House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chair.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Richmond Hill (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Citizenship and Immigration June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we welcome one out of every ten resettled refugees globally.

What is shameful is that the member, the NDP and members of the opposition continually vote against important legislation that we bring to the House that would expedite the entry of people who genuinely need assistance.

Those members voted against Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. They do not have a clue on the other side of the House.

Citizenship and Immigration June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, our government is proud of our record on refugees. We welcomed one out every ten resettled refugees globally, more than any other industrialized country in the world.

Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees met with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and he recognized Canada's international leadership when it came to providing assistance to refugees.

Our comprehensive reforms to Canada's asylum system ensure that genuine refugees receive faster and fairer protections.

Richmond Hill June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, our government has improved the quality of life for my constituents in Richmond Hill in innumerable ways. We lowered taxes, improved the safety of our communities, invested millions of dollars to stimulate jobs and economic growth, and created a better life for all.

Investments to revitalize and expand town facilities can be found in all corners of the riding: at the Oak Ridges Community Centre, the Elvis Stojko Arena, and the Bayview Hill Community Centre, to name a few. Federal funding for GO Transit, the Viva rapid transit system, and major roadways is improving the daily commute of residents.

Thousands of seniors are enjoying the benefits of over two dozen new horizons for seniors programs, such as those at the Richmond Hill Social and Bocce Club, the Burr House Gallery and Potter's Guild, and the Oak Ridges Italian Seniors Club.

Hundreds of jobs are being supported through strategic investments to businesses such as Qvella, CrowdCare Corporation, and Rubicon.

The last four years have been very productive, and from the bottom of my heart I thank my constituents in Richmond Hill for the honour and privilege of serving them.

Quanto's Law June 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Quanto's law passed in the House on June 15 with a unanimous vote.

Today, I rise to thank my colleagues on both sides of the House who voted to recognize and support the special role that law enforcement, service and military animals have in protecting our communities every day.

Quanto's law will honour the memory of Edmonton Police Service dog Quanto, as well as the Toronto Police Service horse Brigadier, and many other law enforcement animals that have made the ultimate sacrifice. It will ensure that those who choose to harm these animals will face serious consequences.

This legislation is very meaningful to me. It is also meaningful to my Richmond Hill constituents, who provided the inspiration for a similar private member's bill I introduced just two years ago. It is important to the hundreds of Canadians, York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe, students from Sudbury Secondary School, the Edmonton Police Service, and many others, who wrote to me with their support for this legislation.

On behalf of all of them, and myself, I thank everyone again.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is a little rich to hear the Liberals speak about the title of a bill when they voted against the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. They say they support this bill, but they do not like the title.

I appreciated the hon. member's speech. It was very informative. My question for him is as follows. With regard to empowering young women and girls to speak out when someone in their families perpetrates such an atrocity on them, such as a forced marriage or abuse, how important does he think it is for women and girls to know that they can speak out on Canadian soil and get support when they need it?

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question because it allows me an opportunity to point out the experts that we did listen to. We have a definition of “experts” on this side of the House that is different from the NDP's definition. For us, the experts are the people who have lived this problem. They are the victims themselves.

Here is what I would say to the member. Perhaps she could take some notes.

Aruna Papp was a victim. This is what she said on May 7:

I commend the government for its leadership in taking a stand on a very difficult issue and for defending the human rights of vulnerable women who are unable to speak for themselves. I'm thrilled to support this bill. In many ways, it is a result of my work with new immigrants and a response to the voices unheard in the past.

There is an expert.

Here is another expert. Raheel Raza, from Muslims Facing Tomorrow, said:

I am very glad that our government is taking such a keen interest in this. There are thousands of young women and children out there who would otherwise not be protected.

Richard Kurland is another expert. He is a lawyer working with immigrants every single day in Vancouver. He has appeared many times before our committee on a variety of issues. This is what Mr. Kurland had to say:

It's the right thing at the right time. It addresses directly a practical problem, so I come back to a more global view. Why aren't other countries adopting this? Canada's the model. I think you've nailed it, quite frankly, squarely on the head, or to put it differently, yes, it's the right legislative effort, which will take away a possible defence from individuals who ought to be incarcerated for a substantial period of time for their act.

