to writing members of Parliament. When we look at them and every one is exactly the same, we think that maybe those individuals did not take the time to research or look at the particular legislation when they were writing about. However, we have to look at this with a different lens, which I am happy to do. These individuals took the time to write to their member of Parliament to say that they wanted to ensure the proposed legislation was passed before the House rose. They wanted to ensure that their Canada include them.

I want to thank Thalia Liam Sang, Beverley Dooley, Shafaq Butt, Sylvie Boucher, Jacinth Spenler, Chris Gervais, Fiona Casey and Madison Taylor for taking the time to write me as their member of Parliament and to say that their Canada included them. Their Canada includes people who have disabilities. They want to be represented by their member of Parliament for Whitby. However, to be clear, this seat is a borrowed seat. I have said that I am not running again. I am contemplating whether I will run as an independent, but this is a borrowed seat. Therefore, this seat belongs to the people of Whitby, and I am responsible for ensuring their voices are heard. I am more than pleased to mention these names in this place.

As I have said, I have put this out on my social media platforms and a few people have responded. Dawn Campbell responded on Twitter and said that we needed to push the government.

Government members should not sit in their seats and feel comfortable. I have always said that when people come into my office, I should not feel comfortable. I should be very uncomfortable. The people of Canada and the people of Whitby hold the most powerful voices. They hold the most powerful tool to ensure their governments do what they want to see happen. Their votes are the most important tool they have.

However, Dawn Campbell wrote to me to say that she that digital accessibility was important. I sat on the INDU committee and listened to testimony of individuals who had visual impairments. They still get reports that are not written in Braille. It is 2019. How is that a thing in 2019 that a person could write to the Government of Canada and not get reports written in Braille? If any other constituency in the country were not able to access information from its government in a language that was accessible to it, it would be a little excited about that and would make some noise about it.

On that point, I want to applaud the Senate. For the people in Whitby and across Canada who are watching, one of the Senate amendments was to ensure this legislation would include the use of American sign language, Quebec sign language and indigenous sign language. I have to applaud the government for accepting the amendments. It ensures we have truly inclusive legislation. I do not want to throw shade on the government, but when we talk about diversity being our strength, it has to be more than just a checkbox.

People cannot look at the federal government and think that this is just about a check box. It is about actual active inclusion. Active inclusion involves ensuring that individuals with disabilities in politics, in business, in their communities have access to everything we take for granted on a regular basis.

For example, if a business is going on a company retreat and that retreat is not accessible to every employee, it make the person feel less included in the corporation. It makes those individuals feel like they do not belong. What happens with those individuals? They go to work one morning feeling 100%. When they go to the retreat and find they cannot access it, that feeling goes down to 80%.

I want to reference the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin who talked his son Jaden. I have the ability to speak in the chamber about the fact that our differences make us unique. The member did that quite eloquently today. I want to thank the member because it reminded us of the fact that our differences may make us unique.

When we go to our company retreat and it is not accessible for those with disabilities, how does that make one feel? How does that make one participate in meetings, or events or other circumstances around that business? I had the opportunity of being the parliamentary secretary for international development minister. It allowed individuals to give their full selves. They are allowed to raise their hands and say that it is not accessible. They are allowed to raise their hands and say that this is not appropriate. This place has the largest megaphone in the country. I want to thank the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin for his comments earlier today.

I also want to thank the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility. The member of Parliament for Delta had the opportunity to come to Whitby. While she was there, she said something really profound. It made me believe with my whole heart that Bill C-81 was not just paying lip service to people with disabilities, but was really trying to change the status quo, change the landscape of Canada around accessibility issues, not just in Parliament but in businesses, in communities and in schools across the country.

She said that living with a visual impairment had given her the tools to allow her to see what other people could not see. I want members in the chamber to understand this. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility is visually impaired, but her life has been built around the ability to see what others cannot see, because of that impairment. Her environment gives her the experience and the skills to talk about legislation like Bill C-81.

When others in companies talk about return on investment or talk in communities or schools, they are able to see things we cannot see. When we talk about making sidewalks more accessible for persons in wheelchairs, it is also making it more accessible for moms. I am a mom of three. It allows my child to ride up the ramps with their bike. It allows seniors to go up with their walkers. It makes communities better.

I would be remiss if I did not speak to one of the greatest organizations in Whitby, brought forward by the former member of Parliament for Whitby, the Hon. Jim Flaherty, the Abilities Centre in Whitby. It is an icon in our community, one in which individuals are not made to feel like they need to be accommodated by our community but are welcomed in our community. I am very proud of that place.

I also want to talk about a couple of other individuals in Whitby, Allyson Partridge-Rios and her husband Andy. They volunteered for me. They are great individuals. Alison has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and Andy has an acquired brain injury. Before I came here, I worked for 10 years. I had a company that was a health care-based research management firm. I was the co-chair of Canada's first epidemiology study around neurological conditions. I worked with individuals who had Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, brain injuries, cerebral palsy. I saw what these individuals could contribute to our community.

They contribute not a disability, but an ability to bring their experience to everything we do, to bring their knowledge, their experience, their insight to our policies, to our return on investment for our companies and to our communities. Alison and Andy wanted me to mention that this legislation would give them peace of mind. It would help ensure inclusivity and accessibility, while supporting each other with their diverse needs. We are discussing exactly that today.

I also want to mention an individual in my riding, Niki Lundquist. She has been a great supporter, a great friend and she has never ceased to speak out about issues that are important to the people of Whitby. She never ceases to speak out about issues that are relevant to ensuring our community is better-off.

I will take this last minute to speak for Nikki, Nikki wants to ensure this legislation passes. She wants to ensure we do everything possible to look after those in our community who are most vulnerable, ensuring they have the support of their government.

I will not have the time to speak to the Senate amendment about intersectionality, but my constituents have spoken to it. They have done so in a way that allows us to understand that as individuals with different intersecting identities move forward throughout our country, they are challenged. With the amendments, this piece of legislation would make it a more inclusive, a more accessible and a more Canadian place.