These are the experts. I wish that the member opposite and her colleagues would listen to the real experts on this issue.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for that question. I also want to thank him for all of the hard work that he has done over the years. He is certainly recognized as a leader in his community and in our party on this side of the House, if not throughout the entire House, for his dedication and support on issues that bring families comfort not only here in Canada but around the world.

Hearing the story that he heard when he was overseas is yet another example of the importance of legislation such as this. One of the things that I have been saying this morning is how important this legislation is for victims. When we sit on committee, our studies generally do not evoke the kind of emotion that a study like this one does. We can appreciate very well the importance of this legislation to those who have been victims of honour-based violence in their own families.

I referred earlier to a lady who had to have her jaw reconstructed. After many years in a very abusive marriage, she was empowered to speak out, and there she was, sitting in front of a parliamentary committee in the Parliament of Canada, relating in a very passionate way her support for the bill and the importance of it, because it would give a voice to the victims.

As a government, we have a responsibility to protect Canadians and all of those who come to our beautiful country.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the member have a very good second read of the legislation, because what it seeks to do is hold to account those who would knowingly participate in activities that are abusive of women and girls in Canada under the guise of acceptance because of a family tradition or cultural practice. These are barbaric cultural practices.

I will give a clear example. We could very conceivably have a case of a Canadian-born young girl who is taken back to the home country of her parents for a summer vacation, only to find out when she arrives there that a wedding has been pre-arranged for her and that in some cases she is actually not to return to Canada but must live there.

These practices happen. This particular legislation would hold to account those people who knowingly participate in such activities.

Of course there is legislation in place today for any kind of killing, including honour killings, but it is very important that with this legislation we give a very strong message to the victims that they are empowered to speak out and speak up and seek help and support when they find themselves in these very difficult situations, which so many times are imposed on them by family members or through family traditions.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, thank you once again for permitting me to take part in this important debate on Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.

The most recent Speech from the Throne referenced the millions of women and girls worldwide who continue to suffer from abuse and violence, including forced and early marriage, polygamy, and so-called honour-based violence. Since the throne speech, we have repeatedly affirmed the government's commitment to ensuring that barbaric cultural practices do not take place on Canadian soil.

Bill S-7 would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code to provide more protection and support for vulnerable individuals, primarily women and children. Its measures would render permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practise polygamy in Canada. It would strengthen Canadian marriage laws by establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of 16 and by codifying the existing legal requirements for free and enlightened consent for marriage and for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another one. It would criminalize certain conduct related to underage and forced marriage ceremonies, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriages. It would help protect potential victims of underage or forced marriages by creating a new specific court-ordered peace bond where there are grounds to fear that someone would commit an offence in this area. It would ensure that the defence of provocation would not apply to so-called honour killings and many spousal homicides.

Together, these measures would help immigrant women and girls exercise their own free will and seek the opportunities and success in Canada they deserve.

It is essential to our democracy and our society that all women and girls be allowed to participate to the fullest extent. To help them do so, our government wants to ensure that immigrant women and girls are protected and are no longer subjected to abuse and violence. The bill sets out a multi-pronged approach to do just that.

Women who seek a better life for themselves and their families in Canada should never be subject to constant fear and the threat of violence or death. They need to feel safe, welcome, and protected.

The fact is that barbaric cultural practices are occurring on Canadian soil, with the potential for severe and sometimes fatal consequences for the victims of these very violent acts.

In the words of Salma Siddiqui, the president of the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, during a recent appearance before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration:

Who in their right mind can support coercion and honour killings? Bill S-7 does contain a number of sensible elements that all Canadians should embrace. The explicit outlawing of forced marriages and bringing precision to the general provincial practice that 16 is a minimum age for marriage is very reasonable. The provisions that will make it illegal to transport a child under 16 abroad for the purpose of marriage will certainly go a long way in preventing the trafficking of helpless young women.

In a November op-ed, in the National Post, this is what Aruna Papp stated:

Over the last 30 years, I have founded agencies in Toronto that assist immigrant women; I have met hundreds of women who are victims of forced marriages and domestic violence. The government's “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” recognizes the plight of these women. In presenting this bill, the government of Canada has said, in effect, “As a Canadian citizen, you, too, deserve to live a life free of violence and coercion”. For this I am grateful.

That is exactly what the bill would do. It would acknowledge and address the plight of women facing abuse and violence in the very communities in which we live. It would create an environment in which they can feel safe to seek help and protection and where they can thrive, making their own choices for their futures. As Ms. Papp expressed so well, all Canadians deserve to live a life free of violence and coercion.

As well, we know that immigrant and newcomer women and girls face additional barriers in protecting themselves and in seeking assistance compared to women born in Canada. The Government of Canada is committed to helping break down these additional barriers. For example, these newcomers may not be familiar with our laws, or they may not know that certain harmful practices are illegal, inappropriate, or indeed a form of violence. These practices also have a negative and lasting impact on the families and on society in general. We all suffer as long as we allow these practices to continue unchecked.

Our government is working on a number of ways, with concrete steps, to support these women in every way we can. Both the Canada citizenship study guide “Discover Canada” and the “Welcome to Canada” orientation guide were recently updated to reflect the fact that Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to harmful practices such as forced marriage or other forms of gender-based family violence.

Since its introduction, the guide has proven to be popular not only with newcomers to Canada but indeed with many Canadians interested in learning about the rights and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of our great country. One of the points made explicit to all readers of “Discover Canada” is that men and women are equal under Canadian law. The guide states:

Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence

Who can argue with that? Certainly no reasonably minded Canadian living in this wonderful multicultural mosaic of tolerance, acceptance, love, and respect for one another would argue with that comment. While the equality of men and women under the law is a fundamental Canadian value, barbaric cultural practices still exist as a reality for many Canadian women and girls.

Another measure we have taken is Status of Women Canada's investment of $2.8 million for community-based projects that address harmful cultural practices, such as so-called honour-based violence and forced marriage. Further, since 2009, Justice Canada has held six sector-specific workshops on forced marriage and so-called honour-based violence with police, crowns, victims services, child protection officials, and shelter workers to assist in their front-line capacity building. As well, Justice Canada and Status of Women Canada co-chair an interdepartmental working group on early and forced marriage, so-called honour-based violence, and female genital mutilation.

Our government also created regulations that make it much harder for people convicted of crimes that result in bodily harm against members of their family, or other particularly violent offences, to sponsor any family class member to come to Canada. Family violence is not tolerated in Canada under any circumstances, and individuals who do not respect Canadian law and commit serious crimes, regardless of the victim, should not benefit from the privilege of sponsorship. The regulatory changes now in force fixed a pre-existing gap and helped in the protection of sponsored individuals from family violence.

Our government has also brought in new measures in recent years to deter foreign nationals from entering into marriages of convenience to gain permanent resident status in Canada. This includes two-year conditional permanent resident status for certain sponsored spouses. However, because of concerns that conditional status could increase the vulnerability of sponsored spouses who are in abusive relationships, who may be reluctant to seek help out of fear that it will negatively impact their status in Canada, the government put in an exception to this measure in instances where there is evidence of any abuse of a physical, sexual, psychological, or financial nature. This exception would include those who are victims of forced marriage. The exception also applies to situations where there is neglect, such as a failure to provide the necessities of life. This protects Canadians from marriages of convenience while ensuring that women are never put in unsafe situations because of regulations laid out in their own immigration system.

We have also put in place training and better resources to help front-line officers in processing requests for exceptions based on abuse or neglect and in handling sensitive information related to abusive situations.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada's settlement program provides funding to a variety of organizations offering programs and services that respond to the specific needs of permanent residents, including immigrant women and their families, who may find themselves in vulnerable situations. These settlement services are flexible and are designed to meet the diverse needs of newcomers, including women, by providing them with a range of practical supports, such as language training and child care, to help them integrate successfully in Canada.

While overseas, newcomers can access programs that help them understand their rights and responsibilities in Canada and that provide detailed labour market information so they can make informed decisions prior to their arrival.

Once in Canada, women also have access to a range of employment-related supports to help them build their skills to enter the workforce and/or to advance their careers. These are resources and supports that are critical in helping them reach their full potential in Canada.

While the government has done much so far, we know that even more needs to be done to protect these women in our immigration system. That is why it is critical that the measures in Bill S-7 are enacted expeditiously.

Over the past year, government officials, including the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and I, met with victims and advocates across the country to get insight into how to stop violence and abuse from occurring in our communities.

Before Bill S-7 was introduced, the minister spent a considerable amount of time meeting with representatives of organizations that provide services to immigrant women and with victims of abuse at a number of round table discussions across our great nation. These important discussions focused on domestic violence, polygamy, forced marriage, the immigration process, and how we can strengthen the protection of vulnerable women and girls. Through these discussions, the government learned many ways it can help address the problems stemming from barbaric cultural practices.

These discussions led to the introduction of Bill S-7, which we are debating today. If passed, its measures would strengthen our laws to protect Canadians and newcomers to Canada from barbaric cultural practices. The bill sends a clear message to anyone coming to Canada that such practices are unacceptable. Canada will promote the equality of men and women and will afford them equal protection and opportunity.

In the words of Tahir Gora, director general of the Canadian Thinkers' Forum:

Critics criticized the name of the bill, calling it a pretty loaded one.

However, our group believes in calling a spade a spade. Violence against women is an absolutely barbaric act. It must be addressed strongly. Forced marriages, polygamy, and honour killings happen every day around the globe under the guise of cultural practices. Should those cultural practices not be condemned? Calling a spade a spade should not be a political issue in a country like Canada where human rights guarantee equal rights to men and women.

Bill S-7 says, in no uncertain terms, to those in this country and those who wish to come here that we will not tolerate cultural traditions in Canada that deprive individuals of their human rights. Through the bill, we are standing up for immigrant women and girls who have come to Canada for a better life and are reinforcing Canada's values of human rights, democracy, justice, and the rule of law.

In Canada, all individuals, all women and girls, should be able to live a life free from intimidation, abuse, and violence. There is absolutely no circumstance that justifies abuse and violence against women and children.

The bill makes clear to anyone who may doubt how seriously Canada takes this issue that Canadians do not, under any circumstance, accept or allow the propagation, support, or enactment of barbaric cultural practices on Canadian soil.

As legislators, we must stand up for all victims of violence and abuse and take necessary action to prevent these practices from happening on Canadian soil. By ensuring the passage into law of the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, we will be fulfilling this obligation. I strongly encourage all my hon. colleagues on all sides of the House to join me in enthusiastically supporting Bill S-7.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the nonsense in the question from the member of the NDP, this is what we did at committee. The member would do well to listen and perhaps take note so he does not make similar mistakes again in the future.

We listened to victims. Victim after victim who came before the committee told us of the damaging and lasting effects on their lives of having been forced into a marriage, into a life of abuse, victims who had the courage to stand up and make a difference in their lives, some after decades of having been subjected to nothing but abuse. They had the courage to get out of that and to come and speak in favour of the legislation and of the key components of it, including the title of the legislation. Those are the people to whom we listened.

As we know, in committees the opposition likes to parade in its set of witnesses, and we heard nothing new. Certainly we did not hear anything from the members of the NDP on the committee and we heard nothing of the impact on victims themselves.

The member of the Liberal Party spoke about something his leader announced today was broken. Certainly the Liberal Party knows a lot about being broken. Without being too sarcastic about their situation, the Liberals have to try to change the channel somehow because Canadians have seen right through that party and their rhetoric.

However, I would like to hear from the hon. member what impact the victims who spoke at the committee had on him personally.